Αναδημοσίευση από το περιοδικό Περί Θράκης 4 (2004) σελ. 259-275
«Η ενσωμάτωση παραδοσιακών αξιών
στα πομάκικα παραμύθια»
THE INCORPORATION OF TRADITIONAL VALUES
IN POMAK FOLK TALES
The following study is an attempt to examine the folk tales of the Pomaks in the region of Xanthi viewing them as a part of a specific historical, geographical and cultural background. The social context of the region of
Thrace is taken into consideration, as the folk
tales we find in
often reflect the historical transformations and the cultural diversity of the
ethnic groups that have lived here. More specifically in the Rhodope mountain
range a great number of groups with their own linguistic, religious and
cultural traits have co-existed influencing each other. Thrace
It has been noted that the traditional mountain communities of the Pomaks represent the typical characteristics of small mountain rural communities (1). Traditionally, the Pomaks have been mountain agro-pastoralists, combining small-scale cattle breeding with agriculture (2). It has also been stressed that the Pomak communities have often functioned as a bridge connecting
Thrace with , uniting Greek elements
with the principles of Islam (3).
Especially in the area of Xanthi, although the Pomaks had to tackle with a
trilingualism imposed through the educational system (4), they have preserved
their language, folk music and tales. Bulgaria
The sense of common descent is a fundamental characteristic in the case of the Pomaks. Nevertheless, little research has been done so far concerning gender relationships, the organisation of family and kinship in the Pomaks. It has been noted (5) that in the Balkans most peoples developed patrilinear descent groups, whereas the structure of unilinear kinship is less common. It appears that in the case of the Muslim Pomak communities the role of women is highly appreciated. The proverbial phrase “Zhanáta sa rázda dvash na dunyóso” (6) (A woman is born twice in the world), which is said in the Pomak villages around Myki (Mustáfchovo) denotes that when a woman gets married and moves to her husband’s house she is reborn, her life is subordinated to the life of her husband. On the other hand, in the Pomak villages of the area of Xanthi it is quite common among people to call children by using their mother’s name in the genitive case, as if they belong to them rather than to their father (7), which is a sign of respect to motherhood. The mother’s name is used especially to avoid confusion when there are boys sharing the same name and the same father’s name. However, the father’s name (instead of the proper surname) may also be used to specify a person (8).
Today, despite the fact that the Pomak villages in the mountains of the region of Xanthi are in a process of transition (9) which has social, economic and cultural dimensions, we can say that the folk tales are still part of a living oral tradition. Although the function of orality has undergone serious changes, various types of tales are still transmitted in the mountainous Pomak villages near Xanthi as well as in cities where many Pomaks have recently migrated (10). The survival of collective memory is associated with a respect of the young generation of the Pomaks for their ancestors as well as for their mother tongue, which is still actively used. As concerns the attitude of the Pomaks towards their oral culture, F. Tsimbiridou has noticed that in the Pomak villages of Xanthi people are proud of their cultural heritage, which may not be the case in the neighbouring villages near Komotini (11).
The dynamics of narration
The art of narration may be manifested in various ways within different communities. Being repeated from one generation to another, the folktale becomes a point of reference, linking the past with the present and offering a lot more than mere entertainment to the audience: without being limited by specific events or individual experience, the folktale gives the world its poetic expression (12).
More and more researchers are focusing their attention on the context rather than the text of the folktale. It is now widely accepted that the folktale reflects a lot of social aspects related to time and space: who is narrating what, to whom, when, why and how. The participation of the audience as well as the attitudes adopted by the community towards any sort of classification and categorization are also significant (13).
Many theories have been expressed concerning the generation of fables and tales worldwide. The similarity of many tales has led scholars to create psychological or historical interpretations in order to compare the common elements found in the tales all around the world. Among the possible explanations for that similarity are: the diffusion of tales through cross-cultural communication, a common origin of inspiration based on human experience, the reference of tales to natural phenomena which have been memorized in the global collective unconsciousness (14). The comparative studies of folktale of the geographical school, Vladimir Propp’s morphological and structural analysis, Lüthi’s analysis of style and Carl Wilhelm von Sydow’s “biology of tradition” have recently been substituted by the focus on the important role of the narrator in the folktale performance. Linda Degh also analysed the “biology of story narration” (15) emphasizing the need to shift the interest of research from a static view of artificially structured and isolated narrative sequences to the dynamics of narration and the transmission of these stories from one person to another, through immediate contact and interaction. Degh remarked that “hommo narrans” tells a lot more stories than he realizes and uses a lot more narrative forms than those that have ever been analyzed by folklore theory (16).
Narration is based on reality but is also detached from it. Between narration and reality there is a relationship of coexistence, borrowing and lending, a game with its own rules. Another important theoretician of the folktale, Lutz Röhrich, examined the folklore genres as formulations embodying social life, religious beliefs and natural laws. In the framework of this approach, the folktale is considered to be a universal system of symbolic representation, a mirror of civilization, of class stratifications as well as of individual reality. Röhrich compares narrators to actors who combine their personal experience with their social surroundings, so that every new combination of motifs may be interpreted through cognitive psychology (17). Therefore, the “text” of a folktale becomes a personal possession of every narrator, representing his/her subconscious world. The significant role of individuals as carriers of tradition was also stressed by Walter Αnderson, who, in an attempt to balance the standard with the variable elements of a folktale, proposed the law of self-correction, claiming that this law may be applied in folk songs, tales, riddles, incantations, proverbs etc. According to this law, human beings function as vehicles carrying tradition through a super-organic mechanism processing and revising the elements inherited from their forefathers.
A Pomak Snow-White
We could say that the basic subjects of Pomak folk tales (18) are related to fundamental human relationships. Just like in Greek folktale (19), the power of love, the certainty of death, the respect for life, cosmic justice (whether good is compensated for and evil is punished) often arise, while a lot of major or minor elements refer to destiny and fate as a universal power controlling human life. As every tale, being supple and open to multiple interpretations, is passed on from one mouth to another, it changes both structurally and semantically.
A conventional classification of folk tales is not always plausible, since many motifs may coexist in every folktale. A lot of motifs found in popular narrations among the Pomaks are also popular in other parts of
in Macedonia and
and are also found in south Slavic languages. We can mention, for example, the
Pomak tradition from the Thrace (Pashavík)
concerning the old woman whose shadow was left on a stone when she addressed
March asking him: Μárta, Márta, kaná mózha da mi stórish? (20) The response of March was to blow a strong wind against her and have her stuck on a rock. Similar traditions are mentioned by N.G. Politis from village
of Pahni Arcadia,
Gortynia and (21). Macedonia
We have to accept that narrators are usually not aware of any existing borderlines between magical tales, animal tales, jokes, traditions etc. As a matter of fact, during the narrating process, one type of narration may borrow from another in order to provide entertainment, to make the story more appealing or to convey certain messages. Ordinary narrations of real events, puns, jokes and proverbial tales may therefore be uttered after or before magical tales. The function of such forms of speech might be similar, although its form is definitely discernible from what is usually defined as folktale. We may mention here the case of a popular tradition which is not a tale but a widespread story in the Pomak villages around the area of Thermes (Lítza): A saint (evliyá) (22) asks a goatherd to look after his goats. Bandits go there and steal some goats every day. The saint is patient. When a war breaks out he fights with his sickle. Nobody can harm him. It is the story of Budalá Hója, a Muslim saint whose grave is in the tekhe of Thermes in the region of Xanthi. The legendary life of Budalá Hója is often related by older people in many villages around Thermes and is associated with the expansion of the Bektashi order in the Balkans (23) and the belief of the Rhodopean Muslims that space, time, life, and death are all conditional for evliyas, since Allah has chosen them as intermediaries on earth.
Before analysing the values existing in Pomak folk tales it might be worth citing the text of one of the most popular Pomak tales, that of The girl who was abandoned in the forest (Mómecheno déno go safarníli faf bayíren), which is actually a combination of Cinderella and the Snow-White (24). The tale was recorded in Dimario (Démirjik) and then written down accurately in Pomak (25) as it is spoken in that village:
Bïl ye edín bubáyko sas ennó mómeche. Zhanána mu ye umrâla i to se ozhénil pak sas drúga. Enáy mómecheno imélo ye eysá ennó pomáitsenitsa. Tya go ye ne ishtéla mómechena i víka na chilâkan hi:
- Da ídesh da farnísh déteso.
Bubáyko mu otkáral go ye na bayíren i ostávil go ye sas edín torkolák i to ye zaspálo. Agá ye stánalo to tarkále torkolákan na barchínana i mómechena slédi od adzát. Torkolákan ye sprel pri enná kolíba. Mómecheno chúknalo ye vratána. Izléla ye ennó bába sas ennó míchko mómeche i víka hi:
- Kakná íshtesh eysuzí sahát ti eytúva?
- Ostávi me bubáyko eytám ot góre i ya turkuláh turkulákas i dokára me eytúva.
- Yéla na vître!
Zéla ye déteno na vître, hránila go ye, premeníla go ye sas nóvi drípi i víka mu:
- Eysá sabáhlayn she da nábiem ráno od eytús i ti she da glédash dâteso : she go hránish (ne parlívo), she go chésish, alá néma da go opínash, za da ne pláche. Ímam i enná kráva, she da glédash i néya. She da ye doyísh, ála néma da ye opínash, za da ye ne balí.
Agá se ye vîrnala akshámlayn bábana ye papítala míchkono mómeche:
- Kak ti se zglâva? Hráni li te húbave? Dáva li ti húbavo yáto? Chése li te? Kakná právi na krávana ? Opína ye yátse ? Baléva ye agá ye doyí?
- Ne, ot téba po húbave me gléda. I krávana i ména.
Sedélo ye kólkono ye sedélo dâteno i íshkalo ye da nabíye. Víka mu bábana:
- Ne, íshtam da nábiem, da vídem bubáyka mi.
I bábana hi víka:
- Agá stánish sabáhlayn.
Iméla ye dve trendráfele odvîn na gradínana hi. Edínen ye bil bäl i drúgen chervén. Sétne víka na mómechéna:
- Ya she da nábiem ráno sabáhlayn. Ti she davórsish rábatine, she da zémish edín kopách i she da ídesh da kópnish pot chervénan trendráfel. Kaknáto ti izléze tvóyo ye.
Izlél hi ye edín kon déno ye bil továren sas dva sandîk. Edínen sandîk imél drípi i altîneno i drúgono ye bílo pólno liri. I mómecheno ye yáhnal kónen. Kákna ye varvélo nadénala ye papútsene déno sa bíli altîneni. Kákno ye minóvala enná râka páda hi edínen papúts. Agá ye atishól králtskono kópel da napoyí kónen to ye ne ishtél da píye. Pochúdil se ye:
- Óti ne píyesh od rékasa? Fse si pil, aysé ne ráchi da píyesh !
Agá ye nablizhíl vídel ye i to papúchen i iskáral ye ilyán :
- Chi ye to ye esuzí papúts da dóyde da si go zéme.
- Móyo ye papúches!
Níkotri ye ne izvéraval óti ye farníl bubáyko hi i ne iméla níkakna. Víkot hi:
- Da iskárash i drúgoto, da vídime akú právi i zam she te izvéravame.
Mómecheno iskárava i drúgen papúts i vídeli sa vritsína óti hi ye právil. I sétne králtskono kópele ye zíma za zhaná i zhïvéli sa tíye húbave i níye po húbave.
There was a father with a little girl. His wife had died and he had been married to another woman. So the girl now had a stepmother. The stepmother did not want the girl and she told her husband:
- Go and throw the child away.
Her father took her and left her in the forest with a bread roll and she fell asleep. When she woke up, she rolled the bread on the mountain and she was following behind it. The bread roll stopped at a cottage. The girl knocked on the door. An old woman got out with a young girl and told her:
- What do you want here at this hour?
- My father left me up there and I rolled the bread and it brought me here.
- Come in!
She took the child in, fed her, dressed her in new clothes and told her:
- Now in the morning I will leave early from here and you will take care of the child: you will feed her (not hot food), you will comb her hair, but you will not pull it, so that she doesn’t cry. I also have a cow, you will look after her, as well: you will milk her but you will not pull her, so that she doesn’t feel pain.
When the night fell, the old woman asked the little girl:
- What do you think? Does she feed you well? Does she give you good food? Does she comb your hair? What does she do with the cow? Does she pull her much? Does she hurt her while milking her?
- No, she looks after me better than you. Both the cow and me.
The child stayed down as long as she stayed and she wanted to leave. The old woman told her:
- No, I want to go, to see my father.
And the old woman said:
- When you get up in the morning.
There were two rose bushes outside her garden. One was white and the other one was red. Then she said to the girl:
- I will leave early in the morning. You will finish the housework, you will get a hoe and you will go to dig under the red rose bush. Whatever comes out is yours.
A horse came out which was loaded with two chests. The one chest had clothes and golden jewels and the other one was full of pounds. The girl rode on the horse. As she was leaving she put on her golden shoes. As she was crossing the river, one of the shoes fell. When a prince took its horse there to give it water the horse refused to drink. He wondered:
- Why don’t you drink from the river? You had always been drinking and now you don’t want to drink!
When he came closer he also saw the shoe and he made an announcement:
- The one to whom the shoe belongs should come and get it.
After a while the girl came and said:
- The shoe is mine!
Nobody believed her because her father had deserted her and she had nothing. Τhey told her:
- Take the other shoe off as well, so that we see if it fits you and then we shall believe you.
The girl took off the other shoe and everybody saw that it fitted her. Then the prince got married to her and they lived happily and we lived more happily than them.
In this version from Dimario the abandonment of the little girl in the forest is followed by the bread roll leading to the old woman’s house. The motif of the cruel stepmother (26) at the beginning is the foundation stone, on which the plot is built. The girl has to finish some household duties (feed and comb the child, milk the cow) in order to gain the old lady’s permission and her magical assistance. The girl discovers gold after digging under a rose bush. She meets the prince at the river but loses one of her golden shoes. This is the clue for the prince to start looking for her until their final reunion. The shoe motif recalls the Cinderella (27) group of tales (AaTh 510A) whereas the magical support that the girl finds is closer to the Snow-White (AaTh 709).
We realize that the narration is quite simple and clear-cut, without decorative ornamentations. However, it is also absorbing, powerful and rich, with lively dialogues and bright imagery. As far as the content of the tale is concerned, we notice that the notions of family, beauty and fidelity are reaffirmed along with the praise for laborious work, honesty and perseverance. The happy ending is naturally and eagerly expected; in fact listeners know it will come soon, bringing them relief from the imaginary hardship the heroine is undergoing.
One might wonder if the specific treatment of such a widely spread tale may reveal any particular points which are worth mentioning. In fact, the very preoccupation of the Pomak story tellers with this tale, their desire to include it in their oral repertoire, along with the personal approach found in other Pomak versions (28) in various villages may spark off an endless discussion which has not started yet. The following remarks on the values that the Pomaks have incorporated in their tales could only be regarded as a short introduction to that discussion.
The battle of the contraries
The system of social and moral values depicted in the Pomak folk tales reveals a series of models which are based on human qualities such as: devotion to God, belief in the power of destiny, sympathy, charity, laboriousness, respect for the elderly, friendship, parental love, fidelity, bravery, justice, beauty. On the other hand, the lack of such qualities is castigated: lying, ingratitude, gluttony, jealousy, hatred, treachery, deception represent the opposite of God’s will upon the earth. It seems that in Pomak tales there is nothing between good and evil. Justice and injustice are totally contrasted. The same is the case for wealth and poverty, beauty and ugliness, power and weakness, intelligence and stupidity, meaningfulness and absurdity.
Human characters are projected as one-dimensional figures representing a single characteristic: forgetfulness, indecency, trickery, ungratefulness, physical disability etc or, their opposite, remembrance, decency, honesty, gratefulness, beauty and health. All values are emphasized at an ultimate level. Heroes and villains alike are adumbrated clearly and specifically. For example (29), a boy may be mute but handsome. His father enrolls him at school where he makes good progress. The boy falls in love with the king’s daughter and wants to marry her. At first the princess refuses but she accepts when she realizes the boy’s supreme qualities. However, it is the boy who turns her down at the end, as he remembers her previous attitude. The ending The wound may heal but a bad word is not forgotten is a most favourite proverb connected with many similar tales (30). The reference to disability reflects the existing prejudice against physical handicaps simultaneously suggesting the subversion of any such prejudice. Human disability is the topic of one more Pomak folk tale (31) The mother who deserted her two children. When a merciless mother abandons her children, a neighbour discovers them and informs the community. The president asks the neighbour to raise the children herself. Two little birds, whose mother had been shot, visit the house. The children feed the birds and the grateful animals cure their disability. The children’s mother tries to find her children and meets the hunter who had shot the birds’ mother. The birds ask the children to shoot the hunter but the children finally shoot their mother, the one who had abandoned them. It is obvious that this extreme form of punishment appears to be justified by ordinary people. On the other hand, the respect for disabled persons shows the moral values of sympathy and helpfulness which have always been endorsed by the Pomak communities.
One of the most important values looming up in the Pomak folk tales is that of family. For the Pomaks the family (hanâ) is a domestic group which does not only include the closest relatives (vótreshni) but everybody living in the same house (kóshta) (32). The respect for family life is shown as the cornerstone of community life for the Pomaks. At a group level, the village is presented as a wider collective body, incorporating social principles and practices. When we read, for example (33), about the disrespect of children towards their parents, the tale functions as a measure by which the norms of the community are evaluated. The story goes as following: A man and a woman have forty children and when they get older they need their assistance. Only the youngest son volunteers to help. The rest of the children are cursed by the old parents to become poor. In a magical (34) way the youngest son is praised and finally becomes rich. In another tale (35) (The mother’s souvenir – The three combs) it is the eternal love of a mother which is emphasized: Before dying, a mother gives her three daughters three combs as a souvenir. A witch steals the comb of the youngest girl and leaves a pound in its place. When the other sisters learn about this they also leave their combs in order to get a pound. After their father’s suggestion they change their mind and try to find their combs. The witch returns the combs but at the same time renders the youngest daughter bald. The dead mother appears in a vision to advise her daughter. Following her mother’s advice and wearing a magical ring, she manages to beat the witch. Thus the mother’s love proves to be stronger than magic, stronger than death.
Adventure, magic and cosmic justice
In most Pomak tales there is a development of the plot towards surpassing great obstacles which have been set at the beginning. In order to understand how those difficulties can be overcome, the audience has to be identified with the heroes. Before the natural order is restored the storyline reaches its climax. It goes without saying that clever solutions have to be found to hard problems. For example (36), when a poor boy wants to get married to a princess, he has to learn new skills. The boy finds black grapes in a field. He eats them and his lips are swollen. They are cured after eating white grapes. He decides to make up a plan in order to conquer his beloved one: he sends black grapes to the market. The girl eats them and can only be cured when he offers her the white grapes on condition that she accepts to marry him (37).
Adventure often includes magical and supernatural elements which may be represented in various forms. In the widespread Pomak tale “The haunted mill” (38) a water mill owner dies and his mill becomes a haunted place. Thieves are trying to get the mill but it is protected by wild snakes. The son of the mill owner wants to get married to the president’s daughter. The president will agree only if the boy manages to bring flour from the haunted water mill. The boy knows the secrets of his father’s art and finally achieves his goal.
The conflict with monsters, dragons, ghosts, witches is nothing but the conflict between life and death, between the power of God and the underworld. In a tale (39) from Glafki (Gökché Bunár) we watch a dragon (défen), who was eating new-born children, being confronted with a holy girl. She informs her village about the activity of the dragon and finally manages to throw him into a well. The evil is also beaten in the case of a poor orphan girl, humiliated by the president of the village (40). The girl curses him and her fortune is finally inverted. A similar inversion can be observed in the case of the thirteenth twin child (41) who is rejected by everybody, but finally becomes rich, while his brothers are left hungry and jobless. Justice prevails in this world, not in the afterlife.
The power of God and destiny
A fundamental notion widely spread in the oral tradition of the Pomaks is the notion of God. Allah occupies a pivotal place in a Muslim’s life, from cradle to grave. This is reflected in the tales in phrases like Alláh e golém za sékok (= God is great for all) (42) which is an impressive typical ending for certain tales. Besides the acknowledgment of the power of God, there are also events justifying Allah’s basic qualities, which are power and authority, benevolence and forgiveness (43). The signs of Allah are found everywhere in creation and human beings have to observe the laws of God, otherwise they will be punished. It is clear that there are a lot of similarities between the Christian and the Muslim views on God’s omnipotence and unlimited power as well as on human duties towards God (44).
The belief in God is deeply rooted in the system of values of the Pomaks. Moreover, the acceptance of the inescapability of human fate is reflected in a lot of their tales. God can cure the most serious disabilities, raising the good people and destroying the evil ones. This is the case of a poor holy man (45) who has no children. After helping an old couple, they give him their best wishes. Thanks to those wishes, the man’s wife gets pregnant and his horses let out pounds instead of dung. His wife bears a child with warped arms. Their neighbours mock them. In the end, the child’s wishes make the neighbours’ arms warped.
Didactic animal tales
Animal tales are popular among the Pomaks as well. The messages conveyed through them are also significant. When we see the devil befriending three animals (46) we may guess that the audience is identified with the animals, each of them representing certain characteristics which are instantly recognizable. The devil asks the fox, the bear and the badger to choose one tree each and wait for its fruits. The devil’s choice is the cornel tree (as he knows that this tree blooms first in springtime), the fox chooses the plum tree, the bear the apple tree, and the badger the corn. At the end of the tale the devil is left starving, having been trapped by his own deceiving plan (47). People listening to such tales are aware of the fact that anything can be real in the world of tales: animals may speak and human beings may be transformed into animals. It is obvious that such messages do not only apply to the animal world but also correspond to human life.
Most animal tales are straightforwardly didactic. This is the case in The hunter who killed his two children (48), a tale reflecting an ultimate respect for life and pregnancy, as a natural law leading to punishment whenever violated. The adventure begins with a hunter killing a pregnant she-hare. The she-hare curses the hunter’s children to be killed in a similar way. The hunter repeats his crime twice more against a bird and an impregnated roe-deer. The bird and the roe-deer curse him accordingly. The punishment comes when he himself kills, by accident, his children and then commits suicide (49). Similarly, the animals take revenge in the case of a poor father (50), who asks the snake, the bear and the wolf to give him one of their baby animals as pets for his children. When, after a few years, he kills the pets, their parents take revenge by killing his own children (51).
However, the animals are not always presented as the good ones in Pomak tales. Humans might also be the ones to seek justice and punishment. This is the case in Mechkána íshkala da izgorí afchérene (52): a bear was habitually getting into a shepherd’s cottage to be warmed up. One day she puts a piece of coal in the shepherd’s blanket. The shepherd watches, traps the bear and kills it. The threat is gone and the security of daily life is restored.
Nasreddin’s clever/stupid figure
Jokes with Nasreddin hója and other funny stories have always been extremely popular in the Pomak villages. The figure of Nasreddin is a beloved one all over the Balkans. Nasreddin’s behaviour deviates from the social norms, undermines all sorts of stability, only to make the audience rediscover their moral standards. Objective truth seems to be constantly ridiculed by a hero who combines stupidity with intelligence, tragic and comical features alike. In many cases, Nasreddin’s jokes correspond to bitter comments on inter-communal relationships and conflicts (53). For example in “The president, the secretary and the counselor” (54), the president and the counselor of two villages argue about the number of soldiers that their villages may provide. Nasreddin challenges them with a bet. He counts the mules in the number of soldiers, he wins and he becomes a president himself. Although initially it all looks like a naive trick, it certainly reflects local community structures and the people’s tendency to criticize serious-looking institutions of power.
Nasreddin’s tricks may be more complicated in other cases (55), where he manages to achieve what looks unfeasible: As Nasreddin was wandering around the villages, his horse died. He pretended to be dead and he was loaded on a cart. When they saw him rise, they all got scared and abandoned him with the cart and the horses (56). One of the basic constituents of Nasreddin’s behaviour is unpredictability and grotesqueness. In one of the jokes (57), Nasreddin tries to earn money by begging outside a church. With the money he collects, he pays for a certificate to become a hója. He starts deceiving people, is dressed up as a black man and sells a stolen child to a childless couple.
Apparently, in all jokes it is the extreme shrewdness of the hója that has to be proved in order to reach the culmination of the narration, even if the reasons provided by Nasreddin are awkward and irrelevant. For example, when Nasreddin rides a donkey sitting in reverse, he explains that he does so to prevent the donkey from defecating on the road (58). It is worth mentioning that, in some cases Nasreddin fails. When he asks for an old woman’s help (59) so as to get married to a beautiful girl, the girl transforms the old woman into her own face and Nasreddin is ridiculed, marrying the old woman instead.
It is really difficult to say whether moral messages should always be extracted from such anecdotal stories, since Nasreddin’s jokes usually aim at entertaining rather than teaching. However, certain narrators would straightforwardly take advantage of any story in order to either endorse or undermine standardized social norms. On the other hand, a tendency to suggest critical attitudes towards society and life is very often observed. Such a subversion of accepted practices might either be based on religious models or on a deeply rooted attitude reflecting the popular wisdom of the mountain communities. One may conclude that the more provocatively narrators dare discuss hot local issues the more challenging their narration becomes.
From text to context
The increasing interest of anthropologists in topics related to the language and folk culture of the Pomaks has recently focused on the topic of orality as related to their ethnic identity. It has also revealed the multiple cultural exchanges and mutual influences among Southern Balkan ethnic groups.
The oral folk tradition of the Pomaks of Thrace is gradually substituted by new forms of expression and communication. In most cases it is only older people who remember folk songs and tales. However, tales and songs are still reproduced whenever a chance is given: when people do tobacco needlework, in cafes, even in construction sites during a break from work. We could say that the elements of orality are much stronger in Pomak villages than in other mountain villages in
Greece. This could be due to the fact that orality has been
preserved through the native Pomak tongue as a factor determining daily
communication within small communities. Moreover, because of the inexistence of
a road network in many Pomak villages in the region of Xanthi till the `70s,
oral traditions were transmitted till recently in the way they were transmitted
in the remote past, functioning as a form of small and medium scale
communication within the community or in neighbouring communities during
festivals or secular meetings.
The absence of written records for the Pomaks of Thrace has preserved their folk culture intact through time but has also prevented them from cultivating their cultural identity. In the words of W.J. Ong it is the oral word that first illuminates consciousness with articulate language, that first divides subject and predicate and then relates them to one another in society. Writing introduces division and alienation but a higher unity as well. It intensifies the sense of self and fosters more conscious interaction between persons. Writing is conscious-raising (60). In the case of folktale, a dynamic function of orality in mountain Pomak communities can be observed. The role of narrators was to transmit various forms of oral communication. Anyone could be a narrator in a certain context, although good memory and acting skills were enhancing the whole process, turning it into an amazing performance. Once tales were transmitted they became popular among the other members of the community, strengthening the existing social ties. Human relationships, daily problems, customs, habits and attitudes were thus conveyed through the means of oral speech.
By examining and recording all these elements that narrators add beyond the text we may approach their psychological condition and observe a series of symbols, standards and commonplaces of their community. Moreover, the way a tale is performed by narrators often determines the messages which are to be transmitted. Knowing in advance how the tale is going to end, narrators can choose their own way to lead towards that very ending. They may vary the speed or the pitch of their voice, use a series of non-linguistic devices, use miming, gestures, exclamations, screams or songs in order to attract attention and complete their performance.
While reading, listening to or watching Pomak tales we notice a great number of familiar images arise beside the central axis of the plot: daily life, space, activities, costumes, personal features, natural elements, information about local authorities or figures and the language itself in its richest form: proverbs, songs, wishes, idioms, curses, all the social and cultural context of the tale, what Barbara Walker has called the cultural baggage (61) of the folktale.
In this article it has been attempted to show that a whole system of traditional philosophical, religious and moral values are embodied in the folk tales of the Pomaks in
Thrace. We could sum up by saying that, along with other forms of
oral expression, the folktale has contributed to the formulation of a common
identity for the Pomaks as a group with similar origin, language, religion and a common cultural
(1) U. ΒRUNNBAUER, Κοινωνική προσαρμογή σ’ ένα ορεινό περιβάλλον: Πομάκοι και Βούλγαροι στην Κεντρική Ροδόπη 1830-1930, in: Ο ορεινός χώρος της Βαλκανικής, Athens 2000, 37.
(2) U. BRUNNBAUER, Diverging (Hi-)Stories: The Contested Identity of the Bulgarian Pomaks Ethnologia Βalkanica 3 (1999) 37.
(3) Κ. MITSAKIS, Ακριτικά Τραγούδια της Αρπαγής στους Πομάκους, in: Δ' Συμπόσιο Λαογραφίας Βορειοελλαδικού χώρου, - Πρακτικά, Ίδρυμα Μελετών Χερσονήσου του Αίμου,
(4) D. MICHAIL, The imposed trilingualsim and the making of illiteracy: the case of the Pomaks in the mountainous area of Xanthi, Περί Θράκης 2(2002) 271-287; D. MICHAIL, The institutional labyrinth and political dimensions of the Muslim minorities’ education in
Western Thrace, Περί Θράκης 3 (2003) 271-282.
(5) Ε. ALEXAKIS, Ταυτότητες και ετερότητες, Σύμβολα, συγγένεια, κοινότητα στην Ελλάδα-Βαλκάνια, Athens 2001, 103-4.
(6) The alphabet used to transcribe Pomak phrases is the one introduced in 2001 by the Pomak lexicographer Ritván Karahója in his electronic Pomak-Greek Dictionary (www.pomlex.com).
(7) For example they would say Hasán Aysín (Aysé’s Hasán), Huseín Hamidín (Hamidé’s Huseín), Jemalí Minkín (Eminé’s Jemalí), Alí Hajirín (Hajiré’s Alí), Hasán Nedriín (Nedrié’s Hasán), Amét Hafijín (Hafijé’s Amét), Hasán Hasín (Hasié’s Hasán).
(8) e.g. Jemalí Isénko meaning Huseín’s Jemalí or Isén Hasíinu meaning Hasán’s Huseín.
(9) Υ. FRANGOPOULOS, Religion, Identity and Political Conflict in a Pomak Village in Northern Greece, in Vertovec S., C. Peach (eds), Islam in Europe: The Politics of religion and community, London 1997, 73-90.
(10) D. MICHAIL, Migration, tradition and transition among the Pomaks in Xanthi (Western Thrace), in LSE PhD Symposium on Social Science Research in Greece, Hellenic Observatory, European Institute, LSE June 21, 2003, E. GOUVENDA, Μεταναστευτικά δίκτυα και ταυτότητα στη μουσουλμανική μειονότητα της Θράκης στην Ελλάδα, in: Διεθνής Συνδιάσκεψη για την Ευρω-Μεσογειακή Ταυτότητα Λέσβος 6-8 Νοεμβρίου 2003.
(11) F. TSIMBIRIDOU, Les Pomak dans la Thrace grecque. Discours ethnique et pratiques socioculturelles, Paris 2000, 291.
(12) Μ. LÜTHI, The European folktale, Form and nature, Indiana University Press, 1986, 84.
(13) W. BASCOM, Four Functions of Folklore, in: A. Dundes (ed.), The study of Folklore, Prentice Hall, 1965, 281.
(14) Ε. AVDIKOS, Το Λαϊκό παραμύθι. Θεωρητικές προσεγγίσεις, Athens 1997, 57-79.
(15) L. DEGH, Narratives in Society, A Performer-Centered study of Narration,
1995, 47-51. Helsinki
(16) L. DEGH, Narratives in Society, op. cit. 236.
(17) L. RÖHRICH, Folktales and Reality,
1991, 2012-3. Indianapolis
(18) The first collections of Pomak folk tales from
are found in the files of the Greek Folk Research Centre and other university
collections. For a list of these collections see M.G. VARVOUNIS, Λαογραφικά των Πομάκων της Θράκης, Greece
1996, 163-168. Athens
(19) R.M. DAWKINS, Some remarks on Greek Folktales, Folklore, 59,2 (1948), 65; M.G. MERAKLIS, Τα παραμύθια μας. Athens 2001, 38-58; M.G. MERAKLIS, Το ελληνικό παραμύθι, Διαβάζω 130 (1985) 6-14.
(20) “March, March, what can you do to me?”
(21) N.G. POLITES, Παραδόσεις A’,
1904, 163-166. Cf. P. THEOHARIDES,
Πομάκοι. Οι Μουσουλμάνοι της Ροδόπης, Ξάνθη 1995, 505. Athens
(22) The evliya is a divine being who lives as all others do. He/she is among the people. Anyone may be an evliya, yet nobody may know who is an evliya. Evliyas are very close to Allah and hear Him speak. They are perceived as proof of Allah’s love of men. Without them the world could not exist. – C.GEORGIEVA, How Rhodope Muslims see the perfect man, in: Ethnology of Sufi orders: Theory and practice, Proceedings of the British-Bulgarian Workshop on Sufi Orders (19-23 May 2000-Sofia, eds A. Zhelyazkova - J. Nielsen, International Center for Minority Studies and Intercultural Relations-Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslims Relations, 462-465.
(23) N. KOKKAS - A. RONGO, Πομάκικα παραμύθια και παροιμίες από τη Γλαύκη του Ν. Ξάνθης (Η συγκρότηση του αφηγηματικού λόγου στο πομάκικο παραμύθι), Thessaloniki 2004, tale No 20. On Bektashism in
Thrace see E. ZENGINIS, Ο Μπεκτασισμός στη Δ.Θράκη, Thessaloniki 2001.
(24) AaTh 510, 510A, AaTh 709 - N. KOKKAS, Uchem so Pomatsko, Μαθήματα Πομακικής Γλώσσας, 2, (Παραμύθια-Τραγούδια-Παροιμίες), Xanthi 2004, 32-33.
(25) Τhe Pomak tongue can be considered as one of the lesser used languages of Europe that are still widely used in
. In Thrace there are over
30.000 native Pomak speakers. There is a much larger number of Pomaks living in Greece Turkey, whereas in
in 1989 the Ministry of Internal
Affairs recorded 268.971 Pomaks. Cf. U. BRUNNBAUER, Diverging stories, The
Contested Identity of the Bulgarian Pomaks, Ethnologia
Balcanica 3 (1999) 36. Bulgaria
(26) For the cruel stepmother’s figure in other Thracian folk tales see E. STAMOULI-SARANTI, Παραμύθια της Θράκης, Θρακικά 16 (1941) 165-180.
(27) International folktale classification number AaTh 510A, A.AARNE-S.THOMPSON, The types of the folktale. A classification and bibliography,
1987. The Cinderella story of the persecuted heroine appears
in more than five hundred versions in Europe alone but is also found all over the world, from Helsinki India and the Philippines
to Sudan and
- S.THOMPSON, The Folktale. Mexico Press, 1977, 127. University of California
(28) See other Pomak versions in A. RONGO, Παραμύθια και τραγούδια των Πομάκων της ορεινής Θράκης, Athens 2004, folktale number 11. Ιn this variation from Glafki it is a military officer (zabítinon) with his mountain soldiers (kumíte) saving the girl, whereas in another one (P. THEOHARIDES, Πομάκοι, Οι Μουσουλμάνοι της Ροδόπης, op.cit. 459-60) bandits (haydúte) live in the cottage in which the girl seeks refuge.
(29) N. KOKKAS - A. RONGO, Πομάκικα παραμύθια και παροιμίες από τη Γλαύκη του Ν.Ξάνθης (Η συγκρότηση του αφηγηματικού λόγου στο πομάκικο παραμύθι) op.cit. tale N.10.
(30) AaTh 159B. For versions of the tale from Drama and
Thrace see N. KOKKAS - N. CONSTANTINIDES, Παραμύθια από το Βώλακα Δράμας, Thessaloniki 2004 tale No10b, H. DIMITROULOPOULOS, Παραμύθια της Θράκης, 2, Αθήνα 2002, 75-77. In other parts of Greece the bear is substituted by the lion – cf, D. LOUKATOS, Νεοελληνικά Λαογραφικά Κείμενα,
1957, 33-34. In AaTh 285D we may notice a similar reaction (remembering bad behaviour) of the snake: the snake laid gold whenever it was fed with milk but when the man’s son cut the snake’s tail the snake refused to reconcile with the human beings again. cf. the Pomak proverb: “Μechkáta ye víkala: Yerása sa zagáve dúmata sa ne zabaráve» (The bear said: The wound is healed but the word is not forgotten”); also see D. KATAKI - R. KARAHOJA, Ο παππούς και η γιαγιά είπαν, 21 Παραμύθια από τη Ροδόπη, Xanthi 1997, 43; N. KOKKAS - A. RONGO, Πομάκικα παραμύθια και
παροιμίες από τη Γλαύκη του Ν.Ξάνθης op.cit. tale No 2 -
In similar Bulgarian tales the moral is: Τézhka rána razdraviáva, lósha dúma ne she razdrávia (= the heavy wound has been healed, the bad word will not be forgotten). Athens
(31) N. KOKKAS - A. RONGO, op.cit., tale No 11.
(32) F. TSIMBIRIDOU, Les Pomak dans la Thrace grecque. Discours ethnique et pratiques socioculturelles, op.cit. 235-236.
(33) Κïrk déti ne mógal da glôda máyko i ubáyka (= Forty children could not take care of their parents) N. KOKKAS - A. RONGO, Πομάκικα παραμύθια και παροιμίες από τη Γλαύκη του Ν.Ξάνθης op.cit. tale No 14.
(34) The supernatural elements are very popular in the daily life of the Pomaks. For the magical rites related to the cultivation of tobacco or to animal diseases as well as for spirits (dzins) and the bad eye see B. VERNIER, Representation mythique du monde et domination masculine. Un exemple: La division sexuelle du travail chez les Pomaks Grecs. Greek Review of Social Research,
Athens 1981, 60-94; also see F.
TSIMBIRIDOU, , Les Pomak dans la
grecque. op.cit. 153-166. Thrace
(35) N. KOKKAS - A. RONGO, op.cit. tale No 9.
(36) N. KOKKAS - A. RONGO, op.cit. tale No 17 – AaTh 566 “The Three Objects and the wonderful Fruits (Fortunatus)”.
(37) A more complete version of the tale from Eóra village is recorded by D. KATAKI - R. KARAHOJA, op.cit. 25-28. In that version instead of grapes we have white and black figs. In versions from other parts of
we read about a magical panpipe and a bonnet,
see G. VENETOULIAS, Λαϊκά παραμύθια των Κυκλάδων, Athens 2003, 161-164. Greece
(38) “Ftapanéna vadenítsana”
N. KOKKAS - A. RONGO, op.cit. tale No 23.
(39) “The dragon who was eating male children” (Zhîyen def yel móskine déti) N. KOKKAS - A. RONGO, op.cit, tale No 21.
(40) “Μómechönchena at mlógu fukaralîka na sónana stánava midûrka” (The poor girl who finally became a president) N. KOKKAS - A. RONGO, op.cit. tale No 8.
(41) “Οn-üch déti blüznákï” (Thirteen twin children) N. KOKKAS - A. RONGO, op.cit. tale No 22.
(42) A. RONGO, Παραμύθια και τραγούδια των Πομάκων της Θράκης Athens 2004 tale No 11: Ζhóna mómeche ubáyko mu go astáve faf ennók balkána i to na sónane naháde golâma kïsméte (= The girl whose father abandoned her but finally found great luck); also see in the same collection tale No 6 Enná stará sihirbáska yozhóneva dve fukarí mómechönche (An old witch who married the two poor girls off).
(43) M. IBRAHIM, The concept of God in Muslim tradition, The Islamic Quarterly 37,2 (1993) 132-136.
I. MOHAMED, Concept of Predestination in Islam and Christianity, The Islamic Quarterly 44,2 (2000)
397-399. For the concept of fate in folk tales see S. KYRIAKIDES, Ελληνική Λαογραφία, Athens 1922, 198-200; G.A. MEGAS, Ο λόγος παρηγορητικός περί δυστυχίας και ευτυχίας και τα παραμύθια της προς τύχην οδοιπορίας, Λαογραφία 15
(1953) 3-43; D.S. LOUKATOS, Εισαγωγή στην Ελληνική Λαογραφία, Athens 1992, 231-233, 243-246.
(45) Zhóna mómeche sa ye radíla sas krîvi róki (= The girl who was born with warped arms)
N. KOKKAS -
A. RONGO, op.cit, tale No 15.
(46) Seitáninos abiíshkova dóste (= The devil was looking for friends)
N. KOKKAS - A. RONGO, op.cit, tale No 1.
(47) The tale is probably based on the premature blooming of the cornel tree, which is not accompanied by the production of fruits. It is the AaTh 1030 (The crop division) of the international Aarne-Thompson catalogue. In some cases there is a dragon in the place of devil. There are many Balkan versions of the tale. In certain Bulgarian versions the crop division is done between the devil and the Vlach. A division of fruits between the fox and the bear is also found in AaTh 9Β, whereas the motif of friendship between the man and the devil also appears in ΑaTh 1147.
(48) Avjíen pribíva si dvéne déti N. KOKKAS - A. RONGO, op.cit, tale No 4.
(49) Cf AaTh 248.
(50) Zhîyen chulâk pribíl tri bejéka míchkï (= The man who killed the three young animals)
- A. RONGO, op.cit, tale No 5.
(51) cf. AaTh 285A.
(52) The bear who wanted to burn the shepherd-
N. KOKKAS - A. RONGO, op.cit. tale No 6.
(53) F. TSIMBIRIDOU, Les Pomak dans la
grecque op.cit. 295, notes that, through their
collective function, such anecdotal tales can externalize in a humorous way a
wish to ridicule the powerful authorities in general -. For the social content
of anecdotal tales see M.G. MERAKLIS, Ευτράπελες διηγήσεις. Το κοινωνικό τους περιεχόμενο, Athens 1980; M.G. MERAKLIS,
Τι είναι η λαϊκή λογοτεχνία, Athens 1988, 29-30. Thrace
(54) Μidûren i ketípinon i azhána N. KOKKAS - A. RONGO, op.cit, tale No 25.
(55) “Kak Nasredín zöl dva kóne i ennó áraba” (How Nasreddin got two horses with one cart) N. KOKKAS - A. RONGO, op.cit. tale No 27.
(56) A similar trick with that of the fox which pretended to be dead in order to steal the fish (AaTh 1). cf. G.A. MEGAS, Το ελληνικό παραμύθι. Αναλυτικός κατάλογος τύπων και παραλλαγών κατά το σύστημα Aarne-Thompson, Athens 1978, 9-10.
(57) “Nasredín kak ukráva ennó déte i predáva go” (= How Nasreddin stole and sold a child) N. KOKKAS - A. RONGO, op.cit., tale No 26.
(58) In a Turkish version of the tale from Eski Sehir the explanation given is not the same: Nasreddin claims that he sits reversely on the donkey in order to observe the others. B.
The art of the Turkish tale, Texas
Tech University Press, 1990, 98. WALKER
(59) Bábichkana kaknána íshkala právila (= The old woman who did whatever she wanted)
N. KOKKAS - A. RONGO, op.cit, tale No 28.
(60) W.J. ONG, Orality and Literacy. The technologizing of the word,
1988, 175. New York
H ενσωμάτωση παραδοσιακών αξιών στα πομάκικα λαϊκά παραμύθια
Η μελέτη των παραμυθιών των Πομάκων μέσα στο ιστορικό, γεωγραφικό και πολιτισμικό πλαίσιο του Βαλκανικού παραμυθιού αναδεικνύει ένα κοινό υπόβαθρο στον άξονα της οροσειράς της Ροδόπης. Οι παραδοσιακές ορεινές κοινότητες των Πομάκων, αντιπροσωπευτικός τύπος μικρών αγροτικών κοινοτήτων, λειτούργησαν συχνά ως γέφυρα επικοινωνίας ανάμεσα στο βορρά και το νότο, την ανατολή και τη δύση. Η θεματολογία του πομάκικου παραμυθιού εμπεριέχει θρησκευτικά, ηθικά και φιλοσοφικά μοτίβα που αντιστοιχούν σε ένα σύστημα πολιτισμικών αξιών. Η ενσωμάτωση των αξιών αυτών στην τελετή της αφήγησης αναδεικνύει το παραμύθι ως αντανάκλαση της κοινότητας μέσα στην οποία αναπαράγεται. Η πίστη στο Θεό και στη δύναμη του πεπρωμένου, η προσμονή της ανταπόδοσης και της κοσμικής δικαιοσύνης, οι αρετές της υπομονής, της τιμιότητας, της εργατικότητας, της αξιοπρέπειας, αλλά και της σωματικής ομορφιάς, παράλληλα με την πίστη στη ζωή και την αξία της οικογένειας καθρεφτίζονται μέσα στα παραμύθια των Πομάκων, ανεξάρτητα από την κατηγορία στην οποία αυτά μπορούν να ενταχθούν. Το υπερφυσικό στοιχείο, μαζί με την αδυσώπητη πάλη των αντιθέτων συνθέτουν έναν κόσμο τον οποίο ο λαϊκός Πομάκος αφηγητής παρουσιάζει, αξιοποιώντας μια σειρά από έξω-παραμυθιακά τεχνάσματα. Στην πραγματικότητα, στοχεύοντας στη διασκέδαση του ακροατηρίου, τη διδαχή ή ακόμα και την άσκηση κριτικής σε παραδεδεγμένους θεσμούς, οι αφηγητές των παραμυθιών συνθέτουν με τη μορφή παράστασης μια μορφή επικοινωνίας που μεταφέρει τα πολιτισμικά συμφραζόμενα της κοινότητάς τους, είτε για να τα αναπαραγάγει είτε, συχνά, για να τα υποσκάψει.