Михаил Петрович Драгоманов (1841-1895)

Традиция - это передача пламени, а не поклонение пеплу.
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Mykhaylo Drahomanov: A Symposium and Selected Writings, The Annals of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in the U.S., Vol. II, Spring, 1952, No. 1 (3).


Mykhaylo Drahomanov

This is the lecture which Drahomanov sent to the International Folklore Congress held in connection with the World Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. Drahomanov was invited to participate in the Congress, but was unable to, and his paper was read in absentia in English on July 15, 1893. It was followed by a discussion led by Franklin A. Head of Chicago. It was reprinted in the daily, Svoboda (New York, Feb. 17, 1945), from which we have copied it, a few corrections in the English.

We have included this article because of its connection with the American scholarly world and because it may serve as an illustration of Drahomanov's work in his field of special study.

The commentators upon Shakespeare have already demonstrated that the illustrious dramatist took the subject of his comedy, The Taming of the Shrew, from an Italian novel of Steparola, adding to it details found in analogous novels among Germanic peoples, and which the English writer might well have found in oral tales in existence in the England of his time.

A short note on the people of the Ukraine will not, we believe, be useless. The name Ukraine, or Little Russia, is given to the southern provinces of European Russia, from the river Kuban at the foot of the Caucasus to the left bank of the Western Bug.

All those provinces are peopled, for the most part, by a Slavic race having its ethnographic peculiarities and its own original history. There may be as many as nineteen or twenty million Ukrainians. To this race belong also nearly three and one half millions of the population of Galicia, of Bukovina and of eastern Hungary, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Notes upon the same theme are found in old texts and in the folklore of various European countries: in Spain, Italy, Denmark, France, Germany, and also in Slavic countries, in Russia and in Bulgaria. A German journal of 1829 published a translation of a Persian story with the same plot. It will be readily admitted, from numerous analogies, that the plot of the European stories on this theme has really penetrated into our country from Asia, which should be considered as the home of adages and misogynous tales. But it must be observed that very often the European imitators of Asiatic stories surpass the Oriental originals in their misogyny, impelled by a coarse vivacity on the subject, which the grave humor of the Oriental restrains within certain limits. This is the case with the tales of the taming of the shrew. The Ukrainian stories on this theme are interesting, first because, with the other Slav variants, they can complete the geographical chain of the traditions of the subject between Europe and Asia, and also because they show how an Asiatic tale whose subject has been suggested by the life of the harems, transported into the middle of our country, where life is much more simple, adapts itself with difficulty to the new and different entourage. The details are shuffled about, lose their coherence and sometimes their common ideas, up to the point where the European story-teller loses patience, as it were, and does not seize upon the details or even the plot of the foreign story, unless it is to create a new tale with an argument which is different, if not entirely opposite. The tales having as a theme the taming of the shrew may have penetrated into the Ukraine from Western Europe as well as from Asia. The state of folklore study in the countries adjacent to the Ukraine does not as yet permit us to pronounce definitely upon that point. We will do no more here than sum up the tales on this theme which have been found in our country, and to indicate their analogies with foreign tales, and we may end with a Ukrainian variant which may be considered as an original creation made under the impression of these tales and as a foil against them.

We may recall that in the greater part of the variants of the story in question the husband commences by chastising animals which will not obey him: cat, dog, horse, etc., and that in several of the variants, the correction, after having borne good results with the young spouse, is then applied to her mother, who served as an example to her, and who even counseled her to acts of disobedience. The episode of the punishment of the cat, to which the wise young husband first gives his commands, is the principal base of the Persian variant. This episode is strangely transformed in the Ukrainian variants. Two of these variants recount to us that the father of the obstinate wife had forewarned the fiance that the daughter would do no housework, but that he had responded, "We have at the house a cat which will do all the work." The young bride herself ordered the cat to prepare the dinner; the cat did not obey; then the husband beat it, putting it into a sack which he gave to his wife to hold on her back; or, in another version, he ordered the woman to hold the cat by the paws. In the first case, the woman received the blows upon her back; in the second, the cat scratched her hands, and the woman ending by letting it go, her husband beat her, -- a detail which disfigures the Persian variant, which is to frighten the lady without touching her body. After this experience the woman sets to work herself without trusting to the cat.

In the novel of Steparola, the young husband proposes to his wife to fight with flails in order to decide which of them should rule, and which obey. The wife, frightened, promises obedience, and keeps her promise better when she sees her husband kill his unruly horse. This punishment of the cat is changed to another story, where the husband punishes his wife for infidelity by giving her blows with a cat, which is cruel as well as wanting in sense. In the Danish tale, the husband kills the horse during the trip to the house, and the wife is obliged to finish the journey on foot. In a Gascon tale, the lady is obliged to carry the saddle of the horse which her husband has killed as a punishment. In an old German rhyme the husband, after having killed the horse, saddles the woman and compels her to carry him thus a mile on the way, after which the woman promises obedience. A third Ukrainian variant commences with the question of the husband to the wife. "Which of us ought to obey the other?" The woman chooses the command. The husband obeys during three years, but after the delay he claims his turn of pre-eminence, and proposes to the wife to go together to visit some relatives. Having received the order to hitch up the horse, the woman puts it headfirst in the shafts, and when the horse pushes the cart backward instead of going ahead, the husband kills it and hitches the woman in its place. It is in this manner that he arrives at his father-in-law's home, where he has the complete approval of the old man, who has suffered all his life from the obstinacy of his wife. The correction of the latter by the wise son-in-law follows.

In Steparola there are two brothers who espouse two sisters, and one spoils his wife by indulgence, while the better advised one corrects his, who would willingly follow the example of her sister. Having learned from his brother the key to the secret, the elder wishes also to employ his means of correction, but his wife derides him, saying he has commenced his work too late. In the Spanish tale there is no mention of two sisters, but of the daughter and mother; the results are the same. A German rhyme shows us also a mother and daughter the latter of whom wishes to follow the example of the former, but who is corrected, as we have just related, after which comes the correction of the old woman by her son-in-law.

The Ukrainian variants have seized upon the theme of the correction of the mother-in-law, while repeating the episode of hitching up the woman. The father of the young woman who is corrected, enchanted with the result obtained by his son-in-law, sends his own mate to visit him. The son-in-law harnesses his mother-in-law to the plough, and gives her strokes of the whip while he tills the fields. In another variant, the young man forces his wife also to inflict blows upon her mother, and to repeat "Mother, you should not give your daughter lessons in disobedience toward her husband." Besides these tales, Ukrainian folk-lore offers some satirical poems, which the popular rhapsodists recite to the accompaniment of the kobza or the lyre, and in which the wicked woman is corrected by hitching her to the cart.

Although oral literature is often described as the mirror of the life and soul of the people, it is not to be concluded from the notes which we have just summed up that the customs of the peasants of the Ukraine are coarse, or that the treatment of women is severe. In reality, the position of the woman is relatively rather high in the Ukrainian family. Marriages are usually contracted freely by choice, the share in the agricultural and domestic work between the husband and wife is proportioned to the strength of each, and gives to the woman complete independence within her sphere.

In reading the Ukrainian variants of the tales upon the taming of the shrew, it is seen that we have to deal with a foreign theme upon which the people have seized because it lends itself to pleasantry -- doubtless rather coarse -- but whose details are not even familiar to them, from which comes often the confusion in the tales which cannot be explained except by the aid of comparative study. The imagination of the people of the Ukraine ended by the creation of a new tale which had arranged quite freely the details of the strange story, and at the same time had changed its dominant idea. This new recital commences by transforming the episode of the refractory animal in the following manner:

There was once upon a time a poor woman with her son. Both were very industrious. The mother had saved money, but it only sufficed to buy a single ox, and not two, which they ordinarily harness together in their country, in order to work the fields with a plough. In spite of this, the son hitched up this ox, and was doing his work in the fields. One day there passed a rich man who lived in the village near-by, who saw his difficulty and who promised to give him a second ox as a present. But this ox had not been well trained and had acquired some bad habits, being very obstinate. Nevertheless, by means of patience, the young man succeeded in correcting this ox. Having learned this, the rich man invited the young man to marry his own daughter, who was very spoiled.

The marriage being celebrated, the young couple go to the poor hut of the husband, and carry as dot only a very small chest.

The next day, the young wife refuses to work, and will not carry water and wood to use in cooking. After some hours, the husband and his mother, who had prepared the dinner, commenced to eat, but did not invite the wife, who remained in a corner behind the stove. The dinner ended, the mother and son went out to their tasks. The wife found only a little bread in the house, which she eagerly devoured in her place of refuge. The same thing was repeated at supper. The next day, the wife, who was very hungry, rose early, ran to the fountain and brought the water, but hid herself, as before, in her corner. The mother-in-law prepared the dinner and said to her daughter-in-law; "Come, my daughter, eat the soup, it is made of the water that you brought." But she gave her no meat after the gruel. The third day, the daughter-in-law sees that in the house they do not play with work, arises at dawn, brings water and then wood, but goes back again behind the stove. The mother prepares the dinner again, invites the younger woman to eat, saying "Seest thou, my daughter, the dinner is cooked with the wood and water thou hast brought; thy husband has gathered some millet, and I have made the broth, and I have done the work at the stove. All of us have worked and all of us may eat of this dinner." The daughter-in-law had learned that in this house they only nourished those who had worked, and set to work herself to perform her domestic tasks conscientiously, becoming gay and gentle. After a time, her father wished to see her. The daughter received him with pleasure, did the honors of the home for him, but did not forget to work, and finally, seeing her mother-in-law approaching, gave to her father a small piece of fur, and invited him to rub it (this is done to make the skin softer). "Look, father," said she, "rub this, because it is the custom in this house only to give those who work something to eat." The father was very much pleased with the transformation of his daughter, and invited her husband to his house, and gave them all sorts of riches, clothing, cattle, ploughs, bees, etc. The couple became rich, but continued good workers.

The same history forms the plot of the tale of the Ukrainian story-teller, Storozhenko. "One should teach an idle person to work by hunger, but not with a hammer."

We see that the popular reciters of this tale agree with St. Paul in the idea that "he who labors not, may not eat," an idea much more humane than that which the taming of the shrew would teach.

But one cannot have misogynous adages without results. It is not long since we read in a journal of Southern Russia a different fact -- the history of a peasant, who, as a punishment for infidelity, had hitched his wife to a cart beside the horse and came thus to market. It is evident that the goodman was inspired by the satiric poetry which he had heard recited, perhaps in the same market-place.

malorus.org, копилефт 2006 г.