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28 05 2007 - Tales Kept for Telling and Reading: New book “salvages” folklore
Tales Kept for Telling and Reading: New book “salvages” folklore
By Vahan Ishkhanyan
Armenia Now reporter
{ai222302.jpg|left}The recently published ‘The Salvaged Tales’ volume is the English version of a collection of Armenian fairy tales in various dialects of Armenian compiled by children.
The book is the brainchild of author and journalist Sergey Vardanyan who, nearly 30 years ago solicited children to write down fairytales, oral traditions, songs and proverbs in their original dialects.

In 1978, Vardanyan invited schoolchildren to have their works published in ‘Pioner Kanch’ youth newspaper (now – ‘Kanch’), offering prizes for the best entries. The letters with folklore pieces from various regions of Armenia, Georgia, Karabakh, Abkhazia, Nakhijevan and the Krasnodar region of Russia flooded the newspaper.

For several years, about 80 percent of letters sent to the newspaper were answering Vardanyan’s call for folklore. They were published in the ‘Young Folklorist’ rubric of the ‘Pioner Kanch’.

Vardanyan says he was forced to study all the pieces sent to the newsroom and to compare them with those published in books, as the cases of plagiarism among the collectors willing to win the contest were quite frequent. Writing pieces in the original language was a hard task for the youngsters, but Vardanyan maintained correspondence with some 1,500 to help them in orienting themselves in linguistic matters. In 1981 Vardanyan published the ‘Fiery Horse’ collection of folkloric texts in various genres. The response of the book was so great that the book was translated into Russian and Slovakian.

A second book called ‘The King’s Dreams’, which included only tales, was published in 2003.

Today, people have almost forgotten the oral literature passed from generation to generation for decades. Vardanyan says legendary narratives may still be told, but there are no more people telling fairy tales. The last narrators passed away, but the material included in the two volumes collected by the children has been salvaged.

After publishing the ‘King’s Dream’ Vardanyan sent letters to the village schools to find the collectors of the folk pieces and the narrators to present them with the fruit of their work done some 25 years ago. But he managed to find only a few of them. The narrators and part of the collectors died; another part of the collectors left Armenia. But Vardanyan still managed to find some of them: “I wrote a letter to the Geghashen village to find Naira Babayan, a collector. And all of a sudden I got a call from the school: ‘Hello, Naira Babayan is calling.’ The girl is now the director of the school,” Vardanyan says.

{ai222301.jpg|right}Writer Susanna Harutyunyan, 42, was one of the young collectors. She was 13-15, when she wrote down three thick copybooks of some 100 pieces her grandmother Margarit Harutyunyan and her father’s uncle’s wife Asanet Harutyunyan used to tell during her three summer vacations. Susanna now regrets she did not write down the legends and the folk medicine skills of her grandmother: “My grandmother had eight grandchildren and she would never let take them be taken to a doctor, because she had her own ways to treat them. She used herbs and various rituals. The superstitions were believed to indicate backwardness in those times and we did not pay much attention to that kind of things,” she says.

Susanna recalls people used to bathe the body of the dead and her grandmother once encouraged her to drink a drop of the water used for the bathing to do away with her fears. But she never tried: “Many superstitions of the kind are lost now,” she says.

None of the two volumes in Armenian are easy to read, because the dialects are sometimes hard to understand. The books include difficult vocabularies. Vardanyan opposes their ‘translation’ into literary language: “The dialects are alive and people can get themselves acquainted with them through the books. Tales and songs look natural in the dialect, and their beauty would be lost in the literary equivalent. If someone wants to read a tale in literary language, let him read Charles Perrault.”

Despite the beauty of the dialects can’t be expressed in the English translation of the book, the reader can still enjoy the abundance of humor and people’s fantasy in them.

The new English version was translated by Vardanyan’s son and daughter, Gagik and Gohar and is published by Graber printing house. A German translation of the book is ready for publication. Vardanyan also dreams of publishing English and German books designed by English and German speaking children


Il sito è curato dall'Arch. Vahé Vartanian e dal Dott. Enzo Mainardi;
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