The Structural Analysis of Kazakh Fairytales

Fairytales are important part of Kazakh mythology alongside «shezhire» which represents different Kazakh genealogies including legends about origins of tribes and lineages narrated about famous persons of different lineages. The author tries to do structural analysis of Kazakh fairytales using methodology of V.Y.Propp and C.Levi-Strauss to do comparative analysis of Kazakh and Russian fairytales. In the present time researches of the Kazakh mythology are one of the important and priority investigations in Kazakhstani human sciences. There are published «shezhire» of different Kazakh lineages, which are started to reconstruct but these researches have spontaneous and mostly have only a descriptive character. The author had done the attempt of theoretical analysis of Kazakh fairytales, which are the part of Kazakh mythology.


Fairytales are the basic part of Kazakh mythology with «shezhire» which is genealogies included legends and traditions about descents of tribes and lineages and narrated about famous persons of different lineages.

The author tried to do the trial structural analysis of Kazakh enchanting fairytales using V.Y.Propp’s and C.Levi-Strauss’ methodology. There are a lot of researches on Kazakh fairytales in Kazakhstani Folklore science. Although Propp’s work on structural analysis of fairytales is the classical one, there were not almost any similar investigations in the Kazakh Folklore science. Unfortunately the author didn’t find any researches of Kazakhstani investigators where would be done the structural analysis of Kazakh fairytales how Propp did in his fundamental work as «Fairytale’s Morphology». Now such investigations are very necessary because «Fairytale’s Morphology» and the other Propp’s works mostly considered Russian and European tales. There were not any mentions or comparisons with Oriental, Asian and especially Central Asian fairytales there. Such analysis is necessary for investigating and interpreting of Kazakh folklore, particularly of fairytales: «Before we answer the question where a fairytale descents from, we must answer the question what it is itself» [1; 12]. The author tried to compare the structures of Kazakh and Russian fairytales using Propp’s and Levi-Strauss’ works on the structural analysis of fairytales and myths. We can indicate some similarities and differences of Kazakh tales from other tales, particularly of Russian ones.

In the present time researches of the Kazakh mythology are one of the important and priority investigations in Kazakhstani human sciences. There are published «shezhire» of different Kazakh lineages, which are started to reconstruct but these researches have spontaneous and mostly have only a descriptive character. The author had done the attempt of theoretical analysis of Kazakh fairytales, which are the part of Kazakh mythology.

First of all necessary to note that the structural analysis was doing to Kazakh enchanting fairytales, because according to Propp this method of investigation applies only to such fairytales: «The research of fairytale’s form is possible if not only to all fairytales but most probably to enchanting fairytales, which are origin fairytales» [1; 5].

Historiography of Kazakh fairytales

Collecting and fixing of Kazakh fairytales was starting in XIX century when Russian orientalists started researching Central Asian territories very intensively. This period was connected with S.Ualikhanov, G.Potanin, V.Radlov, I.Kraft, R.Karutts, I.Berezin, A.Vasilyev, A.Alektorov and the others.

According the Kazakhstani investigators, the first researches on fairytales was started by the famous Kazakh writer M.Auezov, the professors P.Falev and L.Sobolev in the early XX century. Auezov and Sobolev considered that enchanting fairytales are fabulous ones and the most ancient genre. The Russian researcher Afanasyev also indicated fabulist and mythological of enchanting fairytales. Many scientists indicate the interrelationship between myths and fairytales, but it should separate these categories. The consideration about relation between myths and fairytales will be below. Now it is necessary to note that enchanting fairytales should not indicate with category of fabulist. Propp thought that fabulist is not clear and not  scientific category. First of all fairytales are indicated with their regularity and reiterate, which are the object of fairytales analysis’s investigations [2; 174].

A.Divaev, S.Seyfullin, O.Turmanzhanov collected and fixed a lot of fairytales, which were included in basics of fairytales’ collections later. The Kazakh poets and writers as S.Begalin, S.Omarov, M.Tiessov and the others did a lot of important works in this direction. L.Makeev, N.Severin, E.Melyugin, V.Sidelnikov translated and published a lot of fairytales. In the same period it is necessary to note such researchers as E.Smailov who worked on enchanting tales and B.Kenzhebaev who investigated everyday tales.

Smailov also pointed antiquity of Kazakh enchanting fairytales and indicated a lot of Arab, Persian, Russian and Tatar influences in them.

Professor M.Gabdullin called enchanting fairytales as oral high-art folk prose. What about fairytales’ poetics, he as Auezov thought that some enchanting fairytales are started and mostly they are included rhyme introductions, which sometimes don’t have any direct relation to a fairytale.

N.Smirnova indicated and proved a genre syncretism of Kazakh fairytales.

It is necessary to note S.Kaskabassov’s works on enchanting fairytales, E.Tursunov’s works on everyday ones, N.Turekulov’s researches on the genre-structural analysis of Kazakh folklore, E.Kostukhin researches on the comparison Kazakh fairytales with the other folks’ fairytales in the 70–80th years of the last century.

Kaskabassov’s work «Kazakh Enchanting Fairytale» will be present the basic interest for our research in the future. This work considered fairytale’s structure in the historical aspect. There the researcher revealed some important similarities of enchanting fairytale such as its Islamization; closing to a hero tale, the transition of enchanting fairytales into everyday ones and on the contrary; moving to increasing plots of fairytales at the expense of permanent introductions and conclusions; separate conditions of existing and spreading fairytales’ plots in this work. Kaskabassov also indicated the following element of the Kazakh social organization and kinship system such as a dual organization, which was contained in tales about descents of Kazakh lineages, when the traditional enmity was pointed between two brothers-ancestors of the lineage. The ritual competition of the frateries was the elements of a dual organization such as a game «catch the girl» and a wedding song «Zhar-Zhar». Then should to note a cousin marriage, when, for example, three brothers was seeking three sisters as their wives. The theme of exogamy marriage was spread mostly: these were difficulties of seeking a fiancée and asking in marriage. The phenomenon of the matrilocal residence also should point to this theme such as working to fiancée’s family, when a hero spent several years with fiancée’s parents and did different hard assignments. Kaskabassov also showed the elements of ancient religious faiths and imaginations such as shamanism, animism and totemism, which is honoring some animals and birds; descents of people and lineages from animals and plants; marriages between people and animals and the most spread element of fairytales are animals who helped to a main hero.

According to Kaskabassov, the most late fairytales included elements of nomad life. Predominance of such plots and wide diversity included elements, most probably, indicated that formation of Kazakh fairytales was descended during the period of folding of Kazakh nomad society in the middle ages. The pointed ancient elements of social organization saved and included into fairytales from mythological plots and they often had rudimentary character. Besides these elements there were hunting, trade as exchange between settled and nomad people in fairytales. Economic activity is community and patrilocal. Such phenomena as nomad raids (barymta) and military collisions started to appear in fairytales. Family relations were characterized with exogamy and polygamy rules. There were also wide spread marriage traditions, asking in marriage, respecting of old generations, adopting, hospitality and gifting. What about religious faiths there were established synthesis of Islam and shamanism.

E Tursunov in his work «The genesis of an everyday fairytale» proved an ancient descent of everyday fairytales. According to his opinion, these fairytales from the very beginning arose as an independent genre and developed with enchanting fairytales and fairytales about animals together [3; 198]. The researcher puts opposite to the widespread sights that everyday fairytales arose much later than enchanting tales and are the transformation of the lasts. Tursunov approved, that everyday fairytales have a long time of their existence and arose in the late Paleolithic period [3; 194]. Most likely, such statement will be disputable so as the period of myth’s formation should not to define with the time of fairytales’ arising, especially of everyday ones.

Summing all thoughts, it is necessary to note, that studying of the Kazakh fairytales approximately started from the middle of the XIX century and it is possible to show the following periods: 1) collecting and fixing of fairytales; 2) classification of fairytales; 3) historical and comparative analyses of fairytales’ genres.

The classifications of the Kazakh fairytales

A classification is a distribution of subjects, phenomena and categories to groups depending from their general attributes. A classification of fairytales is necessary first of all for their scientific studying. Meanwhile Propp pointed that there is not standard classification of fairytales in the modern folklore science. It is caused by that the attribute is not revealed which could be put in a basis of classification.

Accordingly there also is not a general classification of Kazakh fairytales in the native folklore science.

Kazakh fairytales are very various and have a lot of different plots.

G.Potanin gave one of the first classifications of the Kazakh fairytales. He divided fairytales to the seven types: 1) fairytales about animals; 2) enchanting fairytales; 3) heroic tales; 4) enchanting-short stories tales; 5) everyday short stories; 6) everyday instructive tales; 7) satirical tales.

The other classification belongs to M.Auezov who offered the following types of fairytales: 1) fairytales-legends; 2) fairy tales about life of ancient people and their feats to which the writer referred the fairytales reflecting an ancient way of life, struggle of good and evil, so its are enchanting fairytales; 3) satirical fairytales; 4) fairytales-narrations; 5) fables.

The Kazakhstani folklore science has only three basic types of fairytales:

1) enchanting;

2) everyday;

3) fairytales about animals.

E.Kostyuhin added the new genres to this classification separating heroic and enchantingadventurous fairytales from classical enchanting fairytales.

What about enchanting fairytales, E.Smailov pointed its following types:

1) fairy tales which similar with fairytales of other peoples: universal but not borrowed;

2) borrowed from the other peoples: Arabs, Persians, Tatars and redone in traditions of the Kazakh folklore;

3) arisen only at Kazakhs and not having similarities with other peoples.

Smailov also tried to classify fairytales’ images. The main hero of the Kazakh enchanting fairytales basically, in his opinion, is a batyr who is a defender of a lineage. Except of batyr, a main hero can be bald (tazsha) who often is a turned main hero and makes such action above the appearance to not be known by the enemy or enemies. Sometimes there a main hero is a girl.

Kaskabasov shared Smailov’s classification adding its that the Kazakh enchanting fairytales have genre syncretism. In his opinion some fairytales «have a period of formation, the others occupy intermediate position between enchanting and everyday fairytales, the third are between enchanting and heroic» [4; 30].

E.Turekulov pointed that enchanting fairytales have only three basic plots in the introduction to the collection of the Kazakh enchanting fairytales. The first type of Kazakh fairytales connected to an initiation ritual, which is a dedication of the teenager in adult members of a lineage. A main hero of such fairytales from the very beginning has no name, he will get it after difficult trials and a finding a wife («Kanshentey» fairytale) that means he becomes an adult man. Shaman legends are the second source of enchanting fairytales. The third category of fairytales, in opinion of the researcher, is connected to a process of donation when a main hero is given magic things, which allow him to receive some prosperity, more often, some cattle [5; 4, 5].

It is necessary to note, that Propp separated fairytales from such genres, as a legend, a narration and a fable.

First of all it is necessary to distinguish narrations from fairytales, which have the other titles such as true stories and bylichka. These titles specify that people trusted in their reality, as opposite fairytales, but in the same time, it is necessary to tell, that narration is not a myth, in reality which people also trusted. The main heroes of narrations are demonic essences such as wood-goblins, water-goblins, house-devils, mermaids and the other, which experience their supernatural good or malicious forces on a person. The person also can be as a character of such stories but he will be not an alive ordinary person, he will be as a corpse, a vampire, a werewolf, a ghost, etc. Also a nature is as a subject of this genre but it is already the other nature, which a person lives everyday in. This nature is controlled by unknown forces, before which the main hero is powerless, he tries to seize it with various magical ways [2; 46, 47]. Fables, accordingly, will be stories, which people cease to trust in but they have similar plots and elements.

A fairytale is not a legend these are the different genres completely. The fairytale is a type of the folklore, the legend is a Church-Latin category. If the narration has elements national pre-Christian religion, in our case — pre-Islam one, the legend has Islamic and Christian motives. Characters of legends are persons from sacred books of monotheistic religions. People also are the characters of legends, most likely, they usually has a heavy sin against religious moral principles, so they are punished and then must be saved and forgiven. The legend’s purpose is not entertaining but moralizing. Also it is possible to tell, that a legend’s descent is more later formation than a fairytale because, in general, the legend arose in the system of the monotheistic religions [2;48,49]. Though some fairytales, especially Kazakh, sometimes have moral character. Most probably such fairytales are the synthesis of ancient and Islamic religious beliefs, which Kaskabassov specified. Formation of the Kazakh fairy tales occurred in the late period when Islam had already spread on the territory of Kazakhstan and influenced, in particular, on fairytales’ develop. There are a lot of characters as sacred persons, which help to people in the Kazakh fairytales. Some fairytales finished with explanations of arising of national aphorisms, which have a moral character. Such fairytales will be given as examples below when the structural analysis of fairytales will be considered.

The fairytale and the myth

A myth’s attitude to a fairy tale is represented a main question. Frequently, a lot of researchers pointed mythology of Kazakh enchanting fairytales, in the other words, they pointed the mythological basics of fairytales. The genetic connection between fairytales and myths was marked by K.Levi-Strauss in his work «Structural Anthropology». In his opinion the fairytale is the old myth. The myth, which was a reality of the supreme order and they trusted in it in the past, later it lost this social function. People stopped to trust to the myth, and it was turned out into a fairytale.

Levi-Strauss thought that the structural analysis of myths allowed to reveal the logic sequence of the mythological and positive modern thoughts are not differ from each other: «a person always thought  equally «well»» [6; 207]. Considered below the morphological analysis of fairytales will confirm the point of view of the French scientist that a fairytale transformed into a myth also has a strict repeating logic sequence.

Propp in his work «Russian fairytale» did not consider a genetic interrelation between a fairytale and a myth, because he supposed that this question very disputable. Viewing the various points of such western scientists as E.Bette, V.Vundt, D.Brinthon, F.Cushing, O.Rend and F.Boas, Propp specified the general distinguish by these researchers of a myth, a legend, a fairytale categories, etc. from each other. Propp adhered to the following positions: 1) the myth is earlier formation than the fairytale; 2) the myth has a sacral meaning, the fairytale — entertaining one; 3) he called myths such stories of primitive peoples which admit as a reality of the supreme order and have the sacred character [2; 41, 42]. He also confirmed Levi-Strauss and I.M.Tronsky points of view that a difference between the myth and the fairytale is the difference of their social function. People trust to myths but they already don’t trust to fairytales. By the other words, myths and fairytales differ from each other by how people concern to them [2; 46].

In the other work Propp specified the direct connection between myths and fairytales. At first, it is necessary to note, that he shares F.Boas' opinion, particularly, concerning legends of the Kwakiutl Indians, which cannot be understood without studying their social organization, rituals and ceremonies [7;356]. Myths and fairytales of different peoples are closely connected to their social systems.

Propp indicated the following social relations and religious beliefs, which are in fairytales: the ritual of the dedication and imaginations about life after dearth. He approved that the cycle of initiations is the most ancient basis of fairytales. Initiations are closely connected to imaginations about death: devoted person often went down into the underground world and passed there difficult assignments, he could spend long time there and the hero could try difficulties assignments on a return way when he came back to a surface of Earth. Overcoming the assignments, he received a name and found his wife. These cycles give a large variety of fairytales’ plots [7; 353]. These positions repeat in the Kazakh fairytales too. As it was already marked above, Turekulov revealed the three basic plots of the Kazakh enchanting fairytales: initiation rituals, shaman imaginations about underground spirits, and a donation, or an exchange. Most likely, a donation cannot be related to an independent plot. There donations, exchanges or compensations are in all fairytales because these are one of the basic functions of enchanting fairytales.

The Kazakhstani researchers also specify the interrelation and pointed parallels between myths and fairytales. Kaskabassov and Tursunov took for an example the most popular character of Kazakh fairytales as Zhalmauyz-Kempir (the Gluttonous Mouth, or the Copper Old Woman-Witch), which sometimes could help to a main hero («Three sisters» fairytale), but more often she played a negative role of fairytales. They consider, that the given character of fairytales was taken from myths where Zhalmauyz-Kempir was a greatgrand-parent of the Earth and the kind patroness of people. In fairytales she completely varies and becomes the enemy to the person. Only the small number of fairytales has kept her initial value. Тursunov results as an example ancient Greece myths in which the Supreme God steals for itself the mortal woman to be his wife and who gives rise to people of the hero who is a giant (batyr), the defender of people. In fairytales the same turns to the artful sister or the wife who with the help of a giant tries to exhaust the brother or husband («Erkem-Aidar» fairytale) [5; 4]. Thus, it is possible to assume, that functions of mythological characters in fairytales mostly vary on opposite, owing to change of their social importance. In other words, it is   possible to state the assumption, that the given examples once again confirm genetic connection of magic Kazakh fairytales with myths.

The structure of Kazakh enchanting fairytales

First of all we have to point that Propp given his main part of his researches of enchanting fairytales pointed the difficulties in attempt to give the definition to enchanting fairytales. He thought possible to separate enchanting fairytales from other sorts of fairytales with the help of investigation of their structure. As it was told above the investigation of structure is possible only with enchanting fairytales, so as the structure of such fairytales is always permanent. For example, such elements as trial, award and punishment in enchanting fairytales were always permanent and repeated elements of such fairytales.

For this structural analysis of Kazakh fairytales were taken first twenty fairytales from the collection of Kazakh enchanting fairytales «Golden bit» (Alma-Ata, 1983).

The structure consists of functions of permanent repetition elements of enchanting fairytales. The functions of fairytales, by Propp, are the actions of fairytale’s characters, which are meaning full for the development of plots [1; 36–70]. He pointed 31 functions of a fairytale. Their functions are similar, though they are different. Let see the main functions of fairytales.

All fairytales start with band («zavyazka»). Describe Russian fairytales Propp points that there is no definite time and place in fairytales and in myths. Most of fairytales start with the following words: «Once upon a time, in some Kingdom» and so on.

Then there is an information about characters of fairytales. Usually there are members of two generations: parents and children, juniors and seniors. Usually Kazakh fairytales start with an epic way when old parents do not have children and they pray the child from God. Than such child is given who grows up by unusual way from bread, a piece of fat and sunlight, etc. He grows up also very quickly: «not day by day, but hour by hour» («Er-Tostik», «Nan-batyr»). Propp’s elements of fairytales are not related with functions, its only the first situation which pushes the beginning to the first function as departure. The main hero leaves for the war and seeks his relatives or his fiancée, and others. It is leaving can be temporal but there also be found permanent leaving, it is usually death of close people.

Departure is often accompanied by prohibitions (the second function), which then are necessarily disturbed (the third function). These both functions are pair functions, they set the beginning of a fairytale’s action without them there cannot be a plot of a fairytale because disturbing of an the immediately goes to a disaster or to a trouble. For example the main hero of the fairytale «Wolf and Dzhigit» not having waited the finished time burns a skin of the wolf, his wife, that at once was a cause a trouble and difficult tries. The very interesting the type of prohibition as not leaving far from a house and make some activities. In the fairytale as «Еsеk-Меrgen» the father before his death warns his son not go to a wood, and if he all the same will go than not spend a night on the takyr and inside the mausoleum. The son serially disturbed the all three prohibitions and killed the two female monsters who were relatives of a dragon. Еsеk-Меrgen for it helped to the dragon to battle with other dragons. The hero killed the all dragons, accordingly awarded for it and let off home.

Sometimes disturbing results to appearance of enemy (the fourth function), which make harm (the fifth function). It can be a fantastic character (Zhalmauyz-Kempir, the Woman with Goat Legs, the Bearded Old Man and others), sometimes is a person, king or khan, as in the fairytale «Wolf and Dzhigit». Khan, wishing to take hold of the main hero’s wife, made his mind to departure his to difficult assignments. The harm has various forms, particularly, in the kidnapping form. Magic things or a fiancée can be kidnapped

The beginning of a plot not always starts with the prohibition and the disturbing, and later appeared trouble due to its. The trouble can be equal to shortage. In the Kazakh fairytales shortage is represented as loss or stealing of cattle, it also can be some disaster, more often, it is a hunger (dzhut). The shortage is characterized by lack of good pastures for cattle and the main hero goes to seek its with brothers or with assistants («Еr-Тоstik», «Wolf and Dzhigit», «Каnshentey», «Saryat»). The essence of the band («zavyazki») consists of that the main hero has left this house (the sixth function).

Propp pointed the two types of main heroes: a hero-seeker and a hero-victim. The both types are also present in Kazakh fairytales. The first type met in fifteen fairytales («Еr-Тоstik», «Zhelkildek» and the other). A hero-victim expressed brightly in the fairytale «Еrkem-Aidar» where the sister of the main hero with a giant decides to exhaust him sending him to the vary difficult assignments.

The basic plot of all fairytale begins from leaving the house by the hero. Its composition starts to develop that from the very beginning the main hero does not know where to go. In search of a way he is helped usually a magic assistant (more often a horse), a fiancée, a wife. He can see a prophetic dream or meet  assistants on a way. He can meet a donator on this way who gives him a magic thing for making an assignment up or helps him to find a road (for example, «Batyr Alibek» fairytale). According to Propp, a meeting with the donator «a canonical form of development of action» [2; 183]. The donator always meets casually. Magic things, helping or a fiancée are received by the main hero by means of doing of any assignments or tests (the seventh function): to kill a dragon and to save nestlings, to return the stolen cattle, to break an enemy army, etc. These actions always finish by receiving of magic things (the eighth function).

Propp pointed such feature of the main hero character as unselfishness and desire to help any person or an animal, that, later, it is generously awarded. So, in the fairytale «Кеndebay on the horse Кеrkula», the hero decides to help to a bald boy and goes to seek his parents who one time were stolen with their cattle by some khan. He finds gold shoes of a young daughter of khan in the same time. Passing all assignments, he gets out of a captivity of the boy’s parents, receives back all stolen cattle, and khan gives him his daughter. Especially it is necessary to note, that compensation is extracted not only difficult tests, but also cunning («Batyr Аlibek»). Cunning is not condemned in fairytales, therefore cunning is an instrument of a weak person against a strong one. It is possible to tell, that cunning demonstrates intelligent of the main hero.

The important place is occupied with magic assistants in fairytales who help the main hero to do out the assignment: animal (a bird, a horse) or persons who own unusual abilities (a hunter, a strong athlete, a robber, Vetronog, Ozeroglotatel, etc.). Magic assistants can be old men and women, sisters («Еrkem-Аidar») who are meets by chance. Assistants are almost in all fairytales and sometimes you can think that only they overcome all difficulties and troubles, instead of the hero who behaves passively relying on them. Such fairytales was fifteen from twenty. It is necessary to note, that there are fairytales where people become assistants to animals («Kulanaizharkyn») or to the dragon («Еsеk-Меrgen»).

It is necessary to note, there are a lot of magic things and assistants in fairytales even in one fairytale you can meet almost ten and more of them. But at such number their action are limited, and all of them are used for achievement of only one purpose.

The following ninth function is a ferry. The ferry is not very long but for this time distances are covered which are estimated by months or years. It is the function of magic things or assistants. Usually this function is the function of animals such as a horse, a giant bird, a carpet-plane and others. The bird is the most ancient cult animal and often meets in the Kazakh fairytales: a huge bird Samruk who lives on the border of two worlds. It meets in the three fairytales and helps to the main hero for saving its nestlings from a dragon. Usually the bird does not have enough meals, which they take for a road and then the main hero culls a piece of meat of his leg for reaching the appointed place. When they reach a place the bird returns him his flesh. A horse, on the contrary, the most often character of fairytales and especially Kazakh ones, where a horse is an important element of the story. Functions of a horse are various: usually it is means of transportation, but in the same time it is the assistant and the wise adviser of the main hero, it brings him various news and even recovers («Batyr Alibek»). Sometimes, very seldom, the horse can be an enemy to the hero but later it becomes his assistant and adviser («Kanshentey»). The enchanting horse is also winged: connection a bird  and a horse. Besides these animals in the fairytales it is possible to meet a wolf, a fox, a swallow, wolfhounds («Gold bit») who help to the main hero.

All composition of a fairytales described above conducts us to outcome. Here the hero should battle and sustain fight (the tenth function). Won (the eleventh function) he liquidates a trouble or lack (the twelfth function). But the main hero can receive need thing not only by means of the fight but also with tricking.

Getting a subject of searches the hero comes back home (the thirteenth function). Returning frequently can be carried out in the form of flight (the fourteenth function), especially, if the subject was received by fraudulent way. A flight is always successfully, the hero saves from pursuit (the fifteenth function). Returning can be delayed for a long time: the hero again can meet with difficulties. It can be his brothers, sworn brothers or fellow travelers-giants who throw his alone, leave him under ground, wound or kill taking with themselves his fiancée and all his things («Zhelkildek», «Saryat», «Nan-batyr»).

It is possible to tell, that the fairytale begins anew. Actions again everyone repeat: the hero searches for magic things or they help him. For example, in the fairytale «Nan-batyr» the main hero together with sworn brothers pursues their enemy and one of them goes down underground empire. When he appears there he helps people who were in captivity at the gray-haired old man. The hero meets a girl and won the enemy but his brothers leave him there having taken away with themselves the girl. Then the people who he has free help him to construct a ladder to get out of the underground empire. Fairytales with re-testing are met very often, besides of deception of close people, it can be also receiving of magic things which demands making up of some conditions. In the Kazakh fairytales it is possible to meet saving and returning of a father, and then searching and returning of stolen cattle («Kanshentey»). In such fairytales it is possible to show two plots: first the fight and then a difficult problem. Repeated returning (the sixteenth function) occurs unknowing, the hero turns into ill, poor or bald («Еrkem-Аidar», «Каnshentey»).

The fairytale goes to the end. The second trial is a difficult problem (the seventeenth function) which only the main hero can consult (the eighteenth function). Then unmasking follows (the nineteenth function) and a false hero, or heroes, is exposed (the twentieth function) and is punished (the twenty first function). The present hero accepts the former appearance — transformation (the twenty second function), get married and become a king (the twenty third function).

All considered twenty-three basic functions of a fairytale, which are specified by Propp in his work

«Morphology of a Fairytale» are met as well in the Kazakh fairytales.

Analysis of the Kazakh enchanting fairytales

We have found out that the structure of the Kazakh enchanting fairytales basically coincides with structures of enchanting fairytales in general. It is necessary to reveal and specify some features of the Kazakh fairytales, which have met in the considered twenty fairy tales. First of all not all fairytales necessarily contain all listed functions. The fairytale «Еr-Тostik» can be an example a full structure of enchanting fairytale; the others («Kulanayzharkyn», «Batyr Тumarbas», «Gold bit») can have a reduced structure. For example, in the fairytale «Batyr Тumarbas» is told about the person who has three wives but from no one he has children. He leaves to sacred places with hope to implore a child (leaving). On his way he meets Zhalmauyz-Kempir (enemy) who swallows him (harm). During his leaving his two wives bore by one son, whose names are Tumarbas (the main hero) and Baitas. Tumarbas heard from other people about his father and goes to seek him. The hero finds Zhalmauyz and kills her (a fight and a victory). Then he comes back home. Here the second trouble begins: his mother complains of Tumarbas that a swan has eaten cottage cheese, which she prepared for him. The hero hits a swan and a human finger falls into his hands. Then he goes to the aul of Akbar-khan and is found in the yurt of his daughters. He finds out that the youngest daughter of khan does not have small finger of a hand. She promises to get married for the one who will return her finger (task). Tumarbas gives her a finger they marry and come back home. As we see, here there are only ten functions.

For revealing some features of analyzed fairytales it was selected five fairytales: «Zhelkildek», «The Girl Dudar», «Nan-batyr», «Batyr Akzhan», «The One-eyed Giant». These fairytales are given on the order of their statement in the book and each of them gives a very interesting material for studying.

As is known, fairytales, as well as myths, keep the various information about different phenomena and events of social life of the last epoch: «The key to a fairytale is not in the present but in the past» [2; 201].

The first fairytale is «Zhelkildek». The style of a statement is metaphoric and the fairy tale is very similar to a myth. It is unique fairytale from all twenty; it is not similar to all others ones and strongly differs from the others. In essence the fairytale describes an initiation ritual, which gives us some additional data about this ceremony. The fairytale begins that khan Nurmambet with his son and two grown-up daughters Kunikey and Тinikey lives in anywhere. His youngest brother Oztemir has left on war. The daughters one day saw a dream, which has explained following that the khan’s brother will not come back home. The seven-year son of khan Zhastulek is sent to searches of his uncle but on his way he was killed by the giant Telegay who at once cuts off the boy’s head. When Oztemir comes back home he finds the ruined grounds and all his relatives were killed: father, brother, mother, wife, sisters and the nephew. It is necessary to note this moment: all relatives are listed in the strict hierarchical order of a patriarchal society. The first is father, then the senior brother, then mother and wife. The order is finished by the male but it occurs because he still does not have name. He is a nephew who has not passed some initiation ceremony and accordingly he is considered still, as a defective member of a society. Oztemir comes in despair but in his dream he saw the saint Kydyr who punishes to him to find the seven-year son of khan Sarybai who is still not have any name and he would help him to revenge for death of relatives and to overcome the enemy. Here there is a small retreat and mention that Sarybai was childless for a long time. One day he received the big silver bowl full of honey from the sky with a silver spoon. After eating this honey his wife in some time bore a son and a daughter. Oztemir finds Sarybai named his son by Zhelkildek (Restless Seven-year) and asks khan to give him his son to win the enemy. Oztemir and Zhelkildek collect an army and leave on searches of the enemy. In one day they find Telegay but Oztemir frightened the enemy army he leave Zhelkildek alone. The hero gets into trap (a deep hole), then he finds a way to inform about his trouble to the parents and that he is very hungry. Sarybai with his wife comes to him and feed him. The hero gets out of a trap and stops in a yurt an old woman (donator) whom he takes service to. Followed to all instructions of the old woman, he received from her helping in seeking of the fiancée. The fiancée was the daughter of Telegay. It is necessary to   note, that in the fairytale have a very interesting fact that Telegay get a prediction about a danger, which he will get from his daughter. He turned to her with the following words: «I felt you betray me … You are one of the seven enemies predicted to me by destiny. … If my death will be from you, from it will not escape». It is the obvious element of a myth such as humility before fate, destiny.

Zhelkildek turned into bald, goes to Telegay aul and kidnaps his daughter who leaves at the old woman. Then he comes back to Telegay aul finds there his sisters Kunikey and Tinikey but he has known that Тinikey has died. They bury her and he also stayed sister at the old woman. Then he again comes back, destroys Telegay army and takes him prisoner. Later he finds Oztemir and becomes his junior brother. Oztemir repents about his running, asks fair punishment and dies. Zhelkildek’s enemy Telegay dies in the same way. The main hero is married to Telegay’s daughter, marries the sister and comes back to his parents [5; 7–22].

Reading the fairytale the first time is created impression that the fairytale is stated completely illogically: the main hero was killed at once, then his uncle sought another family and took their son. Then the fairytale again narrates about that boy who was killed right at the beginning of the story. Whether so it? Certainly not, the fairytale has clear order and describes to us a ceremony of initiation. The death of the main hero in the beginning of a plot shows us, that the boy is still absolutely young and not ready to become adults, therefore in the fairytale the metaphorical image gives the description that he is not ready for the first assignment and he was cut off his head (that shows of lack of mind). Passes time and the boy starts to disturb his parents, he wants to show them that his time has already come and he is ready to be adult. There is his uncle who should name to him. His appearance is not casual at all, he receives the instruction from saint Kydyr that the time has come for giving a name to the anonymous boy. The name is always given by another person in initiation ceremony: the uncle, named mother («Kanshentey») or named brothers («Nan-batyr»). But, as far as we remember, the hero had name Zhastulek and the second boy grows without a name. Most likely, it means, that the initiation ceremony is connected by that to the child a new name is given and previous name is removed from his memory. Further the boy is tested, the uncle helps him, but then leaves him alone. In the fairytale it is spoken that he was frightened and run but it reminds a game element, which is present, probably, in the ceremony procedure as such. The sense of this action means that initiated person remains alone with his difficulties and he should overcome them independently. Therefore in the plot of the fairytale when he asks his parents to feed him, he refuses to leave to them. Then he gets out and meets an old woman who tests him and in the end she awarded him: she helps him to find a fiancée. His two senior sisters who were mentioned in the beginning of the story, most likely, were stolen in captivity by enemies and consequently we do not find them in transfer of victims. But in the plot pointed that the newborn boy had only one sister. The fairytale here again restores a logic circuit of a narration: one of sisters dies, and they bury her. The given circumstance specifies that in process of initiation the child realized some abstract concepts, in particular, such, as death. Further he wins the enemy and finds the uncle. The uncle welcomes him and Zhelkildek becomes his junior brother that it means they are already equal. This thing points such phenomena as sororate, when an uncle plays an important role for his nephew. In other words, he becomes already another so as a real member of his family and a society. The ceremony of initiation is completed: he returns home. It is possible to tell, that the given fairytale on the metaphorical language gives us understanding of sense of initiation ceremony. Later a nameless boy disappears from a fairytale but there are the functions connected to this ceremony: leaving the house, assignments and returning home. These are the basic functions of enchanting fairytale and it confirms Propp’s words that initiation is the most ancient basis of fairytales.

There are also all elements of the initiation ceremony in the fairytale «Girl Dudar», and the main heroine of the story is born at a childless aged married couple. But the fact of is very interesting and unusual that the girl changes clothes and gives out itself for the man. She succeeds in it very much, she even wins in the competition and she is married to khan’s daughter! What is caused such plot of the fairytale? Most likely, there are events described which entail such actions. By the way, men also changed their clothes into women as well («Batyr Totan»). The girl changes man clothes that she can to run away from her husband-wolf, then she meets batyr Tostik and they become named brothers. Dudar does not give out herself. Then they go to the competition for seeking in marriage of khan daughter. The girl wins and is married to khan’s daughter who exposes Dudar. In a result the young man marries to the two girls at once. This is not the end of Dudar’s adventures. Her husband leaves on war later, she bore a son but the One-Legged Old Woman (KuayakKempir) brings her harm because she was mother of the wolf who the heroine ran away from. She runs away with her son from husband’s aul again. She is helped her horse (assistance) in it. She lives with her son but one day the son meets his father and they all return to their aul together [5;43–50]. If a main hero is a man a fairytale, basically, describes his period of growing, if a main hero is a woman the fairytale narrates about more longer period than a man and sometimes covers all her life. If the man always comes back home, the woman returns to her husband, her place near to her husband.

As we told earlier, Kaskabassov indicated many social institutes of the Kazakh society, which meet in fairytales. In particular, he specified the institute of polygamy but fairytale «Nan-batyr» shows us the phenomenon of polyandry when a woman is a wife of two men. The text of the story shows that polyandry was not ever the settled institute and, most likely, has an individual exclusive character. A.Hadson in his work «Kazak Social Structure» described the fact when an attractive widow was a bone of contention  between died husband brothers [8; 53, 54]. May be, this fairytale specifies such case.

The last two fairytales of collection «Batyr Akzhan» and «One-eyed giant», most likely, have not any relations to the enchanting. They have another structure though, certainly, some functions are repeated and have an instructive character. Each history of the fairytale finishes with a maxim, which follows from the content of the story.

In the fairytale «Batyr Akzhan» the main hero is a shepherd of bai horses. A giant eats the bai youngest brother. Аkzhan kills the cannibal and goes to inform his owner a bitter message. He also kills another two giants on his way. Khan generously awards Akzhan for his good work. The following maxim appears from here: «If you work, you must work very well» [5; 129–131].

Another fairytale about a one-eyed giant with amazing accuracy reproduces the mythological plot about Odissey adventures, when he with his warriors gets in a cave of a one-eyed Cyclop. Accordingly, the Kazakh fairytale adapts under another validity. Khan and his assistants have lost the way on hunting and get in the dwelling of a one-eyed giant who eats one of them. Khan gives the instruction to blind the monster. In the morning the giant, going out sheep from kystau, stands at the exit, checking them. Khan orders to people to cover themselves by sheep skins and thus they are saved. The giant perishes and khan with dzhigits takes away with themselves all cattle of the giant. The following saying from here went: «Khan has mind for forty people» [5; 140, 141].

Both fairytales, most likely, can be referred to everyday ones when human diligence and mind are awarded and help to go out from difficult situations. These qualities are tested repeatedly and necessarily awarded.

Summing up this part, it can be told the following conclusions: eighteen of twenty fairytales reproduce the basic functions of fairytales pointed by Propp in various combinations and sequences. The earliest fairytales have strong similarity to myths but in the same time they already contain elements of Islam. The given circumstance specifies that Kazakh fairytales have late descent and very syncretic, they can include simultaneously Islam and shamanism, endogamy and exogamy, revenge and forgiveness, etc. One fact also confirms late descent of Kazakh fairytales. In this work «Russian fairytale» Propp considered the question of trebling and digit three in general. There are a lot of mentions about this digit in fairytales: three brothers, three giants, three tests, etc. It can be explained by long process of formation of numerical abstractions. The human thinking was passing from one to two and from two to three very slowly. The human thinking stopped for a long time at this stage. Propp pointed Levi-Bruelle words that numerical systems of many primitive peoples had no numbers more than three. If this hypothesis is true, Propp confirmed that the fairytales, which contain only three digits, tell about their ancient descent. No one from the analyzed Kazakh fairytales limited by this digit, most likely, such fairytales are absent at all. On the contrary, these Kazakh fairytales give us a lot of numerical combinations: 3, 6, 7, 9, 10, 20, 30, 33, 40, 50, 60, 90, 140, 192, etc.

The considered fairytales also allow put the following assumption that they contain and keep not only constant functions but also social system, everyday moments. Besides it, there are a lot of borrowings from myths and fairytales different peoples in Kazakh fairytales.


Kazakh mythology has peculiarities, which connected with form of nomadic life. Greek, Egyptian, Mayan or Roman myths give us representations about world descent and man. The nomad mythology is based, basically, on genealogic legends about descent of lineages. It is explained by that the system of kinship and descent has an important role in the social system of nomadic societies, including Kazakhs, because they were instable and movable [9;243–250]. The analyzed fairytales have shown interrelation with myths and have confirmed that the most ancient basis of fairytales is initiation ritual. There is a lot of information about constant and changeable elements of social organization of Kazakh society in Kazakh fairytales.

Kazakh fairytales have enough late descent and are formed during distribution of Islam, though they contain and keep ancient representations of ancestors of Kazakhs, but also not only Kazakhs. It can be explained syncretism and diversity of Kazakh fairytales, which united rather different elements of social system and religious beliefs.

This analysis allowed revealing some peculiarities of ceremonialism and life order of Kazakhs. Fairytale «Zhelkildek» in detail enough reproduces initiation ceremony. Fairytale «Nan-batyr» shows the phenomenon of polyandry. Such exceptions enable to assume that fairytales can present a lot of materials for revealing diversity of social elements of Kazakh society. It is necessary to note that, most likely, elaborate any united classification, which would consider all peculiarities, which are in Kazakh fairytales impossible.



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Year: 2015
City: Karaganda
Category: History