The article reveals the comparative research of Swan Maiden image in Russian and English fairytales carried out with the help of the conceptual integration theory, or the theory of blending, by G. Fauconnier and M. Turner. Based on the theory of conceptual metaphor, blending is a productive method of digging into the origin of folk tales. The aforementioned fairytale image is regarded as a blend formed by the combination of two input spaces – ‘woman’ and ‘swan’ – each of which possesses its own cultural, historic and associative peculiarities. The derivation of the blend is mostly stipulated by historical traditions mixed with mythological thinking. Contextual and linguo-stylistic analysis enables to highlight the elements of the generic space, as well as to point out the features of the cross-space mapping making up the blend, and to define the borders between myths, traditions and reality. The decoding of the fairytale context with the help of blending theory encourages a deep understanding of heroines’ origin and helps to reconstruct the mindset of the Russian and the English people.
Keywords: Blendconceptual integrationmental spaceinput spacegeneric spacefairytale discourse
Fairytale discourse is considered to be an encoded source of information about the historical past of different nations. Tales, as well as myths, appeared on the basis ofprimeval traditions and rituals. The disappearance of mythological sense in folktale narrations led to the formation of fairytale canons, the most common among which are 1) metaphoricalness of both language and image, 2) specific correlation between phantasy and reality, 3) unstandardforms of time and space and 4) threefolding.
The structure and the figurality of tales, especially in folk art, are highly metaphorical. However, metaphor in this case is understood not as a stylistic device, but as a tool of cognitive analysis. Metaphorical interpretation of reality can be virtually called one of the most pristine means of understanding the world. Due to interpreting one thing via another, new concepts and notions appear inevitably. Fairytale discourse is a good illustration of this fact. First tales developed from totemic myths and stories of hunters about real events mixed with phantasy. These tales reflect archaic understanding of the natural world by a man: animism (ensoulment of nature), anthropomorphism (attribution of human features to nature, animals and things) and totemism (the belief that people’s origin is connected with this or that animal). What we usually perceive as a bog-standard entertainment for children is in fact a complicated attempt to explain the reality by imposing features of the animal and natural worldon the tenor of people’s life.
Metaphorical interpretation within the framework of fairytale discourse has a strong pragmatical sense. The main problem is to draw a line between the reality reflected in tales and phantasy, between rituals that served as basis for the plot and generally accepted beliefs. To solve the issues, we addressed the theory of conceptual integration, or the theory of blending, by G. Fauconnier and M. Turner. The theory gives an insight into how new notions and concepts appear. According to the theory, two input spaces (paralleled counterparts) are connected with cross-space mapping that unites counterpart’s elements (their main features) and the generic space that contains elements typical of both input spaces at a certain time of the conceptual integration development. Thus, all these spaces form a new one – blend (Fauconnier & Turner, 2006). Mark Turner describes blending as a natural process that lies beneath our consciousness:
This process is characterized by analogue as it unites either similar elements of the counterparts or the common semantic fields that make them similar at a certain time. In other words, conceptual integration is based on analogue ties between all mental spaces. While analyzing blending, the notion of which is more complex than that of metaphor, it is essential to pay attention to input spaces, or counterparts, and find the peculiarities of the cross-space mapping between them. As this research is devoted to the analysis of the blend ‘
National and cultural values are determined by many social factors and one of them is the perception of women and their roles in the society. The attitude toward a woman, reflected in the linguistic view of the world, characterizes the nation in whole. The input space ‘
In most cultures, swans are associated with beauty, gracefulness, wisdom and purity. In Christian culture, it is the symbol of the Virgin Mary. Its dying song represents sufferings of martyrs and Christian resignation. The fondness of these birds is widely known all over the world. The couple of swans are inseparable. They mate for life (The truth about swans, 2014). There is even a belief that if one of them dies, another one raises high into the sky and crashes down.In Slavic mythology, swans were considered to be revered and sacred birds. It was a big sin to kill them and eat. Penance fell not only on the offender, but also on the family. Among young women there was a tradition to dress up like a swan. They put on dresses with long sleeves, which looked like wings, and danced to music (Guru, 1997). Even the notion itself is of the feminine gender and is usually referred to as
The symbolism of the English perception of swans is very similar to the Russian one. This can also be explained by a great respect towards the birds. In the English culture, it was strongly forbidden to kill swans. The tradition goes back to the Celtic mythology, in particular, to the Irish legend ‘
The description of the input spaces ‘
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this research is to study all mental spaces forming the blend ‘swan-maiden’, describe the cross-space mapping reflected in tales, and find out how ancient beliefs can still be traced in the fairytale narration. The study is aimed at conducting the contextual and linguistic analysis of the Russian and English tales with swan maidens as main heroines. Thetalesfor analysisare «СемьСеменов» / ‘Sem' Semenov’ (Afanasjev, 2017), «ДанилоБессчастный» / ‘Danilo Besschastnyj’ (Afanasjev, 2017), «Белаялебедка» / ‘Belaya Lebedka’ (Kruglova, 1988), ‘The Swan Maidens’ (Jacobs, 2017), ‘The Seventh Swan’ (Kerven, 2009)
To accomplish the objectives of the research, we will conduct the contextual analysis of the Russian and English tales and will find out what linguistic means bear witnesses of elements of the input spaces and the generic space.
In English and Russian tales the image of the swan maiden is connected with the motif of shapeshifting. Even in the description of heroines’ appearance, human features are intercrossed with those of birds. In the tale ‘Danilo Besschastnyj’, the servant of Knyaz Vladimir sets off to ChudoYudo with a certain mission and encounters the swan maiden, whose appearance at first sight seems strange and even terrifying, but according to fairytale canons, it is an ideal of beauty:
The element of beauty, which is common for the two input spaces as the previous description shows, is embodied in the blend by means of metaphors (
These descriptions of appearance send us back to the Slavic tradition of dressing up like swans which still can be traced in tales. Moreover, swan maidens always carry a high status. They are always referred to as ‘tzarevna’, what emphasizes a high respect for the bird:
The Сonventional epithet «белаялебедка» stands for purity and innocence, the qualities from the input space ‘swan’. Swan maidens also possess such a feature as wisdom typical of both input spaces. This element mapped into the generic space and the blend is expressed with the linguistic tunefulness and rhyme:
Fairytale maidens are magical creatures capable of doing wonders. This element does not exist in the input spaces so it comes into the blend fromthe fairytale context:
In English fairytales swan maidens are presented in the same manner as in Russian ones. The first thing that catches the eye is the description of heroine’s appearance:
Among the linguistic means of expressing the element ‘beauty’ there are various epithets, like
The contextual analysis also provides elements of high social status, wisdom and magic as in Russian tales. The great respect for birds and an implicit ban to shoot them are illustrated in the following example:
After the contextual and linguistic analysis we received qualities typical of swan maidens in Russian and English tales. These qualities, or in other words elements, form a fairytale blend which is identical for both languages.
The conducted analysis states that some cultural beliefs and rituals can still be observed in the folktale narration. For example, the Slavic tradition of women’s dressing up like swans is preserved in Russian tales, while the ban to kill swans is explicitly described in English tales.
It is also detected that elements of the fairytale blend derive from the elements of the input spaces and the context. The common elements of the input spaces that form the generic space of the swan maiden’s image (beauty, wisdom, fondness) are only partly implemented in tales. The element of fondness is absent in the fairytale context, while the rest are vividly expressed. The input space ‘
Among the most spread linguistic means that serve for distinguishing the elements are metaphors, repetitive clip forms of adjectives, epithets, tunefulness and rhyme. In general, the linguistic means and the elements of the blend are similar in Russian and English tales and this is the evidence of an identical symbolic meaning of swans in both cultural traditions.
The history of nations has always been connected with its folktale heritage. As any other oral genre, tales have passed from generation to generation changing their plots and interpretations. Several centuries ago after acquiring a written form, tales lost their ritual and sacral meanings and started to be used for esthetic purpose only. Nowadays folktales are being studied in philology linguistics, ethnology and folkloristics, but they still preserve many riddles. Initially, these short narrations were created to explain reality by means of imposing features of the natural world on the life of the society. The blending of ideas in tales carries a deep meaning. Folktales present a mixture of different ideas that at first sight seem to be strange and fantastic, though these ideas were not blended spontaneously but are the result of long lasting traditions existed in different times. As a lot of rituals were carried out by women, the later play an important part in folklore heritages. The notion of woman is the basic concept that is characterized by strongly marked national and cultural characteristics. Its interpretation is based upon stereotypes which have appeared due to biological and social functions. The identification of women with swans exist in almost all cultures and deserve a more detailed study.
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30 April 2018
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Sociolinguistics, linguistics, semantics, discourse analysis, translation, interpretation
Cite this article as:
Kovalchuk, L. (2018). Conceptual Integration Of Swan Maiden Image In Russian And English Fairytales. In I. V. Denisova (Ed.), Word, Utterance, Text: Cognitive, Pragmatic and Cultural Aspects, vol 39. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 68-74). Future Academy. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2018.04.02.10