Sociocultural Phenomenon Of Childhood In Pskov Folklore Discourse


The article is devoted to the issues of the functioning of the sociocultural phenomenon of childhood in the Pskov folklore discourse. The work was carried out in the aspect of the problems of philological regional studies – the study of Pskov folk speech and Pskov folklore. Pskov fairy tales were chosen as the object of study as the most important units of communicative dialectology, explicating traditional culture. The article examines the traditional model of the family and its hierarchy as the basis for the constancy of folk culture, forms a collective image of the child, focuses on the issues of ethno-pedagogy. The specificity of the material sharpens the discursive aspect of the topic and allows one to study the verbal forms of being in the sphere of “childish”, the ways of its representation in the language. The authors conclude that fairy-tale texts reflecting the world of childhood, because of collective creativity, are built according to the principle of oppositional relations, traditional for folklore genres, around which private transformations reflecting the semantics of “childish” are built. The subculture of childhood of the rural population of the Pskov region appears as a complex socio-cultural phenomenon, organized according to the principle of binary oppositions, which is an integral part of traditional culture.

Keywords: The image of a child, a Pskov tale, the subculture of childhood, folklore discourse, ethno-pedagogy


Folk pedagogy as an integral part of collective folk art originated in ancient times. It reflects popular ideals, views, ideas about a person, family and upbringing of the younger generation. In the miniatures that exist today (sayings, proverbs, fairy tales, legends, songs, applied arts), the invaluable wealth of the people's pedagogical culture has found its vivid expression.

The article is based on raw folk tales and songs of a fabulous nature, published in the monograph “Folk Tales of the Pskov Territory” (Bolshakova & Ploshchuk, 2016), which contains extensive material from expeditionary data, texts, comments on them and research.

Folk tales, along with mythology, preserve the integrity of the child archetype. An archetype is the psychic energy accumulated by generations of people, stored in the sphere of the collective unconscious, it is a tool for cognizing being (Boyko, 2016). “The archetype of the child also determines the foundations of content in the construction of various pedagogical systems, revealing the essence of the object of care of adults who are preparing a replacement for themselves” (Nefedova, 2016, p. 40). Fairy tales from the child's ideas about the world, “facilitate the child's entry into the adult world, show what is bad and what is good” (Basharova, 2016, p. 24), they accumulate the pedagogical culture of the people and become the child's first source of information about life.

The monograph “Folk Tales of the Pskov Territory” contains 215 fairy-tale texts, of which the theme of childhood is reflected in 83 texts. Folklore texts as one of the specific manifestations of dialect discourse sharpen the problems of establishing the territorial specificity of the socio-cultural phenomenon of childhood, studying the image of a child in the picture of the world of rural society in the context of historical and social transformations of the 20th – early 21st centuries. The characteristics of the methods of raising children in rural society and the analysis of their verbal representation remain relevant.

This work is the first to study the Pskov folk tales, reflecting the sociocultural phenomenon of childhood, and the study is built as an integrated study of folklore, dialectal speech and childhood psychology.

Problem Statement

Currently, a large number of works on ethnography, philosophy, cultural studies, folklore studies, folk pedagogy are devoted to the study of the phenomenon of childhood (Abramenkova, 2019; Lopsonova & Mansheev, 2020). The idea of an all-encompassing study of childhood is naturally considered the most difficult to implement. Perhaps that is why researchers are looking for a format for a multi-aspect description of this cultural phenomenon (Bankova & Ugryumova, 2016, p. 22). At the same time, the studies demonstrate gaps in the study of the world of childhood in general and the image of the child in particular, and the representation of empirical material is not exhaustive. For the first time, theoretical coverage of the issues of the socio-cultural phenomenon of childhood based on the material of Pskov fairy tales.

Research Questions

  • What are the features of the perception of the world of childhood in the family?
  • What is the collective image of the child based on the materials of the Pskov fairy-tale texts?
  • What are the specific features of the manifestation of folk pedagogy in a fairy-tale text?

Purpose of the Study

The aim of the work is to reveal the socio-cultural phenomenon of childhood based on the Pskov folklore discourse in the aspect of the ontological values of the rural population and ethno-pedagogy.

Research Methods

The purpose of the work determines the nature of the methodological base. The issues of the subculture of childhood are considered in an interdisciplinary aspect using the methods of ethno-linguistics, folklore studies, ethno-pedagogy, psychology, and social ethnography.

The main method for developing theoretical aspects of a topic is the descriptive method. When working with text material, the methods of communicative dialectology, the systemic-structural method are used. The work uses elements of the statistical method.


Traditional family model

The most important category of traditional folk culture is the family, in which children play a central role. The standard for traditional culture is the family model, which has a father, mother and children. The figure of the mother is key, the connection of children with the mother is much stronger than with the father. This is also fixed in the fabulous fund. In a family, parents are opposed to children, older children are opposed to younger ones. “Duality is a fundamental principle of perception characteristic of traditional culture as a whole. It is on it that the perception of a person by a person is based: our own and others' are the main characteristics by which people were primarily assessed in antiquity and continue to be assessed at the present time” (Krayushkina, 2019, p. 34). The division of the universe into two worlds,, is one of the fundamental semiotic dichotomies (Lomakina & Mokienko, 2018; Osokina, 2018), which has many private representations. In addition to the traditional understanding of, as not related to one’s own world, the opposition between stands out: [Martin the Orphan]. The world of children with the depth of a child's soul, the peculiarities of the worldview turns out to be alien to the world of adults and at the same time inscribed in this world according to the principle of entering the family.

In the traditional view, having children, and even more so, is a sign of the usefulness of a family, the norm of its existence:[River of Tears]; But there are many children in the family – this is also a difficulty caused by the need to feed them:[Two Brothers]. is a deviation from the normal family structure, and the popular consciousness seeks to overcome this lacuna: [No. 34 The Tale of Chereshechka].[№ 35 (24) Tereshechka-s-poleshechka]. The long-awaited child becomes the owner of wonderful properties, but they are assessed as positive if they are used in work: [The Priest and the Worker].

The opposition between actualizes the opposition between, since a large family is materially not prosperous: [How Vanyushka the Fool Went to the City to Sell Firewood]. “In dialectal culture, wealth is associated, first of all, with utilitarian values and everything that ensures human life. Transformations of ideas about wealth are caused by economic, political, social, and territorial factors” (Voloshina & Tolstova, 2018, p. 25).

The gender aspect is manifested in the opposition, where acts as a marked member, since the appearance of a son in the family has always been considered a special event in traditional folk culture. The Pskov material also reflects the social component that accompanies the birth of a son:[The King and the Stone Cutter].

The death of a child is a common motive for fairy tales. Death occurs due to the deliberate action of evil forces or enemies, often the relatives of the family, and sometimes the mother herself. But the genre features of the tale allow the child to be resurrected, which removes the sharpness of perception of the very fact of mortification. Thus, the traditional opposition receives a private representation of:[About Sister, Brother and Wicked Wife].[Marco the Rich].[About the Merry Fun].

A child's absence of parents/parent is perceived by traditional consciousness as an explosion of family foundations. The natural model of the family is also violated by the appearance of an “alien” element in the family – children from previous marriages of one of the parents and their stepparents. This is how the opposition between is built:[Sad Tale about Alyonushka][Stepmother, Daughter and Stepdaughter].

The interaction of older family members with younger ones was based on a rational approach to preserving the clan, when everything that burdens the life of a small social group was eliminated. The fabulous text retains traces of the difficult social conditions of the rural population - the inability to feed the children, hunger pushed people to leave their children:[Thumb Boy]. The ending of the tale shows that this decision of the parents was forced to bring the children back to the parents.

The roles of the participants in the situation can change when the younger ones get rid of the older ones: Раньше завозили в овраги старух. Вот повезуть в овраг куды-нибудь; дадуть хлеба на три дня – и повязли! Видють, что старушка савсим дряхлая или старичок, и повязли (They used to take old women to the ravines. Took them to the ravine somewhere; gave bread for three days – and off they went! They saw that the old woman was decrepit or the old man, and off they went) [Grandfather and Grandson].

So the difference between a child and an old man is leveled, the semantics of helplessness and inability to resist the decisions of active members of the human community is actualized. The archetype of the child receives its completeness when the “old” also becomes “as little” (Zlobin, 2009).

Thus, the theme of childhood, considered in the context of the universal opposition of, actualizes the private opposition of which is hierarchically presented in more private oppositions: having many

In fairy-tale texts, the words parents / adults / elders are not used, but there is a differentiation: mother / father, husband / wife or grandmom (grandmother) / granddad (grandfather). The world of children is verbalized as children, boys / bunch of children, child, daughter / daughters, girl / girls, son / sons, boy / boys.

The image of a child

The Pskov tale reveals a collective image of a child. Indications of the child's appearance and age are noted as single fixations, they reflect the technique of identification, when the narrator deliberately introduces into the fairy tale plot elements characteristic of the listener:[Vasyatka and Baba Yaga].[About Daughter-in-law, Father-in-law and Grandson]. This information is of a private nature for a fairy-tale text, it is aimed not only at maintaining the listener's interest, but also designed to ensure the listener's meeting with himself (Vachkov, 2011).

Other signs of childhood are becoming essential. An important sign of the well-being of a family is not only the presence of children, but also how children grow up in the family. So in the popular consciousness, the conceptual opposition is A marked member of the opposition in fairy tales about children is, since it is he who turns out to be the most prosperous of all members of the children's community. Verbally, this opposition in relation to a male person is realized either in the traditional ratio or in a milder form as, which is more common for Pskov texts. In relation to a female person, only the opposition is used, and the opposition is actualized. The concept of the norm in the popular consciousness is determined precisely in relation to the deviation from it:[Silver Saucer and Ripe Apple].

Labor is a natural accompaniment to a child's life and growing up. Verbal presentations of the opposition show a wide range of skills related to the sphere of child labor: [Vasyatka and Baba-Yaga].[Ivashka]. [No. 56 About Stepdaughter and Stepmother's Daughter].[A Fairy Tale for Irinka's Granddaughter].[Koza-Strekoza].

The universal signs of childhood are manifested in the desire to tease: He wants to tease her [the witch], and says: “Roll about for a while, wallow about, you've eaten your daughter!” [Vasyatka and Baba Yaga]; to celebrate the holidays: Winter has come, and the children began to celebrate the New Year [Snegurochka and Baba Yaga].

In the popular mind, a difficult relationship has also been noticed that is developing within a group of children, where the opposition betweenis manifested: [About Ivanushka the Fool].

Childhood in the culture of society is not a sign of helplessness, on the contrary, the popular consciousness emphasizes the quick-wittedness, ingenuity of children, and in some cases, foresight:[Mashenka and the Bear].[The Tale of Churilushka]. A common plot is when a child asks adults to set an example and turns out to be the winner in confronting evil forces:[Tereshechka-s-poleshechka]. Hearing “not his mother's” voice, the child saves his life:[Tereshechka-s-poleshechka].

The conceptualization of the special mental properties of the child is manifested in the opposition [Thumb Boy].The external sign (height) underlies another opposition with the component:: [Thumb Boy]. Being a child means having special security functions:[Bychok-dristunok].This is how the opposition is actualized:

Folk pedagogy

The educational function of a fairy tale is manifested in its connection with real life, in the formation of ethical foundations (Alekseyenkova & Andreyeva, 2006). Acquaintance of children with fairy tales that reflect the traditional way of the family, relationships within a small social group, both between adults and children, and along lines children – children, adults – adults, describing the dangers that a foreign world conceals in it self– outside the family, prepares the child to enter the world of adults. “The world of adults in relation to the child is still a closed world, into which, at the cost of great efforts of growth and development, the child and children will have to enter in the future. The world of adults, thus, was thought both from the outside and from within, as a world determined by the aggregate plurality of adults, and the world of the child was thought only from the outside, from the standpoint of the world of adults who have lost their belonging to the world of children” (Nefedova, 2016, p. 27).

The Pskov folklore discourse (as part of auto-comments) also contains information about how children were raised, what replaced the dummy: [Tsar Dadon (about Basil the Hapless)]; what they fed the children:[A Mananda Bear].

Punishment is an important part of the child's upbringing system. In the Pskov material, the traditional understanding of punishment as a way of realizing the boundaries of what is permissible is transformed and borders on the manifestation of cruelty and injustice towards the child: – [Koza-Rogoza]. [Koza-Strekoza].

The moral foundations of the family remain unshakable for the system of raising children: He seduced, promised to marry, ... and when the master found out that she would have a child, he kicked her out of the workers. Where to go? From the maids. Where to go? I went home to my parents. And then the laws were strict. It was considered a great shame if a girl had a child [About the Handless].


Based on archival texts of fairy tales as a genre of folk prose, a corpus of texts has been formed that reflects the world of childhood. According to the Pskov folklore and ethnographic archive, the phenomenon of childhood organically fits not only into the traditional cultural constants inherent in folklore – the dualism of good and evil, life and death, one's own and another's, but also reflects their transformations, based on the specific semantics of childhood. This is how the oppositions are actualized: native people – strangers, parents (adults) – children (small), having many children – childlessness, father – mother / woman / stepmother, daughter – son, native – non-native (your own – not your own), poverty – wealth, smart – stupid / fool, industriousness – laziness, older (children) – younger (children), small – smart / “real” / big (adult).

The verbalization of the world of childhood in this work is considered primarily at the lexical level and studied taking into account verbal markers within the identified oppositions.

The overwhelming majority of fairy tales embody the moral standards inherent in the people: love for one's home, resisting evil, hard work, and condemnation of laziness, the victory of reason and justice, giftedness. The embodiment of the positive traits of the people in fairy tales made fairy tales an effective means of transmitting them from generation to generation.

The study of the socio-cultural phenomenon of childhood based on folklore discourse has great potential, since it broadcasts the system of educating new members of the community, fixed in the people's consciousness. Fairy tales reflect the individual and collective experiences of childhood. Children are brought up through fairy tales, since the connection with life is the most effective feature of folk pedagogy. It should be noted that the perception of the beautiful and the terrible in the perception of a child is significantly different from the view of an adult. Some fairy tales are naturalistic and belong to the category of “terrible”, the plots of fairy tales, the development of the action are deliberately exaggerated, and the denouement does not always have a positive, so to speak, happy outcome.

… It is difficult for a child to imagine the past, future, present. Until about nine years of age, children develop causal relationships and the exact meaning of temporal concepts. Children do not measure life by future events, which is why the concept of death is incomprehensible to them, since the phenomenon of the end directly has a temporal context. (Basharova, 2016, pp. 27-28)

The subculture of childhood of the rural population of the Pskov region appears as a complex socio-cultural phenomenon, organized according to the principle of binary oppositions, which is an integral part of traditional culture as a whole and is significantly represented in such spheres of its functioning as language, folklore and folk pedagogy.


The study was carried out with the financial support of the Russian Foundation for Basic Research and the BRFFR within the framework of the scientific project No. 20-512-00003 “Subculture of childhood in the discourse of oral history, language and folklore of the Vitebsk-Pskov borderlands of the XX – early XXI century”.


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Vorobeva, L., Mititsina, E., & Mitchenko, Z. (2021). Sociocultural Phenomenon Of Childhood In Pskov Folklore Discourse. In A. G. Shirin, M. V. Zvyaglova, O. A. Fikhtner, E. Y. Ignateva, & N. A. Shaydorova (Eds.), Education in a Changing World: Global Challenges and National Priorities, vol 114. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 463-471). European Publisher.