Intertextuality in folkloric discourse: contrastive analysis of “Nix Nought Nothing” and “Tsar and the eagle” | Статья в журнале «Молодой ученый»

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Рубрика: Филология, лингвистика

Опубликовано в Молодой учёный №17 (359) апрель 2021 г.

Дата публикации: 24.04.2021

Статья просмотрена: 10 раз

Библиографическое описание:

Чукаева, Т. К. Intertextuality in folkloric discourse: contrastive analysis of “Nix Nought Nothing” and “Tsar and the eagle” / Т. К. Чукаева. — Текст : непосредственный // Молодой ученый. — 2021. — № 17 (359). — С. 366-369. — URL: (дата обращения: 23.01.2022).

The paper discusses the issue of intertextuality in folkloric discourse on the example of two fairy tales: “Nix Nought Nothing” which belongs to English folklore and the Kazakh tale “Tsar and the eagle”. These tales, despite such a difference in their origins, present a high rate of similarities. The common tropes found in these tales are scrutinized and the possible sources of the tropes are indicated. Folkloric discourse, in particular, is portrayed as a sequence of textual variables which change according to cultural and historical factors. Folkloric text, as a result, is imagined as a single element of the folkloric discourse continuum.

Keywords: intertextuality, folkloric discourse, folkloric text, fairy tale, trope, variable

В статье рассматривается вопрос интертекстуальности фольклорного дискурса на примере двух сказок: «Ничто-Ничего» из английского фольклора и «Царь и беркут» из казахского. Данные сказки, несмотря на разницу в происхождении, имеют много общих черт. Тропы, встречающиеся в обеих сказках, анализируются; приводятся их возможные истоки. Фольклорный дискурс, в частности, представляется как последовательность текстовых вариаций, которые изменяются в соответствии с культурными и историческими факторами. Фольклорный текст, в результате, описывается как отдельный элемент континуума фольклорного дискурса.

Ключевые слова: интертекстуальность, фольклорный дискурс, фольклорный текст, сказка, троп, вариация

Introduction. The intertextual character of folkloric discourse is a deeply studied phenomenon. Particularly, E. Dronova offers a definition for intertextuality as “the inherent feature of the text to create the level of implication and referring to other texts in the form of allusion” [1, p. 92]. Khubbitdinova N. presents a research of national literature on the basis of intertextuality [2]. As to her, folklore and literature have the crossing points where the elements are repeated throughout the story. In “Nonsense: aspects of intertextuality in folklore and literature” Susan Stewart analyses the cases in world literature and folkloric texts whereby nonsense or absurd is manifested [3]. By this research, she identifies folklore and literature as the entities which frequently cross and generally have the intertextual character.

When constructing the folkloric discourse, its creators utilize various strategies and techniques which later result in coincidences and similarities. Mostly, those similarities concern the samples taken from folklore of a single country. It is evident, for instance, that Russian fairy tales share the same introduction and perhaps the same motives. The magic fairy tales compiled in Russia utilize similar tropes and are considered a single entity which was thoroughly studied by V. Propp [4]. Subsequently, Kazakh fairy tales have many common plot twists, such as the emergence of Mystan-kempir (a folkloric witch), saving the khan’s daughter or the weddings that last for forty days and forty nights. However, while those similarities are motivated by the closeness of the samples, the resemblance found between the tales of quite different cultures may be an interesting matter of research. The two fairy tales, chosen for the analysis, belong to English and Kazakh folkloric heritages. One of them is “Nix Nought Nothing” from the compilation of Joseph Jacobs, and the other is “The king and the eagle” from the collection of Kazakh fairy tales. It is necessary to note, however, that those variants of fairy tales do not represent the whole continuation of discourse which they belong to.

Mathematic portrayal of folkloric discourse. As it has been mentioned before, folklore is a collective activity, and the folkloric texts are the products of that activity. The way folkloric texts are created resembles a continuous line of variables which change from one narrator to another, as Kolistratova believes [5]. For instance, the primary source of “Nix Nought Nothing” will be N 1 : the first variant of this fairy tale narrated by someone. Then, if this fairy tale is retold by the listener to another person, the second variant (N 2 ) will appear. The difference between N 1 and N 2 might be either significant or slight. The second narrator may add some sequences of the plot, change the locations or style; on the other hand, he or she may also extract some characteristics from the original tale. Those changes form the second variant which encompasses the first variant and the addition or extraction. On the basis of the second variant, N 3 is created, and the sequence continues. After a series of transformations, additions and extractions, the continuum of “Nix Nought Nothing” will appear as follows:

N 1 → N 2→ N 3→ N 4 →… N n

The tale of “Nix Nought Nothing” was written down from the narration of a Scottish old woman. So, was this woman capable of telling all the possible variants of the fairy tale? This seems impossible. Instead, the woman might have told the variant of the tale which she believed to be the right one. And this variant, N n , is only the result of the active development of folkloric discourse; if the discourse keeps developing, this result will not be the final one.

As it has been noted, the difference between fairy tale variables lies in extractions and/or additions. The sources of those transformations are not limited to the imagination of narrators. Very often the transformations are taken from other folkloric sequences. So, even if N 1 and K 1 (the primary origin of The King and the Eagle) were totally different initially, their ways could “cross” in the process of development. For instance, N 1 may be an entity with a specific set of elements (x, y, z), while K 1 is an entity with another set of elements (a, b, c). While those two entities develop and transform, the elements may mix and enter other entities, although they are quite different. So, N 10 might have (a, x, y, z), while K 10 will encompass such elements as (y, a, b, c). As the development continues, the resemblance will increase. According to the discussed view, those fairy tales may have come from different origins, but they integrated in the process of transformation which took place as folkloric discourse progressed.

There is, however, another view. Sara Graca de Silva and Jamshid Tehrani believe that most of the Indo-European fairy tales have common origins, and the differences emerged when the nations separated [6]. This view mostly relies on Aarne-Thompson fairy tale index, widely utilized in folkloristics, yet criticized by V. Propp and his followers. In this case, nonetheless, there is an entity which may be encoded as O 1 , encompassing the elements (a, b, c). It is later divided into several blocks, each having the same set of folkloric elements as the original tale. However, as those blocks develop individually, their contents change accordingly. This view also explains the extreme resemblance between the fairy tales taken from folklores of two different cultures.

The common elements and tropes. The tale of “Nix Nought Nothing” is about a king who gave his son to a monstrous giant to pay for crossing the river [7]. The second tale narrates about a king who also gave his only son to a strange water creature as a reward [8]. From the viewpoint of plot, these tales can be divided into two main blocks:

1) The adventures of the king-father: going to a quest, crossing the river, visiting an abandoned island, asking a supernatural creature for help, and offering something unknown.

2) The adventures of the prince: being raised by the monstrous creature or being given to it as an adult, falling in love with the daughter of the creature and later escaping with her aid.

Here it is necessary to note that the tale “The king and the eagle” has two written variations. The first variant, entitled “Tsar and the eagle”, was published in 1970–1980 years in several compilations of Kazakh fairy tales. The second variant, entitled “Padishah and the eagle”, was published in 1994 in “Kazakh fairy tales”, a two-volume collection of magical and beast stories. The second variant has one significant feature: there the prince does not go to the quests. Instead, it is the padishah himself whose life becomes adventurous after he gives his son to the sea monster.

There are two possible reasons for such a difference in the variants:

1) The translator misinterpreted the word “padishah” in the source text. Both these variants were published in Russian, which means they have been translated from Kazakh. In Kazakh, the words “padishah” and “patshazada” (the son of the king) are quite close in pronunciation, which may have resulted in misinterpretation.

2) Another reason lies in the fact that the sources were different. This can be supported by sharp distinction in the beginning of the story: some elements which are present in “Tsar and the eagle” cannot be found in “Padishah and the eagle”. For instance, in “Tsar and the eagle” the king feeds the eagle for three years despite his poverty, and this is the reason why the bird helps him later. Additional differences can be met throughout the story.

The variant which this paper focuses on is “Tsar and the eagle”, as it is broader than the second variation and its similarity to “Nix Nought Nothing” is more evident.

The first trope which can be found in both tales is an unknown reward. Some variations of “Beauty and the Beast” also contain this trope, especially the version written by Bozena Nemzova [9]. In “Rose”, a tale close to the classic variant of “Beauty and the Beast”, the creature asks the merchant to give the first thing that he sees when he returns home. The intrigue is fueled by the fact that the merchant does not know what this thing might be.

Similarly, the giant asks the king to give “nix nought nothing” as a reward, which turns out to be the name of the king’s son. In “Tsar and the eagle”, the sea creature demands something in the king’s house which the king is unaware of (his newborn child). These tropes show how tricky the evil might be: it does not require anything directly; instead, it disguises its true desires so that the fathers sacrifice their own children. Such a trope might have been used to portray the antagonists of the tales as demonic creatures which should not be trusted.

The sacral number of three is also presented in both the tales. In “Nix Nought Nothing” the king and his wife do not give their son to the giant at once. Instead, they substitute him with the henwife’s and the gardener’s sons, but the giant immediately notices his mistake. The third attempt is eventually successful, and the prince is captured. The prince later faces three quests which he effortlessly completes with the help of the giant’s daughter.

In “Tsar and the eagle”, the number “3” is utilized excessively. At the beginning of the story, the king tries to shoot the eagle three times. Later, he takes care of the bird for three years. When they are flying over the river, the eagle tries to drown the king three times, and further they visit three houses. Moreover, there are three mighty men whom the prince takes with him on his journey, but they never appear later and were probably inserted from another folkloric source.

The next trope is the love of the enemy’s daughter. In “Tsar and the eagle” the prince meets his captivator’s daughter when she is flying in the form of a dove. In “Nix Nought Nothing” the main character falls in love with the giant’s daughter. Both these situations resemble the well-known myth of Jason and Medea: being the daughter of the evil king, Medea helped Jason and later followed him to his lands.

The quests which both the princes take do not resemble each other technically, yet there is a practical similarity: the quest giver does not intend to reward the heroes. Instead, the giant and the sea creature are attempting to find an excuse to kill the main characters, which they fail to carry out. The number of quests, however, coincides.

Here it is necessary to discuss the plot element which can be found in “Tsar and the eagle”. When the prince is left on the shore, he sees a few doves trying to settle on the surface of water. As they settle, their feathers fall, and the doves turn into a group of women. The prince hides one set of feathers, thus causing the leader of the dove women, Gainizhamal, to become his wife. This trope is quite widespread in Eastern tales. For instance, “The tale of Hasan from Basra”, taken from the compilation of “One thousand and one nights”, include the same sequence. The wife of Hasan is bound to her feathers, so she cannot leave her husband [10]. Another source is the popular fairy tale “Princess Frog”. A surprising fact is that both “Hasan from Basra” and “Princess Frog” contain the same plot twist: the wives leave the husbands as their magical clothes are burned or destroyed.

As the story progresses, the women help the princes to beat their enemies. In both tales, magical forces are utilized: the giant’s daughter turns her belongings into enchanted objects, while Gainizhamal transforms into mosques, water pools, and bushes. As a result of the sequence of spells, both fathers die in a surprisingly similar way: their death is caused by water. The giant is drowned, while Gainizhamal’s father drinks the enchanted water and explodes. These actions show the independence which those women received after the death of their fathers. Obviously, the giant and the sea monster were not very good parents for their daughters, and this was their punishment. It is peculiar how the beginning and the ending of their plotlines have strong connection with water. The giant receives “Nix Nought Nothing” as a reward for helping the king cross the river, while the sea monster visits the tsar when he is on the shore. As the cycle is complete, the heroes continue their journeys.

When the princes arrive to their home countries, they both leave their lovers in the woods and proceed the journey alone. However, as they finally reach their castles and reunite with the families, they forget their lovers for separate reasons. In “Tsar and the eagle” the prince kisses his sister on the cheek, and this causes him to forget everything. Nix Nought Nothing, on the other hand, falls asleep because the henwife bewilders him. As a result, they are about to marry other women when their lovers find a way to warn them; a happy ending comes eventually.

The trope of leaving the woman in the woods can be also found in “Ebony horse”, a fairy tale from “One thousand and one nights” compilation. Although the general plot of this work is quite different from the mentioned tales, it contains the same element. The prince leaves the princess in the forest, and while he is traveling to his castle, she is kidnapped by the villain. This was an additional intrigue to the story.

Apart from these tropes, it is necessary to note the legend of Daniel O’Rourke, an Irish man who was said to travel on an eagle’s back. This story coincides with the tale of “Tsar and the eagle” to the following extent: the eagle attempts to revenge Daniel O’Rourke for ruining its nest and takes him to a continuous magical journey.

Conslusion. Folkloric discourse is an actively developing phenomenon. To some extent, it may be imagined as arithmetic progression where every new element differs from the previous one in terms of additions or extractions. If every folkloric text is a result of the continuum of folkloric discourse, then those continuums can cross, separate, and reunite in the process of development. Such contacts cause transformations of the folkloric texts and thus intertextuality emerges. In fact, intertextuality underlies any type of literary activity, as cross-cultural and cross-national communication has always existed. The similarities are discovered in the folkloric sources of extremely different cultures, and this fact represents the fluctuational character of folklore. The contrastive analysis of “Nix Nought Nothing” and “Tsar and the eagle” revealed the tropes which these fairy tales shared. The attempts to investigate the sources of these tropes led to the legends of Ancient Greece and Rome and to the compilation of “One thousand and one nights” — the book which most contemporary fairy tales originate from. However, other sources were also studied, such as the Russian tale “Princess frog” or the Irish legend about the adventures of Daniel O’Rourke. Such similarities lead to the assumption that folkloric discourse is, indeed, a collective activity which needs to be studied from intercultural perspective.


  1. Dronova E. M. Intertextuality and allusion: the problem of interrelation // Language, communication and social environment, № 3. — 2004. — pp. 92–96
  2. Khubbitdinova N. A. Intertextuality as the method of research national literature // In the world of science and art: questions of philology, art studies, and culturology, № 8. — 2013. — pp. 143–149
  3. Stewart, Susan. Nonsense: aspects of intertextuality in folklore and literature // Journal of aesthetics and art criticism, № 39. — 1980. — pp. 101–102
  4. Propp, V. Ya. Morphology of the folktale. Historical roots of the folktale. — Moscow, Labyrinth. — 1998. — 160 p.
  5. Kolistratova A. V. On some peculiarities of contemporary folkloric discourse // IGLU Bulletin. — 2012. — p. 135–139
  6. Graça da Silva, Sara and Tehrani, Jamshid J. Contemporary phylogenetic analyses uncover the ancient roots of Indo-European folktales // Royal Society Open Science: [site]. — URL: (accessed: 23.04.2021)
  7. Jacobs, Joseph. English fairy tales. — Gutenberg, 2009. — 246 p.
  8. Tsar and the eagle // Ertegi: [site]. — URL: (accessed: 23.04.2021)
  9. Nemzova B. The golden book of fairy tales. — Moscow, EKSMO. — 2016. — 268 p.
  10. The tale of Hasan from Basra // One thousand and one nights: [site]. — URL: (accessed: 23.04.2021)
Основные термины (генерируются автоматически): URL, фольклорный дискурс, EKSMO, IGLU, фольклорный текст.

Ключевые слова

trope, intertextuality, folkloric discourse, folkloric text, fairy tale, variable
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