Accepted paper:

The valorization of fairy tale and the legitimacy of fairy tale studies


Judit Gulyás (Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Research Centre for the Humanities)

Paper short abstract:

The paper presents discourses formed about fairy tales in Hungarian culture. It provides an overview about the change of values and meanings assigned to a selected genre of oral tradition to legitimize in various ideological contexts the subject matter of research, the researchers and the discipline.

Paper long abstract:

The valorization of fairy tales in Hungarian elite culture began in the middle of the 19th century. Previously fairy tales had been considered as a narrative genre of idle entertainment used by children, women and peasants/maids, in short, by persons excluded from elite culture. The narration of fairy tales was assigned to popular culture, but by adding value and lending self-transcending significance to this genre, the study of tales could become a legitimate passion for men of letters, a scholarly engagement that got institutionalized in the form of folklore studies. The history of valorization created various, sometimes conflicting or overlapping discourses. Fairy tale, thus, was understood in the framework of nationalism as a palimpsest providing an insight into pre-Christian myths and beliefs of the nation, as a narrative inventory for the creation of national children's literature, as a supplementary oral narrative form that may offer techniques, themes and motifs for the literary re-creation of the eagerly sought-for, still missing, national heroic epic. In the 20th century, in compliance with changing political setting, to underline the nation's perceived loneliness in the middle of Europe, the Oriental/Asian cultural heritage preserved in fairy tales was sought for, while in the Socialist era fairy tale was presented as a revolutionary genre of wish-fulfillment of the exploited classes.

panel Nar002
Meta-visions of heritage and utopia: scholarly tales on fairy tales