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Slackers, Fools, Robbers and Thieves: Fairy tales and the folk imagination

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As has been noted by many linguists and folklorists, folklore - like language - has a naturally collective ownership, and thus, it is subject to strict uniform laws: only those features that do not fail to hold attraction to their audience survive throughout time and changing life circumstances. I look at several conventionally negative types of the folktale hero, such as the Fool, the Slacker, the Trickster, the Robber and the Thief, which – nevertheless – hold a steady popularity in folklore, as can be seen in the two best-known Russian and German folktale collections. I attempt to investigate various psychological, cultural and historical causes that may have produced these types and contributed to their seemingly irrational appeal to the audience. Another cultural question that interests students of the folktale is whether there is a national mentality that can be traced via folklore. It appears that folklore has been used to determine and reinforce national ideals and specific features of collective values. I examine the connection among all three - the form a text takes, its contents and its functions in a social group, and trace some Russian peculiarities in treatment of these amoral, immoral and criminal types in comparison with the German folktale.
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