The Category of Time in Fairy Tales: Searching for Folk Calendar Time in the Estonian Fairy Tale Corpus

Mairi Kaasik


The article examines how folk calendar holidays are represented in Estonian fairy tales. It introduces some views presented in folklore studies about the concept of time in fairy tales and finds parallels with them in the Estonian context. The analysis relies on the digital corpus of Estonian fairy tales (5400 variants), created from the texts found in the Estonian Folklore Archives by the Fairy Tale Project of the Department of Estonian and Comparative Folklore, University of Tartu. Folk calendar holidays occur in Estonian fairy tales relatively seldom; most often these are holidays that occupy a significant place in the Estonian folk calendar (Christmas, St. John’s Day, Easter, St. George’s Day). Calendar holidays are notably mentioned more often in tale types which remain on the borderline between the fairy tale and the legend or the fairy tale and the religious tale. In Estonian fairy tales, calendar holidays are used on three levels of meaning: (1) the holiday is organically associated with the tale type; it has an essential role in the plot of the tale; (2) to a certain extent, the holiday could be replaced by another holiday having an analogous meaning; (3) the holiday forms an unimportant or occasional addition to the tale.


fairy tale; category of time; relativity of time ; folk calendar holidays; Estonian fairy tale corpus

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ISSN (print) 1736-6518. ISSN (online) 2228-0987. JEF is a joint publication of the University of Tartu, the Estonian National Museum and the Estonian Literary Museum.