Table of contents:
- What does the Gray Wolf and the apple tree need: three features of the magic assistant
- A loving wife and a scary crocodile: how ancient Egyptian tales are related to "Peter Pan"
- Who rides whom: how an assistant becomes the protagonist of children's literature and fantasy
- Weak and Strong Helpers, or Why Gandalf Disappears
- Paganel, Q & Lisbeth: brainy is the new sexy
- Robot: Rebel or Perfect Assistant
- Superheroes and coaches: where the magic helper dies and where he survives
Who is a magic assistant and how to identify him in fairy tales? Why doesn't he need to be rude at the first meeting and does he disinterestedly help the heroes? Let's talk about how the magic apple tree, the Gray Wolf, Gandalf, Paganel and robots are connected.
What does the Gray Wolf and the apple tree need: three features of the magic assistant
In fairy tales, one of the most ancient types of texts, the hero is never alone - he is always helped. Here Ivan Tsarevich sets off to look for the Firebird, and the Gray Wolf, who offers his help, meets him. Or a kind girl goes to a forest witch, and the apple tree helps her to complete all the impossible tasks. But the magic assistant, and this is how the role of the apple tree or the Gray Wolf is called, has its own characteristics that we do not think much about.
Firstly, the magic assistant always belongs to that strange other world where the hero came, and therefore he is maximally “not like us”. We know that in ordinary life the apple tree and the wolf do not speak, but we are not surprised that in the world of fairy tales they turn out to be speaking. As a rule, the hero finds an assistant in another world - mostly almost immediately after crossing the border with this world - and leaves him there.
Exceptions are rare: it happens that a hero's helper appears after a serious disturbance in the order of things in his world (for example, before her death, a mother gives her daughter a talking doll that will help a kind girl fight her stepmother). And it is already quite rare when a magic assistant is born in this world, next to a normal hero, but in a miraculous way (for example, from a cow). But even such a magical assistant does not shine a normal human fate: at the end of the tale, Ivan, the son of a cow, leaves, having arranged the personal life of his brother, Ivan Tsarevich.
Secondly, it often seems to us that the Gray Wolf or the apple tree help the hero of a fairy tale simply because they are kind, in modern terms, altruists. In fact this is not true. The hero and his assistant are connected by a strong relationship of gift exchange according to the principle "I am a gift to you, you are a gift to me." If we carefully read the classic tale about Ivan Tsarevich and the Gray Wolf, we will see what the beginning of their relationship looked like. Ivan Tsarevich walks and sees the inscription: "Whoever goes here will lose his horse." In essence, it is a contract. Ivan Tsarevich accepts the conditions and follows this road:
“… Suddenly a great gray wolf came out to meet him and said:“Oh, you goy thou, young youth, Ivan Tsarevich! After all, you read, it is written on the pillar that your horse will be dead; so why are you coming here? "The wolf uttered these words, tore Ivan Tsarevich's horse in two and went away to the side."
However, then the Gray Wolf suddenly catches up with the hero and offers his services in return: “… I am sorry that I have bitten your good horse. Good! Sit on me, on the gray wolf, and tell me where to take you and why? " Such a system of quid pro quo (which is called reciprocal, that is, returnable, altruism) appears in almost every fairy tale, but we do not notice it. The tale about Sivka-Burka begins with a father’s demand for his sons, which is strange for us. "When I die, come and sleep at my grave."
From the point of view of the peasant culture of the 19th century, this is the maximum commemoration, a way to ensure a comfortable transition for the deceased to another world. In some villages of the Vologda Oblast, it is still customary to have breakfast with the deceased right at the grave after the funeral. In response to the correct fulfillment of the contractual relationship, the dead man, who emerges from the opened grave at exactly twelve at night, rewards Ivan the Fool with a magical helper horse.
And in some versions of the fairy tale "Frost" (or in other tales about the evil stepmother and the good stepdaughter), the talking oven offers the heroine simple, unpretentious food: after eating it, the heroine receives useful advice. Strict adherence to the rules of hospitality is also a form of agreement. An important property of such contracts is that in all these cases the hero does not know (at least we do not know) about the impending reward for his service or gift. But he knows for sure that the imposed agreement must be respected.
And finally, thirdly, the magic assistant is not a person. He does not have his own destiny and his own purpose in the hero's journey. He is a kind of talking tool that appears at the moment when the hero needs help. In this case, everything that the magic assistant does is recorded in the hero's asset, and at the end of the tale, the narrator may forget about him altogether. Is it possible to answer the question of what happened to the Gray Wolf or Sivka-Burka? No - because the answer to this question is unknown, the narrator forgets about them the moment the hero receives the award and returns home.
A loving wife and a scary crocodile: how ancient Egyptian tales are related to "Peter Pan"
Fairy tales are very ancient: some stories are thousands of years old. The versions of fairy tales familiar to us are spread over a large territory from the Arab East and India to Scandinavia. The most common fairy tale - no, not Cinderella (she is in second place) - is about an evil stepmother who tries to harass her kind stepdaughter and gain preferences for her own - and evil - daughter. There are 982 national versions of this tale - in Russia it is known as "Morozko".
The oldest surviving fairy tale with magic helpers is at least 3300 years old. And they told it in Ancient Egypt. Despite the venerable age of this tale, known as "The Doomed Prince", its plot is quite recognizable. The Egyptian king had no children for a long time, and when he finally prayed for a son, the goddesses of fate came and said that the boy would die from a dog, snake or crocodile.
Of course, dad immediately put his son under lock and key in a separate house, eliminating all the dangers. But one day the prince saw a dog and begged for it. And then he left to wander with his beloved greyhound altogether - no one likes to sit under lock and key. The prince crossed the desert and, disguised as a simple warrior, came to another king to take part in the competition for the hand of the princess. The competition consisted in the fact that it was necessary to jump to the window of a high tower, where the girl sits (the Russian fairy tale about Sivka-Burka is immediately remembered).
The prince completes the task, the princess becomes his wife and learns about the imminent death of her husband. She decides to fight with fate for the life of the prince and therefore every night she guards her sleeping husband. So she manages to watch for a poisonous snake. Undoubtedly, the princess acted here as a magical helper. The superpower of the assistant wife is manifested precisely in the fact that for some reason she knew exactly when the snake would crawl and how exactly to deal with it.
So the prince escaped from the first fate. But one day the prince went for a walk without his faithful assistant wife, and then his beloved dog found a voice, announced that she was his second destiny, and attacked the owner. He had no choice but to flee from his former friend.
On this the tale could have ended, but no. There is still a crocodile in it, who knew that he was the third fate of the prince, the reason for his future death, and therefore, while the prince crossed the desert and sought the hand of the princess, the crocodile dragged with all his might after him (also in the desert). Finally, he settles in a pond near the newlyweds and waits for the right moment to eat the prince, but an unpleasant neighborhood distracts him from this important business.
It turns out that a water spirit lives in the reservoir, with which the poor crocodile has to fight for living space for three months.And when the crocodile, exhausted by endless battles, realizes that the situation is stalemate, the prince runs up to the reservoir, fleeing from the dog. And they make a deal. The crocodile says: “I am your destiny, haunting you. For three full months now I have been fighting with the spirit of water. Now I will let you go, kill the water spirit."
Alas, the papyrus is badly damaged, so the end of this tale is unknown to us, but what we know about fairy tales tells us about the inviolability of the contract. So, most likely, the prince killed the irrepressible water demon, helped the crocodile, and in return (quid pro quo) became his assistant and helped get rid of the dog.
At the turn of the 19th-20th centuries, the fairy tale "The Doomed Tsarevich" became incredibly popular in Great Britain and France - at that time, very, very many were fond of Egyptology. In 1900 it was translated into French, in 1904 - into English, and it was widely sold. Exactly in these years, James Barry composes stories about a boy who never became an adult, and in 1911 the fairy tale "Peter Pan" was published. Peter Pan has an enemy - the pirate Captain Hook.
He is not afraid of anyone or anything except a crocodile (more precisely, a crocodile with an alarm clock inside), which follows him everywhere. Crocodile is the fate of Captain Hook. And, most likely, the colorful image of a crocodile, an enemy-assistant, Barry borrowed directly from an Egyptian tale.
Who rides whom: how an assistant becomes the protagonist of children's literature and fantasy
In the 20th century, the authors of science fiction and fantasy use a fairy-tale scheme, and at the same time change it. The magic assistant ceases to be a powerless creature, an instrument that must appear at the right time. In 1954, Clive Lewis's story "The Horse and His Boy" (one of the "Chronicles of Narnia") was published, where the traditional scheme - a hero of low birth and a magical helper horse - changes dramatically. This can be seen even from the title of the story.
The foster father wants to sell a boy named Shasta into slavery to a rich guest. The guest's talking horse offers Shasta an escape. He pragmatically declares: “If I am without a rider, people will see me and say: 'He has no master” - and they will chase after me. And with the rider - another matter … So help me. " The magic assistant not only offers the terms of the deal and monitors its implementation, but also actively involves the hero in adventures and later turns out to be almost one of the most important characters.
At first glance, it seems that another magical assistant is the house elf Dobby from the Harry Potter books: his role is absolutely traditional. Indeed, Harry and Dobby's relationship is initially built on a classic quid pro quo. At first, the elf is forced to harm Harry (and is constantly fighting with himself), but he lures Dobby over to his side (somewhat similar to the situation with the crocodile and the prince) and frees him, after which Dobby becomes his faithful assistant. And yet, something tells us that this is a different scheme.
As we have already said, the fate of the magic assistant is not important for the classic fairy tale: we will not hear anything about the Gray Wolf or Sivka-Burka after the hero wins. Whereas in the last book of Rowling one of the strongest places is when Harry cries over the body of Dobby, who sacrificed himself to save the "boy who survived." In contrast to the folk tale, here the fate of the elf is known to the very end.
Weak and Strong Helpers, or Why Gandalf Disappears
In 1937, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote the fairy tale "The Hobbit, or There and Back Again." Heroes - gnomes - set off on a journey for treasures that the dragon took possession of (this plot is well known to us from Indo-European fairy tales and epics). Tolkien subtly plays with traditional schemes: the heroes of The Hobbit have two magical assistants during the journey back and forth: the classic one (the magician Gandalf) and the impostor assistant (the hobbit Bilbo).
Bilbo finds himself in a fairy tale in a completely anti-fabulous way.In Indo-European fairy tales, the meeting of the hero with the future helper should begin with the hero doing him a service, even if it consists in a simple act of politeness. And even if the hero manages to get nasty at first, he immediately corrects himself.
For example, in a Russian fairy tale an old woman comes across to meet a peasant's son. In response to her polite question ("What are you thinking about?"), The hero, in modern terms, sends her: "Be quiet, old little brat, don't bother me!" Having uttered this phrase, Ivan immediately begins to suffer from moral torment (“Why did I choose her?”), Apologizes and immediately receives a reward - advice and a magic remedy.
Remember how Bilbo's story begins? On a beautiful sunny day, leading an absolutely carefree life, Bilbo meets Gandalf, enters into a squabble with him and is rude to him, that is, he does what the hero of a fairy tale should not do. Naturally, instead of a service (good advice), he gets an anti-service. The wizard draws a sign on the door of Bilbo's hole with his staff, indicating that a master burglar lives here, and tricking the hobbit into a story with a search for treasures captured by a dragon. Bilbo is an impostor assistant who can supposedly break open any door and loot the treasury.
Let's go back to Gandalf. This wizard has an unpleasant habit of disappearing in the midst of the most interesting adventures - a habit that is not typical of a classic assistant. The real magical assistant goes all the way, but not Gandalf. “After all, this is not my adventure. Maybe I will take part in it one more time, but now other urgent matters await me,”he says after the whole merry company was almost eaten by werewolves with goblins.
The reason for this strange behavior of Gandalf lies precisely in the fact that he is too ideal companion of the heroes. He is a powerful wizard, he can do almost anything. We understand that if he is there, the heroes are not in danger. To complicate the task for the gnomes and the hobbit, Tolkien removes Gandalf from the narrative in the middle of the story, and then the role of the savior passes from a strong assistant to a weak one, that is, to Bilbo.
The hobbit acquires a magic tool - a ring that makes its owner invisible - and begins to pull the dwarves out of the most terrible or ridiculous situations. At the same time, Bilbo himself changes - from the usual fairy tale plot, Tolkien creates an unusual story about weak heroes who have acquired their own strength.
Paganel, Q & Lisbeth: brainy is the new sexy
In the literature of the XIX-XX centuries, which did not use fairy-tale schemes directly, there seems to be no place for magic helpers. And yet they do not disappear, but are transformed: now the role of a magical assistant is played by a scientist out of this world, possessing superpowers or superknowledge that are inaccessible to an ordinary person.
Around 1864, the French writer Jules Verne, who has never left France and fears the high seas, invents the story of the shipwrecked Captain Grant and sends a Scottish rescue expedition to find him.
Together with its members, a charming hare, which resembles a giant “nail with a large head”, and, in behavior, is scattered from Basseinaya Street, accidentally sits on the Duncan yacht. This is a member of all possible scientific societies, the French scientist-geographer Jacques Paganel, who involves the heroes on a fascinating journey along the 37th parallel, because no one knows exactly where Captain Grant crashed.
The scientist's head is filled with the most unusual and useful knowledge: Paganel gives advice, clarifies the questions that have arisen, and even saves expedition members from Maori cannibals. And everything would be fine, but the absent-minded geographer, as he would be called now, constantly comes up with new (and incorrect) theories about where exactly the captain should be looked for.Unlike the Gray Wolf or Gandalf, who know everything about their magical world, Paganel has only a visible completeness of knowledge and therefore is often mistaken.
In the old Bond movies, 007 had an assistant Q (Q) who was in charge of supplying the protagonist with all sorts of incredible spy gadgets (such as glasses that see through clothes, or a car that turns into a submarine). We meet Q at the very beginning of the action, when he equips James Bond with almost magical means, after which he disappears from sight.
Bond remembers him only when it turns out that Kew is too smart and his gadgets are working too well. But in Skyfall Coordinates (2012), Kew changes. This is no longer a mad scientist from the laboratory who appears only at the beginning of the film, but a young hacker who also makes mistakes and participates in the action throughout the film.
If an eccentric researcher can be wrong, then another assistant - a genius with mental characteristics - is never wrong. In the 2004 novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, an unusual pair of detectives appear: journalist Mikael Blomkvist and young hacker Lisbeth Salander. Lisbeth's mental traits make her an ingenious burglar and help a rather ordinary journalist solve a case. No wonder the serial Irene Adler, who fights with and admires the "highly active sociopath" Sherlock, repeats all the time: "Brainy is the new sexy".
Robot: Rebel or Perfect Assistant
In 1921, Czech science fiction writer Karel Čapek wrote a play that was, in fact, a political metaphor: greedy people create universal mechanical creatures, almost indistinguishable from humans, in order to make a profit. To name these assistants, Čapek comes up with the previously non-existent word "robot" from the Czech robota (work).
If in Russian “work” is generally any occupation that takes time and is beneficial, in Czech robota is hard and often forced labor (by the way, the word “slave” is also related to “work” in Slavic languages). Therefore, Czapek's neologism simultaneously indicates that these mechanical creatures are constantly working, and that they are essentially slaves.
So the whole world learned about robots, as well as that they are the future enemies of humanity. And the fact that the confrontation with them is still imaginary does not prevent playing this plot an infinite number of times - from the Cylon from the TV series Battlestar Galactica and Terminator to The Matrix and the World of the Wild West.
Twenty years later, in the early 1940s, a young science fiction writer Isaac Asimov creates a world in which interaction with robots is completely different. It has three laws of robotics:
1. A robot cannot harm a person or, by its inaction, allow harm to be done to a person.
2. A robot must obey all orders given by a person, except when these orders are contrary to the First Law.
3. The robot must take care of its safety insofar as it does not contradict the First and Second Laws.
In the world of Asimov, governed by these laws, the war with robots is just a fear that must be overcome, because robots are the ideal human helpers. In 2067, robot psychologist Susan Calvin explains to a young journalist: “Then you don't remember what the world was like without robots. There was a time when, in the face of the Universe, man was alone and had no friends. Now he has assistants, beings stronger, more reliable, more effective than he, and absolutely loyal to him. Humanity is no longer alone."
A series of stories by Azimov "I, a Robot" shows how a person's relationship with a new ideal assistant is built.
The robot tries on all roles: the ideal friend of a child (and not a hysterical mother, programmed only to reproduce the correct way of life), a fanatical preacher and founder of a new religion (who considers people to be an inferior form of life), an ideal judge (whom a person may even fall in love with) … The robots invented by Asimov go all the way of human evolution, because in fact, as the robot prichologist Susan Calvin says, "they are cleaner and better than us."
Superheroes and coaches: where the magic helper dies and where he survives
At the beginning of the text, we talked about a fairy tale and how closely its schemes have entered our lives.Often we do not hesitate to follow these schemes in life: we go to trainings that “completely change the approach to life,” we believe in magic means that “transform you,” and coaches who help to put everything in order.
But there is another scheme - an epic one. If the hero of a fairy tale is, in general, the same as we are, then the hero of the epic is a completely unusual creature. His whole life, starting from early childhood, speaks of this: he grows by leaps and bounds, has extraordinary strength, can turn into animals, and so on. So he doesn't really need a magic assistant. This scheme has also survived in modern culture, having got into the basis of comics and superhero films. They just talk about the transformation of an ordinary person into a demigod, which will certainly save the world.
However, it also happens that a superhero or an action hero takes on the function of a magical assistant. In the 1980s and 90s, a stream of American films about strong heroes who alone can resist the mafia, the police, and the state poured into the USSR, and then into Russia. The desire of Russian children to acquire a friend like Schwarzenegger or Bruce Lee has penetrated urban folklore. In 1989, folklorist Vadim Lurie enrolled 5th and 6th grade students in Leningrad schools. One boy from the 5th "B" told and wrote down such a dream (therefore we did not change the spelling and grammar):
“Well, I once slept and moved to China to the Shaulins. I came to them there, they taught me their martial art. I walk back looking at me to meet three ninjas well, I beat them up and scattered them. I go further looking towards me coming bruce, well, I made friends with him and we came with him to us in the USSR. Here they found homeless people and racketeers, and all sorts of extortionists and murderers were handed over to the police. We did all this in one month. And then order was restored in our country. In the shops everything was all the deficit lay. And according to coupons and cards, nothing happened. And all of which we handed over began to build large multi-storey buildings for all of us. And then Bruce Lee went to China."
The new Russian fairy tale of this time drew in itself both a fairytale structure and eerie realities. Bruce Lee, who made friends with a fifth grader, helps him restore social order, find and pursue homeless people and racketeers. As a result, a deficit that was absent there appears in the store, the cards are canceled, and "the extortionists and murderers were handed over to the police." It is noteworthy that these bad people (whom we turned in) were sent somewhere like the GULAG (they are forced to work there at construction sites). It turns out that the generation of the nineties dreamed of just such an assistant in the era of the complete breakdown of old life schemes.