Georgian Dream

Georgian Dream and Georgian Fairytale


If my memory serves me well, Natsarkekia, a ne'er-do-well and the hero of a popular Georgian folktale, was first used in the 1970s or 1980s to describe and embody the Georgian character in a literary review by Akaki Bakradze of his colleague, Guram Asatiani. Defining a people's character based on their ethnicity may prove to be a very contentious subject. Observing fairytales, however, may prove to be more interesting – not to understand a national identity, but rather to explore relationships, attitudes and cultural paradigms.

In Georgian fairytales one may, for example, unexpectedly find the highest authority well aware of something resembling psychoanalysis; one can also see violence in cases where individuals have absolute authority, or power being yielded peacefully due to political weakness or through the rise of a rival. This is exactly what happens in the Georgian fairytale, "The Dreamer." In the story, a boy dreams that he "[...] was straddling the main city in Western Georgia, with one foot standing on one side and another on the opposite side; the sun shining on one side whilst the moon on another and the morning star helping him wash his hands and face." The boy's dream is an alarming signal both for his stepmother and the king of Western Georgia. Their absurd demand, "give me your dream" is doomed to failure and thus serves as a justification for them to punish the boy, also known as the Dreamer, for upsetting them (when in reality, they punished him due to jealousy).

Following the boy's dream, the king – grasping the essence of the boy's subconscious and understanding the scale of both his ambition and potential – throws the boy into a dungeon. The Dreamer, to use modern vernacular, is an apparent political prisoner whose weight and importance to the king increases while being in jail. His knowledge and recommendations are invaluable in handling challenges posed to the country: due to the Dreamer's advice, the king of Western Georgia successfully deals with pressures exerted by the king of Eastern Georgia. However, the king is ignorant of who his consultant in reality is because the king's daughter communicates the Dreamer's visions to her father without disclosing his identity. At the end of the day, the unfairly punished Dreamer returns to freedom triumphant: at the moment of his release he is significantly stronger – both intellectually and physically, and marries the king's daughter.

As his rival strengthens, the king of Western Georgia gladly forfeits his power to him. The psychoanalytical aspect of the story is that the Dreamer, instead of giving his dream as a "gift" to the king, transformed that dream into reality. The feeling of successful retaliation is sweet anywhere, including in Georgian fairytales. There is yet another facet of this fairytale: how a poor boy brought up by his stepmother developed such a broad mindset, ambition and more importantly, the passion to achieve his goals, remains a puzzle. He turned his dream into a vision and made that vision a reality when he became king.
Another Georgian fairytale "Two Slaps" is merely half a page long but contains motifs of corruption, extortion and violence in the king's court. A poor peasant weakened by hunger goes to the king with the firm determination to either be assisted or killed by him. The doorman allows him in the king's room on the condition that the peasant shares the gift he receives from the king with him. The poor peasant goes up to the king and asks him to slap the peasant in the face twice. When leaving the room he "shares" that gift with the doorman by slapping him once in the face. Hearing the brawl which ensues, the king comes out of the room. Learning of the peasant's deeds, the king commends him and presents him with gifts.

"Two Slaps" is the triumph of immorality, irrationality and stupidity. The immorality of the doorman is demonstrated by his desire to receive a kickback for allowing the peasant into the king's room. However, doing this right outside the king's room seems stupid. Perhaps existing rampant corruption prompts the doorman to act exactly in this way, with no fear for the consequences. The extortion is performed boldly, openly, without a sense of taking a risk. Indeed, the doorman merely got away with a slap; the king did not punish him for anything. The fairytale informs us that the doorman was only "left ashamed."

The perception about power and the highest authority, according to the fairytale, is that the authority must be able to maintain and feed you. You are completely ready to entrust the authority with even your death. The king is a bit dimwitted and senseless for being unable to understand the needs of a poor man. His governance is also inefficient – within meters of his room, servants strip subordinates of anything they can. Violence is something that is accepted and tacitly encouraged: the king slaps a peasant, the peasant slaps a doorman, the doormen slaps the peasant back and then, excited with the peasant's wittiness, the king bestows gifts on the peasant. At the same time, the king does not care that his servant was beaten. In short, everyone received amnesty.

This peasant is also an emotional character. Weakened by hunger, perhaps due to his laziness or low productivity, the peasant was unable to come up with a better idea other than to go to the king and beg. He expected one of two outcomes: mercy or ruthlessness. Thanks to the doorman, both expectations are realized when he asks the king to slap him twice in the face. Rational behavior would be to ask the king for assistance. However, the interaction with rotten bureaucratic administration pushes the peasant to make an absurd, desperate decision; his masochistic rebellion is well-targeted and risky, as it may cost him dearly. Extreme desperation moves him to change his aim; instead of saving his own life, he obsesses himself with revenge and gives no thought to the consequences.

From the perspective of the inventors of fairytale, i.e. people, the peasant proves lucky because he interacts with people who are also irrational and immoral. At the end of the day, it turns out that people and authority understand each other full well and also coexist perfectly well. They do not find it difficult to communicate (the peasant is easily able to meet with the king), violence is commonplace and ends up serving as a means to achieve one's interests (the peasant has his needs met as a result of a base act of violence, although one cannot claim that the peasant expected such an outcome). Nothing changes and the dream remains the same. The highest authority will feed you – was that not the dream of the peasant which came true?


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