Доклад опуликован в рамках III Областной научно – практической конференции учащихся на английском и немецком языках «Культурное наследие стран изучаемого языка», посвященной 350-летию Дж. Свифта, 25 февраля 2017.

Копанёва Юлия Романовна, 7 класс,
МОУ Львовская школа №4, г.о. Подольск

Руководитель: Травкина Ольга Владимировна,
учитель английского языка


There are no snakes in Ireland. This is an amazing fact. We were interested if this influenced Irish or English folklore.
The purpose of our research is to point out Snake theme in Irish and Russian folklore and to define its essence. The tasks of the research are
1. To find and study different pieces of folk literature on this topic.
2. To analyze their peculiarities.
3. To point out common and distinctive features of snakes in Russian and Irish folk pieces.
4. To find out the attitude of learners of English to snakes.
We suppose that knowing the features of English folklore, it is possible to understand the spirit and points of view of Irish people better.
The object of the study are the Russian and Irish Folklore about snakes. The subject of the study are snakes as characters of folklore.
The working methods are:
1. The study of Irish and English folk pieces about snakes;
2. A definition of their essence, meaning and role in folklore;
3. A survey of students;
4. An analytical study.
The relevance of the work is conditioned on the fact that more and more people tend to master English for practical use. It means that they want to communicate with English – speaking representatives without any difficulties. In this case it is important to know some cultural peculiarities so that you could understand all sayings correctly and, thus, to avoid some misunderstanding or even conflicts.
While reading about the Emerald Island we were surprised that there are no snakes in Ireland. In fact, there are two species. But they live in the sea and never leave water. Why? There are only two places in the world – Ireland and New Zealand – where there are no snakes. However, the environment must be quite favourable for them in Ireland. The climate is mild and wet. There is a lot of food all year round because there is no snow in winter. Nevertheless, snakes do not live in Ireland. It is a puzzle.
The only reasonable theory says that Ireland separated fromGreat Britain and the continent during the Ice Age. Thus flora and fauna of Great Britain and Ireland are not the same. There are snakes in Great Britain. However, there are some drawbacks of this explanation. In some places Great Britain and Ireland are quite close to each other. And snakes could have swum to Ireland. But they did not.
There is one legend that explains this fact. It is connected with St. Patrick, who is a saint patron of Ireland. St. Patrick baptized the country. The legend says that he gathered all snakes at Mount Croagh and ordered them to jump into the sea from it. All snakes did as he ordered. Only the oldest one did not follow the order and started fighting with St. Patrick. As a character of many tales, St. Patrick outwitted the Snake. He bet on Snake's disability to place inside a chest. The snake demonstrated that he could. St. Patrick locked the chest and threw it into the sea.
The legend is symbolic. The Celts were pagans. They had several gods. One of them was the god of fertility Cernunnos. He was depicted as a snake. Having established Christianity, St. Patrick replaced «The Snake». Thus, the legend may have appeared.
There is one more legend concerning St. Patrick. It says that there is a lake in the Geltsy mountains. An enormous Snake is fixed to a rock there. All the time you can hear there, «Patrick, how long is it till Luan». Luan means Monday. He says so because when St. Patrick threw him into the lake, he ordered him to be fixed to the rock till Laun – laun. It means Judgment Day. But the Snake misunderstood the word. That's why he is waiting for Monday. He tries to get rid of the chains. And this noise can be heard everywhere.
The legend is based on pun. But its religious essence is evident.
These legends caused our interest to the snake theme in Irish folklore.
However, we could not find any Irish tales or legends concerning snakes. There are only some legends about horned women or witches. For example, «Horned Women». To some extent, we can refer them to Snake theme because in some Celtic traditions Cernunnos is also depicted as a horned god with a snake in his hands surrounded by animals.
Horned women in Irish legends are strong but wicked. People are not worth meeting them. They can do a lot of harm. People are not able to get rid of them without some magic help.
However, we can still find Cernunnos in Irish and English literature.
During the Elizabethan age, Cernunnos appeared as Herne in Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor. He embodied fealty to the realm, and guardianship of royalty.
Cernunnos is also very popular with neopagans. Thus, there are a lot of poems which are prayers to Cernunnos. Here is one of them written by Patti Wigington.
God of the green,
Lord of the forest,
I offer you my sacrifice.
I ask you for your blessing.
You are the man in the trees,
the green man of the woods,
who brings life to the dawning spring.
You are the deer in rut,
mighty Horned One,
who roams the autumn woods,
the hunter circling round the oak,
the antlers of the wild stag,
and the lifeblood that spills upon
the ground each season.
God of the green,
Lord of the forest,
I offer you my sacrifice.
I ask you for your blessing.
There are also prayers by Kate West, Ian Corrigan and others. Nevertheless, we cannot refer them to folklore.
There are some idioms connected with snakes.
There are few idioms similar to Russian ones. Here are some examples. To cherish a snake on one's bosom means to have one's kindness repaid with spite or ingratitude. To wriggle like a cut snake means to cheat, to tell a lie all the time.
More idioms are different. Sometimes we can guess the meaning, sometimes we cannot. A snake in grass is a person who cannot be trusted, an unfaithful traitor, and rascal. A black snake is a long whip. To have snakes in one's boots means to be drunk as a lord. Great snakes is a response of a greatly surprised man. It means astonishment. But the last three have an American origin.
To raise or to wake snakes means to start a scandal or a quarrel, to cause troubles. A poor snake is a poor man or a worker doing some hard monotonous work.
Some idioms came from literature. To scotch the snake, not kill it means to neutralize something or somebody for some time. It came from Shakespeare's «Macbeth» (act 3, scene 2). A snake in the grass means hidden danger or craft. It came from Vergilius. Sometimes it is used in jokes.
Thus, we can see that there are few idioms in English connected with snakes.
From the given examples we can see that snakes in idioms have a negative essence. They symbolize cruelty, ingratitude, craft, danger. The attitude to snakes is negative.
There are even more snakes in Russian folklore. They appear in tales and epos where our Russian epos heroes fight against them. The best examples are « Dobrinia Nikitich and a Snake» and «Aliosha Popovich and Tugarin Zmiy».
In the first tale the snake looks like a dragon, emits fire and can fly. The plot of the tale contains two battles of Dobrinia against Zmiy. After the first battle the prostrate Zmiy asks Dobrinia to make a treatment. He will not fly to Russia any more and Dobrinia will not come to his land. Dobrinia believes, but Zmiy cheats him and kidnapps Zabava, prince Vladimir's niece. After a long and fierce struggle Dobrinia defeats Zmiy and sets free Zabava and a lot of other people, kidnapped by Zmiy. It is clear that Zmiy symbolizes the Russian enemy who used to invade our land. Moreover, written many centuries ago the tale is urgent even now and points out the essence of Russian history – being invaded several times and while fighting for freedom helping a lot of other peoples to become free. There is one thing not to be ignored. During the first battle Dobrinia manages to beat Zmiy with the hat similar to the one of the monks. Thus it symbolizes Christianity.
There are different versions of the second tale. Tugarin Zmiy is a mighty enemy, a half – man. In some versions he has paper wings. He can also breathe out fire. The tales about Tugarin Zmiy symbolize the fight against nomads.
There are a lot of other tales (bylinas) in Russian folklore that speak of a fight against snakes. They are «Dobrinia and Marinka», «Mikhailo Potyk», «Volkh Vseslavievich», spiritual poems about Egoriy. There are more than 30 fairy tales with snakes.
As there are a lot of pieces about snakes in Russian folklore, their essence is different. In bylinas they are mighty and cruel enemies. In some tales they are security guards of underground kingdoms. The examples are «Ivan Tsarevich and Marfa – Tsarevna» or «Three kingdoms – copper, silver and gold». Sometimes it becomes a helper of a tale character («A wonderful shirt», for instance). But such tales are rear. A snake in them only looks like a snake, but its essence is different.
We decided to ask the pupils of our school about their attitude to snakes. We conducted a survey. 53 pupils from our secondary school took part in it. Firstly, we were interested in the attitude of pupils to snakes. It appeared that 48% of pupils have a neutral attitude to them. 24% have a negative attitude and are afraid of snakes. 28% think positively and snakes do not scare them. Only 1 pupil would like to have a snake as a pet.

We also wanted to know if Russian pupils know Russian or English tales about snakes. The results were the following. Only 9% of pupils said that they know both Russian and English tales connected with snakes. 74% know from 1 to 5 Russian tales about snakes. 17 % of pupils could not remind any tales on snakes.

But all pupils said that snakes symbolize evil, cruelty, cunning.
We got the following results:
1. We have studied the literature on this topic. There are few Irish legends and folk tales concerning Snakes in Irish folklore. There are more tales on the theme in Russian folklore.
2. We can find «Snake theme» in English idioms but most of them are of American origin or came from literature.
3. Snakes both in Irish and Russian folklore symbolize cruelty, ingratitude, craft, danger. The attitude to snakes is negative. In Russian folklore they may be different.
4. The historical background of negative attitude to snakes in Russian and Irish folklore lies in the fact that snakes symbolized religious enemies or invades.
To sum it up, as there are no snakes in Ireland, there are few snakes in Irish folklore. There are snakes in Russia. We can find a lot of pieces on snake theme in Russian folklore.


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