Tajikistan: Categories of Harmony and Sublime in Tajik Fairy Tales

Shoesteh Ravshanova-Mavaddat, contemporary writer and poet, philosopher and physchologist, Member of National Writers Union of Kyrgyzstan, senior professor of philosophy, cultural studies and aesthetics in the International University of Kyrgyzstan.

(Following research was translated and adopted from Russian into English)

“The beauty is harmonious. Places where opposites are in “proportionate mixture” possess goodness and human health. Equal and consistent does not need harmony. Harmony acts where there is inequality and unity of manifold.[i]

The concept of harmony is attributed to all main aesthetic studies as one of the main category of aesthetics which brings the concept of beauty and magnificence as a single understanding of the world. “There is no beauty without harmony,” said Plato. With time, the concept of harmony in Tajik fairy tales received additional and complimentary definitions.

Along with elements of fantasy and echoes of the ancient worldview, Tajik fairytales reflect historical events, life and customs of the people. This is a widespread phenomenon in folklore, where it is easy to discover the tradition of oriental tales in images, stories and fiction elements of the Tajik nation. Fairytales preserved animist and totemic representations of the world. The tales about animals are mostly educational. Many fairytales ridicule predatory raids on remote settlements.

The essence of the category of harmony is evident in the constant change of the human action, in development of the events and natural phenomena. Tajik fairytales unveil the type of actions where external beauty and appearance is in harmony with internal. The combination of these harmonies can be observed in magical, fantastic and everyday fairytales. Sublime feelings, delight and surprise are caused by the aesthetic pleasure. That is achieved by complying with such laws of beauty as proportionality, grace, and compatibility of all elements of work. People skillfully use these laws to attract the attention of the listeners.

The sublime is an aesthetic category that characterizes internal significance of the objects and events, incongruent in their ideal content with real forms of their expression. Aesthetics considers sublime category in the close connection to heroic actions, pathos, struggle, and creative activities of an individual and peoples. The sublime is inseparable from the idea of grandeur and dignity of a person.[ii] Fairytales communicate the idea that the person is not only beautiful in appearance.  He can combine the aspects of sublime and harmony with dignity; adore, multiply, and demonstrate the beauty so that it educates the youth to be courageous, wise, and striving to perform amazing heroic deeds. If the appearance is combined with the inner beauty, then the harmony of thought is combined with actions, and it results in demonstration of the true heroes. Thus, Tajik fairytales tried to affirm that beautiful images of the persons aspire to help the community and change it to the best. These are fair, truthful and purposeful images. The fairytales claim that the holistic beauty of a person cannot be grand, important and unusual without complying with the laws of harmony and sublime.

The images of beauty in Shirin, Zuhro and tales “Robiaichilgazamuy”, “Farishtamoh”, “Davlathotun” and others one observes three main harmonies: the perfect beauty of the body, witty mind, and the beauty of the inner moral spirit. The ideal appearance of a beautiful girl from poor rural family attracts wealthy official. He falls in love with her and loses his mind. He forgets his high rank of kazi (judge), forgets about the consequences of his actions and declares that he is in love with this girl. The girl firmly rejects the love of a rich man.

Fairytales continuously praise the kingdom of the sublime. One of the aspects of the sublime is tall and tremendous palaces of shahs.  In the fairytales people try to describe tall palaces decorated with golden flowers that light dark nights. Tales describe skilful use of the construction materials and colors to impress and surprise readers. “Shugi mohigir” tale describes that “the shah woke up and saw that every day the sun rose from the east but now from the west. Sun rays were reflected in the palace and blinded eyes, everyone was surprised.” Another part of the tale reads as “Some bricks of the palace were made of gold, others of silver, many were built from precious stones.”[iii]

The fairytale teaches its readers that each person in a society can protect his or her honor, beauty and dignity. If one feels that offered conditions do not suit him or her, people should freely express their true and just opinion and protect their positions. Famous episodes of the tales about national heroes describe brave actions of those heroes. One of the tales describes that the dragon came to live in the capital city of the kingdom and terrified its people. Every day that dragon demanded one bull, one person and dastarkhan of bread from people that he ate with a great appetite. Although this fairytale talks about heroic actions of brave Kilichpahlavon who rescues beautiful princess, it does not omit description of the beauty of the nature.[iv] Brave deeds of heroic young people invoke surprise, delight and respect in the hearts of readers. Heroes of the fairytales are saviors of the community from natural disasters and accidents. They save people and do not demand glory or any form of incentives in return. Their behavior is noble and has great influence on the life of people. As fairytales describe people question “Who are these heroes?”.

Terrible, horrible, mysterious, pleasant and unpleasant events invoke opposite feelings from its readers: joy and sorrow, delight and disgust, love and hate. These feelings and wonderful sensations in the tales appear from the readers only when categories of harmony are combined with sublime category. Simultaneously, readers experience joy, sorrow, delight and deny stupid and disgusting feeling.

Harmony does not unveil visible flows. From all God’s creatures human is the best one. This wonderful creature performs such actions that invoke the desire to imitate it from other creatures. These actions serve as ethnical and aesthetical lessons. In fairytales, human being is perceived as a standard of beauty. As an example, ugly dev (monster) can become friends with beautiful girls and fall in love with them. Fairytales prove that the best way to achieve happiness and peace of mind is through an ideal beauty of the human.  Ideal beauty has the greatest virtue and makes shahs abandon their positions. For example, appearance and amazing mind of the shepherd’s daughter makes shah of seven countries fall in love with her. Shah abandons his throne and marries this girl. The fairytales reads as “During long time shah lived in pleasure with his beautiful wife and did not great his advisers.”[v]

From the fairytale about “Kilichpahlavon” we can conclude that harmony is considered to be fatal and therefore a miracle. Wife of shah gives a birth to a boy “…one day of his life equals to ten, two to four and so on. When the boy grew up into a hero he was called Kilichpahlavon”.[vi] Thus, harmony also gives rise to heroism. Heroes are described as “They hold seven stones from a millhouse, seven plane trees; heroes’ heads reach the sky…”[vii]

Djami believed that jewelry and decorations are attributed not only to women, but to men as well. The image of Yusuf from “Yusuf and Zulayho” is an example of men’s beauty. In addition to many inner virtues (honesty, loyalty, hard work, and others), Yusuf is also described as having a strong straight body (green as cypress, black as chalk curls), in green dress (green-symbol of youth); he wears gorgeous belt studded sandals with threats decorated with pearls and beautiful coat over his shoulder.[viii] Fairytales comprehensively describe the beauty of the man. For example, in “The interpretation of dream” (Tolkovanie sna), the beauty of the princess who works in the trade shop is praised to the extent that women find a reason to come to see his divine beauty. Djami believed that inner spiritual beauty always finds a reflection in the external appearance. It can be demonstrated through the speech, body language, laugh, happiness, but most vividly through person’s face. For this reason, person’s face shines inner divine beauty and strikes imagination of all people.[ix]

In Tajik fairytales, belligerent heroes and brave men are described as wearing special costumes in the time of war; they decorate their weapons to show their excellence and physical strength. Plehanov wrote “By decorating themselves with tiger’s skin, claws and teeth or skin and horns of the buffalo, the tribal man hints at  his own agility or strength; the one who won a clever, is clever himself, the one who won the strong is strong himself…”[x]  Representatives of various nations demonstrate their wealth through rings, earrings, bracelets and other jewelry. “…Women of many African tribes wear iron rings on their hands and legs. Wives of rich people wear almost a peck of gold.[xi] Tajik women adored gold decorations from ancient times. For example, rings, necklaces and golden teeth are considered a symbol of beauty. During feudal times, gold became especially precious. [xii]

Djami chants harmony of external and internal beauty of humans. Just like Avicenna he confirms that a person is the best creature in the world. The true beauty of a person is manifested when he is in love and he knows himself as the strongest creature.[xiii] These images combine thoughts, feelings, mind and soul. As it was demonstrated, Tajik fairytales skillfully combine the beauty of the person’s appearance and actions, and bring it in line with the outer laws and events that occur in the nature. [xiv]  They effectively demonstrate combinations of the categories of harmony and sublime, and thus, effectively reach their educational goals.


[i] Философский энциклопедический словарь. – М., 1983.

[ii] Философский энциклопедический словарь. М., 1983.

[iii] Афсонаҳо и Бухоро. – Душанбе, 1987.

[iv] Философский энциклопедический словарь. М., 1983.

[v] Свод таджикского фольклора. т. I. М., 1981. I.

[vi] Свод таджикского фольклора.

[vii] Ibid

[viii] Борев Б. Эстетика. Смоленкс , 1997.

[ix] Курбанмамадов А. Эстетика АбдурахманаДжами. Душанбе., 1981.

[x] Курбанмамадов А. Эстетика АбдурахманаДжами. Душанбе., 1981, С.290.

[xi] Борев Б. Эстетика. Смоленкс , 1997.

[xii] Зебуннисо. Гулшаниадаб.Душанбе., 1980.

[xiii] Ibid

[xiv] Шукуров М. Диди эстетики халқ. Душанбе.