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The Universality of Symbol in “The Master Manole”


– Nicolae Zberea (1908-1990) –

Although any people has his own customs, beliefs and conceptions, though any people has his folklore, the comparative study of the folklore of different people shows that, in spite of existing differences between the artistic means of expression, the basic ideas of the folkloric productions are characterised by a striking analogy. This is observable even in the folklore of peoples which never came in contact ones with others.

Just because the folklore of a people can refind itself in the folklore of other peoples, it is possible to say that it doesn’t exist a folklore of a particular people, but an universal folklore. This coincidence comes from there that, while the historical peculiarities in which each people had developed gave to his folklore a proper specific nuance, the human nature, with its necessities and aspirations, remains essentially the same on all meridians. Thus, the core of the folklore is constituted by the universality of human nature, which imprints the manner of seeing and feeling the things; at the same time, the external part, the mood of artistic embellishment, varying from people to people, depends on the geographical-historical conditions and especially on the degree of its social-political development. So, to the common, universal found of the folklore, the peoples have brought their particular character.

Let us take three legends of shaking dramatism which illustrate this idea. At their basis stays the conception of necessity of sacrifice for the realization of great creations of human spirit.

So is the legend of Master Manole from Romanian popular poetry, which, at the same time, through its beauty, is a real artistic miracle. The masons in the legend try to rise a monastery of a beauty and grandeur “as never another one was”. But their efforts it happens to be stopped by the intervention of a secret force, of a hostile spirit, that “what they build in the day is coming down in the night”. Manole, the chief mason, learns from an ascet that the building will not succeed until in the walls of the monastery will not be imollated a living human being. The masons gather and decide to be sacrificed the wife or the daughter of either of them who, next day, will come the first to bring food to her husband or to her father. They all take the oath to not disclose it to those from home, but only Manole doesn’t betray his oath and with broken heart is the one obliged to immolate his beloved wife in the wall of the building. So the dream of a pairless beauty and grandeur could become reality only with the price of superhuman sacrifice.

Full of beauty and tragism is the Indian legend of Dharma. The drama occurred during the building of the famous temple Konarak in Orissa-Puri. The hero of the legend, Dharma, a wonderful teenager, gifted with a fabulous intuition, solves the very difficult problem of installation of the tower on the peak of the temple – thing which all the masters headed by the great architect Bishnu-Mahārana, couldn’t do. But thousand and two hundreds of masters and masons, put in inferiority by Dharma, forsee themselves menaced by the fury rajah Narsinh Dev, the patron of the temple, for they cheated his good-will. The spectrum over their lives could have been avoided only through a supreme sacrifice: to save the multitude of masters and masons, with no hesitation, the young builder Dharma, beautiful like god Narayan, mounts to the top of the temple and jumps in the sea, disappearing for ever in the waves. Today the temple is a big heep of ruins but the people still believe that Dharma didn’t drown and the ruins of the temple wait for his return.

Much impressive is also the story of self-sacrifice of the Burmese princess, the daughter of king Anawratha, the unificator of Burma. To facilitate the cultivation of rice the king decides to barrage the mountain river Myiting. The furious waters didn’t permit their huge stream to be stopped and the king is told that the stormy waters will not obey until at the fundament of the barrage will not build a woman of a great lineage. To Anavratha’s call comes just his daughter decided to sacrifice herself for the prosperity of the people. The legends tells that, through the immolation of the princess, the river Myiting softened and its barring led to the flourishment of whole central region of Burma.

In The Master Manole, the sacrifice is symbolized through the immolation of Ana, Manole’s wife; in the legend of Dharma, by young hero’s renunciation to life; in the story of Anawratha, by the sacrifice of the princess. If in folklore the sacrifice has preserved the form of old magical practices, this is only an artistic mean of people to rend the drama of the creator, is a symbol. In our days, the universal truth emphasized allegorically in the three legends invocated here appears directly, as if we don’t need symbols any more when seeing grandiose sacrifices of a legendary heroism for all great realizations.

Published inNicolae Zberea