Vol. 14 (2020): XIV International Symposium Contemporary Issues of Literary Studies : The Silk Road Countries` Folklore
Folklore and Literary Text

Folkloristic Archetype Versus Sovietism in Marcelijus Martinaitis The Ballads of Kukutis

Jūratė Landsbergytė-Becher
Lithuanian Culture Research Institute

Published 2020-10-20


  • Folklore,
  • Metaphor,
  • Archetype,
  • Sovietism,
  • Absurdity


As a consequence of the WWII, the occupation of Lithuania and other Baltic countries, especially its brutal barbarism, overturned the post-war layers of archetypal Lithuanian thinking and left strong marks of mental changes and a correspondingly formed response in Lithuanian literature.

Such metaphorically strong response to the Sovietism was the verses The Ballads of Kukutis by Marcelijus Martinaitis (1936–2013), first printed in 1977. They open up a field of special historical injustices and absurdity converted into satire, which is faced by the “village fool” Kukutis. He does not understand the situation but is forced to adapt to “normality” under the conditions of occupation. The Ballads of Kukutis can be compared to the works of the British writer George Orwell which show the totalitarian absurdity (1984, Animal Farm). The norms and ideological principles of the Soviet state are observed through folklorism and simplism of its transformations, like the theatre of absurd in “Mano sugalvota pasaka pakartam Kukučiui palinksminti” (The Story I came up with to cheer up hanged Kukutis). Through the prism of the metaphor of the “hanged” ones, the stories of the occupied acquire a special code of resistance and support for anti-Sovietism, destroying any mental barriers of the “iron walls”. Kukutis being forced to renounce earth, sky and Lithuania “through the fire of Germany” names the archetypes of Lithuanian identity that help to understand the foundations of mental resistance in Marcelijus Martinaitis’ poetry and which begin their journey back to so longed homeland in Lithuanian poetry. At that time (1974-1978), these archetypes start their comeback in music too in the works of Bronius Kutavičius “Prutena/Sand-covered Village” and “Last Pagan Rites”.

So, the folkloristic metaphor and its bearer, Kukutis, invincible to the Soviet censors, the naive fool from Žuveliškės village, becomes the archetype of the resistance to Sovietism, exposing the absurdity of the system.