Fears described in modern Estonian schoolchildren’s lore

The relationship between subjective experience and media influence


Keywords: children’s lore, narratives, fears, media influence

The article is focused on how modern Estonian schoolchildren describe, in writing, their fears and their ways to cope with those fears, and analyses the influence of mass and social media (e.g films, YouTube videos, computer games, narrative folklore) as a source of the content and direction for those feared images. The main body of the children’s texts analysed concerns the fears and beliefs relating to nature and environment, interpersonal relations, and the supernatural. The analysis highlights some universal traits observed over time as well as some characters and ­phenomena making a short appearance before being ousted by yet another trend. The author concludes that unlike the older narrative tradition, which mainly dealt with im­mediate vicinity, the modern students worry about Amazon deforestation or global ­environmental disasters. Also, there are new belief creatures acommodated in the child’s secret chamber of fears, who come from different cultures and travel across different media channels until stationed in the child´s imaginative vicinity. Besides horror films, which proved to be the main source of scary themes and images, one cannot ignore more general risk trends (e.g. climatic change, terrorism) and the way of communicating those trends in the news, for example. Moreover, the characters in some animated cartoons which an adult may perceive as innocent enough and free of violence, can cause long-lasting fears in children, manifestable in complete stories and protective, reassuring practices. Many a schoolchild story included methods of fear management suggesting that reassurance was indeed gained through active coping strategies.

As for stylistic techniques employed, the contributions stood out for using an exaggerating and emphatic description of strong emotions, as the grotesque and the caricature creates a contrast between the immensity of childhood fears and the more rational situation in the moment of narration/writing, which serves as a protective mechanism helping to distance the negative sensation and to cope with it. Thus, the key functions of fear narratives are mapping the boundary between the dangerous and harmless, interpreting personal experiences of fear, as well as providing practical guidance for how to navigate the ocean of fears.

Reet Hiiemäe (b. 1974), Estonian Literary Museum, Department of Folkloristics, Senior Researcher (Vanemuise 42, 51003 Tartu), reet@folklore.ee




Eesti Kirjandusmuuseumi (EKM) Eesti Rahvaluule Arhiiv (ERA)

     H – Jakob Hurda rahvaluulekogu

     RKM, KP 1 – koolipärimuse kogu

Eesti Kirjandusmuuseum (EKM)

     KP – folkloristika osakonna koolipärimuse kogu



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