Folk toy as a phenomenon of culture

The folk toy is first of all a phenomenon of cul­ture. It holds in itself the information of a cultural environment of, that is such an environment, which is not natural, but was formed by a human being around himself according to the character of his mental and practical activity and requirements of spiritual existence in the sphere of believing, cults, imaginations. The common human context of the folk toy lies in this. But the main image bearing, notional, symbolic factors of the folk toy are derived from the aesthetic environment. Image-bearing and content-formal principles of ethnic antiquity exist in the folk toy along with common human archetypes.

Folk toy as a mediator between culture and nature

Although the folk toy is a phenomenon of cul­ture, but in its subject, anecdotal and image-bearing aspects, it is oriented to nature. It may be called ecological, as it is first of all made of natural mate­rials: clay, wood, grass, straw, reed mace and so on; its form corresponds symbolically to natural reali­ties – wild animals, birds, domestic animals. The formation of ethnoses, in particular the Ukrainian one, was made in the conditions of the close inter­action of human and natural origins. A human being already was not completely dissolved in nature, but still did not go out of it far. The folk toy still holds in itself formal, anecdotal, and image-bearing fea­tures of ancient times, when the human world depended on a lot of natural factors (climate, land­scape, quality of soil, animal world and so on) thanks to which it assumed its unique features, which is at present called a national originality.

The human environment is being still more filled with objects and appliances, which thanks to their technical properties render to people the ability to avoid the direct contacts with nature. The objects of engineering in regard to their functional essence are first of all unified, but the aesthetics of their design underlines not national-cultural, but com­mon civilizing features. The use of such objects and things and its transforming to a cult earlier or later will come to the weakening of ethnic and individual origins and the strengthening of unifying tendencies in the man. One of the means to prevent the devel­opment of the latter is children’s upbringing, the basis of which is language, folklore and toy-game factors.

O. Karnaukh. Bears. Soft toys. Kyiv. Synthetic fur, textile.

Traditional toy and the sphere of children’s upbringing

There are a lot of problems in the children’s upbringing, one of which is the following: how to inculcate, preserve and strengthen in the child the feel of belonging to patrimonial, ethnic grounds and simultaneously make him ready for perception and understanding the most modern intellectual, tech­nical, technological and artistic achievements of the humankind? The solution of this problem is the business of modern pedagogues and educators, and just the folk toy may essentially help in this.

The true folk toy, as a rule, contains few outside attributes of ethnicity. Such an ethnicity composes its image-bearing content essence. Therefore the traditional folk toy first of all is featured with the simplicity of a form, is devoid of flashy-bright col­ors, a complicated and fastidious figuration. Such a toy, satiated with an objective reality and historical information, is close to the child in a communica­tive way. It holds the whole world of images, arche­types, metaphysical and symbolic principles of viewing, perceiving and experiencing the life. The playing with such a toy, the visual and sensory-contact acquaintance with it is one of the means to form at the child the belonging to ethnic value grounds. The mastering of such a toy along with language and folklore items (lullabies, fair tales, Christmas carols, songs, proverbs, and so on) is lay­ing that spirit reserve that will be needed by the child in his adult life, when the matter of choosing the way and the movement direction will arise.

And such a matter arises practically before every young man in a due time. The problem of the prodigal son, his exit and return, given by Jesus Christ in the form of a parable in the Gospel of Luke, is an age-old problem. Spiritual destitution in the alien lands, the feel of his aloneness and otiose­ness, the loss of human grounds (eating with pigs) made the prodigal son come back and repent. His father forgave him, blessed and celebrated his returning home. His father was happy because that, which had been lost and died, returned and revived. The son was happy because, whom his father’s pre­cious forgiveness gifted the wealth of spirituality, the spirit revival.

At our times, when the strength of destructive information, rendered in different tempting forms, has occupied the world’s media space, the problem of the prodigal son is one of the most actual. Thus, it is important there should be the place to return to, to a certain world, to a certain environment. It is first of all the world of childhood, in which the traditional toy, along with language and folklore items, should form the first notions of the surround­ing world, the first impressions and feelings of life.

O. Selyuchenko. Rider. Opishnya. Majolica.

Plastic, image-bearing, anecdotal and decorative wealth and variety of the traditional toy

Ukrainian folk toy is rich and variable: from “primitive” whistle-birds, archaic knotty dolls, semantically relict animals, birds, fantastic animals, made out of wood, straw, cheese and flour, func­tionally relict rattles: khykhychky, derkachy, kalatala and so on – to the author’s sculptor-toy (M. Tarasenko, I. Gonchar, O. Ganzha, I. Prikhod­ko, M. Galushko). The variety of the Ukrainian tra­ditional toy is tied with its rich anecdotal and sub­ject, as well as formal-image-bearing, fancy and coloring diversity. The toys of every region (as well as crockery, embroidery, wooden items, vytynanky(cuttings), pysanky (painted eggs), frescoes), desig­nated with the features of a certain originality, which depends on landscape-climate, geographical conditions (mountains, plain, steppe, marshy wood­lands, land of meadows and lakes and so on), the occupation of the population majority, historical factors, and ritual traditions. Thus, the toys, which were made in the areas of Polissia and the southern steppe Ukraine, usually differ in regard to subject and anecdotal tastes, as well as the preferable choice of certain materials and the use of their plas­tic potentials. There are also local decorative and coloring tastes, the inclination to certain fancy forms and motives. Thus, the coloring of the toy from Opishnia (Poltava region) is mostly “warm”, close to natural colors of burnt clay; ornamental pattern is round, smooth, devoid of sudden changes and sharp angles. The toy from Poltava region con­tains in itself the field image with smooth gravehumps and the fields with ripe wheat, as well as the image of a clay-walled hut under golden straw with a little green garden and a southern vegetable gar­den with aromatic carnations, pumpkins, and but­terflies. On the contrary, the ornamental pattern of Kosiv (the Carpathians) toy items has sudden changes and sharp angles, the natural clay color is covered, hidden with a white, yellowish or dark- cherry (“vyshnivka”) glaze, the main colors of the ornamental pattern are brown, green, yellow. The toy from Kosiv (as well as painted crockery) bears in itself the signs of the Carpathians cool-transpar­ent morning with peaked smerakas (silver firs) on the slopes, small wet mists in valleys, flocks of sheep in mountain valleys. The patterns of Kosiv items are close in an associative way to the sprightly-ener­getic sounding of local kolomiykas (songs) and the rhythmic stepping of a Hutsul’s (mountaineer’s) dance. Meanwhile the ornamental pattern of Opishnia toy contains in itself the image of a reserved and melodious local song that flies to far steppes. The similar image-bearing reminiscences may be found in plastic arts, decoration and ornamental pattern of the toys from Kharkiv, Lviv, Podillia, Kyiv, and Volyn regions and the south of Ukraine.

Wooden turned toys. Kosiv. Wood, painting.

Classification variants of toys. Classification signs

Ukrainian folk “toy culture”, as it has been already mentioned, is complicated and variable. The simplest classification will be the division into two groups:

Toys, whose main feature is plastic, artistic- aesthetic factors (dolls, horses, lambs, deer, goats, horsemen, birds, “barin’s wives”, “godfathers” and so on);

Toys, whose main function is the result of performing a certain mechanical action (rattles: derkachi, furkala, kalatala, whistles, bows with arrows, briazkaltsia, khykhychky and so on).

More structural will be the division of toys by their material, from which they are created: the toys made out of wood, clay, textile, straw, grass, paper, bark, bone, fruits of different plants, flour, cheese and so on. The next one is the division regarding image-bearing-game and type-functional signs:

antropomorphous doll-images (made out of clay, wood, grass, textile, straw, reed mace and dif­ferent materials);

zoomorphous images of domestic and wild animals (made out of clay, wood, grass, textile, straw, reed mace, cheese) (bulls, goats, pigs, lambs, billy-goats, cows and so on);

toys that imitate “adult” furniture, crockery, the other items of family life, the means of work (cupboards, chairs, tables, benches, bowls, cradles, hand-carts, rakes, axes and so on).

The region or the territory of creating these toys may be considered as a classification sign: the toys of Lviv, Kharkiv, Volyn, Kyiv, Poltava, the Middle Dnieper regions and so on.

It may be found still more principles of toy clas­sification that in certain cases may occur accept­able and useful. But any of the given classification variants, if to hold only one of them, cannot render a complete and versatile characteristic of the toy.

The folk toy: material, function, image-bearing and game properties

Nowadays only separate craftsmen make the traditional toy. It is bought not for children’s games, but for the peculiar introduction of folklore into the modern life of urban interior, the replenishment of private collections and museum funds. The main consumer of such a toy is becoming the urban intel­ligentsia. Thus, the toy is getting into another envi­ronment than that, in which it has formed and has been a full-right constituent. In a new environment the traditional toy, as well as the traditional embroi­dery, folk carpet, folk picture or icon should be the attribute of the tribal memory of the ancient and not very ancient past, of the very live, still functioning system of folk culture, whose element was this toy.

V. Vinohradsky. Set of toy furniture. Wood. Yavoriv painting.

Toys made out of wood

There is a motif of turning the wood (log, twig, block) into a man in the fairy tales of many peoples, including the Ukrainian one. It occurs during differ­ent kinds of conjuration and manipulations. The gods created the man just of wood but not of clay according to the ancient legends and myths. It is evi­dence of the fact that wood is the most ancient material, which the people began to work up cre­atively. A toy made out of wood, which is warm, light, handy in the game, should accompany the modern childhood.

Most of available nowadays toys, made out of wood, belong to so-called acoustic-mechanical and mobile-mechanical toys. These are rattles: derkachi, furkala, kalatala, derchaky, windmills, birds on wheels with moving wings, hand-carts, merry-go-rounds, horses on wheels. Children’s furniture, crockery, wheelbarrows, rakes, musical instruments, whistle-birds, cocks decorated with carving orna­mental pattern, horses, horses with horsemen and so on. Until now a traditional wooden mobile-mechanical toy “Smyth and Bear” has been used. These toys have been preserved in the museums and private col­lections, but separate craftsmen from Kyiv, Poltava, Volyn, and Lviv regiions are still making them.

The most mass production of wooden joiner’s and turner’s toy until recently took place in Yavoriv of Lviv region. Painting is the most valuable in Yavoriv toy from the artistic point of view. Just it makes simple joiner’s items (children’s furniture, musical instruments, hand-carts, horses, horses with horsemen and so on) works of art. Meanwhile the Yavoriv painting “holds” literally on a few motifs and elements, a few colors. These are red, green, and yellow, which appeared in 1920-1930. There are, as a matter of fact, two ornamental motifs: “kolko”, and “verbivka”. The last is flexible twig with leaves of pussy-willow type, clearly divid­ed into two symmetric rows – red and deep green. “Kolko”, depending on design, can assume the form of a geometrical rosette, as well as the form of a flower-sun, a circle with leaves inside and so on. The famous craftsmen of a joiner’s toy V. Priyma and his daughter, operating by quite a limited num­ber of motifs and elements: “verbivka”, “kolko”, “rosettes”, circles, leaves, have created a lot of unique ornamental and pattern compositions.

Turner’s doll-toys, in particular by M. Ferents, are interesting not only from the game point of view, but also from the ethnographic point of view. Their silhouettes, dress “cutting out”, its color and ornamental design, head-dresses are although somewhat styled, but rather relevant types of the Yavoriv region inhabitants in folk festive attire.

H. Poshivaylo. Painting by Y. Poshivaylo. Toy crockery. Opishnya. Majolica.

The toys made out of clay

The most mass toy, which was made in the con­ditions of trades, is the toy out of clay. Introduction of clay as a material for creating the necessary household things and building materials became an important stage of cultural development of the mankind. At this stage the first non-utilitarian plas­tic items out of clay appeared, which became a pro­totype of the future toy. Just the forms belonging to a lot of modern clay toys have remained almost unchanged from the ancient times. The religious functions changed to the game ones. Nowadays the game functions are giving way to the artistic-aes-thetic functions and the functions of a rarity collec­tion thing. Whistles (svystuntsi, svystala, svystilky) are the most widely spread among toys, made out of clay, among which bird-whistle are the most often met. They have the simplest archaic form, which is characterized by the absence of spare details, the underlining of volume and sketchiness of body and the generalized typical design of heads. Bird-whistles of the archaic form were manufactured practi­cally at all potter’s trades of Ukraine: in Podillia and Lviv regions, in Opishnia and Kosiv regions, in Kharkiv and Kyiv regions. They differ only by size and decor. The sculptures of different animals are whistles as well: lambs, bulls, goats, horses, deer, devils, pigs, dogs, as well as horsemen astride, “barin’s wives”, “godfathers”, “young ladies”, boat-cradles with mother and child.

Whistle-toys and, generally speaking, toys out of clay were made in every place, where potters were. But the most famous potter’s centers, whose items were accentuated with style and image-bearing orig­inality, were Opishnia (Poltava region), Kosiv (Ivano-Frankivsk region), Ichnia (Chernihiv region), Gromy (Cherkasy region), Dybyntsi, Vasylkiv (Kyiv region), Bar, Bubnivka, Adamivka (Podillia region), Mykolaiv, Stara Sil (Lviv region), Valky (Kharkiv region), Tsvitne (Kirovograd region), Vyshnivets, Goncharivka (Ternopil region). Nowadays the toys of the potters from these centers have become muse­um exhibits and the adornment of private collec­tions.

From time immemorial, yet at the times of Trypillia culture, the clay rattles serve as “oberegy” (protectors) (“oberegy” kept off evil spirits), as well as the attributes of different ritual actions. The spec­imens of small “children’s” crockery, which archae­ologists find in the places of Trypillia ceramic work­shops, are enigmatic. And nowadays the Ukrainian potters make “khykhychky” and “briazkaltsia” – clay sun-balls, covered with engobes, covered with glaze or simply painted. In different regions of Ukraine the potters of Ukraine make small “chil­dren’s” crockery – “small coins”, which is a gener­alized, laconic replica of “adult” local crockery.

Y. Yakibyuk. Toys made of sheep`s milk cheese. Brusturi.

The toys made out of straw, rod, grass, cheese and other materials

The toys made out of straw and grass are typ­ical ecological toys. The manufacture of straw toys had a seasonal and sometimes episodic character, merely partially belonging to the status of trades. The authors of these toys usually were rural craftsmen-harvesters. The rattles of a rhombic form , the rattles of a ball form, “mirrors”, “tarakhkaltsia”, bulls, deer, horses, dolls of different types, “spi­ders” and so on were made out of straw. The cen­ters of manufacturing the straw toys as such has not been established, but there is a basis to affirm that nowadays the toys of straw are made more in Polissia (Chernigiv, Zhytomyr, partially Kyiv regions), in Volyn and Podillia regions than in other regions and territories of Ukraine.

Toys made out of straw have golden-warm color and cool silver flashes, which is the image of a typical landscape of Polissia, Volyn, North Kyiv regions: a valley, a field with ripening wheat or a thorny-golden stubble and the sky above them, completely covered by thin silver clouds.

The toys made out of rod are created in the dif­ferent territories of Ukraine, in particular in vil­lages and towns, situated above rivers and near lakes. The children’s furniture, rattles, baskets, cra­dles for child-dolls were braided out of rod; sepa­rate craftsmen created even dolls out of rod.

Toys out of grass are made both by adults and children. As a rule, they are created at the end of spring and at the beginning of summer, when the flood rise to plains and long sappy grass grows – “plaits”. And women make almost all out of this grass for girls, in the same manner as ritual wedding “young lady-dolls” were made a long time ago. Children, in particular those, who shepherd cattle, braided out of grass “churches” and “priest’s car­riages”, made different animals and dolls.

The ritual figured pastry in the form of differ­ent animals: cows, pigs, lambs, hares, horses, horses with horsemen, as well as human images (goddesses) were made and in some places are still made in the different territories of Ukraine – in Podillia, Subcarpathians, Transcarpathians, Poltava, Kyiv, Cherkasy regions and the other. These items are not complete toys, after all children eat them gladly. It concerns birds as well – larks, magpies, pigeons, which were baked almost everywhere, and nowa­days are baked in some places in honor of meeting the spring, on the eve of the mass arrival of birds.

The toys out of cheese are made only in the Carpathians. Nowadays only women make them, although in the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century the lambs and kalatches out of cheese were made by male-sheepmen in mountain valleys. The manufacture of the cheese toy in such villages as Brusturiv, Richka, Snidavka, Sheshory assumed the meaning of a trade, at least in 1950-1980. The toys out of cheese are made in a special way- by draw­ing, twisting and tying with cheese cord. Cheese lambs, horses, goats, horses with horsemen, deer, cocks and other birds. Especially many quite small horses and lambs are created that are sold in holi­days and great market days in Kosiv and Verkhovyna region. On the contrary, big cheese horses with berbenytsi in the days of spring and fall commemoration are presented to the relatives and put on the graves of sheepmen. The toys out of cheese are related figuratively to the Carpathians, their natural-landscape conditions; they compose the organic constituent of song-ritual Hutsul envi­ronment.

O. Karnaukh. Characters from “Pan Kotsky” folk tale. Kyiv. Textile, synthetic fur.

Dolls made out of textile

The toy in “game culture” possesses a special place. If the majority of toys and games nowadays is exceptionally the property of childhood, then the toy is “forcing its way” to the world of an adult per­son, is becoming the object of his cult, artistic-creative and scientific activity.

Folk toy-dolls (they should not be confused with mannequin-dolls that in the comparatively near past were made for the certain dates and events and for different occasions (wedding, drought, illness and so on) at villages and small towns. The dolls from the villages of the Middle Dnieper region: Dumantsi, Subotiv, Reshetylivka, Lypove, Zolotonshka, Germanivka and the other villages of Cherkasy, Poltava and Kyiv regions have the most ritual appearance. These dolls are pro­nouncedly decorative, bright, variegated and have a somewhat pagan, mysterious appearance. But the main thing is that they are made in the similar way by knotting. It is the simplest way, which is evi­dence of the ancient harvester occupation of the local population.

In addition to the individually-author’s dolls out of textile, in spring the dolls – “young ladies” are made out of grass at villages, designated both for the children’s game and for strengthening the health of a cattle, fertility and prosperity in Podillia (in Vinnytsia and Khmelnytsky regions). A ritual logdoll in a woman dress – “kolodiy” is made in Podillia.

In addition to the dolls out of textile, the com­bined in regard to material dolls out of straw and textile, out of grass and textile exist in Volyn, Kharkiv regions and in some Polissia territories (of Rivne, Chernigiv and Zhytomyr regions).

The dolls out of green and ripened maize cops are created in Podillia and the south of Ukraine, putting on them textile dress.

The dolls in the Carpathians villages are made in different ways, although their outward appearance is rather similar. These are mainly Hutsul-women in festive attire. The pairs of man and woman are often met. These are decorative dolls, which are being made for quite a long time and industriously, as their dress and decorations have to imitate real things. The ordinary toy-dolls are created in the Carpathians villages with the use of embroidery, different Hutsul decorations and attributes.

Home toy-dolls are mainly made by grand­mothers for their grandchildren, and more rarely by mothers for their daughters.

Thus, if to consider the childhood as the state of a certain cultural creation, whose activity basis has reflex-game character, then in this case the role of a toy, especially the first one, with which a child is in contact during its early age, considerably actual­izes. The strategy of upbringing on the traditional toy-game basis does not make the society archaic. It allows preserving the national originality in the conditions of modern globalization of the civilizing processes. It is remarkable that a lot of children’s games and toys remain almost unchangeable during hundred (or perhaps thousand) of years. And it is like it was earlier: the child creates the game – and the game creates the child.

Olexandr Nayden, doctor of fine arts, leading scientific employee working in the State Museum of Toy