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EDITORIAL

EPIFANIO RECOMMENDS

PERFORMATIVE SPACE: THE LOOSE BOUNDARY OF ARCHITECTURE
Rebecca Jones and Nathalie Pozzi

ARCHITECT STEINER LOOKS INTO FUTURE
Vilen Künnapu

HARRY PYE'S POSTCARD FROM LONDON
Harry Pye

POEMS
Lauri Sommer

FOLKLORE TALES FROM TALLINN
Nato Lumi

TEAM

Folklore tales from Tallinn

“Tallinn, my darling…”

I spent the summer, passing from one end of Tallinn to the other in a contemplative slow-motion flow, observing the surroundings through my seventies sunglasses, spying around and picking up the folk stories people tell in crowded places. Here they are: ancient and modern folklore tales from my hometown Tallinn.

 

 

Drawing: Ritums Ivanovs

   

Drawings: Aive Mets

A young lady from Tallinn, once stood at the bus stop near Jaani church waiting for a bus number 36. Suddenly a young couple appeared before her, asking: “What is your shoe size?” “36”, the young lady honestly replied. “Excellent! Excellent!” the two said as if from the same mouth and added, “the whole evening we have been looking for someone with size 36 feet, but have failed so far – some have 35, others 37, but no one has 36! Here, there’s a box for you, there are shoes inside, but don’t look until you get home!” Having said that, the strangers went their way and left the young lady waiting for her bus number 36.
The young lady was overcome by desire to peek into the box – to see what was in there. She stole a glance around her, making sure no-one was watching – and really, all was quiet, no souls nearby, only the birds whistling their Sunday evening song on a tree. So the young lady mustered her courage and lifted the lid just a little bit, and looked inside...

And behold – there was a pair of brand new cool shoes number 36!

But they say that no harm came from her looking into the box before getting home; it was actually a good thing, this way she found out sooner what was in there.

“Grandpa, are people stories?” a four-year old girl once asked her grandfather.

“What?” grandfather asked.

Girl: “Stories!”

Grandpa: “What do you mean?”

Girl: “When grandma died, it was like in the stories. There too people die and do all kinds of things. Are people like stories?”

“I don’t know,” grandpa answered and went to the kitchen. In the kitchen there were potatoes. He peeled some and came back.

“Can you tell me then, are they stories or not!” the girl asked again.

“Yes, yes they are, go to bed now, it is late already!” the grandfather said and hurried back to the kitchen.

“But when I die, will I be a story too?” the girl shouted after him. “You are so little still, you have no reason to talk about death. I am old, I will die soon, but you have everything ahead of you; go to bed now!” the grandfather yelled back.

“I don’t want to go to bed, I want you to tell me are people stories or not!”

“You and your wants! How should I know if they are stories or not!... A little bit they are, and a little bit not. I have not studied these things. I am an old man. I am not a story. You should ask your mother, she has learned these things!”

An elderly woman was telling this: “I think the first thing I remember from my life...

I was a little girl, and someone was chasing me in the house. I can’t recall if it was my brother or who it was... But someone was chasing me and dust raised into the air and you could see it in the light.”

Strange jobs in Kopli

A boy living in Kopli was walking home the other day. Walking and walking and walking. He was already in his neighbourhood, when three middle-aged men appeared. The middle one, who was the tallest, ordered him to stop. He stopped. The man pointed a finger on a rug hanging nearby and told him to beat it clean. What could the poor lad do – hadn’t he beaten the rug, they would have beaten him! So he beat the rug. Men thanked him politely and let him go.

However the story does not end here, as you might well guess! Another time those men met him on his tracks again and had a more difficult job for him. They told him to go behind someone’s door, ring the bell and ask for Olga. He had to step in and stay there for 15 minutes. Otherwise they would have taken his watch away. They took the watch as collateral. So the boy did what he had to do, and he managed to stay in the apartment for 15 minutes although he could not explain to the frightened inhabitants why he had come for a visit. The men thanked him again for his good work, gave his watch back and disappeared. When the men were gone, he smelled sulphur in the air, but it could have been from the shortest man lighting a cigarette before taking off.

Later on for many years, he walked along the same road, but no-one forced any jobs on him anymore. It was heard that those three men were seen in town hanging around. They were three former warehouse workers of a furniture factory “Standard”, who were fired and could not think of doing anything better with their lives than to force hard jobs on other people.

Tallinn is an ancient town. Once, over 40 000 years ago, it happened that the citizens wanted to elect a president. Yes – a president – not a mayor, as it is customary nowadays. They decided to elect the one who was most famous. So they ran the elections. And it turned out that the most popular was not a person, but a thing!

It was a good thing. Everybody had it at home. It was a thing that you could not do much with, but it was pretty and it could be set anywhere. It was small and neutral, not disturbing anyone’s well-being, and reminded to the citizens that something in this world still holds steady.

So that thing became the president. It was set into a palace to live, it had it’s own official car, et cetera – just like a president is supposed to have. It was set on its official chair to sit, the doors to his office were guarded by the best soldiers in town... Two years went by. Two beautiful, peaceful, enchanting years. The peculiarity or uniqueness (however you like) of these two years, was that the respect toward the president was so great, nobody dared to go near his office besides the soldiers in guard.

When the two years had passed, the citizens got upset with the president that it never showed itself and was not accomplishing anything. He was taken down and replaced by a new thing that once again ruled for two years, and so on and so forth, until the citizens finally realised that they had had enough. They lost the presidential office and made a new post – a mayor. And this is how it is now.

But the kind of respect and awe that the first president experienced during its first two years of the two year term, has not been felt by any other official. Of course – today we do not place things on high ranking posts either. It is out of the question.

A man from Tallinnland was walking along the streets in Old Town about a billion years ago, when he suddenly heard the city speak to him in a coarse ancient voice saying: “Man, we do not need you! You are not needed!” The man asked, “Why?” Tallinn replied: “Ask Estonia!” So the man started to go to Estonia with his question, and realised on the way that he is IN Estonia, because Tallinn is the capital of Estonia. So he sat down and started crying out: “Estonia, why don’t you need me? Estonia, why don’t you need me?” There was no answer. Only a young fellow hurried by on his loud moped. The man got up, shook his shoulders and went home. Just in time to see the news programme “Aktuaalne Kaamera” – the logo was already spinning on the screen and the signature music was playing.

The secret not received

There once lived a master and his apprentice in Tallinn. The apprentice was an avid learner, but his head was full of air and stuff, which quite distracted him. Once the apprentice managed a good work. He was so proud of it, he sat on a chair and looked around with a face that nobody really understood. The old master was glad for him, he stepped before him wanting to say something. But the apprentice looked down on the floor, he must have seen something interesting there. And this is how they parted that day.

The next day, the master died and the apprentice got to thinking, what it was that he had wanted to tell him the day before, when he could not get his eyes off the floor. Maybe there was a secret the master had wanted to pass on. He had been staring at him so strangely. The apprentice was terribly sorry for not having met his eyes.

They say that he is now going around looking into people’s eyes – looking to know the secret that he missed from the old master.

Have you noticed that Estonians look around?

A man from Tallinnland once noticed that. This is how it happened.
This Tallinnland man was sitting on a train. It was pouring rain and he felt bored. Around him, people of different nationality were chatting and talking, but Estonians who were sitting close to him were quiet and he had to keep quiet too, because Estonians do not chat, as everyone knows.

So the man thought that, if he was ever to be reborn, he wants to arrive among the more talkative people, because he does not care to spend his life without having a real talk with anyone!

And then he thought, what are those Estonians doing if they are not even talking? So he thought, and started to look around, to find out what were the Estonians busy with that they could not talk. He looked at one Estonian... and she looked back the same way. He looked at another Estonian, that one too was looking at him! What a miracle, as soon as he looked at an Estonian, that one looked back – just like in the mirror!

Then the man from Tallinnland realised that Estonians are busy looking around, investigating and probing everything with their eyeballs.

For a while he kept looking at how other Estonians were looking around. That was beautiful...

Who do you want to become?

Usually little children are asked: “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” And then the kids say, who they want to become.

But there was an old man in Tallinn, who did not know until the end of his life, whom he wanted to become. He tried several things in his life, doing different jobs, thinking each time that he finally found the right one. But soon he tired of that and found something else.

At last, when he was already 92, he wanted to become dirt. So he died and became dirt.

But nobody knows, whether this was his last choice – maybe he has changed jobs since then? Because, if you think about it, how long would one want to be dirt anyway. A little too simplistic, isn’t it?

That’s all. I did not hear anything else in town.

Nato Lumi
boheemland@gmail.com