Happy Ending as a Model of the World Perception (from Georgian Folk Tales to Social Realism)

DOI: 10.55804/jtsuSPEKALI-16-9


The end of a work of art is the most significant thematic and conceptual part of its structure or ideological-aesthetic world, an important structural and ideological-aesthetic element revealing an emotional impact on the reader. The impression from it follows the reader for a long time.

The end of a work of art may meet the expectations of the reader. The logic of the reader and that of the writer may coincide. The reader may even want to read the sequel of the work (for example, Alexander Kazbegi continued his "Elguja" at the request of the readers). The writer may or may not be able to avoid a commonplace ending. The ending may or may not be convincing, etc.

The ending may be tragic, which will cause catharsis in the reader, or it may be happy. In this case, good and evil are distinguished, evil is defeated, good wins, negative characters are punished, and positive heroes achieve their cherished goals.

From the diverse palette of the endings of the work, the Happy Ending has become quite common today. This anglicism, introduced into cinematography, was first associated with a significant element of the film's plot. The fundamental and significant factor for a Happy Ending is for the main character to survive at the end of the story. At the same time, the events surrounding the main hero and the tragic events around them become non-significant. That was the reason for the famous American film critic Roger Ebert to consider the end of the movie “The Day After Tomorrow”, which is tragic in some ways, as a Happy Ending: “Billions of people may have died, but at least the major characters have survived. Los Angeles is levelled by multiple tornadoes, New York is buried under ice and snow, the United Kingdom is flash-frozen, and much of the Northern Hemisphere is wiped out for good measure. Thank god that Jack, Sam, Laura, Jason and Dr. Lucy Hall survive, along with Dr. Hall's little cancer patient” [Roger, Internet resource].

A Happy Ending, of course, cannot be and will never be only a cinematic phenomenon. The term Happy Ending means that the events described in a story end happily for the positive characters. They survive, manage to achieve their goals, evil is defeated, goodness and love triumph, etc. The happy ending appears in many fields of art. After all, from the beginning, a human being has always wished to solve problems successfully. They hope that if they live correctly and pursue their goals honestly, they will achieve them.

A human being desires to see examples of the Happy Ending not only in life, which increases his motivation, but also in the artistic world, literature and art, which will give him additional strength, positive energy, and hope. With such examples, a person consciously or unconsciously fights against what worries him from time immemorial, sometimes tortures him and makes him lose rest, entropy - disorder, randomness, chaos, uncertainty. E. Lapina-Kratasyuk explains the essence of the Happy Ending in the following way:“Это символическая победа над энтропией, непредсказуемостью жизни и страхом смерти” [Лапина-Кратасюк, Internet resource].

Readers, listeners, and viewers have always needed and will always require a Happy Ending so that they can hope for success, victory, and finally, spend their time reading a book or watching a movie in the artistic world in which people overcome the hardest of the problems, where evil fails, and kind and decent people win.

Thus, Happy Ending, which is typical of the current epoch, does not only belong to the modern era. It is not a purely American phenomenon, as is sometimes believed. It is difficult to name the first example of a Happy Ending in the world, but the ancient comedy may serve as the oldest example. It can be claimed that in the history of the artistic thinking of our country, at all stages of its development (in folklore and samples of secular and religious writing), there are many examples of the Happy Ending.

In this respect, Georgian folklore, in particular, fairy tales, provides rich material. In fairy tales, goodness wins, the oppressed are rewarded with happiness and well-being,  evil is defeated, and the Happy Ending is guaranteed (“Tsikara”, “Natsarkekia”, “Khutkunchula”, “Komble”, “Tserodena”, etc.): “The ending of the fairy tale is happy no matter how events develop, and what perils the main character faces, he will still find a way out of every situation, even out of the most hopeless problems, and he will overcome all the difficulties. Either by force or through cunning tricks, he will always remain victorious” [Ratiani, Internet resource]. At the end of a fairy tale, the main character will always receive a reward, be it a happy life, immortality, wealth, a beautiful lady, etc. The hero can even receive all of these together. The Happy Ending is a significant feature of all fairy tales.

According to the famous English scholar John Ronald Ruel Tolkien, the fundamental function and necessary condition of a fairy tale (such as fantasy, a new vision of things and events, departure from reality) is a Happy Ending: “But the “consolation” of fairy-tales has another aspect than the imaginative satisfaction of ancient desires. Far more important is the consolation of the Happy Ending. Almost I would venture to assert that all complete fairy-stories must have it. At least I would say that Tragedy is the true form of Drama, its highest function; but the opposite is true of Fairy-story. Since we do not appear to possess a word that expresses this opposite – I will call it Eucatastrophe. The eucatastrophic tale is the true form of fairy-tale, and its highest function.

The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous “turn” (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially “escapist,” nor “fugitive.” In its fairy-tale or otherworld setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief” [ Tolkien,   2008:74. Internet resource].

The formulas for ending fairy tales are specific, always positive, optimistic and happy. “They should not be considered only as the ending of the narrative process” [Zhgenti, 2009: 212]. They have other important functions, namely, to return the reader from the imaginary, unreal world to the real world and time and, at the same time, to create a positive mood in him. Formulated as ready-made formulas, these endings have a considerable emotional impact on the reader. Among the ending formulas of Georgian fairy tales, “hardship is there, feast  is here,  bran is there, flour is here,” is probably the most common.

The ending of the fairy tale can also employ the principle of a rhymed formula of blessing, for example, “Elasa, melasa, a glass hangs around my neck, God protect you all, both the teller and the listener ( of the tale)”. This formula includes the Happy Ending regarding its content and function. There are also variations in which the essence of the formula and the Happy Ending are preserved:

•„Elasa, melasa, a glass hangs around my neck, God protect you all, both the narrator and the listener ( of the tale)” [Folk...1972: 155].

•“Elasa, melasa, a glass hangs around my neck. May both the speaker and the listener sleep tight”[Folk...1972:153].

•“I have entered a dense forest, I have cut a tree to use as a hook. May your enemy and traitor feel bad. If I bored you, please, forgive me” [ Folk...1972: 133].

Sometimes the narrator ends the tale with humour and thus keeps the positive mood of the listener:

•“Ali, Artali, Mali, Artali, some are true, some are lies” [Folk...1972: 336].

Based on the specificity of the genre, the Happy Ending is realized successfully in hagiographic works. Hagiography is one of the most important parts of Georgian literature. Hagiographic works are characterised by a stable structure and interesting tradition of depicting the world. They adhere to the requirements of the canon of hagiography. They offer the models and paradigms which, in a certain sense, are schematized and commonly appear in all texts. All hagiographic works have a Happy Ending with Christian content.

The characters of hagiographic works, describing the “Tortures” or “Lives” of the heroes (Shushanik, Abo, Grigol Khandzteli and others), dedicate themselves to the Lord. Throughout their earthly life, they prepare to meet the Lord, serve as a role model for everyone, and repeat Jesus Christ's way of life with their merits.[1] They overcome many trials conditioned by many factors, endure many physical pains, become triumphant in the struggle of soul and flesh, overcome all obstacles, and endure all the perils and dangers. Finally, their merits are appreciated. They achieve their goal, secure their stay and give their souls to the Lord, with whom they desired to unite so much. “And the blessed monk fell asleep, and his dream was sweet to him, and his place was filled with the chanting of the saints and the holy angels, who led him with joy to Christ,”  says “The Vita of Grigol Khandzeteli” [Khandzteli, Internet resource].

The characters of hagiographic works, holy fathers and mothers, deserve a longed-for reward for all Christians - eternal life. And this is a genuine Happy Ending from the point of view of the Christian worldview.

The masterpiece of Georgian secular literature, “The Man in the Panther's Skin,” also ends with a Happy Ending. The three heroes, Tariel, Avtandil and Phridon, take the symbol of evil, the Castle of Kadjeti, and defeat the Kadjis. Not a single of them is left alive because evil should be eradicated. Heroes of the poem, unlike the characters of the hagiographic works, long for human happiness in this world and achieve it. Love wins.

The most important formula of the Happy Ending “the evil is short and the goodness is everlasting,” is realized in the life of the heroes. I consider Rustaveli's chapter “The wedding of Tariel and Nestan-Darejan,” the most important part of the epic from the point of view of presenting a poetic Happy Ending. In this chapter, truly happy pictures of spiritual and material abundance, happiness, and harmonious relationships are drawn. All this is summarized in the stanza quoted below, which ends with the presentation of a harmonious relationship between a goat and a wolf:

„They poured down mercy like snow on all alike, they enriched orphans

And widows and the poor did not beg, they terrified evil-doers;

the ewes could not suckle the lambs, within their territories

the goat and the wolf fed together“. ( Rustaveli, 1571( translated by Marjory Wardrop)

We must agree with Tamaz Vasadze, who remarks in this regard: “ In the universal harmony finally established in this world as described in the final lines of “The Man in the Panther's Skin” there is no place left for any evil. This essentially equals the harmony achieved after the doomsday performed without the direct intervention of transcendental forces but by human beings. This harmony is achieved in the earthly world, which finally makes the concept of the poem whole. Since human love is the worldly manifestation of God, its possibilities are limitless. Man can make the divine dominate on earth” [Vasadze, 2003:231].

It is known that readers differ regarding their life or aesthetic experience. Accordingly, they make different demands on art and literature. Some prefer the work to have a Happy Ending, while others prefer the truth of life to be revealed at the end of the work, no matter how bitter and tragic it may be.

The writer is free in his choice. It is up to him to decide the fate of the characters. The writer chooses how to solve the problem or the conflict and how to end the literary work. The author has genuine freedom in this respect. His decisions are usually prompted and conditioned by certain logic and preconditions. Based on his worldview and aesthetic ideals, the author decides whether to show life with all its cruelty and contradictions, thereby straining and burdening the reader, leaving him with food for thought and full of queries; or to calm the reader down, beautify reality, give the work a bright and happy ending, and win love, goodness, and justice.

Unfortunately, neither the reader nor the writer could always satisfy their artistic and aesthetic needs. Specialists of the history of literature and readers remember periods when brutal forces, hostile ideology, and totalitarian state stood between the writer and his artistic and aesthetic perception of the world or between the work and the reader. These forces unceremoniously interfered with literature and art, limited the writer's creative freedom, and did not allow him to write it as he thought was appropriate. The writer could neither say what and how he considered necessary nor create his works based on his aesthetic taste, artistic world and logic.

This phenomenon was considered normal during the 70 years of the previous century. Almost one-sixth of the earth was occupied by a violent state, the Soviet Union, which violently opposed a person. Socialist Realism prevailed in all spheres, including literature and art. Socialist Realism dictated the writer to adopt decisions following the law and communist ideology and not to go beyond the strictly established frameworks, the Socialist Realist canon. “From the beginning of the 20th century, a new type of Happy Ending, a Socialist Realist Happy Ending, appeared in the Georgian cultural world. If the heroes of fairy tales fight with demons, dragons, witches... and win, the characters of Socialist Realist work fight against the enemies of Marxism and the Communist Party, the remnants of bourgeois consciousness and lifestyle... and win. In both cases, it is seen as a battle between good and evil. However, in the first case, it is the battle between good and evil, and in the second case - an imitation of the battle between good and evil” [Gaprindashvili...2010:100].

Socialist Realism (abbreviated Socrealism), the dominant form and official style of ideologized art approved in the Soviet Union, was based on socialist concepts of the world and man. According to Socialist Realism, the purpose of art was to build a socialist society and serve the Communist Party. It existed before the collapse of the Soviet Union and was a powerful tool of party ideology.

The Socialist Realist canon controlled that requirements, models, and paradigms were strictly adhered to. One of the most important requirements for a Socialist Realist work was addressed at the end of the work, which had to be presented from a happy Socialist Realist perspective as an essential constituent part of the picture of the world a Soviet person lived.

The honourable duty of every Soviet person was to build communism, and its artistic description was the most significant purpose of Soviet art and literature. The life and working experience of the characters from the works of Socialist Realism were to be involved in the processes aiming at achieving this goal.

The literature of Socialist Realism had a didactic-educational character. It did not imply the education of a harmonious, multifaceted person but only of the builder of communism.

Even those heroes, who, in the beginning, had a certain mistrust towards the ideals of Communism, were to be transformed due to the “Socialist Realist catharsis”. They joined the builders of Communism and actively engaged in socialist competitions - who would pick more tea and build factories faster. In this regard, Abram Terts, the author of the famous work “What is Socialist Realism?,” published in France, in which he criticizes, exposes and ridicules the method of socialist realism, remarks ironically: “It is natural, we are approaching the goal (Communism - N.G.) and, therefore, we become more magnificent, perfect, exalted” [Терц, 1988:27].

Socialist Realism, as a literary movement, established an artistic concept of a socially active person. In fact, according to Borev's fair remark, in the Soviet period, the person was forcibly involved in the creation of history [Борев, 2008:59]. In the era of Socialist Realism, the events and characters described in a literary work either solved global issues or more modest tasks organically connected with the common goal, the construction of Communism, and showed the “revolutionary development” of society. Therefore, it is only natural that the Social Realist law imposed a mandatory Happy Ending on the work of Social Realism, i.e. “Happy Ending” which we, considering its specific features, refer to as the “Socialist Realist Happy Ending.”

One of the most significant and specific signs of the socialist realist “Happy Ending” was that it was not defined and dictated by the laws of aesthetics but rather by the peculiarities of the state in the bosom of which socialist realism was born. It was not the fate of the hero that determined the Socialist Realist “Happy Ending”, but the destiny of the building of Communism, that is, the common cause and the common goal. If the hero sacrificed himself for this goal and its realization was no longer in danger,  everything would be fine, and the Happy Ending was guaranteed. The title of the works of Socialist Realism (“New Georgia” (A. Abasheli), “The Lightning Star of October” (A. Mirtskhulava), “Spring of Mankind” (Stephane Mkhargdzeli), “The Crown of Mankind” (K. Bobokhidze), “He was born as the unquenchable Sun” (T. Jangulashvili), as well as the end (for example, K. Lortkipanidze's “The Dawn Star of Kolkheti”, Leo Kyacheli's “Gvadi Bigwa”, etc.), was expected to create an optimistic and elevated mood for the reader and strengthen the hope and confidence in Communism.

The final part of the work was the most significant element from the ideological point of view. “It was in the ending of the work (like the end of the speech delivered at some manifestation) that loud appeals were heard, utopian pictures of a happy and carefree future ( i.e. Communism) were drawn, and speeches were made about the “big” or “small” heroes, builders of Communism. Or, before his death, the hero once again confirmed his loyalty to the communist ideals.” [Gaprindashvili...2010:98]. Let us recall the little revolutionary from the story by Rodion Korkia, “Cradle of Salt”. This story was included in the school curriculum in the 60s and 70s of the 20th century, and through it, whether willingly or unwillingly, the workers of educational institutions, who were under the ideological pressure of the communist society, put the same pressure on  thousands of junior high school students:

Hurrah! -was heard from Perekop. - Long live the Soviet government!

These are the voices of our people! - the little one thought. - So have we won?  Oh, I wish I could get up! I would see Frunze...then I would tell my mother that I saw Frunze...

... Hurrah! - was heard from Perekop.

- Comrades, I can't climb Perekop, can I?- tears rolled down his cheeks.

In the distance, the morning rose in the sky.

- Hurrah! - Perekop roars.

The little warrior moved once more, gasped for air and shouted:

- Hurrah!

And then the salty earth hugged him..." [Korkia, 1987: 12].

Sadly, no one cared about the fate of individuals in Soviet reality. Even if the lives of millions of people were claimed, their death would still be justified if they died for Communism and if the ultimate goal was not put in jeopardy. This is one of the most significant features of the “Social Realist Happy Ending”.

The absurdity of the situation lies in that  Communism, the new religion which tried to subjugate all aspects of social life and the new ideal of social order, for which the characters of Socialist Realist works so gladly sacrificed their lives, was a utopia and could never be realized.

Thus, the “Happy Ending” is an ancient specific model of the image of the world. Together with subjective factors, this model is determined by many objective artistic, aesthetic or social-political factors. Numerous examples can be found in Georgian literary and folklore texts of different epochs. Georgian folklore is interesting from the point of view of the Happy Ending. The happy Ending is a significant feature of all fairy tales. Ready-made formulas for the ending of fairy tales are also examples of the Happy Ending. The purpose of the Happy Ending of the fairy tale is to bring the reader back to real-time and space and boost his mood.

Hagiographic works interestingly present the Happy Ending. The specific features of the hagiographic genre are observed, and all hagiographic texts are united by a Happy Ending with Christian content and imply the attainment of the eternal salvation of the soul.

A happy ending is a characteristic feature of secular literature. “The Man in the Panther's Skin” also ends with a Happy Ending. In it, the most important formula of the Happy Ending is realized: “the evil is short and the goodness is everlasting”, and the genuinely happy images of harmonious relationships are crowned by the depiction of the harmony between the goat and the wolf.

The Happy Ending proved to be a very productive model for the ideological purposes of Socialist Realism. Socialist Realism used the Happy Ending intensively to put literature and art even more actively at the service of building a socialist society and the Communist Party.

The most significant factor for a Happy Ending is the survival of the main character. It will remain an object of interest in the future as, in addition to its artistic and aesthetic functions, it has also  a social function- to give people hope that they can overcome entropy.


[1]It suffices for the pupil to be like his confessor. For this, all his pupils were generous and resembled their confessor by sheer virtue  and tolerance and behaved like their generous confessor, the same way as their confessor resembled Christ, who said: “It suffices for the pupil to be like his confessor” [Merchule, Internet resource].


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