Статья 'Архетип "древа жизни" на примере повести Аль-Язии Халифы "Дерево манго"' - журнал 'Litera' - NotaBene.ru
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Khalifa Al-Yazia's "The mango tree": tree of life archetype

Vlasova Yuliya Evgenievna

ORCID: 0000-0003-4311-3403

PhD in Philology

Associate professor, Department of Foreign Languages, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Peoples' Friendship University of Russia

117198, Russia, Moscow region, Moscow, Miklukho-Maklaya str., 10/2, office 502

Other publications by this author

Vavichkina Tatiana Anatolevna

ORCID: 0000-0003-3474-5820

PhD in Philology

Associate Professor, Department of Foreign Languages, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Peoples' Friendship University of Russia

117198, Russia, Moscow region, Moscow, Miklukho-Maklaya str., 10/2, office 502

Other publications by this author










Abstract: The subject of the study is the "world tree" concept, coined by the young writer from the United Arab Emirates, Al-Yazia Khalifa, “The Mango Tree” (2021). The authors are interested in this symbol interpretation. Using the example of an Arab family, the artist creates a picture of the quiet and measured life of Arabs in the province of al-Ain. Through the eyes of a little girl, she describes one sultry day spent in the house of her beloved grandmother, in whose yard a magnificent mango grows. The aspects of life of a large Emirati family are depicted – work, prayer, and meals. The methods of historical and systemic analysis allow the authors to prove that the mango tree is a symbol of the cycle of life continuity. A seed planted in the ground becomes a sprout of hope for a bright future and faith in the inviolability of the traditional family way of life. Cicadas chirping on a tree are the embodiment of the element of air. The fish that family members eat at dinner symbolize water, while cats in the yard represent fire. In the game, the heroine tames four natural elements, beating her fears. Thanks to the fragrant and juicy “king of fruits,” an atmosphere of comfort, prosperity and harmony is created in which several generations of the family grew up. That is why the little girl would not break away from their native roots and would follow their parents’ measured pattern of life.


Al-Yazia Khalifa, Arabic Literature, UAE Literature, children's literature, family values, symbolism, tree archetype, tree of life, elements of nature, mango tree

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

The young Emirati writer al-Yaziya Khalifa graduated from Kingston University in London in 2013 with a degree in Communication in the field of culture. Since 2015, Khalifa has been the head of the Copyright Protection Association of the UAE. In addition, she is the author of books for children "When the air reflects" (2016), "Mango Tree" (2017) and "Whale in the air conditioner" (2018). A short story called "The Arabic-speaking world and beyond", which literally means "mango syrup", was seen in the Arabic-speaking world and beyond [1]. Arabist Vyacheslav Eliseev translated the book into Russian, calling it "Mango Tree" [2], thus shifting the emphasis from the internal content of the tropical fruit to the external properties of the evergreen tree, expanding the symbolic series. In September 2021, at the presentation of the Russian edition of the story, the author Al-Yaziya Khalifa said that her "book takes the reader's imagination to an Arab village of the twentieth century, where an ordinary Arab family lives: grandmother, mother and daughters" [3].

The biological dictionary defines mango (mangifera) as an evergreen tree 10-15 meters high with whole leaves. Mango is native to India, from where it was distributed to the countries of Southeast and Southwest Asia, and is also cultivated in tropical regions of Africa and South America [4, p. 339]. The dictionary of Foreign Words adds that the word "mango" is of Malay origin. It is a tree of the sumac family, whose fragrant fruits are used for food in fresh or salted form [5, p. 299]. The word "mango" in Sanskrit means "great fruit". There are many legends and fairy tales about this plant among different peoples. In Indian mythology, for example, it is believed that the goddess Kama endowed the fruit with love, the sun god Surya spread the mango tree over the earth, instilling spirituality in it. And God Shiva gave a juicy mango to his beloved. In India, Pakistan, Malaysia, he is called the "king of fruits" [6, p. 354].

According to Arabic legend, an Indian princess brought mango fruit to the Arabian Peninsula in the tenth century AD as a gift to the groom Sultan Falah ibn Muhsin an-Nabhani. The stone was planted in the ground, a tree grew out of it, which took root and multiplied. Therefore, the Arabs perceive mango as a royal gift, endowing the tree and its fruits with magical properties. 

Large fragrant, sour-sweet fruits are harvested in the tropics and subtropics. In the Middle East, mangoes are grown in Oman, the UAE, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Palestine. In Africa, there are mango plantations in Egypt and Sudan. Residents of the Persian Gulf call mango "anba", "hamba" or "lyamba".  At the end of the twentieth century, botanists discovered that some mango groves were affected by a fungal disease that destroyed most of them. This event required in-depth study and search for solutions. In 2006, the late Sultan of Oman Qaboos bin Said organized a project to study, preserve and cultivate mango trees. For ten years, data were collected on the types and varieties of mangoes growing not only on the Arabian Peninsula, but also in other countries of the world. As a result of the work of an international team of biologists, a five-volume "Encyclopedia of Mango Trees" was written, published in four languages [6]. In particular, the first of the five volumes tells about the cultivation of mangoes in the south of the Arabian Peninsula. The book contains the history of mango, its geographical distribution, methods of cultivation and production, their economic significance, there you can find a description of Arab and other varieties, as well as a study of their genetic diversity. This project has become one of the successful examples of international cooperation in the conservation of this plant. Today, 900 varieties of mango are grown in 65 countries around the world.

 In the writer's homeland, mango plantations are located in the south of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi in the province of Al Ain on the border with Oman, where the story takes place. The Al-Ain oasis (that is, the "spring") is famous for plantations of fruit trees [7, p. 80]. In the work of Al-Yaziya Khalifa, an evergreen mango tree grows in the courtyard of a modest house where three generations of the family live happily. The head and elder of the family grandmother looks after the household while her daughter works in the office. The younger generation consists of four granddaughters: a student of the Sheikh, schoolgirls Mira and Maysa, and a baby, on whose behalf the story is being told. They are helped by the Filipina Sureida, the servant Gulyam, the worker Abdurakhman. People live in peace and harmony. The family is friends with neighbor Fatima bint Sultan and Uncle Seif. It should be added that the narration is conducted on behalf of a little girl, so her name is not mentioned. Villagers visit each other and give gifts, including sweets, dates and the largest and ripest mango fruits.

According to D. E. Lukashenko, the Muslim family is "a religiously approved microsocial system, considered as one of the best forms of service to Allah, whose socio-cultural mission is to give birth to offspring, increase the Ummah and educate orthodox Muslims" [8, p. 306]. There is no doubt that life in such a society is based on the veneration of the Holy Quran and adherence to Sharia law.

The idyllic picture of the life of the Arab province is complemented by pleasant smells. My grandmother smells of amber and saffron. Her house is saturated with the aroma of coffee. A gift to grandma mango, picked up from Uncle Safe, is fragrant. The kitchen, where Sureida cooks, smells delicious of ready-made food. A subtle aroma of incense and other incense flows from the smoking room located in the living room. A special place in the collection was occupied by the smell of the "delicious hour", a long-awaited lunch consisting of seven traditional dishes. During lunch, in an atmosphere of respect and trust, the family can not only refresh themselves, but also listen to each other, discuss common affairs, taking into account everyone's opinion. Therefore, a joint meal is an important ceremony in Arab society.

The author describes one weekday in the life of an Arab family, seen through the eyes of a little girl whose world is limited to the village. Together with the baby and her friends Fattuma, Hamdu, Muzzu, Affari bint Said, the reader climbs lemon trees in the early morning, fights with a cormorant. And when the sun starts to get very hot, he returns home, where he rides a tricycle, plays lego. Six short chapters of the story are six hours during which the heroine does not sit still. She runs, crawls, learns the secrets of slicing mangoes, creates a new game scenario, imagines herself a kitty, looks for lollipops, feeds animals and fights with cicadas. The baby experiences a variety of vivid feelings from fear and rage to delight and bliss. When my grandmother was butchering, and my granddaughter was savoring the royal gift: "I experienced the most wonderful moments, imagining that I had mango ice cream in my hands" [2, p. 18].

What does grandma teach her granddaughter? A wise woman shows her how to cut mango in different ways, how to eat it correctly so as not to stain her face, hands and clothes with sticky juice. The sheikha reminds when to perform ablution, how to make bows during prayer. Finally, at dinner, the hostess saves the girl by removing the fish bone stuck in her throat with the help of date pulp. The old lady takes a bone of the eaten mango, saying kindly: "Plant your tree. When you become an adult, you will sit under this mango, like this kitty" [2, p. 63].

Nowadays, Arab women play the role of not only caring mothers, they take part in the management of family affairs, as does the heroine's grandmother. Also, modern women in the Middle East have received the right to education and work. Therefore, it is not surprising that the girls' mother works, and the older sister studies at Al Ain University. We agree with V. V. Krasnykh's statement that "globalization affects the Arab discourse of the family, causing changes in traditional roles, relationships and behavior in the family" [9, p. 12].

What does a tree mean for residents of semi-deserts and tropics? This is a source of coolness. A fertile tree, in addition to the long-awaited shade, provides food. Therefore, people have always had a special reverent attitude towards fruit trees. They were revered, watered, protected.

To better understand the meaning of the work, it is necessary to discern the hidden sides of the world tree, and for this to actualize the symbolic meanings of the archetype of the tree. The founder of the term "archetype" Carl Gustav Jung wrote that the archetype is an ancient symbol. Such a sign has a profound effect on human nature. It is hidden in the collective unconscious, common to the people of our planet. By refracting the archetype through a lifestyle and a picture of the world, the people give birth to the images and ideals most characteristic of their spirit. "Ethnocultural archetypes represent the historical and socio-cultural experience of the people and their spiritual orientations" [10, p. 36].

Archetypes in literary studies are commonly understood as universal widespread plots reflected in literature, in particular, the ideas about the "world tree" [11, p. 39]. Speaking about the origin of literary and mythological archetypes, following E. M. Meletinsky, we repeat that the human personality contacts the social environment, interacts with various natural elements, "having the task of practical mastery of the world" [12, p. 14].

As for the interpretation of the term "world tree", it means "a universal symbol that unites all spheres of the universe" [13, p. 666]. Its crown is heaven, its trunk is earth, its roots are the afterlife. The souls of the ancestors live on the world tree, and it also represents the tree of life. Evergreen mango is a symbol of the eternal life of the genus. According to literary critic V. N. Varlamova, the texts of the Old Testament renew the tradition when a tree becomes "a central image-a symbol of the model of the world" [14, p. 258]. Let us add that the roots of the myth of the world tree lie even deeper, namely in the history of the civilizations of Mesopotamia, Ancient India and Ancient Egypt.

Note that the mango fruit is similar to the human heart and is associated with a positive connotation. In the fairy tales of the peoples of the East there are stories where the mango tree helps travelers, saving them in its crown, it feeds and gives useful advice. You can draw a parallel with the apple tree from the Russian folk tale "Geese-swans". 

The mango-eating ritual requires special mention. Several paragraphs are devoted to Him, which is essential for a short story. Savoring the ripe fruit of fragrant mango, the heroine experiences the highest pleasure: "The nose sank into the mango. I started trying my tongue first. Jaws made it difficult to take a bite first. My teeth had no choice but to obey – and plunge into mango juice, bursting out in huge streams, running down my neck and arms. I didn't pay attention to it, not wanting to spoil my pleasure!" [2, p. 13]. It is no coincidence that the Arabic original is literally called "mango syrup". Sweet mango juice, which quenches thirst in the heat, has a lot of positive properties. It increases immunity, improves blood clotting and gives a good mood.

For the little heroine, mango is the tree of knowledge. Cicadas live in its branches, which the girl is afraid of. The cicada is a symbol of the wind, which brings with it changes and transformations. You can't kill a cicada, otherwise it will send bad weather, storm or monsoon on you. Therefore, the baby waters the tree with a hose, scaring off insects and washing off their scales and wings from the trunk, branches and foliage, clearing the family tree of alien creatures.

While playing, she uses a tree as a ladder to find hidden lollipops. The world tree connects the main space-time coordinates. According to philologist V. N. Toporov, with the help of the image of the "world tree" or "cosmic tree" and alternating with it in different historical traditions "alloobrazov" ("world axis", "throne", "ladder", etc.), it became possible to combine various semantic oppositions, establishing identities between them, and thus "create a universal sign complex" [15, p. 211].

The theme of the "world tree" was found in Sumerian-Akkadian myths, it is enough to recall the myth of the god of wisdom Enki and the kinshkanu tree (mulberry) or the myth of the goddess Innana and the huluppu tree (willow) [16, p. 212]. Using the example of the book "Mango Tree", it can be judged that this topic remains popular in the literature of the Persian Gulf countries.

In the course of the story, an Arab girl hides in the crown of a tree (a symbol of the world's throne-haven) to watch the battle between a cat feeding her children and a cat who is trying to take away pieces of fish from them. The heroine loves pets and tries to imitate their habits. A child's imagination turns a girl into a cat that moves smoothly, wiggles her ears, speaks cat-like. Orientalist I. Senchenko writes about the attitude of Arabs to cats: "There is a legend according to which the Prophet Muhammad cut off part of his clothes on which the kitten fell asleep so as not to disturb the animal. Cats are allowed to enter mosques" [17, p. 84]. You need to feed and caress the cat so that she is kind and peaceful, otherwise she will get angry and ruin the house. It is no coincidence that in the myths of the peoples of the East, a cat that sleeps, then moves rapidly, is the embodiment of the element of fire. The image of a cat, or rather a cat living near a tree, has the function of a guardian of the ancestral tree, a guardian of the souls of ancestors. He is comparable to the Cat Bayun on an oak tree near Lukomorye. "I have been in your dream, and you have a very soft paw" [2, p. 61], the girl says to the cat, reincarnating into an animal and conquering and taming the fiery element.

The heroine encounters water several times. First, she learns the purifying essence of water when she washes her hands before eating mango, and then she encounters the indomitable power of water, performing ablution before prayer, unsuccessfully soaking the floors of a long dress and pantaloons. At the end, the girl tames the water by jumping on the hose while watering the mango. Also, the water element is personified by the inhabitants of local reservoirs of the fish badakh and nasser, which people catch to feed themselves and animals. When a girl chokes on a bone of fried nasser fish during lunch, and her grandmother saves her, the baby goes through an initiation ceremony, comprehending the secrets of controlling the water element and its inhabitants. As for the element of the earth, the heroine is gaining her mind by planting a mango stone in the yard of the house. Having won the victory over air (cicada), fire (cat), water (fish) and earth (bone), the girl grows up. Studying the world around, imitating the behavior of adults and animals, a little girl grows up and learns the world order. 

It should be added that in the novel "Heavenly Bodies" by the Omani writer Joha Al-Harti, a young man named Ahmed, choosing a bride, said: "I need an understanding woman so that I am a wind walking in the clouds, and she is a tree rooted deep into the ground" [18, p. 239]. This statement confirms the idea of an Arab woman as the keeper of the hearth.

In this traditional depiction of the role of women in the family, the connection of generations is seen, the attachment of Arabs to their patriarchal traditions. "The Muslim family as a form of a traditional family has great socio-cultural stability," A. F. Polomoshnov and P. A. Polomoshnov say [19, p. 51]. Respect for elders, joint performance of religious ceremonies, the use of special titles in communication, as well as emotions and sign language make the eastern family an island of stability in a world of political conflicts and economic crises. In this light, it is seen as important to educate the younger generation within the framework of ingrained family values. Therefore, the story of Al-Yaziya Khalifa "Mango Tree" is a good example of children's literature.

Based on the analysis carried out, it can be stated that the mango tree among the Arabs of South Arabia represents the image of the world tree or the tree of life, the tree of knowledge. Through the world tree, the young hero performs a rite of initiation, communion with the wisdom of his ancestors. In the culture of the Arabs, the mango plant is a royal fruit, which has become a symbol of prosperity, fertility, wealth and a new better life.  

Thus, it can be concluded that the symbolic meaning of the tree in the story of al-Yaziya Khalifa is connected with its archetype. The mango tree embodies the continuity of the cycle of life, is a symbol of rebirth and faith in a bright future. "The most wonderful feeling is how two mango trees will grow in grandma's yard, and lemon groves and palm trees around them!" [2, p. 62]. The heroine creates a garden of eden with her own hands, repeating the rituals of her ancestors. It is hoped that the younger generations of Arabs will have strong and loving families, live in a "garden city", grow dates, lemons and mangoes for the whole world. The story of Al-Yaziya Khalifa "Mango Tree" has enriched the treasury of Arabic literature, becoming a reference book not only for children, but also for adults. In the East, there is a tradition to send ripe mango fruits to best friends and high-ranking respected people. A writer from the UAE gave Russian readers a tropical mango fruit and taught them to enjoy its aroma and taste. The life story of a patriarchal Arab family under the shade of a mango tree has opened the opportunity for readers to learn more about the culture and literature of the United Arab Emirates. 



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The article "The Archetype of the tree of life" presented for consideration on the example of the story of Al-Yaziya Khalifa "Mango Tree", proposed for publication in the magazine "Litera", is undoubtedly relevant, due to the author's reference to archetypes in fiction, as well as the work of young writers. The author addresses both the content side of the literary text and the correlations between the text under consideration and reality. The work is devoted to the study of one of the works written by the writer al-Yaziya Khalifa from the Emirate, namely, "Mango Tree". The work is fundamental, fully reflecting the title and the tasks set by the author. It should be noted that there is a relatively small number of studies on this topic in Russian philology. The article is innovative, one of the first in Russian linguistics devoted to the study of such issues. The article presents a research methodology, the choice of which is quite adequate to the goals and objectives of the work. The author turns, among other things, to various methods to confirm the hypothesis put forward. This work was done professionally, in compliance with the basic canons of scientific research. The research was carried out in line with modern scientific approaches, the work consists of an introduction containing the formulation of the problem, the main part, traditionally beginning with a review of theoretical sources and scientific directions, a research and final one, which presents the conclusions obtained by the author. The author illustrates the theoretical positions with linguistic material (from the translated edition in Russian). It should be noted that in the water part there is no historiography of the issue under study. The conclusions based on the results of the article require strengthening. The bibliography of the article includes 20 sources, among which scientific works in Russian and foreign languages are presented. We believe that referring to more fundamental works of Russian researchers, such as monographs, PhD and doctoral dissertations, would undoubtedly enrich this work. Technically, when making a bibliographic list, the generally accepted requirements of GOST are violated, namely, non-compliance with the alphabetical principle of registration of sources. In general, it should be noted that the article is written in a simple, understandable language for the reader. Typos, spelling and syntactic errors, inaccuracies in the text of the work were not found. The comments made are not significant and do not detract from the overall positive impression of the reviewed work. The work is innovative, representing the author's vision of solving the issue under consideration and may have a logical continuation in further research. The practical significance of the research lies in the possibility of using its results in the teaching of university courses in literary theory, as well as courses in interdisciplinary research on the relationship between language and society. The article will undoubtedly be useful to a wide range of people, philologists, undergraduates and graduate students of specialized universities. The article "The Archetype of the Tree of Life" based on the example of Al-Yaziya Khalifa's story "The Mango Tree" can be recommended for publication in a scientific journal.
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