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Eastern Europe - Armenian

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Eastern Europe – Armenian

 

Hogrogian, Nonny. 1976. The contest. New York: Greenwillow Books.

 

Rating:♥♥♥ (out of ♥♥♥♥♥). (Picture from Amazon.com).

 

Summary: Two robbers find out they are engaged to the same woman, and they compete for her hand through cleverness. Both are equally clever, and both decide to remain friends and abandon the woman.

 

Type: realistic tale

 

Characters: The characters are one-dimensional. An attractive woman, Ehleezah is secretly engaged to both robbers and is sneaky and probably greedy. Hmayag and Hrahad, the robbers, seem to feel no moral guilt about their profession. They are clever, competitive, and prone to showing-off.

 

Setting: The audience learns that this is an Armenian tale through the subtitle. The story is set “High in the mountains, near the village of Erzingah” (unpaged). One assumes this is a village in Armenia. The author never discusses the time frame of the tale, but she uses the past tense throughout.

 

Plot: The main plot is a common one: two men compete over the same woman. However, the plot has many original and unexpected twists. First of all, the woman is two-timing the men. Secondly, they both win the cleverness competition. Finally, they decide that “their sweet betrayer didn’t deserve either of them” (unpaged).

 

Theme: The story seems to celebrate cleverness. I could not find a moral theme. Ehleezah is not punished for her dishonesty. In fact, she is rewarded – she has a new man by the end of the tale. Hmayag and Hrahad are never caught or punished. Both seem to live happily ever after as robbers in their new province.

 

Rating Considerations: In most folktales, “extreme negative behavior” seems to be punished. In this tale, the negative behavior is almost celebrated, regardless of whether or not it hurts others. This bothers me. Additionally, the story is wordy.

 

Illustrations: The brightly colored illustrations, probably created with pastels, are realistic, detailed, and attractive. Authentic Armenian designs and patterns are incorporated in many illustrations. “Nonny Hogrogian has used the intricate, highly decorative motifs of Oriental rugs to frame her pictures, and has placed brilliant black and like drawings among her gem-like illustrations to create a dazzling stage set for Hmayag’s and Hrahad’s good natured rivalry…” (book jacket).  In some colored illustrations, Hogrogian uses white space well, and the figures seem to be heading right to the reader’s lap.