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  • Leelo TungalAuthor–Estonia

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In June 1947, the year Leelo Tungal was born, the XII Estonian Song Festival was held in Tallinn, and one of the more popular choral songs performed was "Leelo." The word signifies Estonian folk singing in general, and Leelo Tungal can certainly be regarded as a folk bard. To this day, whatever is topical in Estonian society at the moment can always be found echoing in her poems.

Tungal's writings deal with children and their families and span the media of common reading materials, schoolbooks (her ABC-primer characters Adam and Anna have endured for decades), song repertoires, journalism, and public performances. Although Tungal has written many librettos and drama pieces, she has definitely enjoyed her greatest public fame at the Estonian Song Festivals, at which authors are called to take the stage before hundreds of thousands of cheering and clapping audience members expressing delight with an intensity uncommon for Estonians. Tungal's lyrics have been used in pieces for both children's and adult choirs. She belongs to all Estonians, and her works can be found in most homes. She can frequently be seen speaking on behalf of children and as a patron of children's protection and family events.

Tungal's children's poetry is upbeat; you could even say that it is hard to find any of her children's texts that do not contain something funny. This aspect fascinates children. Jokes are infectious and boost courage. Jokes often arise from unexpected associations, and it is great to reread a story to experience a joke anew. Tungal's stories, which are built on alliteration and puns, are not always easy to understand; however, once you pick up on the joke, you want to re-read the text again and again. At the same time, the poet perennially has a smile and a candidly compassionate word for those who have had a rough time in life: for instace, a child who is better understood by his or her dog than by other people or a child who has no father to take to the school's Father's Day celebration. Furthermore, Tungal's stories often include unexpected twists: A mother and father take a break from their children and set off on a trip, but while they're away, they sadly hug the kids' teddy bears. A narrator encourages the teacher to hit him ("Hit me, dear teacher / with your so hand"), but in the last stanza, it turns out that the narrator is a ball with which the teacher has not had time to play in a long while.

In her children's stories, Tungal calls on the reader to notice and resolve problems. She is riveted by the theme of children whose lives lack something important, such as parental care or friendship. Nevertheless, her storytelling always carries a cheerful tone. [End Page 19]

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Additional Information

ISSN
1918-6983
Print ISSN
0006-7377
Pages
p. 19
Launched on MUSE
2017-12-06
Open Access
No
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