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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton February 20, 2008

Foma and Yerema; Max and Moritz; Beavis and Butt-Head: Images of twin clowns in three cultures

  • Alexander Kozintsev EMAIL logo
From the journal HUMOR


Three texts about comic duos are compared. Foma and Yerema (F&Y), characters of a 17th-century Russian folk poem, are twins. Being harmless idiots, they suffer endless failures, are regularly beaten and eventually drowned. Two other brothers, Max and Moritz (M&M), heroes of a quasi-didactic German poem for children written and illustrated by Wilhelm Busch (1865), play ruthless tricks on their neighbors. Eventually they are caught and ground in a mill. Beavis and Butt-head (B&B) are heroes of American animated cartoons by Mike Judge (1993). These juvenile imbeciles are intermediate between F&Y and M&M in terms of mischief and are centered on sex, never realizable. Despite understandable differences between the texts, numerous similarities are evident. All the three duos resemble twin clowns, fools, jesters, and mythical tricksters. F&Y are “dupes”, M&M are “knaves”, and B&B are ambiguous. Archaic parallels include interchangeability of characters, consonant names, grotesque appearance, violence, obscenities, connection with birds, etc. Whether these parallels are “archetypical” or derive from some common source, is not clear. In all cases, the potential moral response evoked by the description of quasi-dramatic events is cancelled by comic devices aimed at dehumanizing the characters and making them similar to puppet-like characters of folk theatre.

Published Online: 2008-02-20
Published in Print: 2002-11-22

© Walter de Gruyter

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