The Allegorical Aĭdaḣar: An Animated Look at Kazakh National Identity


  • Jake Zawlacki Louisiana State University



The little-known Kazakh animated film, Why the Swallow’s Tail is Forked (1967), written and directed by Amen Khaydarov, not only holds the position as the first example, but is also acclaimed as the greatest work of Kazakh animation by critics, academics, and contemporary animators. The film, based on the traditional Kazakh folk tale of the same name, was significantly altered by Khaydarov in his auteurist direction resulting in a radical retelling. Despite these alterations, Khaydarov’s variant of the folk tale resonated with viewers of the period as well as today. In this paper I argue how certain motifs are changed, added, and removed from the original folk tale by Khaydarov, consciously or unconsciously, to incorporate new allegorical elements in the folk tale. This essay takes an “animated look” at the film in that it performs a close reading of a folk tale through a film medium. After performing a shot by shot analysis, I deconstruct alleged “traditional” Kazakh elements, then analyze the dreamlike nature of pastoral national identity, the interplay of film, written, and spoken folklore, and the rhizomatic structure of folklore through audio and visual elements. Ultimately, I return to the film and display it as a construction of a specific nationalist narrative thus shedding light on the broader pastoral nationalist vision.