Russian Fairytales

Read any good books lately? Or perhaps you've a short story you wish to share.
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Sycorax
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Russian Fairytales

Post by Sycorax »

I am currently reading "Russian Fairy Tales" by Alexander Afanasyev. This was the 2nd story in the book and made me laugh harder than it probably should have. It sets the tone of the book well.

The Fox Physician

Once upon a time there was an old man who lived with his old wife. The husband planted a head of cabbage in the cellar and his wife planted one in an ash bin. The old woman's cabbage withered away completely, but the old man's grew and grew until it reached the floor above the cellar. Then the old man took an ax and cut a hole right over the cabbage. Again the cabbage grew and grew until it reached the ceiling; again the old man took an ax and cut a hole right above the cabbage. Again the cabbage grew and grew until it reached the sky. How could the old man look at the top of his cabbage now? He climbed and climbed up the stalk until he reached the sky, cut a hole in the sky, and climbed out there. He looked about him. Millstones were standing all around; whenever they gave a turn, a cake and a slice of bread with sour cream and butter appeared, and on top of these a pot of gruel. The old man ate and drank his fill and lay down to sleep.

When he had slept enough, he climbed down to the ground and said: "Old woman, old woman! What a good life one leads in heaven! There are millstones there; each time they turn, one finds a cake, a slice of bread with sour cream and butter, and on top a pot of gruel." "How can I get there, old man?" "Sit in this bag, old woman; I will carry you there". The old woman thought for a while, then seated herself in the bag. The old man took the bag in his teeth and began to climb to heaven. He climbed and climbed-he climbed for a long time. The old woman grew weary and asked "Is it still far, old man?" "It's still far, old woman". Again he climbed and climbed and climbed and climbed. "Is it still far, old man?" "Still halfway to go!" And again he climbed and climbed and climbed. The old woman asked a third time: "Is it still far, old man?" He was about to say "Not far," when the bag dropped out of his teeth. The old woman fell to the ground and was smashed to bits. The old man climbed down the stalk and picked up the bag, but there were only bones, and even they were broken into little pieces.

The old man set out for home, weeping bitterly. On his way he met a fox, and she asked him "Why are you weeping, old man?" "How can I help weeping? My old woman has been smashed to pieces." "Be quiet, I will heal her." "Heal her, I will give you anything you ask in return." "Well heat up a bath, but out a bag of oatmeal, and a crock of butter, and put the old woman beside it, and stand beside the door, but don't look in.

The old man heated a bath, brought was was called for, and stood behind the door. The fox entered the bathhouse and began to wash the old woman's bones. Actually, she did not wash them so much as lick them clean. From behind the door the old man called: "How is the old woman?" "She is stirring!" answered the fox. She finished eating the old woman, gathered the bones together, piled them up in a corner, and began to prepare a hasty pudding. The old man waited and waited, and finally called: "How is the old woman?" "She is sitting up" answered the fox, and spooned up the rest of the pudding. When she had finished eating, she said "Old man, open the door wide." He opened it and the fox leaped out of the bathhouse and ran home. The old man entered the bathhouse and looked around. All he found of his old wife were her bones under the bench, and even they were licked clean; the oatmeal and butter was gone. The old man remained alone in his misery.
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sharoma
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Re: Russian Fairytales

Post by sharoma »

This is a sad tale and I'm struggling to understand what the lesson is!
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Sycorax
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Re: Russian Fairytales

Post by Sycorax »

I also struggled with the meaning of this tale. My laughter was more to do with just how bleak it is.

I asked a Polish friend about this and he told me the lesson is you should check the qualifications a person (or a fox) claims before trusting them. As I’ve progressed further in the book, this makes more sense. Anytime a fox appears in these fairytales it’s usually some lesson about guarding yourself against tricks and clever deception.
thatalex
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Re: Russian Fairytales

Post by thatalex »

That makes sense as famously Russia is a low-trust society. German fairytales such as Hans in Luck also play with these ideas too!
Sycorax
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Re: Russian Fairytales

Post by Sycorax »

Other things that happen in Russian Fairytales:

1. If you're called Ivan: You are stupid and you are going to die. If you don't die, your idiocy will somehow kill all your brothers.
2. Limbs will be ripped off of bodies, usually multiple times.
3. At the end of any given story, the narrator has to reassure you that he is, in fact, not drunk.
4. Baba Yaga is neither a helper or a villian. She is both and it just depends on how she feels toward you in that particular moment.
5. If a fox makes an appearance he's up to shit and cannot be trusted.
6. People die often and the living are entirely unbothered by this-unless the dead person comes back to life. Which they sometimes do.
thatalex
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Re: Russian Fairytales

Post by thatalex »

A modern-day Russian fairytale...

https://qr.ae/pKa7ay
Sycorax
Posts: 38
Joined: 03 Nov 2023, 20:04
Location: Dolina Utesheniya

Re: Russian Fairytales

Post by Sycorax »

It's like you've read this book.

Honestly, that would fit right in with the content of these stories. I'm 400 or so pages in and there has been so much "man beats woman with some kind of stick and screams at her to obey her husband" that I've started rolling my eyes in annoyance at the repetition.

Other themes/"lessons" include:
-You should always be respectful to old people you don't know, because if you're not they'll curse you. If you're nice to them, they'll help you.
-Men named Ivan are still fools
-Old favours are soon forgotten
-Talking corpses

The best fairytale has been "The seven Semyons", who help lure a princess away to another kingdom by bringing her a kitten (nobody in this kingdom has ever seen a kitten, so this is a big deal) and then hyping up a special, magic rock they have on board their ship.
thatalex
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Re: Russian Fairytales

Post by thatalex »

I will look for the Seven Semyons. Magic rocks are actually a big draw in my neighbourhood to this day!
Sycorax
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Joined: 03 Nov 2023, 20:04
Location: Dolina Utesheniya

Re: Russian Fairytales

Post by Sycorax »

I must use caution in the future when reading this forum and drinking-that comment made me laugh and snort my tea.
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