Russian Magic Tales from Pushkin to Platonov (Penguin Classics)
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'She turned into a frog, into a lizard, into all kinds of other reptiles and then into a spindle'
In these tales, young women go on long and difficult quests, wicked stepmothers turn children into geese and tsars ask dangerous riddles, with help or hindrance from magical dolls, cannibal witches, talking skulls, stolen wives, and brothers disguised as wise birds. Half the tales here are true oral tales, collected by folklorists during the last two centuries, while the others are reworkings of oral tales by four great Russian writers: Alexander Pushkin, Nadezhda Teffi, Pavel Bazhov and Andrey Platonov.
In his introduction to these new translations, Robert Chandler writes about the primitive magic inherent in these tales and the taboos around them, while in the afterword, Sibelan Forrester discusses the witch Baba Yaga. This edition also includes an appendix, bibliography and notes.
Translated by Robert Chandler and Elizabeth Chandler
With Sibelan Forrester, Anna Gunin and Olga Meerson
was this part of the world to them? To this day the trees grow tall and thick, but at that time the forest was so dense that you couldn’t even walk through it, let alone ride. The only people who ever entered the forest were the hunters. They say there was a hunter among the Bashkirs who went by the name of Aylyp. There was no man stronger or more daring. He could kill a bear with a single arrow or grab an elk by the antlers and throw it over his shoulder – and that would be the end of the
him?’ The tsaritsa gaped in astonishment. ‘What’s got into you, woman? We’re knee-deep in suitors – we can pick and choose. What do we want with the son of a peasant?’ Semyon’s mother took offence at this. ‘My son’s no ordinary peasant, thank you. He’s worth more than ten tsareviches. And as for a mere tsarevna, a mere girl-daughter …’ The tsar thought up a cunning ruse. ‘All right,’ he said, ‘tell your son to construct a crystal bridge from our palace hut to his front door. In the morning
as long as I’m there.’ So Vasilisa put on her coat, put her doll in her pocket, crossed herself and set off into the deep forest. Vasilisa walked on, trembling and trembling. Then a horseman swept by. His face was white, he was dressed in white and he was riding a white horse with white trappings. Day began to dawn. She walked on further. Another horseman came by. His face was red, he was dressed in red and he was riding a red horse. Then the sun rose. Vasilisa had walked all through the
well – and done in a flash. Another year passed by, and his master again put a bag of money on the table. ‘Take as much as you want,’ he said, and left the room. The worker thought again about how not to anger God by taking too much for his labour. He took a single coin. Holding it in his fist, he went to the well for some water. He bent down – and somehow he let the coin slip. It fell into the well and dropped down to the very bottom. After that he began working still more zealously, sleeping
him by the ear to Prokopich. Prokopich saw things were amiss, and he did his best to cover for Danilushko: ‘It’s I who sent him out to catch some perch. I had a terrible craving for fresh perch. Because of my ill health it’s the only thing I can eat. So I ordered the boy to catch some for me.’ The steward did not believe him. And he could see that Danilushko was a new man now: he’d got his strength back, and he had proper boots on his feet and he was wearing a good shirt and trousers. So he