Russian Folk Tales

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Russian Folk Tales

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Fev 15, 2011, 6:46 pm

I'm interested in delving into Russian mythology and folk tales. I've done a search on amazon for books dealing with the subject and there's so many I don't know where to start. Does anyone have any suggestions or recommendations on specific books to look for...or avoid?

Fev 15, 2011, 7:53 pm

There are a few good places to start....
It all depends. Can you read in Russian or not.
If no, then perhaps a good translation of Ruslan and Ludmila might be worth checking out.

Also try this -
A collection of Russian folk tales.

If you want to go into something more advanced a good collection of Bylina is probably a sure thing.

There is also a more modern book that you might check out - I haven't read it yet, but heard interesting things about it, its called 'Vlesov's Book'
The only thing is, i don't think you can get a translation just yet. But - its worth a google.

You can also try Slovo o Polku Igore.
Povest Vremminih Let
But these two are more of history then mythology.

That's all I can think of from the top of my head. If I come up with anything else, i'll add it.

Fev 15, 2011, 9:35 pm

No, unfortunately, I can't read Russian so I have to stick with translated works.

Thank you very much, Svartalf. The collection of fairy tales compiled by Alexander Afanasyev is one I was leaning towards already so I will definitely go with that one. I also added the Pushkin one, Ruslan and Ludmila. The Bylina sounds almost like a Russian Kalevala. I didn't find anything using the word 'Bylina' but I did search for the books that were listed as references for the wiki page and was able to find at least one of them so I'll add that too. I think that will be a great start. Thank you again.

Fev 16, 2011, 2:48 am

For a theoretical point of view, consider V. Propp's Morphology of the Folktale.

He has also written "The historical roots of the wonder-tale", "The Russian folktale" and "The Russian heroic epos", but these aren't available in English.

Fev 19, 2011, 11:01 am

Oh, one more thing LisaStens.
Its very important. If you can find any of these works, do get them with illustrations by Ivan Bilibin. He is like the Dore of Russia :)
They add so much to the story that without them it just isn't the same :P

Fev 23, 2011, 11:16 pm

I second the previous suggestion. Bilibin's illustrations are wonderful!

Besides Afanasev's collection, Pavel Bazhov has some lovely stories, they're collected in a volume translated as The Malachite Casket. And I'll add a recommendation for Nikolai Leskov here. He's more literary, but many of his stories have folkloric elements. The Steel Flea is great.

In the non-fiction realm: Andrei Sinyavsky's Ivan the Fool is a quite readable and interesting study on Russian folk belief. (It's not exclusively about folk tales; there's stuff on superstitions and the development of the Orthodox Church as well.)

Fev 24, 2011, 6:53 pm

I've already ordered and received my folktale books and none of them had Bilibin illustrations but I found a book of tales collected by Gillian Avery that has them. I was able to look through the pictures and they are magnificent, well worth the price of another, possibly duplicate, collection. And after seeing the condition of the Afanasyev book, that second collection doesn't seem like such a bad idea. Apparently my idea of what constitutes as good condition and what this particular seller considers to be so are two completely different things.

Spiphany, I found The Malachite Casket, it was a little spendy, even used, but I added it to my list anyway along with the Sinyavsky book. I ordered The Steel Flea along with the Avery/Bilibin book, thank you for the recommendation.

Mar 10, 2011, 11:17 am

BTW, I just noticed the Folio Society has a beautiful edition of Russian Folk Tales....
Might be worth checking out;

Editado: Mar 10, 2011, 11:46 am

Mar 10, 2011, 8:02 pm

Bilibin's illustrations are marvelous. I have a book in Russian with his illustrations and, even if I cannot read it, the images are such a joy for the eyes!

Mar 10, 2011, 8:48 pm

Dan, that's the book that I just ordered! It is little but the pictures are surprisingly clear...but little...

Maio 4, 2011, 9:09 am

Afanasiev is perhaps the most comprehensive, and also the most controversial. His skazki were not permitted to be published in full until 1991, the reason being their (often extreme) obscenity. It is from this source that authors such as Nikolai Leskov drew from, and it is the latter whom I would seriously recommend. His The enchanted wanderer, Soborianie, and the Steel flea are some of my favourite texts from the late 19th century. Interestingly, there is a lot of Platonov in Leskov.

While you asked about folklore itself, what Nikolai Leskov did with folklore merits a read. You may also be interested in byliny, which are narrative poems that feature mythological, folkloric as well as christian motifs. Ilya Muromets is perhaps the paragon of this tradition.

Editado: Jul 3, 2011, 3:05 am


I'll put in another high thumbs up for Afanasev's Russian Fairy Tales, one of the most delightful volumes in the Pantheon Library of Folk and Fairy Tales. I hope you enjoy it!

And although it isn't particularly focused on folk tales per se, Medieval Russia's Epics, Chronicles, and Tales is an anthology that might well be of interest to you if you don't already have it.

Out 20, 2012, 10:14 am

I'm a bit late here, but you might want to have a look at the series of books by Jack Haney, too. The first volume is about Russian folk tales.

Out 22, 2012, 7:03 am

There's actually a new volume in Penguin Classics, Russian Magic Tales from Pushkin to Platonov, Robert Chandler ed., due for release on December 6.

Out 29, 2012, 8:35 am

I've seen some of this and it is very, very good.

Mar 30, 2016, 10:13 am

Five years late, but what the heck: The Bathhouse at Midnight is a very comprehensive account of folk belief (not folktales specifically) in Russia.

Mar 31, 2016, 11:45 am

Aleksandr Kondratíev's c.1930 novel On the banks of the Yaryn is known as an "encyclopedia of Russian/Ukrainian folk belief" and is considered to be a major influence on Russian literature in the first half of the 20thC. The book is hard to find, but I believe e-copies can be downloaded online.

Mar 31, 2016, 11:53 am

Right this second On the Banks of the Yaryn is about $30 on amazon. Normally the book is ~$50 or more. I read the book last year and it was my first foray into really any Slavic folk beliefs. Definitely worth it at $30.

Mar 31, 2016, 5:36 pm

Thanks for the tip; I've added it to my wishlist!

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