Friday, May 28, 2010

Fairy Tales from the Former Soviet Union

While living in Khabarovsk, there was a minor effort made to gather several collections of fairy tales. Unfortunately the books got left behind in Ukraine, though in good hands. At the time there didn't seem like there were many tales that were available online and certainly not in English. But much of this obscure material is slowly making its way online.

This site has fairy tales and fables from several ethnic groups that were a part of the former Soviet Union and although by no means a complete list, it does offer an interesting glimpse into the traditions of different peoples that once made up the Soviet Union. The problem for English speakers is that it's only in Russian language. However there are several tales worth translating, depending on how much free time there is my schedule. The aim is to try and translate one tale a week.

As well as a few Chechen fairy tales there are also Chukchi, Nenets, Buryat, Altay, Ossetic, Kabardian, Nanaian and others. Chechen titles include:

*Three Brothers, Three Clouds, Three Magic Horses and Three Princely Daughters
*The Wolf and the Ram
*The Evil Woman and the Monster
*The Mouse's Girlfriend
*Thanks, said the Wind
*Three Pearls
*The Sleeping Dzhigit

They are such simple stories and it is for that reason, amongst others, that they are so beautiful. Several Chechen tales were translated a few years ago but they got lost between computers. So now it's time to begin again. As they are translated, they will be posted here on the blog and with an update on the Chechen fairy tale page. Or maybe it will be necessary to add pages, for example a Chukchi page. Or maybe it'll be better to make one sprawling page for tales from all over the former Soviet Union.

Here is the beginning of:
Three Brothers, Three Clouds, Three Magic Horses and Three Princely Daughters

In an old saklia there lived a poor man. He had three sons. Together they went to the mountains and brought down wood for the prince. One day the old man caught a cold and took to bed. Feeling that he would rise no more, he called his sons, had them sit before him and said, ‘It has come time for us to part. Don’t grieve because of me. Live amicably. And let everyone remember: It is easy to be bad, difficult to be good. And on my tomb put a big salt stone. And yes, do not forget to visit the tomb.’

Then the father died. The sons buried him with honors, got a block of salt, squared it and put it on the tomb. Every day one of the three visited their father’s tomb. Soon the brothers began to notice, that the block of salt, day by day, became ever less and less.

More to come.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Way of the Cow

So, it came to my attention that a story published at the Glut in 2004, The Way of the Cow has been hacked up by Russian businessmen. Why Russian? They left some clues. Clues like: a Russian CD link next to my byline (blasphemy!). Then they desecrated my bio which opens with an ad: Moscow travel company Vodohod suggested russian river cruises to see all the sights of Moscow - followed by my humble bio and ending with a link to a hotel in Moldova. They probably advertised here because of the fact that the bio states the author was living in Odessa, Ukraine. Oh, well. An author should be flattered that they thought they could generate business by hacking into his story. Too bad nobody reads it. Ha-ha! The joke is on them.

The story is weird enough without the bad, cheap, glaring Russian ads hacked into it. From comments received and there were not many (Two. Okay that might be a slight exaggeration) there seems to be some confusion in regards to what the story is trying to say.

So allow me to elaborate in a rambling and vague manner.

It has always fascinated how people can get overly emotional about eating. Sure, we all feel better when eating but there are some of us that aren't, well, normal when it comes to eating. They hum and haw whenever the very subject comes up and their eyes fill up with water. If only they could harness that energy for something other than eating! Add to that the almost religious fervor society today invests in food. Massive supermarkets, free sampling, web sites, web blogs, books, seminars, restaurants, cafes, and finally advertising, which seems silly really. Really, we have to eat, it's not like people need to be sold on the idea of eating.

On the surface it seems that it is the only thing that matters. If we aren't eating then we are talking about food or thinking about food. The only time we give food a break is when we are full, which never lasts long enough. Soon we are hungry again and stuffing our faces. When we aren't eating or are hungry we grow irritable and when we are stuffing our faces we feel good. Food is mood.

Hence the story: The Way of the Cow, and the proverb at the end: "A steak is tasty and fun to eat, but to force an entire cow down your throat will surely kill you."

But don't take my word for it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Ukrainian Carol
By Troy Morash

This was written several years ago when Kuchma was still the President of Ukraine. There were a few feeble attempts to publish it but unless you have lived in Ukraine (and especially during this time) it probably won't make much sense so the only alternative was to post it here.

It was August 23rd; Independence Day Eve and Leonid Kuchma, the President of Ukraine was sitting in his office, making deals. Suddenly he got a phone call from the rotating President of the European Union who invited Ukraine to begin talks on becoming a partner and member of the European Union.

‘But there will be many things you’ll have to do, like improve roads, tax systems, human rights, health codes, fight crime and promote freedom of speech.’

‘Bah! We don’t need the European Union that bad. What do you think I am anyway, a philanthropist?’ cried the President and hung up the phone.

Shortly afterwords he received another phone call from the President of the Ukrainian dynasty in Canada.

‘We would like it very much to have the opportunity that in Ukraine citizens can have two passports like in Russia and other countries.’

‘Humbug! What for, so you can come here and make Ukraine like every other country? You abandoned us, so you can very well stay where you are for all I care.’

Later some people came from a charitable organization asking the President to create better social services for the poor.

He sighed. ‘What poor! Look around you. Look at this office for example, there is nothing like it even in the West. Go to my house, you will not see anything better. You will never see such success stories in America of a man from a poor village becoming the President and amassing great wealth. Go visit my friends. Everywhere I go in Ukraine the roads are paved and the buildings look nice. You are exaggerating; get out of my office.’

Then came members of the Party ‘Our Ukraine’, petitioning the President for honest and open elections.

‘But of course,’ he smiled.

That evening Leonid was sitting at home when suddenly a ghost appeared before him.

‘What the hell is this?’ thought the President.

‘I am Lazarenko, the good part that died long ago which is forced to wear these chains and automobile parts around my neck for the sins my bad half has committed, the part that only thinks about itself and money. But I am here to help you. You have a chance to escape my terrible fate. Tonight three ghosts will visit you,’ and with that the ghost of the good side of Lazarenko vanished.