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.

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