Russian Fairy Tales
Like Russian superstition, Russian Fairy Tales have their origins in the pagan beliefs of ancient Slavs. Grand tales of heroes and heroines, animals and "mystical" beings, were passed down through the generations. These folk tales, or skazki (сказки) as they are known in Russia, were eventually recorded - many in poetic verse. Today, as much as ever, Russian fairy tales remain an integral component of Russian culture.
All Russians and Ukrainians are familiar with traditional fairy tales. Parent's (who themselves listened to skazki when they were young), can practically recite each tale by memory when reading to their children. Russian folklore is engrained in the psyche of all Russians - it is evident in many forms of Russian art, crafts, music and literature.
Classic Russian Folk Tales
The Snow Maiden (Snegurochka - Снегурочка) - Once upon a time there lived an old man and woman who had always regretted that they did not have any children. One lovely winter day they make a girl out of snow. The snow maiden comes alive and becomes the daughter they never had. They call her Snegurochka. She is very beautiful and sweet. But when spring begins to warm the land, the girl becomes quite depressed. When the summer arrives, she becomes even more sad. One day she goes to the woods with a group of village girls to pick flowers. She has a good time for the first time since the winter. It begins to get dark and the other girls make a fire and begin playfully jumping over the flames. Snegurochka also jumps, but suddenly she melts and evaporates into a white cloud.
The Golden Fish (Zolotaya Ribka - Золотая рыбка) - Once upon the time there lived a poor fisherman. One day he catches a golden fish. The fish talks with him in a human voice and begs to go free. The golden fish promises to fulfill any of his wishes. A kind man, he simply lets the fish go free. After hearing the story, the fisherman's wife shouts at him and sends him back to see the magic fish (they need a new trough). The fish grants the wish, and a new trough magically appears at their shack. The wife, nontheless is not satisfied. She wants a new house, then she wants to be a noble lady, then wants to be the Queen of the Land. Every time she sends her old husband to the shore, the golden fish fulfills the wishes of the greedy old wife. The woman now wants to be Empress of the Land and the Sea, and for the golden fish to be her servant. The fisherman goes to the shore once more, calls the fish and explains the last wish of his wife. The golden fish disappears without a word. The old man returns home and finds his old, ragged shack, his poor wife, and a broken trough.
Ilya of Murom (Ilya Muromets - Илья Муромец) - According to legend, Ilya was the son of a farmer, born in a small village near the city of Murom. Crippled from birth, he was unable to walk his entire youth. One day two pilgrims paid a visit and said a prayer over him. After that Ilya was not only able to walk but became unbelievably strong. His old parents were very happy that their son was healed. He then chose a strong steed named Karushka, ordered a complete set of armor to be made by the blacksmiths and set off for Kiev. Along the way he single-handedly defended the city of Chernigov from a besieging Tatar army. Ilya also encountered an outlaw named Solovey ("nightingale"), who could murder travelers with his powerful whistle. Ilya captured Solovey and brought him to the court of Prince Vladimir in Kiev, where the criminal was executed. After that Ilya joined Prince Vladimir's court and became his greatest knight.
The Humpbacked Horse (Konyok-Gorbunok - Конёк-Горбунок) - Once upon a time there lived a peasant family who farmed a field of wheat. One morning they found that someone had been in the field and trampled down the wheat. The two elder brothers stand guard during the next two nights, but because of storms and cold winds they leave the field. In the morning the wheat is trampled down even more. On the third night the youngest brother Ivan, whom everyone thinks is the fool of the family, manages to catch a wonderful mare that has been destroying the field. The mare begs him to let her go and in exchange gives Ivan two golden-maned steeds of exquisite beauty, plus a small humpbacked horse who would be Ivan's best friend. Ivan and his magical humpbacked horse go through many adventures - adventures that see Ivan as a stable hand / errand boy for the Tsar, and (with a twist of fate), ruler of the Tsar's Kingdom and husband of his beautiful maiden.
The Tale of the Dead Princess and the Seven Knights by Alexander Pushkin
(Сказка о мёртвой царевне и о семи богатырях) - This Russian fairy tale does not have it's origin in pagan folklore (at least not Russian). Rather it is a poetic version of the fairy tale Little Snow White, that Alexander Pushkin had read in Grimm's Fairy Tales (a collection of German origin fairy tales published in the early 19th century).
- Most foreigners will notice similarities with the 1937 animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Both the Pushkin version and Disney version, after all, were mere variations of the Brothers Grimm original.