Russian Fairy Tales – review

Russian Fairy Tales
(Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library)
compiled by Alexander Afanasyev, Norbert Guterman (Translator), Alexander Alexeieff
Pantheon, 1976
Reviewed by Valentina Cano

This is a wonderful collection, one that is akin to the classic Grimm books, full of lush, fantastical stories, set against the harsh background that is icy Russia.

It is full of all the wonderful characters we have grown to love, the many peasant children who are just a bit smarter than the villains, the magical creatures that bring awe to our senses (such as the startling Firebird), and of course, the wicked, cunning, and absolutely terrifying Baba Yaga. There is a darkness to these stories that causes the skin to chill as the reader explores them. The evil is made even more so by the mixture of comedy and tension, the sparkling dialogue brought out in stronger relief against the dramatic storylines that enfold them. The endings of some of the stories are little masterpieces themselves — witty little sentences that made me laugh out loud at their randomness and freshness. I can’t help but think that they were meant to lighten the mood, especially if the stories were read to children at bedtime.

This is one book that needs to be part of any fairy tale lover’s library; place it right next to the Grimm’s books and it’ll be in very good company.