Saturday, February 1, 2014

5 Inspiring Russian Fairy Tales

Article by Ty Hulse

Russia is a liminal land, one which lies between the Shamans of Siberia, the Witches of Europe and the many folk beliefs of Asia. It's a place where tales of wolves resemble those of China and Japan, yet still retain European elements. Where shamans of the North East battle vampires and dragons, and travel to the edge of the world of the dead to work for Baba Yaga.

These five tales are very much representative of shamanism and the spirit world which is present in Russian lore and as always these fairy fairy tales are perhaps best used as writing prompts for your fantasy stories.

The Girl in The Well
(Translated by Raven's Shire)
A girl is sent by her wicked step-mother down a well where she enters the other world.

Note: The moral of many, if not most spirit journeys in Russian Lore is that kindness and hard work are the keys to survive. The spirits of the other world in these tales not only appreciate hard work, they demand it in most European folklore, killing those who don't work hard or fail to be kind, while rewarding those who do. Because of this the most important thing to surviving and becoming wealthy in the spirit world was hard work.

The Brothers Frost
(Translated by Raven's Shire)
Two playful frost spirits make a bet on who can freeze the most people. Like many similar tales about the spirit world this one has a heavy moral message against greed.

The Norka
A young prince who is constantly teased by his elder brothers enters the Other World in order to kill a beast which has been rampaging about his father's lands.

Note: The prince, like most shaman figures, is considered a fool by many who don't understand him. Witches, cunning, shamans, or whatever you wish to call them, were often seen as fools because they lived in a different world than most people. Like modern day nerds they were clever and intelligent, they just didn't always mesh with society's expectations.

Here too kindness is important to survival and success in the Other World. The shaman figure in this story covers up some nestlings with his jacket to keep them warm, and because of this their mother promises to help him succeed in his quest.

The Baba Yaga
Another tale of a shamanistic girl, sent by her stepmother to meet with her step-aunt who happens to be Baba Yaga, a potential guardian of the realm of the dead in Russian Lore.... Though the exact nature of Baba Yaga is always hard to figure out (Learn more about Baba Yaga here.)

This story also shows the propensity for shamanistic figures to shape and build the land, often in their attempts to escape or defeat their enemies. Once people in many places could point to features in the land and say that this hill, that forest, etc. was created by someone in one tale or another.

The Coffin Lid
A man steals the lid to a Vampire's coffin and uses it to blackmail the vampire into telling him how to cure those he has attacked.

Of course, as with any writing prompt you could take this a step further and have the man blackmail the vampire to force it to help him with, or tell him anything. What you would you do if you had control over a vampire? What would a mayor do? A Criminal? A Junior Executive at a company?

Raven's Shire is dedicated to helping writers and artists learn about the strange world of fairy tales, so if you have any questions or need any help understanding the fairy realm, please contact us.