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Friday, 7 January 2011

Fairy-Tale Friday: From Russia with Love #1

Each week Irena @ This Miss Loves To Read hosts Friday is for Fairy-Tales.

It is an opportunity to share a love of the fairy-tale genre throughout the blogosphere and discuss your favourite character, your childhood memories, new authors and all time favourites. You can find out more by visiting her POST.

Ever since I read Marcus Sedgwick’s Blood Red Snow White, I have wanted to read Arthur Ransome’s Old Peter’s Russian Tales. If you’ve read Blood Red, you’ll understand why. If you haven’t, then I suggest you add it to your wish list. I never realised how poetic fairy-tales could be until I read it.

So I am going to read one of Old Peter’s Russian Tales by Arthur Ransome each week and then share it with you here.

Let’s begin at the beginning with The Hut in the Forest and The Tale of the Silver Saucer and the Transparent Apple.

I hope you are all sitting comfortably...

Imagine two children who live in The Hut in the Forest. They are listening to the snow crack and creak on the branches outside. Sometimes the noises frighten them. The stove burns brightly and they sleep on it (yes really, they do) in cosy blankets. They are waiting for Old Peter, their grandfather, to come home and tell them a story. They want a new story they haven’t heard before.

So Old Peter enjoys his tea with Maroosia and Vanya. Ransome kindly explains how they like tea without milk in Russia and then Old Peter begins The Tale of the Silver Saucer and the Transparent Apple.

There once was a merchant who used to sell his wares at the fair in Novgorod. He had three daughters. Two were very bad, selfish daughters who were lazy and cruel. But one was very kind and worked hard to help her beloved mother and father. The two cruel sisters called her “Little Stupid” because she worked so hard. She was also the prettiest daughter.

When their father left for market, the two cruel sisters asked for a gift and being a kind father, the merchant asked his pretty kind daughter if she too would like a gift from his trip to the fair. She asked for a Silver Saucer and a Transparent Apple. So the merchant goes to the fair and returns with the gifts each child has asked for. The two cruel sisters laugh at “Little Stupid” when she spins the apple inside the silver dish. But “Little Stupid” is very happy for inside the spinning apple she can see the great places of Russia and it is a wondrous sight.

The two cruel sisters see that Little Stupid is delighted with her gift and they come and watch the apple spinning. Soon her parents join her too and they all watch the wonder inside the dish. But the two cruel sisters have dark hearts and they want the dish and the apple for themselves. They invite “Little Stupid” into the forest to pick berries. Little Stupid doesn’t want to go but they tell her that their mother needs the berries. Because Little Stupid is kind and hardworking, she grabs her basket and asks her father to take care of the Silver Dish and the Transparent Apple.

So Little Stupid goes into the woods with her two cruel sisters. Then a most hideous fate befalls her.

I’m going to end the tale there. I think it gives you a flavour of the first Russian tale but of course I don’t want to give the ending away or even attempt to tell a story well as Arthur Ransome.

I really enjoyed reading the first two chapters of Old Peter’s Russian Tales. It was in some ways a very familiar experience – fairy-tales are such a part of our lives. In other ways it was exotic and exciting. The cold caress of Russia is so present in Ransome’s writing that it leaves me craving more. I am looking forward to next week’s instalment which for all you impatient folk will be the tale Sadko. Ooh, an unfamiliar name.

Book Details: Old Peter's Russian Tales, this edition Puffin, 1981, first published by Nelson, 1916


Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

What a wonderful post!

I haven't read Blood Red, Snow White, but I added it to my wishlist immediately. I think it is so fun and clever to have a character of a book write his own book. The premise sounds very interesting, too. There's something incredibly mystical and attractive about Russia and a Russian fairy-tale? Yes, please!

The tale about Little Stupid sounds so very interesting! I felt sorry for her because of the way her sisters treated her and because she is called Little Stupid. You sure know how to end a post on a cliff-hanger!:) I so want to know what happens next, so I am putting Mr Ransome's stories on my wishlist too.

I am so looking forward to the next post! The Russian setting adds a special charm to fairy-tales, I see, and I know I am going to enjoy your posts very much.

I love how you wrote "the cold caress of Russia". Sounds beautiful.

Thank you for sharing this fairy-tale!

The Slowest Bookworm said...

No, you can't leave it there! I was sitting comfortably and really enjoying that lol :)

Cliona said...

Arthur Ransome sounds like a wonderful story-teller, I'm definitely going to read some of his stories! Great post.

Bookworm1858 said...

What?! You can't end it there-I want to know "Little Stupid's" fate! I guess I will definitely be adding Ransome's works to my TBR list.

Enbrethiliel said...


At first it reminded me of Beauty and the Beast, but then I saw that the storyteller was taking it in a completely different direction. (Or does "Little Stupid" meet a beast-like creature in the woods?!?!?)

This looks to be a good series. Thanks for sharing these stories! You've got me interested in Russian folk tales. =)

Caroline said...

You know, i actually feel like i want to participate in this meme now I have read your post! The Russian tales look fascinating, I'll be following what new tales you have read!

theincrediblebookeatinggirl said...

I agree, Blood Red, Snow White is an incredible retelling of Arthur Ransome's life in Russia. I'm so glad that Old Peter's Russian Tales is back in print. I recommend all of Ransome's books to anyone who has a love of adventure stories, and Swallows and Amazons is a true classic. My favourite book of all time.