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Friday, 21 January 2011

Fairy-Tale Friday: From Russia with Love #3

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.

Post 1: The Hut in the Forest, The Silver Dish and the Transparent Apple
Post 2: Sadko


There was once a man who had a lovely wife and together they had a daughter called Martha. Sadly, his first wife died and so after a few years he married a new wife. Together they had two more daughters.

The new wife was a cross old woman and she was very cruel to Martha. She scolded her and would beat her and made her work hard from sun up to sun down. Martha would make clothes and mend them, cook food for the family and scrub the house clean. Her sisters were lazy and they learnt to be cruel to Martha and take after their mother.

Years went by and the step-mother realised that her two ugly daughters would never find a husband while Martha lived at home because she was very pretty. So the step-mother hatched a plan. She told her husband it was time for Martha to be married and that he should take her to meet her bridegroom in the forest.

The next day the old man and Martha set out to meet her bridegroom. Martha had a tiny hope that it would be Fedor Ivanovitch who lived in the village and had kind eyes. But of course they were not heading to the village; they travelled on the sledge into the forest. Martha’s father left her their like his mean wife had instructed. He drove the cart home with sadness in his heart. But he was powerless to stop his cruel wife because he was terrified of her.

Martha did as she was told and waited for her bridegroom to come. She heard the crackling and creaking of Frost as he swung from tree to tree in the forest. She shivered in her thin blue dress and the cold crept up her hand and her arms. He asked Martha again and again if she was cold. But she replied that she was warm. She spoke kindly and sweetly to Frost and he took pity on sweet pretty Martha and placed furs around her shoulders and kept her safe and warm.

The next day her father returned to the forest expecting to find Martha dead. He was delighted to find she was safe and well and took her back home. The cruel step-mother was very angry that Martha had survived and had come home with a box of gifts given to her by Frost. So the step-mother sent her own two daughters out into the forest to wait for their own bridegrooms. They wore thick furs and at first were not cold. But they argued and they moaned and their furs slipped off letting the cold get to their chests. Soon Frost came along and they both said hurtful cruel things to him and so he left them to the ice cold grip of the forest.

The next day the old man returned to collect his two daughters. He found them both dead. He took their bodies back to the house and the step-mother was filled with rage. She blamed their father for their deaths. But he let her rage and shout and then told her that it was all her own fault because she had taught them to be cruel not kind.

More time passed and Fedor Ivanovitch proposed marriage to kind-hearted Martha. So of course Martha and Fedor lived happily ever after and they had the kindest, prettiest children in the whole village.

My thoughts:
I found Frost a really amusing read. There is something really satisfying about seeing the cruel and the selfish get their comeuppance in a fairy tale. It is the sort of simple resolution that wouldn’t make it into a novel and I think that is joy of reading them. Does anyone else feel this?


Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

Great story! In a way, it's like a mix of Cinderella and Snow White, but it has its own unique twist. I like the characterS of Martha and Frost. What I love about fairy-tales is that goodness is rewarded and malice punished. So yes, I agree with you on this one.

Russian fairytales are getting under my skin!

Cliona said...

I think it sounds a bit like Cinderella! Wait, I'm confused, is Frost meant to be real frost or what???

Jenny O. said...

Wow, what an interesting read? I wonder what the accompanying illustrations would look like?

Bookworm1858 said...

I like the elements of Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel that I see and I'm so happy that it has a happy ending with the good sweet girl winning her love.

Becky said...

Irena, I'm glad you are liking the Russian fairytales. I loved how this one was familiar yet had its own identity too.

Cliona, yeah that confused me too. Frost is whatever you want it to be, I think. A human manifestation of the weather, or the brutal cold of winter. You could read it that the good girl was stronger and survived because she was a natural survivor, strong and resilient. I prefer to think of Frost as a sort of magical man type thing LOL

Jenny, there are some illustrations maybe I will include some in another fairytale post.

Bookworm, yeah it is great that good wins!