Right now, I’m working my way through an anthology of Russian and Soviet fairy tales, and I like the quirky humour of the first paragraph of “The Frog Princess” so much I have to share it.
‘Long, long ago, in ancient times, there was a king with three sons, all of them full grown. And the king said to them, “Sons! I want each of you to make a bow for yourself and to shoot it. Whichever woman brings back your arrow will be your bride. Whoever’s arrow isn’t brought back is not meant to marry.” The oldest son shot his arrow, which was brought back by a prince’s daughter. The middle son shot his arrow, which was brought back by a general’s daughter. But the arrow of the youngest, Prince Ivan, was brought back by a frog, who gripped it in her teeth. The two older brothers were happy and jubilant, but Prince Ivan grew pensive and burst into tears. “How can I live with a frog? To live one’s whole life isn’t like wading a river or crossing a field!” He cried and cried and cried some more, but there was nothing to be done — he married the frog. Their wedding observed traditional rites; the frog was held on a dish.’
The anthology is called Politicizing Magic: An Anthology of Russian and Soviet Fairy Tales, edited by Marina Balina, Helena Goscilo, and Mark Lipovetsky. So far I think it’s worth investing the time. Fairy tales in general are interesting as a genre, Russian fairy tales are doubly interesting – add the Soviet agenda(s) to the mix, and the interest octuples.