Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Russian Fairy Tales

Another way that I have been introducing my children to Russian culture is by reading them  Russian fairy tales.  Both my son, age 8, and my daughter, age 5, have been asking for them daily now.  I fell in love with these fairy tales when I lived in Russia, and fortunately, there are several good English translations on the web.  

Here are a few of my favorites and the links to these tales:

Ivan and Elena the Beautiful on the Grey Wolf
by Viktor Vasnetsov
(This might be my favorite story, because the heroine is so spunky and is called "Elena the Wise".)
The Frog Princess from Tradestone Gallery
Vasilisa on her way to borrow
fire from Baba Yaga.
By Ivan Bilbin.

Baba Yaga flying around in her mortar and pestle.
By Ivan Bilbin.

Fairy Tales or Not?
I know that many families tend to shy away from fairy tales for various reasons. Some want to shield their children from what they feel are undue fears and nightmares. Others object to the witchcraft/magic aspect. Still others feel that fairy tales are irrelevant to our modern world. 

In our family, I have come to value sharing fairy tales with my children.  These tales allow my children to consider different moral possibilities, ponder the difference between good and evil, and hear traditional wisdom from different cultures in an intuitive way.  Interestingly enough, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R Tolkien and G.K. Chesterton, three great Christian writers of the twentieth century, as well as  the Irish monks who helped preserve western civilization during the Dark Ages, all placed great value on ancient myths and fairy tales.  

For well-written thoughts on the benefits of fairy tales, please click on this link by Susanne Lakin: The Importance of Reading Fairy Tales to Children and this essay by G.K. ChestertonThe Red Angel.

Happy Reading!

Linked to The Magic Onions


  1. Sheila,
    My children love Russian fairy tales, too! I've found some good craft projects to go along with the stories and have used them with my kids and at the camp I lead for kids adopted from Russia. We bought a DVD of the Moscow Ballet performing the Firebird; the kids love it and ask to see it over and over again. We bought it on Amazon. I'll dig around and see if I can find more resources for you. I know there are alot of projects on the internet relating to the Firebird.

    The camp kids also loved the movie Sadko, even though the kids don't remember much Russian and it was entirely in Russian (with subtitles only). I think I bought a copy of that on Amazon, too.

    We have also used a video called "Tales from My Childhood" featuring Mikhail Baryshnikov.

    Cheryl Basile

  2. I love Fairy Tales, and I read them all of the time to my children when they were growing up. I am a Christian, and I agree, fairy tales have a clear distinction between Good and Evil. I think these tales teach valuable lessons. I read Fairy Tales as a child as well, I think it is important to pass these tales on for cultural literacy as well. I haven't read many Russian Tales, now I think I will have to pick some up, the illustrations look wonderful! Great post! ~April