Written in 2016

Assignment in our Russian Fairy Tale class: write a fairy tale using functions from Vladimir Propp’s Morphology of the Folktale, in the order in which he listed them (these are the numbers you see). The tale must also include Russian formulaic expressions. Here’s a sneak preview of my tale, which I will hand in tomorrow:

In a certain tsardom, in a certain land, there lived a maiden with a singing voice so lovely that you can neither imagine such nor envision such, but perhaps tell about it in a tale. Both her parents were dead 1, and her only joy was the little brown thrush that came to her window every day to chirp merrily as she sang. One night she dreamed that the little brown thrush was an enchanted prince who would make her his bride. The next morning, she eagerly awaited the arrival of the little brown thrush. But as it flew toward her house, suddenly a beautiful maiden galloped up on a heroic horse, snatched the thrush from the air and carried it away. 8a 

The maiden ran into the forest and came to a brook. “Brook, brook, have you seen my little brown thrush?”

“He has been carried away by his sister, the Sorrowful Tsarevna, who hates all happy music,” the brook said. “She changed him into a bird because he was always happy and singing, but he escaped. If you had married him her power over him would have been broken forever, but now she keeps him in a cage with a string around his beak.” 9

“I will seek him until I find him,” 10 the maiden said, and she set off into the forest. 11 She traveled on, near or far, a long time or a short time, until she came to a hut on chicken legs. “Little hut, little hut, stand with your back to the woods and your front to me!” The hut turned around, the door opened, and the maiden entered. Baba Yaga the Bony-Legged lay on the floor, her sharp elbow in one corner, her long nose pointing up the chimney. “Fu! Fu! I smell a Russian smell!” said Baba Yaga. “Fair maiden, are you attempting a deed or flying from a deed?” 12 “Good health to you, grandmother!” the maiden said. “I seek the little brown thrush, who has been carried away by the Sorrowful Tsarevna.” 13

Baba Yaga told her, “I know her well. She lives beyond the thrice-ninth kingdom, in the thrice-tenth kingdom by the blue, blue sea where the red sun rises. I will loan you my horse, which is the fastest horse in all creation except for one, and that is its brother. I will also give you this comb, this mirror and this spark, for they may prove useful to you.” 14

The horse carried the maiden a long time or a short time, for speedily a tale is spun, but with less speed a deed is done. By and by they came to the thrice-tenth kingdom, to the palace of the Sorrowful Tsarevna. 15 The night was dark, lit only by the twinkling stars. The maiden walked around the palace. In a window she saw the Sorrowful Tsarevna asleep with her head on her folded hands beside the thrush in a golden cage. The maiden snatched the cage, 19 jumped on her horse, and rode away.

The instant the cage was gone, Sorrowful awoke in a rage. She ran to saddle her horse, which was the faster brother of Baba Yaga’s horse. 21 The maiden heard the hoofbeats approaching and threw the comb behind her. Up sprang a forest so thick that light could not shine through. Sorrowful took her sharp sword, cut through it, and galloped onward. Again the maiden heard the hoofbeats grow closer. She tossed the mirror behind her. A lake appeared, as broad as the blue, blue sea. But Sorrowful’s horse drank the lake dry and galloped on. The maiden heard the hoofbeats grow closer a third time. She threw the spark behind her. A river of fire appeared, wide and high. Sorrowful rode back and forth, unable to find away around or over. Then she blew with her powerful breath and blew a path through the flames, and rode on. 22

The maiden heard the hoofbeats growing closer again, and realized she could no longer outrace the Sorrowful Tsarevna. She stopped and waited for her, and as she waited she began to sing in a voice more beautiful than you could imagine or envision, but perhaps tell about in a tale. 25 She sang of brave warriors, clever maidens, heroic deeds; she sang of beauty and happiness and love. The Sorrowful Tsarevna heard her song but rode closer, wanting the thrush more than she hated the music. The music was more powerful than her hatred, and it melted the anger from her heart. 26 Tears of shame rolled down the Sorrowful Tsarevna’s face as she reached the maiden. “Take this key,” she said, lifting from her neck a golden chain from which dangled a golden key. “Free my brother and live together in love. I will trouble you no more.” Then she turned and rode away. 30

The maiden unlocked the cage and the thrush flew out, touched the ground and became a handsome tsarevich. They were married, 31 and every day they sang merrily together.

There’s a tale for you, and a crock of butter for me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s