Old Peter's Russian Tales

by Arthur Ransome

Other authorsDmitri Mitrokhin (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 1967

Status

Available

Publication

Thomas Nelson (1967)

Description

Twenty-one Russian fairy tales told by Old Peter to his two grandchildren.

User reviews

LibraryThing member atimco
Quaint and compelling, Old Peter's Russian Tales by Arthur Ransome is a collection of stories told to young Maroosia and Vanya by their grandfather Peter. The setting is their cozy hut in the woods, so small that the dog has to lie under the table to make room when they are all home. Some stories have a moral; others feature the unexpected, abrupt, and occasionally violent twist that make classic fairytales less sanitized than our modern notions of age-appropriate entertainment.

It was interesting to note the themes that consistently recur among fairytales from so many cultures: the prominence of threes, the foolish son making good, the jealous brothers/sisters, the terrifying witch who eats children, the beautiful princesses, and the perfectly providential good fortune that attends orphans and others in distress. Standouts for me included the story "Salt" and the tale of Misery. And of course, Baba Yaga and her chicken-legged house are iconic.

This was also my first introduction to Ransome's work and I see why readers whom I consider "in the know" mention him. His delightfully titled We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea is on my short list now. An enjoyable little read.
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LibraryThing member ElizaJane
Reason for Reading: read aloud to the 9yo, a story a day, every other week.

Comments: One of the wonderful aspects about this collection of Russian folk tales is that they are centred around Old Peter who looks after his grandchildren, a boy and a girl, because their parents are dead. Old Peter is known for his storytelling and the children are always clamouring for another story and sometimes Old Peter will start to tell one all on his. So at the beginning or ending of each story we have a little scene with Old Peter, Vanya and Maroosia that ties the whole book together.

Russian folk tales (or fairy tales) are absolutely splendid. This is the first time I've read this book, but I've run across a few of the tales in other compilations and in picture book format so not all were new to me but many were. The Russian folk tale is built upon some basic elements: more often than not the story is about peasants or the hero will be a peasant, they often involve the three sons or three daughters with the third less witty or most plain being our hero and finally repetition, repetition, repetition. The same scenario will repeat itself over and over and over until someone or something (perhaps an animal character) is smart enough to change the scene.

Another wonderful thing about Russian tales is that you often get three or four stories wrapped up into one tale. With common titles such as "Prince Ivan, the Witch Baby and the Little Sister of the Sun" the story will start out one way and just when you think it's ended it takes a turn on a new plot and just when that has been solved the tale up and finds another plot to follow. It's all wonderful great fun and a delight to read!

Some things to consider; these tales are not politically correct. Women are often spoken to/of in a demeaning way which is expected of 15th-17th century Russia but that doesn't mean there aren't some feisty women characters in some of the tales. There is also implied violence, people die if they have to whether it be quietly or by the edge of a sword. And finally, the tales are written with the Eastern Orthodox religion obviously being an everyday part of any self-respecting peasant's life with God being thanked and blessed many times.

I've always been fond of Russian tales (yes, there is a Baba Yaga tale here, as well as the famous "The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship") but I'm ever more so now having read this collection. Oh, I suppose I should mention, since I did read the book aloud to my son, that it was a big hit with him as well. It is actually rather sad now that we have finished this book, since we've had such a grand time together with it.
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LibraryThing member isabelx
Old ones, old ones, now I know
Less you love me than a hen,
I shall go away again.
Good-bye, ancient ones, good-bye,
Back I go across the sky;
To my motherkin I go -
Little daughter of the Snow."


When I was a child, we had a large illustrated hardback copy of these stories, so I was glad to come across it in Project Gutenberg. On re-reading them as an adult, it is clear that a lot of the stories are about the importance of kindness, as it's not only the little girl in "Baga Yaga" who escapes due to her kind acts.

I remembered about the forester Old Peter telling Russian folk tales to his grandchildren, Maroosia and Vanya, and I also remembered some of the stories quite well, such as "Baga Yaga" and "The Fool Of The World And The Flying Ship", however, my favourite as a child was "Salt" and it is still my favourite, forty odd years later. 'It is the most wonderful dust in the world,' says the Tzar, ' and I will buy every grain of it you have.… (more)
LibraryThing member gaskella
Before he wrote Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome left his wife and went to Russia to live. He taught himself the language and collected folk-tales, which he made into this book. Rather than present them as separate entities, the tales are told by a grandfather to his grandchildren.The first segment, The hut in the forest introduces Old Peter, little Maroosia and Vanya. The children are a keen audience and as they settle by the stove, they demand to hear a new tale and we're off straightaway into a land of a rich merchant and his three daughters, followed by many others...

These stories are full of magical talismans, poor peasant folk on quests, cunning animals, greedy men and wicked stepmothers, and Baba Yaga of course, also Sadko the dulcimer player who plays by the river (made into an opera by Rimsky Korsakov), and ones like the intriguingly titled The Stolen Turnips, the Magic Tablecloth, the Sneezing Goat and the Wooden Whistle. They are delightful, quirky tales and are highly moral and even dark, for those who are bad always get their come-uppance, and happy endings are not guaranteed.
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LibraryThing member greatbookescapes
Looking through my library at home I found that I had not got this on my books I have read. My copy which is bound in blue leather, was chosen by me when I was about 10 years old after being given a book voucher from Sunday School.

The dog chewed it, and it is looking a bit sad, but this book took me through my childhood. I have never tired of reading it and even though it is a few years since I have read through it, each story stays strong in my mind. These are fairy tales which transported me to the far off lands of Russia and captured my imagination like no other book I had as a child.

The fairy tales were different, they felt raw and about real people (obviously not about real people but maybe I wanted them to be).

Out of the book my favourite tale is "The Silver Saucer And The Transparent Apple"

This is a wonderful read for children because it transports their imagination beyond their own life.
… (more)
LibraryThing member greatbookescapes
Looking through my library at home I found that I had not got this on my books I have read. My copy which is bound in blue leather, was chosen by me when I was about 10 years old after being given a book voucher from Sunday School.

The dog chewed it, and it is looking a bit sad, but this book took me through my childhood. I have never tired of reading it and even though it is a few years since I have read through it, each story stays strong in my mind. These are fairy tales which transported me to the far off lands of Russia and captured my imagination like no other book I had as a child.

The fairy tales were different, they felt raw and about real people (obviously not about real people but maybe I wanted them to be).

Out of the book my favourite tale is "The Silver Saucer And The Transparent Apple"

This is a wonderful read for children because it transports their imagination beyond their own life.
… (more)
LibraryThing member greatbookescapes
Looking through my library at home I found that I had not got this on my books I have read. My copy which is bound in blue leather, was chosen by me when I was about 10 years old after being given a book voucher from Sunday School.

The dog chewed it, and it is looking a bit sad, but this book took me through my childhood. I have never tired of reading it and even though it is a few years since I have read through it, each story stays strong in my mind. These are fairy tales which transported me to the far off lands of Russia and captured my imagination like no other book I had as a child.

The fairy tales were different, they felt raw and about real people (obviously not about real people but maybe I wanted them to be).

Out of the book my favourite tale is "The Silver Saucer And The Transparent Apple"

This is a wonderful read for children because it transports their imagination beyond their own life.
… (more)
LibraryThing member greatbookescapes
Looking through my library at home I found that I had not got this on my books I have read. My copy which is bound in blue leather, was chosen by me when I was about 10 years old after being given a book voucher from Sunday School.

The dog chewed it, and it is looking a bit sad, but this book took me through my childhood. I have never tired of reading it and even though it is a few years since I have read through it, each story stays strong in my mind. These are fairy tales which transported me to the far off lands of Russia and captured my imagination like no other book I had as a child.

The fairy tales were different, they felt raw and about real people (obviously not about real people but maybe I wanted them to be).

Out of the book my favourite tale is "The Silver Saucer And The Transparent Apple"

This is a wonderful read for children because it transports their imagination beyond their own life.
… (more)
LibraryThing member greatbookescapes
Looking through my library at home I found that I had not got this on my books I have read. My copy which is bound in blue leather, was chosen by me when I was about 10 years old after being given a book voucher from Sunday School.

The dog chewed it, and it is looking a bit sad, but this book took me through my childhood. I have never tired of reading it and even though it is a few years since I have read through it, each story stays strong in my mind. These are fairy tales which transported me to the far off lands of Russia and captured my imagination like no other book I had as a child.

The fairy tales were different, they felt raw and about real people (obviously not about real people but maybe I wanted them to be).

Out of the book my favourite tale is "The Silver Saucer And The Transparent Apple"

This is a wonderful read for children because it transports their imagination beyond their own life.
… (more)
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