Thursday, September 7, 2023

Russian Secret Tales, by Aleksandr N. Afanasyev

Aleksandr Afanasyev was the major nineteenth-century collector of Russian folk and fairy tales. Unlike other collectors such as the Brothers Grimm, Afanasyev also collected bawdy folktales, though these are much less known that his fairy tales. Russian Secret Tales: Bawdy Folktales of Old Russia is one such collection translated into English. It first appeared in 1966, and was reprinted, with a new foreword by folkorist Alan Dundes, in 1996. The volume contains some seventy-four tales, some very short, others longer and presented in variant versions. The tales are ribald and quite fun. My favorite in the whole collection is "A Crop of Prickles" --yes, prickles are what you think they are; the translation for the most part avoids what might be considered obscene terms in English (so we occasionally read of two people futtering, or one getting futtered, etc.). Some of these tales are quite imaginative. In "A Crop of Prickles" two farmers are planting their respective fields with rye, but when asked by a traveler what they are planting, one farmer tells the truth, while the other lies and says he is planting prickles. And that is the crop he reaps, and when harvested produces comic results.  

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