Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Russian Fairy Tales

Last week Danny and I went to the library and got a book of Russian fairy tales. Being of the literary persuasion, I wanted to share with my son this part of his heritage. When we first started the adoption process it wasn’t Fodors or Lonely Planet I turned to learn about Russia, but Pushkin, Gogol, and Dostoyevsky.

So I curled up with this book, imagining a time when I might curl up with a little boy and read him fantasies from a foreign land. I quickly discovered that Russian fairy tales contain the basic plotline for many modern horror movies. The makers of Saw definitely read these.

Most stories begin or end with someone getting beaten. People get shoved down holes, chopped up and stuffed into baskets, animals defecate on people’s faces, farmers get killed by overgrown root vegetables.

The first story I turned to, naturally, was called The Wife Who Loved Stories Too Much. As you could have guessed, it’s about a woman who loved to hear people tell stories. This greatly annoyed her husband who to get her to stop loving stories so much, basically beat the living blini out of her. The end.

I suppose if someone from another culture read the fairy tales of my childhood they’d be equally disturbed. There's the witch who likes to bake little children in her oven, a cross dressing wolf who gobbles up little girls, princesses in comas, and old women living in footwear.

The thing I loved about Russian fairy tales is that while evil is very straightforward, goodness is hidden in unexpected places. What seems to be an evil witch is really a kind old lady who will buy you dresses if you show kindness to the mice in her house. A simple ring can build entire palaces overnight. The very forest you’re traipsing through will give you directions if you only ask.

Friday, just when we were starting to feel like we’d never go to Russia, Danny and I got a call that we’ll leave on Saturday. And now every minute seems to drag so slow. After nearly four years of waiting to be a mom, it’s very difficult not to rush through these moments, skip to the happily ever after. But I’ve decided to let the minutes drag, savor them. This is a time to be soaked up. It’s a getting ready time and imagining time. A time for day dreaming and arranging my very own fairy tales.

A popular phrase in Russian fairy tales is, Some time passed, a long time or a short time. Years from now I probably won’t even remember how long the days and weeks felt until our son came home, I’ll just remember that we waited, wished and hoped and then there he was, like magic.


james ford said...

i am very very happy for you, stephanie. you and danny both deserve this and the world doesn't always give us what we deserve.

modern horror has always been reflective of our times. in the 1950s it was about foreign things attacking us (THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, THE BLOB, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS). in the 1970s it was a representation of the right maintaining order... the smokers, tokers and sexually active die not doing what their told and the virginal "final girl" (which is an actual film term) is left to survive. FRIDAY THE 13TH, HALLOWEEN, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. the idea being if women did what they were told to do (ie, be good girls), they'll survive the threat but not actually kill it.

that being said, enjoy your trip. come back safe. three is a magic number.

Tom said...

have you found Baba Yaga yet? (scary old witch who would eat children, lived in a hut with chicken feet so it could move around the forest and could be anywhere...)
I actually took a class on Fairy Tales in undergrad and the Russian ones were just a tad scarier.

SLS said...

Have a wonderful trip - I've followed your blog since I saw your comments on the Russian adoption group a few months ago. We first went to Russia to bring our 8 month old son home in 1997 ! It was the most exciting MAGICAL event of my life... savor every minute !

Nicole said...

Hooray Stephanie - so thrilled for you both!

The fairy tales may not be the best stuff - but I gotta tell you there is amazing depth of thought and insight in Crime & Punishment. One of the better books on crime.

Also it will put the kid to sleep for years until he gets it. Bonus!

Kornopolous said...

Congrats! Please, please, remember to inform everyone who wants to come to your lovely theme parties for your son.

oh, and you should check out Jane Yolen's work.... (tales of the Dream weaver - which is sadly out of print)
and this book....


ContraWhit said...

Well, Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales are pretty horrific too. In the original "Little Mermaid" she dies. (oops, spoiler alert.)

Steph, I am so excited and happy for you, Danny, and your little boy--and not just because he's going to marry my daughter, either.

You are all in my thoughts as the time passes s-l-o-w-l-y.