Books by Galina Smirnova

Released: Dec. 1, 1993

``If you don't know the tundra you get lost hunting, if you don't know fairy-tales you get lost in life,'' say the Mansi, one of 17 Siberian ``folks''—from Russian to groups numbering only a thousand—represented in the 67 tales in this entrancing import. Published in 1992 in Siberia, where it has sold 60,000 copies, it's a fat, attractive volume with colorful illustrations, intriguing folkloric symbols and borders, and amply spaced parallel columns of its Russian and English texts. The latter can be naively literal (see title), but the stories have such elemental simplicity that it doesn't matter; by and large, the translation is pleasingly energetic and direct. Most of the tales are why stories or animal fables, sometimes recalling more familiar traditions—western European (``Puss in Boots''; ``The Ant and the Grasshopper'') or, interestingly, Native American; but the pervasive tone of these tales of hunters and herders of the tundra and forests of the far north is remarkably gentle. Morals, if any, are understated; trickster tales are rare; evildoers are more likely to reform than be punished (e.g., a sorceress who turns men into flowers loses her magic and goes home with the man who frees the others); quiet wisdom, closely linked to the earth, prevails. The art is beautifully composed and vibrant with life and humor; sharply observed, realistically portrayed animals slyly caricature their human counterparts, whose lovingly depicted traditional attire they wear. A rare and fascinating find. Glossary. (Folklore. 4+) Read full book review >