The generic distinction in the subtitle refers to the ""perfection of the short `merry tales' with their rapid-fire dialogue"" as compared with the ""loose structure and meandering"" of the larger designs, both styles the result of the oral tradition indigenous to the transmission of Russian lore. Mr. Daniels' selections echo this difference along with the others he notes in his readable Foreword--like the imbecile character of women in the ""merry tales"" as opposed to the dominance of female good sense in the fairy tales. These sixteen un-common stories are taken directly from their Russian sources (listed at the end) unlike the Virginia Haviland retellings, and borrow liberally from other versions to achieve the best possible effect. . . which they do. And they're far more sophisticated--complex in plot and twinklingly facetious--than the tiny Picture Tales by Valery Carrick. The colored pictures are nothing to write to your old Babushka about, but the way of the words is: Daniels speaks with a smile and evokes the laughs that this rakish wisdom warrants.