“This guy’s a merchant, okay? And this merchant asks his wife what she wants as like a gift. She just says she wants something nice. He goes somewhere in the Middle East. So this guy tells him ‘I have a goose that every time you cook him, he comes back to life. So when you put the bones in the dish, it comes back. So the wife’s cheating. She decides to cook this bird for her lover. It comes back to life and tells the husband that his wife is cheating. Wait—before that even happened, the goose tells the wife that he’s going to tell the husband she’s cheating. So the lover tries to kill the goose by leaving it in the oven burned. And long story short, the husband beat the shit out of the lover and beat the shit out of the wife. That’s the moral of the story. Russian stories are weird.”

This Russian story was valuable to Sean because it was “weird.” Sean is a college student who has spent all his life in Orange County, CA. He learned about this tale in a class he took and was compelled to retell it for me. He said he remembered the story because it was bizarre and had such a mixed moral message. The wife was wrong for cheating, the lover was wrong for trying to kill the bird, the bird might not have been right in telling about the infidelity and telling about informing the husband, and the husband was wrong for beating the wife and the lover. It seems the moral of the story is to “keep your mouth shut,” which is not typical in Western märchen, in which truth is always valued and things work out so as to accommodate the importance of the truth.

I think this tale was interesting for this reason and also because it follows Propp’s 31 Functions. There is an interdiction of fidelity that is violated when the husband makes his departure. The lover is the nemesis, who makes his appearance during this time. The magical donor, the man in the Middle East, gives a magical object, the goose, to the hero. The magical object helps defeat the nemesis, and the hero defeats the lover while “reclaiming” his wife. Depending on your particular culture and how badly you view infidelity compared to violence, the hero may become an antihero. Here it provides a spin on the classically-established pattern as described by Propp.