Tag Archives: russian

Russian Children’s Song about a Sheep

Main Piece: Russian Song/Rhyme

Протекала речка, / через речку мост, / на мосту овечка, / у овечки хвост.
Эх, раз, два, три, четыре, пять, шесть, семь, aх семь, шесть, пять, четыре, три, два, один.
Пересохла речка, / развалился мост, / умерла овечка, / отвалился хвост.
Эх, раз, два, три, четыре, пять, шесть, семь, aх семь, шесть, пять, четыре, три, два, один.
Мне не жалко речки, / мне не жаль моста, / мне не жаль овечки, / а мне жаль хвоста.
Эх, раз, два, три, четыре, пять, шесть, семь, aх семь, шесть, пять, четыре, три, два, один.

Не было-б речки, / не было-б моста. / Не было-б овечки, / не было-б хвоста.

Эх, раз, два, три, четыре, пять, шесть, семь, aх семь, шесть, пять, четыре, три, два, один.

Phonetic:

Protekala rechka, / cherez rechku most, / na mostu ovechka, / u ovechki khvost.
Ekh, raz, dva, tri, chetyre, pyat’, shest’, sem’, akh sem’, shest’, pyat’, chetyre, tri, dva, odin.
Peresokhla rechka, / razvalilsya most, / umerla ovechka, / otvalilsya khvost.
Ekh, raz, dva, tri, chetyre, pyat’, shest’, sem’, akh sem’, shest’, pyat’, chetyre, tri, dva, odin.
Mne ne zhalko rechki, / mne ne zhal’ mosta, / mne ne zhal’ ovechki, / a mne zhal’ khvosta.
Ekh, raz, dva, tri, chetyre, pyat’, shest’, sem’, akh sem’, shest’, pyat’, chetyre, tri, dva, odin.
Ne bylo-b rechki, / ne bylo-b mosta. / Ne bylo-b ovechki, / ne bylo-b khvosta.
Ekh, raz, dva, tri, chetyre, pyat’, shest’, sem’, akh sem’, shest’, pyat’, chetyre, tri, dva, odin.

Translation:

A river ran / a bridge across the river. / On the bridge a sheep, / the sheep had a tail.

Eh, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, ah seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.

The river ran dry, / the bridge fell apart. / The sheep died, / the tail fell off.

Eh, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, ah seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.

I do not feel sorry for the river, / I do not feel sorry for the bridge, / I do not feel sorry for the sheep, / but I’m sorry for the tail.

Eh, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, ah seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.

If here was no river, / there would be no bridge. / If there was no sheep, / there would be no tail.

Eh, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, ah seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.

 

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

This is a song/rhyme that he learned in kindergarden.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

The Soviet Union.

  • What does it mean to them?

Its just a funny song/rhyme that can be accompanied by a guitar. While it is associated with children, it is also often associated with being drunk and wanting to sing.

 

Context:

  • Where?

At enjoyable gatherings.

  • When?

For children, whenever. For adults, usually when under the influence of alcohol.

  • Why?

For enjoyment.

 

Personal Thoughts:

My father and uncles and grandfathers taught me this song. If was always very fun to sing until the couplet when the sheep dies, which used to make me sad. It is a very strange and ironic song.

Russian Proverb about Beauty

Main Piece: Russian Proverb

“Красота требует жертв.”

Phonetic: Krasota trebuet zhertv.

Literal translation: Beauty requires sacrifice.

Actual translation:

Without pain/sacrifice, you will not achieve beauty.

 

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

She was often told this proverb by her grandmother.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

The Soviet Union

  • What does it mean to them?

She takes this proverb fairly seriously, and actual believes that in order to appear beautiful, one has to do things that one may not enjoy / are unpleasant.

 

Context:

  • Where?

N/A

  • When?

When a person, usually a woman, is encouraging another person, also usually a woman, to do some sort of procedure that is unpleasant/painful in order to appear more attractive.

  • Why?

To provide encouragement for the person to do something unpleasant.

 

Personal Thoughts:

This proverb is essentially the same as “no pain, no gain” except it is usually used only for women and concerning the many different painful procedures that women have to do in order to appear “attractive” based on societal beauty standards. I personally do not believe this proverb in its literal sense, but I can find application for this proverb in other ways, such as applying it to studying and schoolwork, or exercise and health.

Russian Proverb about Carefullness

Main Piece: Russian Proverb

“Семь раз отмерь, один раз отрежь.”

Phonetic: Sem’ raz otmer’, odin raz otrezh’.

Literal translation: Seven times measure, one time cut.

Actual meaning: Measure something seven times before cutting it once.

 

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

It was often told to him by his mother to encourage him to be more careful.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

The Soviet Union

  • What does it mean to them?

Before cutting something, or doing a project such as a piece of furniture, he makes sure to plan it out and measure everything carefully so that he does not mess up the project.

 

Context:

  • Where?

Anywhere

  • When?

When someone is doing an important project

  • Why?

To encourage carefulness.

 

Personal Thoughts:

I have often heard this proverb growing up, and only ever realized how important it is to be careful and plan when doing things as I got older. Its very helpful when doing projects.

Disheveled Girl Proverb

Main Piece: Proverb

Original:

Распустила дуня косы и за нею все матросы!

Phonetic:

Raspustila dunya kosy i za neyu vse matrosy!

Translation:

Dyuna (a slang word that is both a name and means “silly girl”) let down her braids, and all the sailors came running after her.

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

This was told to her by her mother.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

Soviet Union

  • What does it mean to them?

This is a proverb that tells young girls to look presentable otherwise they will be chased by sailors.

Context:

This is told to disheveled girls to convince them to fix their appearance and put up their hair.

Personal Thoughts:

I think this is a very sexist proverb, as it is directly influencing the idea that a woman has to look a certain way in order to not receive unwanted attention from men.

Katyusha Song

Main Piece:

Original:

Расцветали яблони и груши,/Проплыли туманы над рекой.

Выходила на берег катюша,/На высокий берег на крутой.

Выходила, песню заводила/Про степного сизого орла,

Про того, которого любила,/Про того, чьи письма берегла.

Ой ты, песня, песенка девичья,/Ты лети за дальней далью вслед

И бойцу на дальней пограничной/От катюши передай привет.

Пусть он вспомнит девушку родную,/Пусть услышит, как она поет,

Пусть он землю сбережет родную,/А любовь катюша сбережет.

Phonetic:

Rastsvetali yabloni i grushi,/Proplyli tumany nad rekoy.
Vykhodila na bereg katyusha,/Na vysokiy bereg na krutoy.
Vykhodila, pesnyu zavodila/Pro stepnogo sizogo orla,
Pro togo, kotorogo lyubila,/Pro togo, ch’i pis’ma beregla.
Oy ty, pesnya, pesenka devich’ya,/Ty leti za dal’ney dal’yu vsled
I boytsu na dal’ney pogranichnoy/Ot katyushi pereday privet.
Pust’ on vspomnit devushku rodnuyu,/Pust’ uslyshit, kak ona poyet,
Pust’ on zemlyu sberezhet rodnuyu,/A lyubov’ katyusha sberezhet.

Translation:

Blossomed apples and pears, / Fog flowed over the river.

On the riverbank walked out Katyusha, / On the tall, steep riverbank.

She walked out, and started to sing / About a wild eagle,

About the man that she loves / about the one whose letters she saves.

Oh, you song, song of a young girl / Fly far, far away,

And the the warrior, on the war front, / From Katyusha, bring a greeting.

Let him remember his beloved girl, / Let him hear, how she sings.

Let him guard his home land, / And Katyusha will guard their love.

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

She would sing this song a lot as a child.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

Soviet Union

  • What does it mean to them?

It is a song about loving your significant other and your country above all else.

Context:

  • This is a sweet, haunting song that can be sung when feeling sad.
Personal Thoughts:

This is a Soviet Era song that has had the lyrics changed many times by different people who sing it. It may have originally started as an authored song, but each person who sings it changes the lyrics slightly until it mutates over generations.

Cabbage Riddle

Main Piece: Riddle

Original:

Сто одежек и все без застежек.

– Капуста.

Phonetic:

Sto odezhek i vse bez zastezhek.
– Kapusta.

Translation:

One hundred outfits and each without clasps.

– Cabbage

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

This was told to him by his childhood friends

  • Where did they learn this piece?

Ukraine

  • What does it mean to them?

It’s an interesting riddle.

Context:

This is told by children to other children to play riddle games.

Personal Thoughts:

I have heard multiple variations of this riddle, including one where instead of the answer being “cabbage”, the answer is “onions.”

Scissors Riddle

Main Piece: Riddle

Original:

Два кольца, два конца, и по середине гвоздик.

– Ножницы.

Phonetic:

Dva kol’tsa, dva kontsa, i po seredine gvozdik.
– Nozhnitsy.

Translation:

Two rings, two points, and nail in the center.

– Scissors.

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

This was told to him by his childhood friends

  • Where did they learn this piece?

Soviet Union

  • What does it mean to them?

It’s an interesting riddle.

Context:

This is told by children to other children to play riddle games.

Personal Thoughts:

Personally, I find this riddle confusing, since rings are not what I associate with scissors. However, in the Soviet Union in the 1970’s, when the informant heard this riddle, scissors looked different from how scissors look now, and therefore this riddle would make sense.

The Frog Princess

The 26-year-old informant was born in Russia, but moved to the U.S. at a young age. During his undergraduate studies at Dartmouth College, he was a teaching assistant for a Russian folklore class and found these pieces of folklore to be particularly interesting or representative of Russian culture.

“So there’s this prince named Prince Ivan who has two older brothers. Their dad, the King tells them that they have to find wives and they must do so by shooting arrows in different directions to find their brides. The first two brothers shoot their arrows and they land in the houses of noble and wealthy merchants. Ivan shoots his arrow, and it lands in the mouth of a frog that lives in a swamp. Ivan gets upset and is like, “How am I supposed to marry a frog??” but the King says he must because that was the agreement and he must meet is fate.

So Ivan marries the frog and his brothers marry their beautiful brides, and after, the King tells his sons that he wants each of their wives to bake him some bread for the next day. Ivan is freaking out and goes home and his wife, the frog, asks him what’s wrong, so he tells her what his dad just asked of him and his brothers. The frog tells Ivan not to worry and that she’ll take care of it. She tells him “morning is wiser than the evening,” and so Ivan goes to bed. That night, the frog takes off her frog skin and turns into a beautiful maiden and bakes the bread. The next day, the King is impressed and likes the frog’s bread best.

He then asks the three wives to make him a full silk carpet, and that night, the frog does the same thing and makes the best carpet. The next day, there’s a ball at the palace and wants all the princes to come with their wives. Once again, Ivan is sad because how can he go to a ball with a frog? But the frog tells him to go to the ball alone, and when he hears thunder and the earth starts shaking, just tell the other guests not to worry and that it’s just your frog coming in a little box. Ivan does this.

At the ball, the frog performs other magical feats. One thing she does it pour some water into her left sleeve and bones into her right sleeve. So as she dances, she swings her left sleeve out and creates a lake. She swings her right sleeve out and swans appear on the lake. The other wives are understandably jealous and try to do the same thing, except since they have no magical powers,  they just spray water and bones at the King and the guests.

Meanwhile, Prince Ivan sneaks away back home and finds the frog skin lying on the ground. Since he wants his wife to stay in human form, he burns the skin. When his wife gets home, she’s like, “What did you do? If you had just been patient for one more night, I would’ve been free from this curse, but now you must find me 33 kingdoms away in the castle of Koshei the Deathless,” who’s like a major evil figure in Russian folklore.

So Ivan sets off on his quest, and he first sees an old man. He tells the old man of his misfortune, the old man says, “Why’d you burn the frog skin?” But he decideds to take pity on him and gives him a magic ball of yarn. and tells him to follow it to find the right path. Along the way he sees a bear, which he wants to kill, but the bear speaks to him and says “Don’t kill me! I’ll be useful to you in the future,” so Ivan takes pity on him.

Next, he sees a duck, and wants to kill it, but the duck also asks him to take pity, so Ivan takes pity again. Next, he sees a rabbit, and the same thing happens. Then, he comes across a fish trapped in a shallow pond, and the same thing happens.

So then, he reaches the home of a witch named Baba Yaga, who lives in a magical house on chicken legs. He tells the house to turn to face him, and it does, so he’s able to enter. Baba Yaga can be helpful or sometimes a cannibal, so she’s like, “What are you doing here, young man?” and he tells her she’s got bad manners because she’s asking a guest questions before offering a meal and a bath, which is really representative of Russian culture. So Baba Yaga then provides both, and then Ivan tells her of his dilemma.

Baba Yaga’s possibly the only creature that knows where to find Koshei’s death, which is on the tip of a needle. The needle is in an egg, and the egg is in a duck, and the duck is inside a rabbit, and the rabbit is in a big chest, chained to the top of a tall oak, which is hidden. So, Baba Yaga tells Ivan where to find the oak.

When Ivan gets there, he doesn’t know how to get to the chest. Suddenly, the bear he spared shows up and destroys the oak, and breaks the chest open. Out of the chest springs a rabbit, which runs away, but the rabbit that Ivan spared appears and kills it. Out of that rabbit, a duck flies into the sky, but the duck that Ivan spares kills it. Then, the egg with the needle falls into the sea, but the fish that Ivan saved retrieves it from the bottom of the sea. Ivan then breaks the needle, and now Koshei is mortal, so he defeats him, getting his wife back and living happily ever after.”

 

For another version of this fairytale, see Vasilisa the Beautiful. Dir. Vladimir Pekar. Soyuzmultfilm, 1977. Film.

The Snowmaiden, Snegurochka

Folklore Piece:

“Ok, so, there’s these two parents. Well, wait, not parents. There’s this couple, and they can’t have kids, and they’re, like, pretty old now. So it’s snowing one day, and the husband goes outside, and has an idea to build a snowgirl…? So like a little girl instead of a snowman. They made her look really realistic and then a stranger comes by one night, and he, like, does some sort of magic and then he leaves. Then, at night, the snowgirl comes to life. And so they’re really excited, because now they have a daughter, so they take her inside. But, she’s, like, snow, so they keep her from going outside as it becomes spring and summer, and in the summer the girl wants to go outside, um, and her parents always tell her ‘no’, and they don’t tell her why, they don’t tell her why, they don’t tell her that she’s snow. Um, so, the parents go to like the market, or they leave the house one day, and the girl goes outside, and she melts. And the parents come back and she’s, I guess, dead.”

 

Background information

I mean, I like it. It’s stuck with my all of these years. I don’t know, I didn’t do, like, a great job of telling it. I think the message is to always be honest, I guess? And I like that, I think if the parents were, um, more honest with their daughter they could’ve saved her.”

Context

My parents got, like, a little set of stories from India. It’s not an Indian story, but they used to read it to me at night. Sure enough, I actually met the informant’s mother later that day. I asked her about the story and she said, “Oh yes, we used to have plenty of books filled with little stories that we’d tell the kids before they went to bed. Not necessarily Spanish, or Indian, just some fairy tales and little stories.”

 

Analysis

I had originally asked this informant to participate because I knew that her and her family were very much still in touch with their roots. She visits India nearly every year, goes to Indian weddings, lived in Spain near her family for half a year, talks about all the traditional Spanish food her mom makes. So when I asked her to share with me some form of folklore, be it a proverb or a cultural event, or a story, that this is the one she thought of.

To be honest, it could have been because she had been around a previous informant who was also telling a tale, but I still believe it is telling. Out of all the stories that her mother told her over the  years, and I’m sure countless relatives had told her, she remembered “the one about the snow girl.” She couldn’t remember exactly what the story was for some time, and I suggested that maybe she think of something else. But she was adamant about teling this story; she called her mom, called her dad, called the house, and finally it clicked.

After more of my own research, I found the origin of the “Snow Girl” tale to be, in fact, Russian. The Snow Girl, or Snow Maiden, is formally known in Russian folklore as Snegurochka. There are many tales of Snegurochka, and many variations of this same story that the informant had told me. Here is a variant where she melts, but does so intentionally, after her parents compare her to the value of a hen when a fox brings her home from being lost in the woods. However, in this story, she refuses to leave with the fox, and her once banished dog brings her home and is rewarded, and she remains in tact and happy. To read yet another version, you may want to check out The Snow Maiden and Other Russian Tales by Bonnie Marshall. (Marshall, Bonnie C. The Snow Maiden and Other Russian Tales. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2004. Print.)

Beyond the interest of all these variations, however, is the context of this informants nationality telling this story. Clearly, with so many stories, the Snegurochka is something that Russian’s identify their culture with. Yet, here is a girl, whose parents are from countries that don’t even traditionally see snow, retelling the tale in Southern California as the one piece of folklore that she would like to share. This just goes to show that while one’s heritage and self-proclaimed culture are important, they are not all encompassing of the folkloric artifacts that they hold dear.

Masha and Natasha

AD’s grandma is originally from Kursk, Russia, and would always tell her fables and fairytales whenever AD came to visit. She has fond memories with her cousins sitting around her grandma as she would tell these stories in a thick accent. Her grandma would always compare herself to Baba Yaga or make jokes about her, and the stories were a very important part of their relationship. This was the most memorable fable she told AD. It follows many aspects of Propp’s fairytale structure, notable the abstention of a parent, an evil stepmother, a donor (the mouse), a test, and a homecoming. This is then repeated again by the other daughter, Natasha, but unsuccessfully, serving as a moral warning against selfishness.

“Masha is a sweet, prefect girl, a Cinderella type: beautiful, smart and sweet. She lives with her mother and father on farm. It’s nice but they don’t have a lot of money. Then, her mother dies, and her father remarries. The other woman has a daughter, Natasha, but she is opposite of Masha: ugly, spoiled, rude, selfish. Her mother loves her a lot. Masha’s dad loves the mom, plus she has money, which helps. The step mother does not like Masha, and wants Natasha to have all the opportunities. One day, she’s talking to her husband and says, “We cant afford to take care of both of these girls. Masha is smart and strong, she’ll be fine. Take her out in the forest and leave her with a candle and a little kasha (porridge) and she’ll be fine!”

After hesitation he agrees, and takes Masha, puts her in the cart with a candle & kasha. He then takes her into middle of the forest and doesn’t tell her what he’s doing. He says goodbye and leaves her. She’s cold and sad, so shemakes herself some kasha heated by candle. Then a little mouse comes over (“mouth” as pronounced by grandma) and asks

“Oh I’m so hungry, will you share with me?”

“Oh but I only have a little”

“Please, I’ll help you in return”

Masha, being generous and kind, gives him some. She doesn’t know here’s a bear in the forest, but all of a sudden the bear comes over and is like “Get out of my forest”

Mash says no.

The bear says, “Okay, I’ll make a little bet with you. I’m going to throw 3 stones. You are going to run in a circle around this cave. I’m going to close my eyes so I can’t see, and throw stones. If I hit you, you’re dead. if I miss all 3 times, I will give you all the riches, jewels, gowns and wealth you could want.”

Masha looks at the mouse, and the mouse says “Do it, I’ll help you.”

She takes the deal.

The mouse takes Masha’s place and runs in the circle while Masha stands aside.

The bear throws the 1st stone.

“Did I hit you?”

“No”

He throws the 2nd stone.

“Did I hit you?”

“No”

He throws the 3rd stone.

“Did I hit you?”

“No”

The mouse runs away. The bear gives Masha her riches, servants, and a beautiful carriage. The next morning, the rooster is crowing “coocuracoo.” Natasha looks and says “is that Masha?”

stepmom says,  “No she’s dead!”

“No it’s Masha!”

It’s her, returning with all these beautiful things. She has a happy reunion with father.

The stepmom can’t stand that Masha came back with all beautiful things. She wants the same thing for her daughter, and decides to send her out to same place so she can also get riches. Of course they send her with lots of food, lots of stuff, an entire full wagon into forest. The dad drops her off. She sits down and doesn’t know what to do, so she lights a candle and starts making food. The mouse comes over and says “Oh I know you”

“You don’t know me”

“Oh you’re not Masha”

The mouse asks for food, and she refuses to give him any because she’s spoiled.

Then the bear comes over, and proposes same deal he made to Masha.

Natasha takes the deal.

She starts running in the circle. obviously not as fast as the mouse who refuses to help her. He kills her with the first stone.

The next day, the rooster crows “coocooracooo”

The stepmother has been waiting for her daughter to return with the riches in a carriage, but all they see is the wagon coming, carrying Natasha’s bones.”