The Frog Princess

Russian verbal folklore includes a great variety of genres, from a proverb to bylina (oral epic narrative poem), from a chastushka (a humorous song) to legend, and of course the most alluring and entertaining folklore area is fairy-tales. Fairy tales involve magical, fantastic or wonderful episodes, characters, events, or symbols. As with folktales, fairy tales are narratives that are not taken literally and believed to be fictional. The settings are usually not set in our time and space and take place in unspecified, generic places, for instance, once upon a time in a magical kingdom…

Surprisingly, it was the urban middle-class, riding on a pan-European wave of the 19th century romanticism, which decided on fairy-tales as central national symbols towards the end of the nineteenth century. In the meantime, folkloric heritage is not regulated by the international norms or by intellectual property rights. Baba Yaga, the old crone who is both wise and cruel, who lives in a house standing on chicken legs is the iconic witch of Slavic fairy tales. The Golden Fish, a character from a tale by Russian writer Alexander Pushkin, which has the power to make any wish come true, is similar to "The Fisherman and His Wife" by the Brothers Grimm. Many children are familiar with Snow White's evil stepmother and her poisonous apple, Cinderella's fairy godmother, and the witch in the gingerbread house waiting to eat Hansel and Gretel for dinner. These stories, made popular by the Grimm brothers and Walt Disney, bear a passing resemblance to Pushkin’s and the European fairy tales.

Russian and Ukrainian folklore traditions claim the same well known and loved by Russian speakers across the former Soviet Union fairy tale characters as their own. The disputed characters include a medieval knight called Ilya Muromets known for his superhuman strength, Speckled Hen, a creature, which miraculously lays golden eggs, and Kolobok, a cheerful talking cake who flees animals eager to eat him. At the same time, "The Cossack Fairy Tales" contain uniquely Ukrainian elements, such as magic handkerchiefs and hemp-and-tar whips with the power to expel demons, though each Cossack group has a unique history, strongly influenced by their location.

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