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The Russian Folktale by Vladimir Yakovlevich Propp

Vladimir Yakovlevich Propp and Sibelan Forresterforeword by Jack Zipes and Sibelan Forrester

Award Winner

Fairy-Tale Studies, Folklore, Literary Criticism and Theory, Translation

Published: September 2012
ISBN: 9780814334669
Pages: 416 Size: 6 x 9
Published: September 2012
ISBN: 9780814337219
Pages: 416 Size: EPUB

For anyone interested in Russian folklore—an area of study indispensable for an understanding of Russian culture in general—this excellently edited translation is an inestimable gift.

— Helen Goscilo

Vladimir Propp is the Russian folklore specialist most widely known outside Russia thanks to the impact of his 1928 book Morphology of the Folktale-but Morphology is only the first of Propp's contributions to scholarship. This volume translates into English for the first time his book The Russian Folktale, which was based on a seminar on Russian folktales that Propp taught at Leningrad State University late in his life. Edited and translated by Sibelan Forrester, this English edition contains Propp's own text and is supplemented by notes from his students.

The Russian Folktale begins with Propp's description of the folktale's aesthetic qualities and the history of the term; the history of folklore studies, first in Western Europe and then in Russia and the USSR; and the place of the folktale in the matrix of folk culture and folk oral creativity. The book presents Propp's key insight into the formulaic structure of Russian wonder tales (and less schematically than in Morphology, though in abbreviated form), and it devotes one chapter to each of the main types of Russian folktales: the wonder tale, the "novellistic" or everyday tale, the animal tale, and the cumulative tale. Even Propp's bibliography, included here, gives useful insight into the sources accessible to and used by Soviet scholars in the third quarter of the twentieth century.

Propp's scholarly authority and his human warmth both emerge from this well-balanced and carefully structured series of lectures. An accessible introduction to the Russian folktale, it will serve readers interested in folklore and fairy-tale studies in addition to Russian history and cultural studies.

Sibelan Forrester is professor of Russian in the Department of Modern Languages at Swarthmore College. She has published translations of prose and poetry from Croatian, Russian, and Serbian, including Irena Vrkljan's The Silk, the Shears and Elena Ignatova's The Diving Bell.

Elegantly translated and meticulously edited by Sibelan Forrester, professor of Russian at Swarthmore College, The Russian Folktale offers a wealth of information. . . As Propp succinctly declares, ‘ ideas are born because they meet the demands of the era’ (131). The Russian Folktale is a rich example of this dictum.

– Kirsten Møllegaard, Folklore

Sibelan Forrester's new translation of Vladimir Propp's The Russian Folktale is an invaluable resource for all scholars in literary theory, folklore, and folktale studies. Her erudite and insightful editorial comments place Propp's work into the context of both Russian and Western scholarly tradition.

– Marina Balina, Isaac Funk Professor and professor of Russian studies at Illinois Wesleyan University

For Anglophone readers of Vladimir Propp's most famous publication-the rigorously structuralist Morphology of the Folktale (1928; English version 1958)-the first translation of his posthumously published The Russian Folktale (1984) will prove a stunning revelation. An impressively wide-ranging work that stimulates through speculation, it provides precisely what the early elaboration of functions declaratively lacks: an etiology of genre, a broad historical perspective, analyses of individual tales, commentary on tale-tellers, engagement with previous scholarship, and examination of a sufficiently broad European context to enable thought-provoking insights into the distinctiveness of Russian folk narratives. For anyone interested in Russian folklore-an area of study indispensable for an understanding of Russian culture in general-this excellently edited translation is an inestimable gift.

– Helena Goscilo, professor and chair of Slavic and Eastern European languages and cultures at The Ohio State University

The book is so clearly written and informative that it can be read without trouble by students and scholars...Reading The Russian Folktale makes me dream of a one-volume survey on the history and theory of folktales around the world, which would be as comprehensive, readable, and authoritative as this book is about Russia.

– Lee Haring, Marvels & Tales: Journal of Fairy-Tale Studies

The Russian Folktale is vibrant and engaging, and, paired with the entertaining and varied tales in Russian Magic Tales, it encourages us to let tales of magic ensnare us, whether as scholars or as audience members, as they always have.

– Jeanna Jorgensen, Journal of Folklore Research

  • 2013 Heldt Prize from the Association for Women in Slavic Studies - Result: Winner in the category of Translation
  • 2013 Choice Outstanding Academic Title - Result: Winner
  • 2014 AATSEEL Book Prize - Result: Winner of the Book Prize for Best Scholarly Translation into English