12/07/2008 § Leave a comment
I’ll be returning to my discussion of American Folktales in subsequent posts.
My lifelong fascination with fairy stories has gone through many ups and downs. It was increased dramatically when, a few years ago, Gemma bought me a volume of Russian Fairy Tales. The collection is with little illustration, and the stories are delivered with absolutely no censoring on behalf of little children (something I despise immensely).
The volume Russian Fairy Tales collected by Aleksandr Afanas’ev is translated by Norbert Guterman with the clear intention of historical accuracy and not meant to be dressed up and edited for content as is so often the case. Todays brand of hyper sexualization is much more subtle than the sexuality in stories like these. You get boners with Pecos Bill narratives (inappropriate), but scantily clad fairies and Arabian queens (appropriate(?)) with Disney. If you ask me, I’ll take boners every time. I digress.
While the American tales seem to have a clear obsession with the crudeness of people and enormous objects, the Russian fairytales very often choose to look at the ridiculousness and stupidity of human nature. No matter how dumb the characters in one story appear, there are always going to be new characters (very similar to the previous) who top the former character’s vacuous behavior.
Lutoniushka is a perfect example. It appears on page 336 of this edition. The title character is not the imbecile, as is the case in many of the other stories; the imbecile or imbeciles in this case, is everyone else. It begins with his parents.
Lutonia’s mother drops a log and starts weeping. His dad checks on her to see what is wrong. She tells him and he starts weeping. After much lamenting, Lutonia walks in to see what is wrong. She tells him:
” If you had been married, and if you had had a little son, and if, a few hours ago he had been sitting right here, he would have been killed by the log–it fell just on this spot, and with what a bang!”
Lutonia has a very simple response. He dons his cap and proclaims that he is leaving, and “…if I find anyone more stupid than you, I shall return.”
The story takes him to a few more people who are doing almost equally stupid things and ends with Lutonia having a bite of hasty pudding, then climbing atop a stove and falling asleep.