So I've been SurLaLune Fairy Tales now for 16 years. I am aware of a LOT of fairy tale related things every year. And, yes, I am a little jaded at times although not really as much as I would expect. Also, I have never been an overly effusive person. But sometimes I see a new release announcement and my heart beats an even stronger pitter patter than usual with excitement. One of those times this year was when I saw the announcement for this book: The Complete Folktales of A. N. Afanas'ev: Volume I by Jack V. Haney (Editor). There may have even been an "Awesome!" said to my computer monitor. And, no, it didn't talk back to me.
Then I immediately preordered it--hang the price--I get to do that every so often when something makes my heart go pitter patter like that. This weekend, the book arrived on my doorstep, and I might have said a few excited words to it when I opened the box, too. I'm such a folklore geek. And I considered going asking for a review copy--I should have--but it was June 17th and I had a houseful of kids and little time to find the right person at the publisher to ask at the time.
Needless to say I haven't had time to read the book yet, but explore it I have, and I am now just eager to know when the next volumes will appear.
Why am I so excited? Because there isn't a reliable English translation of Afanas'ev's Narodnye russkie skazki in its entirety. I know. I've gone looking for more obscure tales that don't appear in English many times over the years. That said there are many, many websites with unattributed Cyrillic versions of Afanas'ev works out there and sometimes someone enterprising has posted an English translation without any attribution of source or scholar with questionable copyright, too. Finding random sites with Afanas'ev in Cyrillic is as ubiquitous as finding Grimms on the web. But mostly you can't rely on the source for a scholarly approach thanks to that lack of attribution. Then it's an adventure to let Google make an interesting translation when only the Cyrillic is available. All very messy but something is better than nothing when one doesn't read Cyrillic. And finding the tale you want when needing to do so using Cyrillic takes some clever footwork on my part but I've gotten rather good at it.
One of the best offerings of Afanas'ev's tales in English to date is Russian Fairy Tales (The Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library) translated by Norbert Guterman, and it remains excellent, but it is very incomplete relative to the size of Afanas'ev's original collection. It rarely has the obscure tale I am searching for either during my research.
This new book, volume I, contains 178 tales, so I imagine there will be at least two more volumes with more than 400 tales to go. I'm not going to list all 178 tales--that's too much typing for me--but the contents also include:
Introduction: A. N. Afanas'ev: His Life and Works
On Translating Afanas'ev's Collection of Folktales
Haney "is a retired professor of Slavic languages and literatures, University of Washington" and he previously wrote a few volumes on Russian folklore, including a 7 volume series from Routledge of the Complete Russian Folktale which I should really give its own post this week. So I will. Tune it for that tomorrow. I imagine several of the tales in this series will be drawn from that series, but organized differently with new additions, since the focus here is solely Afanas'ev's works.
There are AT numbers for the tales in the Commentaries along with source notes. So there is a minor quibble that it doesn't use the more up-to-date ATU folklore classification system instead, but I'm not complaining. I'm always grateful when the system is offered in any form because tale typing is a beast and I hate doing it myself.
The folktales of A. N. Afanas'ev represent the largest single collection of folktales in any European language and perhaps in the world. Widely regarded as the Russian Grimm, Afanas'ev collected folktales from throughout the Russian Empire in what are now regarded as the three East Slavic languages, Byelorusian, Russian, and Ukrainian. The result of his own collecting, the collecting of friends and correspondents, and in a few cases his publishing of works from earlier and forgotten collections is truly phenomenal. In his lifetime, Afanas'ev published more than 575 tales in his most popular and best known work, Narodnye russkie skazki. In addition to this basic collection he prepared a volume of Russian legends, many on religious themes, an anthology of mildly obscene tales, and voluminous writings on Slavic folk life and Slavic mythology. His works were subject to the strict censorship of ecclesiastical and state authorities that lasted until the demise of the Soviet Union at the end of the twentieth century. Overwhelmingly, his particular emendations were of a stylistic nature, while those of the censors mostly concerned content. The censored tales are generally not included.
Up to now, there has been no complete English-language version of the Russian folktales of Afanas'ev. This translation is based on L. G. Barag and N. V. Novikov's edition (Moscow: Nauka, 1984-1986), widely regarded as the authoritative edition. The present edition includes commentaries to each tale as well as its international classification number.