To Main Page

To The Book List

International Folktales Collection

To Next Book

To Previous Book

Book No. 23

To first story in the book press: 1006

To last story in the book press: 1065

Sixty Folk-Tales from Exclusively Slavonic Sources

Wratislaw A. H.

Sixty Folk-Tales from Exclusively Slavonic Sources, A. H. Wratislaw, London, 1889

This collection of Slavic folktales at first glance appears to have all of the usual suspects of European Märchen. Evil stepmothers: check; plucky youths overcome impossible odds to marry kings' daughter: check; dimwitted peasants given magical gifts: check.

What makes this book special are some tales and motifs that hint at even older lore. Number 27 is for all intents and purposes identical to the Native American 'Earth Diver' creation myth. In 47, man is created from a drop of God's sweat. There are two tales of a global flood in 48 and 49. In 36 there is a very dark 'Abraham and Isaac' story which goes a bit further than the Bible. In 51, there is a story of a hundred-leaved rose bush which resembles images from the Kabbalah and Yogic lore. And number 59 is the tale of St. Patrick in a Balkan setting. All in all, a great anthology of eastern European folklore.


So much interest has lately been awakened in, and centred round, Folk-lore, that it needs no apology to lay before the British reader additional information upon the subject. Interesting enough in itself, it has been rendered doubly interesting by the rise and progress of the new science of Comparative Mythology, which has already yielded considerable results, and promises to yield results of still greater magnitude, when all the data requisite for a full and complete induction have been brought under the ken of the inquirer. The stories of most European races have been laid under contribution, but those of the Slavonians have, as yet, been only partially examined. Circumstances have enabled me to make a considerable addition to what is as yet known of Slavonic Folk-lore, although I cannot make any pretence to having exhausted the mine, or, rather, the many mines, which the various Slavonic races and tribes possess, and which still, more or less, await the advent of competent explorers.

In offering to the public a selection of sixty folk-lore stories translated from exclusively Slavonic sources, it is but fitting to give some account of the work from which I have derived them. In 1865, the late K. J. Erben, the celebrated Archivarius of the old town of Prague, published a 'Citanka,' or reading-book, intended to enable Bohemians to commence the study of all the numerous Slavonic dialects, containing 'one hundred simple national tales and stories, in their original dialects.' To this he appended a vocabulary, with explanations of words and forms strange to, or divergent from, the Bohemian, briefly given in the Bohemian language. This vocabulary is divided into two parts, one illustrating the tales of those Slavonians who make use of the Cyrillic characters, and belong to the Orthodox Greek Church; and the other, those of the Catholic and Protestant Slavonians, who employ alphabets founded on the Latin characters of the West of Europe. Pan Erben paid special attention to the preservation of the simple national forms of speech, as taken down from the lips of the people; and, besides laying printed collections under contribution, obtained several previously unpublished stories.

Beginning with his native tongue, the Bohemian language, he passes on to the closely-allied Moravian and Hungarian-Slovenish (Slovak) dialects, and then takes the Upper and Lower Lusatian, the former of which is related to the old Bohemian, while the latter inclines rather to the Polish language. He next goes on to the Kashubian, a rapidly-perishing sub-dialect of Polish, and then to the Polish tongue itself.

Next comes the White Russian, forming a transition from Polish to Great Russian, whereas the Little Russian in Galicia, the Ukraine, and South Russia, is more nearly allied to the Bohemian than to the White Russian. The ancient Russian language, which was also much allied to the Old Bohemian, is the basis of the present written Russian, and presents a transition to the Bulgarian, which, in the north-west, melts into the Serbian, which again, in its Croatian branch, near Varazdin, approaches most nearly to the Bohemian. The Illyrian-Slovenish of Carinthia, though, in locality, least distant from Bohemia, exhibits forms most removed from the Bohemian language, just as the Upper Lusatian is less allied to the Bohemian than is the locally-distant Kashubian.

I took up the book, originally, for the purpose for which it was compiled, viz., that of obtaining an acquaintance with the main features of all the Slavonic dialects, but found myself tempted, by the extreme beauty of some of the stories, to translate the major portion of them. That I do not present a still larger selection to the reader is due to the fact that so many of the Great Russian skazkas have been so admirably translated, edited, and illustrated by my friend – alas! that I must now term him my late friend – Mr. W. R. S. Ralston, that I have scarcely considered them as coming within the sphere of the present work.

For an essay on the singular mythical being, Kurent, occurring only in the Serbian tales from Carniola, and as yet unnoticed in any work on Slavonic mythology, I am indebted to Professor Gregor Krek, of Grätz, in Styria. This will be found prefixed to the stories which it illustrates.

I have also prefixed a short introduction, containing various matters of interest, to each set of tales, as they follow each other, according to their different languages, dialects, or sub-dialects.

The table of contents immediately following will give a general view of the stories and their respective sources, arranged under the three heads of: (a) The Western Slavonians, (b) the Eastern Slavonians, and (c) the Southern Slavonians.

To Next Book

To Privious Book