(9/10/02 8:39:53 pm)
| the frog princess|
I need some information about the Russian fairytale the Frog Princess. I have to write a paper on it, but I can't find any information about it. I know about its many fairytale elements but I didn't find any symbolism or anything along those lines. I would appreciate any iformation that I can get. Thanks very much.
(9/11/02 3:17:48 pm)
| Re: the frog princess|
Dang. I'm moving, and I just packed my copy of the Frog Princess. Can't remember the tale very well, either. Sorry I can't be of any help.
(9/11/02 6:08:50 pm)
Well, my first question would be this: which version are you using? Previously, I'd only been familiar with it in the original. To reaquaint myself with the story, I just went and checked the translation in the Pantheon edition - eesh, eesh, eesh.
The part that ticks me - personally - off the most is the fact that Yelena Premoudraya becomes Elena the Fair; a more accurate translation would be either Elena the Marvelous or Elena the Wise. (I'm actually doing a paper on this ... the respective values implied by the heroic epithets and descriptive adjectives applied to heroines in the Eastern and Western traditions, and to see them ruthlessly normalized for the sake of - what, familiarity? - makes me quite irrate, as it removes all of the original cultural values. Okay, sorry, end of rant; now back to our regularly scheduled programming.)
Symbollically, in the original, the prince is bound to the frog through the cast of the arrow; I can't find my original, but I seem to recall that the frog (who *speaks* in her amphibious state in the original, thus signalling that she is, in fact, more than just a frog) says something along the lines of, "Oh, Prince Ivan, as your arrow's flight was true, be true to your promise, obey your fate; wed me, and I will bring you good fortune!" Or something along those lines. The nature of the tasks set before her signify the typical duties of a woman in that culture - sewing and cooking - as well as those of a noblewoman - to look good, and behave diplomatically. The transformative nature of her behavior at the ball - turning sows ears into silk purses, or, rather, bones and dregs into wildlife and forestry indicate resurrective powers, and a close tie with nature; she has the ability to bring restore properties to their original states, and even to improve and increase upon them, demonstrating how good she would be for the land.
Ivan's quest to win her back after his high-handed and ill-thought out act of domination - burning her skin without her acquiecence - indicates a commensurate process of maturation; by the end of it, he learns respect for nature (in the form of the animals who help him), and receives the advice of masculine and feminine figures; with their assistance, he conquers Koshchey the Deathless, which could be seen, in a way, as restoring the natural balance of things, and wins back Elena, who, as it turns out, was banished to the frog's skin as half a quest and half a punishment, and they live happily ever after as equals. That's in the original ...
In the translation, no male advisor, no wise animals, no Koshchey the Deathless ... Instead, we have the trope of the three Baba Yaga figures, who are very deferential to the Prince(!) and a Princess who is on the verge of forgetting about her husband and marrying another! He gets there just in the nick of time, and the moral would seem to be that, well, sure, he burned her frog-skin, but she's borderline ammnesiac ... they deserve one another. Sheesh. If you're working with this version, no wonder the symbolism's difficult to interpret ...
Honestly, this translation is so heavily bowdlerized that I'm fair flushed with outrage ... I's thought that this sort of thing went out with the Victorians! I mean, sure, in Disney retellings or in things intended for children (which I don't approve of anyway), but in a supposedly scholarly text? I can only assume that the translator was working with a version that had already been edited by some overzealous Russian publisher, and that the translation to English compounded the errors ... Ah. Just checked the copyright date - 1945. Things begin to fall into place ...
Please, someone, restore my faith in humanity, and tell me that there's a more recent translation out there that you all are familiar with? One closer to the original?
(9/26/02 8:31:11 am)
It has been a while since you posted this last message so perhaps you have already found a better translation yourself, but just in case you haven't... I have a small book of Russian fairy tales called, The Russian Fairy Book translated by Nathan Haskell Dole. It is just one of those cheap Dover editions, but it says that the book was originally published in 1907, so not exactly recent, though it does seem to contain more of the original elements that you wrote of: Koshchei the Deathless, the male advisor, and animal helpers. The only thing is, is that the heroine is named Vasilisa (for some reason) rather than Elena, but she is call "All-wise" rather than "Fair."
I also found this translation on-line, which I like even better than the one in the book; one of the reasons being that when Prince Ivan first comes upon the frog, she says something like "marry me, for it is your destiny" (in the internet version), while in the book version, she says he must marry her or else he'll never escape from the bog...
Anyway, I was glad to learn of the disparity between the original and its translation (although not glad that there was one...), since it is something I probably would not have noticed otherwise; it is frustrating to not be able to read all of the tales in their original languages.