Russian Fairy Tales | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in October 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.


We will now turn from the forms under which popular fiction has embodied some of the ideas connected with Fortune and Misfortune, to another strange group of figures--the personifications of certain days of the week. Of these, by far the most important is that of Friday.

               The Russian name for that day, Pyatnitsa, [1] has no such mythological significance as have our own Friday and the French Vendredi. But the day was undoubtedly consecrated by the old Slavonians to some goddess akin to Venus or Freyja, and her worship in ancient times accounts for the superstitions now connected with the name of Friday. According to Afanasief, [2] the Carinthian name for the day, Sibne dan, is a clear proof that it was once holy to Siva, the Lithuanian Seewa, the Slavonic goddess answering to Ceres. In Christian times the personality of the goddess (by whatever name she may have been known) to whom Friday was consecrated became merged in that of St. Prascovia, and she is now frequently addressed by the compound name of "Mother Pyatnitsa-Prascovia." As she is supposed to wander about the houses of the peasants on her holy day, and to be offended if she finds certain kinds of work going on, they are (or at least they used to be) frequently suspended on Fridays. It is a sin, says a time-honored tradition, for a woman to sew, or spin, or weave, or buck linen on a Friday, and similarly for a man to plait bast shoes, twine cord, and the like. Spinning and weaving are especially obnoxious to "Mother Friday," for the dust and refuse thus produced injure her eyes. When this takes place, she revenges herself by plagues of sore-eyes, whitlows and agnails. In some places the villagers go to bed early on Friday evening, believing that "St. Pyatinka" will punish all whom she finds awake when she roams through the cottage. In others they sweep their floors every Thursday evening, that she may not be annoyed by dust or the like when she comes next day. Sometimes, however, she has been seen, says the popular voice, "all pricked with the needles and pierced by the spindles" of the careless woman who sewed and spun on the day they ought to have kept holy in her honor. As for any work begun on a Friday, it is sure to go wrong. [3]

               These remarks will be sufficient to render intelligible the following story of--


THERE was once a certain woman who did not pay due reverence to Mother Friday, but set to work on a distaff-ful of flax, combing and whirling it. She span away till dinner-time, then suddenly sleep fell upon her--such a deep sleep! And when she had gone to sleep, suddenly the door opened and in came Mother Friday, before the eyes of all who were there, clad in a white dress, and in such a rage! And she went straight up to the woman who had been spinning, scooped up from the floor a handful of the dust that had fallen out of the flax, and began stuffing and stuffing that woman's eyes full of it! And when she had stuffed them full, she went off in a rage--disappeared without saying a word.

                 When the woman awoke, she began squalling at the top of her voice about her eyes, but couldn't tell what was the matter with them. The other women, who had been terribly frightened, began to cry out:

                 "Oh, you wretch, you! you've brought a terrible punishment on yourself from Mother Friday."

                 Then they told her all that had taken place. She listened to it all, and then began imploringly:

                 "Mother Friday, forgive me! pardon me, the guilty one! I'll offer thee a taper, and I'll never let friend or foe dishonor thee, Mother!"

                 Well, what do you think? During the night, back came Mother Friday and took the dust out of that woman's eyes, so that she was able to get about again. It's a great sin to dishonor Mother Friday--combing and spinning flax, forsooth!



[1] From pyat = five, Friday being the fifth working day. Similarly Tuesday is called Vtornik, from vtoroi = second; Wednesday is Sereda, "the middle;" Thursday Chetverg, from chetverty = fourth. But Saturday is Subbòta.

[2] P.V.S., i. 230. See also Buslaef, "Ist. Och." pp. 323, 503-4.

[3] A tradition of our own relates that the Lords of the Admiralty, wishing to prove the absurdity of the English sailor's horror of Friday, commenced a ship on a Friday, launched her on a Friday, named her "The Friday," procured a Captain Friday to command her, and sent her to sea on a Friday, and--she was never heard of again.

[4] Afanasief, "Legendui," No. 13. From the Tambof Government.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Friday
Tale Author/Editor: Ralston, William Ralston Shedden
Book Title: Russian Fairy Tales
Book Author/Editor: Ralston, William Ralston Shedden
Publisher: Hurst & Co.
Publication City: New York
Year of Publication: 1873
Country of Origin: Russia
Classification: unclassified

Prev Tale
Next Tale

Back to Top