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The Tale of the Dead Princess and the Seven…
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The Tale of the Dead Princess and the Seven Knights (1833)

by A. Pushkin

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There are many variants, worldwide, of the tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, although western readers will probably be most familiar with the version collected by the Brothers Grimm. Some of these stories feature seven robbers, rather than seven dwarves, and others show the wicked stepmother consulting the moon, rather than an enchanted mirror.

The Tale of the Dead Princess and the Seven Knights is not a genuine folk-variant however, as it does not spring (to the best of my knowledge) from the Russian culture. Rather, it is a borrowing of the German version by the celebrated Russian author, Alexander Pushkin, who apparently owned a translation of the Brothers Grimm. Many of the details are changed to suit the audience: the King and Queen become the Tsar and Tsaritsa, the seven dwarves are transformed into the Seven Knights, a rather involved quest is dreamt up for the rescuing prince, who is in fact the princess' fiance.

But despite these changes, the tale of Snow White is still readily apparent, and this cross-cultural creation is very much a literary fairytale. It is also a poem, and therein lies the trouble, at least in this translation by Peter Tempest. Although I love the story, and am fascinated by the idea of Pushkin creating a Russian poem from a German tale, the form simply does not translate that well into English. The rhyming couplet scheme (I assume that this is how the original Russian reads) is terribly awkward, the language often contrived and hackneyed. Unfortunately, the illustrations by V. Konashevich are no more inspiring.

All in all, I would say that this short poem offers an interesting footnote to the study of fairytales, but is probably not worth seeking out for its own sake, unless a better translation can be found. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Jul 8, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
A. Pushkinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Boland, HansTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Konashevich, V.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tempest, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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