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Russian tales to inspire your Trans-Siberian journey

by Cassie Fiddler on January 31, 2014

Traditional stories and fairy tales reflect much of Russia’s rich cultural heritage and are woven into the culture, architecture and décor of the country. Some of the buildings even look as though they have jumped straight out of a children’s book.

Matryoshka dolls on display

There is a famous collection of folk and fairy tales originating from Russia, many of which were collected and published by Alexander Afanasyev between 1855 and 1863. His work was inspired by the renowned Brothers Grimm’s work, Grimm’s Fairy Tales. The most popular of the tales within Afanasyev’s collection include Vasilissa the Beautiful and The Frog Princess. In Russia, it is common for children to learn and hear of these stories from a young age; as these children grow up the tales become imbued in the charm and spirit of their communities. It would be a great idea, for adults and children alike, to read some of these marvellous tales in the weeks leading up to your Trans-Siberian trip.

Vailissa the Beautiful tells the tale of a young girl who, after the death of her mother, has to follow her stepmother’s rules and wait to find independence and love, much like the Cinderella story. Vasilissa is given a doll by her mother before she dies, and told to feed and water the doll in order to receive comfort and help.

The Frog Princess is a classic tale told in many countries across the world; the story of three princes who must shoot arrows in order to find their true loves. In the Russian variant, one prince’s arrow shoots a frog in the mouth and transforms the frog into a princess and from there romance blossoms with moments of tragedy and tension. Many of the tales cross over and match other tales which are derived from different cultures and countries; this is what keeps them intriguing and fascinating.

During walks and tours, visitors can also buy gifts which are synonymous with Russia’s folk heritage. Some great souvenirs to search for are the classic Russian nesting dolls which often depict scenes from famous fairy tales – the best ones are truly exquisite to look at! Costume dolls are another distinct item to purchase in Russia and make great gifts for young children and collectors alike.

Folk story illustrationA hotspot for child-friendly fun is The House of Fairy-tales or “Zhili-Byli”, in Moscow, meaning “once upon a time”. This museum is designed for children between the ages of 4-12 and teaches them all about the culture and traditions of folk tales. There are guides who appear before the children as fairy tale characters and they encourage children to impersonate characters and then set off on a fantasy journey. It’s a well-balanced mixture of charm and fun which can also be enjoyed by parents.

Within the countryside of Russia, tourists can find some rather gothic castles such as the Muromtzevo Mansion, located between Murom and Vladimir, which is now abandoned. This palace was built with a French style in mind and looks as though it has sprung out of a fairy tale. It would make an enjoyable and historical day trip, exploring the somewhat overgrown and mysterious grounds of this once magical palace.

Another attraction for the kids is the Children’s Musical Theatre of Moscow which puts on an array of amusing and colourful productions for children. Many of the shows incorporate folk and fairy tales and some are simply performances of famous stories. Though the theatre was designed to entertain children it is also a worthwhile trip for the entire family. Here you can find tickets for performances such as ‘Snow White’, ‘The Boy Giant’ and ‘Red Riding Hood’ among others.

(Photo by Gatanass and lednichenkoolga)


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