Gloria Mundi's Reviews > Про Федота-стрельца, удалого молодца

Про Федота-стрельца, удалого молодца by Leonid Filatov
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's review
Aug 03, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: i-think-this-is-funny, plays, poetry, russian, fairy-tales, favourites, russian-folklore, weres

The Tale of Fedot-strelets is a satirical play in verse written in 1985 by Leonid Filatov and is hugely popular in Russia. Leonid Filatov was primarily an actor, though he also directed theatre and films and wrote a number of books of which Fedot-strelets is by far the most popular. I have stumbled across a translation into English here: which may give an English speaker some idea of this book though, inevitably, it is just a shadow of the original as a lot of the humour is in the particular phrasing used by Filatov which is untranslatable.

The play is written in folk fairytale style with some modern terminology woven in to comical effect and you can often hear Russian people using phrases from the book without even realising they are doing so, because many have since become colloquialisms. All the characters are common Russian folklore figures which a Russian audience will recognise immediately.

The main cast:

Fedot, a wise cracking, vainglorious and incredibly lucky hunter/soldier:

The Tsar, a petty and malicious tyrant and an old lothario:

Marusja, a beautiful maiden of typical Russian folklore stock, one who will cook, clean, pander to the man's every whim, play the violin and solve every problem that he has ever had:

They all seem to have huge sad eyes. Don't think the one in the picture turned into a bird of any kind but plenty of them do turn into pigeons, swans, doves and the like. In Russian folklore there were even two types of bird women, Alkonost and Sirin, which I find fascinating. Both used to sing heavenly songs with the former making you forget everything and the latter being prophetic.

Baba Yaga, a forest dwelling evil witch:

The General, a lazy fool happy to follow all orders:

The tale is narrated by the jester who makes a number of shrewd observations along the way and starts with Fedot being ordered by the Tsar to bring a pheasant or a grouse from the hunt. While on this task, Fedot comes across a pigeon who begs him to spare her life and then turns into the beautiful maiden, Marusja. Unsurprisingly, Fedot is not the only one who thinks that Marusja is a real find. Having learned of Marusja from the General, the Tsar sends Fedot on a number of quests thought up by Baba Yaga in an attempt to kill him off on the sly so that the Tsar may marry Marusja, finally sending him to get that which cannot exist. There are a number of side characters including the Tsar's daughter, a spoilt princes who the Tsar tries to marry off to every foreign envoy (including one from a tribe of cannibals) and her nurse, an old woman with a sharp-tongue.

I really love this book but, I guess, when it comes right down to it, it's not a literary masterpiece by any stretch and my love for it has probably more to do with my own nostalgia than anything else. Plus it's really funny (in Russian at least). However, while not being an original folk tale itself, this book is closely based on one and does provide a very accurate and humorous look at the quintessential Russian fairytale and also represents an excellent example of the social and political satire in Russia both at the time when the book was written but also throughout most Russian history, with the Tsar and the General being caricatures of the political and executive powers, respectively, and Fedot representing the people.
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