Discovering Russian Literature discussion

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GENERAL TOPICS > Animal Characters in Russian Literature

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message 1: by Amalie (new)

Amalie  | 650 comments Mod
Unusual it might sound, animals have a significant place in Russian literature compared to English literature. George Orwell's Animal Farm is a famous exception but then again it’s an allegory of the Russian Revolution.

Tell us the animal characters you've come across in Russian fiction.

Behemoth in The Master and Margarita
Madgie and Fidele (two dogs) in Nikolai Gogol's "Diary of a Madman"
So dogs and cats...


message 2: by Silver (new)

Silver Funny you should mention this as one thing I often notice I wondered about in reading Russian literature is how it seems often there are many examples of animal cruelty.

In just about every Dostoevsky story I have read there is always at least one episode of an animal being mistreated and some commentary upon it by others. And than I thought of it again when reading Master and Man in which there is a scene involving ill treatment of a horse.

I have always wondered what the significance of this might be since it pops up so often and by different authors.


message 3: by Terry (new)

Terry Silver wrote: "Funny you should mention this as one thing I often notice I wondered about in reading Russian literature is how it seems often there are many examples of animal cruelty.

In just about every Dos..."


One of the reasons this occurs in Dostoyevsky, is that the author witnessed the savage beating of a horse by its driver when he was very young, and it made a profound and lasting impression on him. The cruel beating of the horse was preceded by the driver having been beaten himself. In his notebooks for "Crime & Punishment" he wrote, ‘Never was I able to forget the courier, and much that was shameful and cruel in the Russian people I was then inclined for a long while, and as it were involuntarily, to explain in an obviously much too one-sided fashion.’
(Source: http://www.centerstage.org/crimeandpu...)


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Sharikh (the dog/man) in Bulgakov's Heart of the Dog.


message 5: by Natasha (new)

Natasha | 37 comments Kashtanka - a dog in the Chekhov's story of the same name.


message 6: by Capsguy (new)

Capsguy (goodreadscomcapsguy) | 3 comments The bad-ass bulldog in Dostoevsky's Netochka Nezvanova


message 7: by dely (new)

dely | 340 comments There is a dog in Mumu by Turgenev.


message 8: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) Levin's pet dog Laska in Anna Karenina. A dog who thinks human thoughts, only wiser. :)


message 9: by Alex (new)

Alex | 8 comments Platon Karatayev's stray dog in War and Peace.


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Aleksandr Kuprin. Belyi Pudel'.
Never seen a translated version, but there must be one.
White Poodle or something like that...Anybody?


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Nikolay G. Garin-Mikhailovsky. Tema's Childhood.
A classical story for those who were raised in Russia with a mesmerizing description of a boy climbing down the deep well into which his dog (Zhuchka)fell, and retreiving it back.


message 12: by BC (new)

BC | 8 comments Christi wrote: "Sharikh (the dog/man) in Bulgakov's Heart of the Dog."

This example is one of the more interesting 'animal' characters in Russian literature. The narrative includes the dog's thoughts before the 'operation', and his actions afterwards. There is a definite shift in how Sharik is portrayed.

Also, the fact that he becomes 'human' and fits well in the Stalinist system says something about how Bulgakov viewed people in those days!


message 13: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 19, 2011 07:11PM) (new)

The horses of Chichikov's troika:
the bay, Assessor, and the dappled.

Nikolay Vasilich even tells us about their feelings and thoughts.. :)


message 14: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 19, 2011 07:34PM) (new)

Amalie wrote: "Unusual it might sound, animals have a significant place in Russian literature compared to English literature. George Orwell's Animal Farm is a famous exception but then a..."

Amalie, your idea of the animal characters "hunt" turned out to be quite catching..
I would make a couple of qualifications though.. may I?
1. The characters should be more or less realism creatures. They should not be taken from a fairy tale or the like. Only Tolstoy's fairy tales can provide for a whole zoo.
2.They should be really characters and not mere supernumeraries. In War and Peace, Karataev's dog is a character, I believe, but remember how many dogs and horses are there in the novel (and even a wolf!)?
Chichikov addresses some insects at Nozdryov's.
I think those are supernumeraries and we shouldn't count them.
What do you think?


message 15: by Amalie (new)

Amalie  | 650 comments Mod
Andrew wrote: "Amalie wrote: "Unusual it might sound, animals have a significant place in Russian literature compared to English literature. George Orwell's Animal Farm is a famous exce..."

Hmm...we are off the track aren't we? Yes, I was kind a aiming for animals as characters, but when everyone starts listing it was too fun to spoil!

So guys tell us about animals who personify characters like Misha the bear in Andrei Platonov's The Foundation Pit who works as a blacksmith or as an assistant to a blacksmith.


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Nemo wrote: "Levin's pet dog Laska in Anna Karenina. A dog who thinks human thoughts, only wiser. :)"

Yes, the hunting scene.


There are plenty of animal characters in this one including a frog princess Russian Folk Tales Russian Folk Tales by Alexander Afanasyev
Do they count?


message 17: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 21, 2011 04:25PM) (new)

Shanez wrote: "Nemo wrote: "Levin's pet dog Laska in Anna Karenina. A dog who thinks human thoughts, only wiser. :)"

Yes, the hunting scene.


There are plenty of animal characters in this one includ..."

Oh, do you recommend this book of folk tales? I am looking for a good book of Russian folk/fairy tales, as I have not as yet read any. I have been long interested in them, and then a few weeks ago, as I was reading A Mountain of Crumbs by Gorokhova, I was made even more curious by her statement:

"There is a whole brigade in our folktales of characters who are incapable, sick, ugly, dumb, hunchbacked, or otherwise challenged. Yet they are the ones who seem to get all the spoils in the end...The question I have is this: Why is it always Ivan the Fool who gets the kingdom, and not the smart, learned princes or brave, sentimental knights..."

I started thinking of the faitytales and folktales I know of from our more western traditions, and it is Usually the good, kind and pure orphans who find the spoils, who are rescued by a dashing knight. I now want to compare, and to simply read and enjoy some Russian folktales. Can you recommend a good book? Thanks!


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

Christi wrote: "Shanez wrote: "Nemo wrote: "Levin's pet dog Laska in Anna Karenina. A dog who thinks human thoughts, only wiser. :)"

Yes, the hunting scene.


There are plenty of animal character..."



Christie,

you wrote,"...some Russian folktales. Can you recommend a good book?"

If you want to get acquanted with Russian fairy and folk tales, here's my recommendation:

Start with the tales by Aleksandr Pushkin.
'Ruslan and Lyudmila' is a MUST!
Despite being authored those tales sound really like 'folk'.
Reportedly, Pushkin re-tells us the stories he heard from his nanny Arena Rodionovna when he was a kid.
After Pushkin, there were more collectors and authors of fairy tales, but it's good to start with Pushkin regardless at least because it's such classic classics in Russia even among children that later authors often allude to Pushkin's characters and themes as known.
There may be a snag. Pushkin wrote in his favorate genre - verse, (and very easy and bright verse besides). There are plenty of translations - I'm sure. But as to how they sound or which one to choose - I simply don't know.. (I only know that verse is much harder to translate than prose).
Does anybody know anything about Pushkin's tales in translation?


message 19: by Gloria (new)

Gloria Mundi (gloriamundi) | 9 comments Krylov's fables are mainly about animals. His tale about the crow and the fox is particularly famous, though there are many others. I'm not sure whether that counts, as it is quite common in fables generally, including Orwell's Animal Farm.

Russian folk tales are full of magic animals (firebird and the magic talking cat come to mind straight away) and people turning into animals (lambs, birds etc).


message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

Andrew wrote: "Christi wrote: "Shanez wrote: "Nemo wrote: "Levin's pet dog Laska in Anna Karenina. A dog who thinks human thoughts, only wiser. :)"

Yes, the hunting scene.


There are plenty of anima..."



Thank you, Andrew. I will try to find a copy of Pushkin's Ruslan and Lyudmila! I have been afraid to attempt Pushkin's most famous work, Eugene Onegin, because it is in verse, but I know it is a must-read. Maybe if I can find a nice translation of Ruslan and Lyudmila, I will not only read a nice folktale, but also prepare myself for more Pushkin. I appreciate your suggestion :)


message 21: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 21, 2011 05:11PM) (new)

Christi wrote: "Andrew wrote: "Christi wrote: "Shanez wrote: "Nemo wrote: "Levin's pet dog Laska in Anna Karenina. A dog who thinks human thoughts, only wiser. :)"

Yes, the hunting scene.


There..."



You're welcome, Christi!
And just a quick comment..Ruslan and Lyudmila is the most famous, most mysterious, most interesting (to my opinion), and if I remember right the longest among Pushkin's fairy tales. And if you still find it a bit hard to go through..you might 'prepare yourself' and break in Pushkin with his other, much shorter and simple tales. This story 'Fisherman and Fish' (or something like that) I think is still good-night told to little kids by some parents in Russia..


message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

Andrew wrote: "Christi wrote: "Andrew wrote: "Christi wrote: "Shanez wrote: "Nemo wrote: "Levin's pet dog Laska in Anna Karenina. A dog who thinks human thoughts, only wiser. :)"

Yes, the hunting scen..."


Thank you for the advice, Andrew! I am looking forward to reading Pushkin's fairy tales, especially Ruslan and Lyudmila on your recommendation that it is mysterious and interesting! I have only read a short story by Pushkin (Queen of Spades), but I am very curious to read more.

I will begin looking for his fairy tales now.


message 23: by MadgeUK (last edited Sep 11, 2011 03:35AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 86 comments Here is a list of the 'top ten' animals in Russian literature:-

http://sarahjyoung.com/site/2011/03/0...

I don't think it mentions the Russian brown bear though, which is surely the animal most associated with Russia - it was the mascot of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Sadly they are under threat:-

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm...

The appearance of animals in Russian literature is likely to be reflecting religious and/or folk symbolism. In Russian religious iconography the Virgin Mary is often depicted as sitting by an animal's den. Saints are often patrons of specific animals and their icons reflect this.
There are also many religious/folk superstitions about animals. Here are a few of them:-

'God made useful animals, Satan - harmful and ugly animals, but both Satan and God created these animals together - God made a dog and Satan gave him hair.

Satan was thought to have evolved from a horse, while the bear and the mole were both formed from the human body. Ravens, hawks, eagles and magpies are evildoers, thieves and cheaters. Pigeons, swallows, nightingales, larks and storks are holy, kind, and gentle.

The stork was one of the most respected birds and also evolved from man's body. A stork which lands down on the roof of the house is believed to bring happiness to the family.

Snakes/reptiles and other such creepy crawlies are a brood of evil spirits. The most dangerous among them is the snake, which keeps special knowledge and secrets and can find magical herbs. Frogs and toads on the other hand were created from the human body and considered very special. It was forbidden to kill them because close relatives may die as a result.'


message 24: by Amalie (new)

Amalie  | 650 comments Mod
MadgeUK wrote: "Satan was thought to have evolved from a horse, while the bear and the mole were both formed from the human body. Ravens, hawks, eagles and magpies are evildoers, thieves and cheaters. Pigeons, swallows, nightingales, larks and storks are holy, kind, and gentle...."

Thanks for sharing Madge! This makes me question about The Master and Margarita's Woland/Devil. He is represented by a sparrow and a swallow. We had a discussion about this in The Master and Margarita threads. So now I'm guessing Bulgakov have used the symbols with a twist.


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