Animals possess not only very consistent character traits, but often standard genders and names too. They are always referred to as either male or female characters, never an “it.” Bear is big, bulky, and not particular bright. While he is certainly frightening, he can be tricked and bargained with. He is typically named Misha, the Medved (medved means bear) – and yes, that’s the last name of the current president of the
– Medvedev. Wolves are dangerous and will gobble up you and your cattle if you don’t ward them off. Luckily, they aren’t very smart and can be fooled. They very often fall victims of foxes’ trickery – the sly cunning Lisaveta wraps Volk around her claw with smiles, flattery, and empty promises. Worse, she often gets him into trouble while slipping away with booty he helped her to steal. Hare, or Zaika, is quick, sometimes cowardly, yet he possesses a certain dignity and is willing to help. Rooster Peter the Petukh is boastful, sometimes narcissistic, and overly self assured, which often gets him in trouble: all Lisaveta has to do is to sing praises to his gorgeous voice and elegant tail, and he is more than willing to fly into her wide open paws. Swan is usually beautiful and, if handled properly, can metamorphose into a single and available tsarina. Whether the hero is Ivan the Fool or Ivan the Tsarevich, they both have to do some slaying of the evil – and that’s where Hare, Duck, and Fish come to help. Actually fish – sometimes Golden Fish, sometimes Tschuka – has been known to magically fulfill her captors’ every wish no matter how ridiculous, in exchange for not being turned into a soup. Russian Federation
Interestingly enough, the talking animals in the tales behave as real animals – carnivorous animals (and humans) still eat meat, even when the meat in question can talk. “I’m gonna eat you,” Wolf says to Hare, who usually yaps long enough to talk his way out. Man bargains with Misha, the Medved, “Don’t hurt me – I’ll give you the top half of my harvest” – and hands the beast the turnip leaves while keeping the roots for himself.
Just about every animal’s personality is beautifully revealed in the famous folk tale Teremok, which doesn’t exactly translate as House, but rather a special kind of a fancy building akin to a palace. Discovering the big comfortable space, various animals move in one by one, forming a happy co-op menagerie until one day there comes a troublemaker who can’t play by the rules, ruins the peace and destroys the edifice.
So, tell me, which animals are part of your national folklore, and what adventures do they bring to your people?