Bazhov's Magic Tales

A Talk by Anna Gunin

Language: In English

Pavel Bazhov has enjoyed huge popularity among generations of children and adults in Russia. His tales have been translated into dozens of languages, dramatised as films and animations and inspired ballets, operas and novels. Little known in the English-speaking world, these alluring fireside tales of olden times are remarkably fresh and alive today.

Long before Bazhov immortalised them in his retellings, the old ‘secret tales’ of the Ural workers were circulating underground: they told of the local miners who spent their lives in the bellies of the mountains and the mythical spirits who resided in nature. Bazhov’s tales vividly portray his Ural homeland’s geological beauty and its folkloric riches. Drawing from his deep study of the local culture, Bazhov captured a portrait of Ural life at the end of the nineteenth century. His tales are fantastical and yet rooted in reality. His compelling stories also show great originality, exploring themes such as the quest for creative inspiration, nature’s revolt against man’s exploitation and the rewards of persistence and bravery.

Anna Gunin’s translations of four tales by Bazhov are included in Russian Magic Tales from Pushkin to Platonov (Penguin Classics, Dec. 2012). She has translated I am a Chechen! by German Sadulaev and Mikail Eldin’s The Sky Wept Fire. She is now working on The Complete Kolyma Tales by Varlam Shalamov for Penguin Classics.

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