Wednesday, January 1, 2014

"Magic Hoofbeats" & "The Little Humpbacked Horse" (1947)

Russian laquer box painting - artist unknown
2014 is "The Year of the Horse" so it's high time we pulled out all the equus-centric tales we rarely hear about. While horses are an animal commonly appearing in fairy tales, having one as the subject or at the center of a fairy tale is somewhat unusual.

There's one collection I'm aware of, a lovely book called Magic Hoofbeats - Fantastic Horse Tales, and the eight tales from various places around the world are a nice addition to any fairy tale collection (especially for this new year).

The stories, which are preceded by information on horses from around the world and their history, are:
  • Lone Boy and the Old Dun Horse (North America)
  • Terror (North India)
  • The White are (Basque Country)
  • The Little Humpbacked Horse (Russia)
  • Petit Jean and the White Horse (French Canada)
  • The Boy Who Rode to the Land of the Dead (Albania)
  • The Colt Qeytas (Iran)
  • The Taltos Horse (Hungary)
One is better known than most and that's the Russian tale of The Little Humpbacked Horse. Not surprisingly, one Russian animation company produced an imaginative and lovely, almost hour long film in 1947. (It was restored from a damaged reel, remade, made longer by 15 minutes and translated into English as The Magic Pony in 1975-77. It's now available on DVD.)

This story features the typical Russian good-hearted fool, Ivan, a firebird and, of course, a magical little horse, among other equines (handled and stylized quite beautifully in the visuals). A little note: because this film was based on the poem by, Pyotr Pavlovich Yershov, everyone speaks in rhymes. You can find Yershov's poem with the original illustrations HERE (if you have google it should offer auto-translate so you can see it with the illustrations, otherwise you can read an English translation HERE.)

Here (and at the head of the post) are some different illustrations based on the fairy tale:
Little Humpbacked Horse by azzai (check the humps & wing-like ears)
Little Humpbacked Horse by Leroks (the humps aren't evident in this illustration, however)
Russian laquer box painting - artist unknown
Chudo-yudo (The FishIsland) from The Little Humpbacked Horse by Igor-Grechany-Ostrov"...Where, with giant head and tail,
Lies the Monster-Marvel Whale..."
(Yershov. "The Little Humpbacked Horse")
Little Humpbacked Horse by SapphireGamgee
Vintage Russian postcard by V. Grishin

Original title illustration for Yershov's poem of The Little Humpbacked Horse (artist unknown)
For a little New Years treat, I'm embedding the Russian film below (yes there are subtitles). Enjoy!

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