Tuesday, April 1, 2014

All Fool's Day (aka The Day We Remember Not To Believe Everything We Read On the Internet)

Update: My apologies for this late addition! Apparently I closed the post after saving but without publishing, so it didn't post when it should have.
Ah yes - I should just schedule this day as a day off from the news. In fact, I'm not even going to bother checking headlines until tomorrow because, well, you know... :)

April 1st is a day we can't even believe Google (and should be very wary about the 24 hours before as well) but it's a good reminder at how any one of us can be fooled - and by anyone.
Ivan the Fool is a staple character in Russian fairy tales, very much like the English Jack and the German Hans. The difference is that Ivan is not just an everyman but simple (sometimes simple-minded too), likable and especially lucky.

While I tend to like most Russian tales for one reason or another, I'm just as drawn to Ivan as I am to the English Jack but for slightly different reasons.

Wikipedia puts it well:
Unlike typical heroes, it is Ivan's simplicity and lack of guile that turn out to help him in his adventures. For example he listens to his heart, rather than his mind, he easily forgets offence and endeavours to help others even at his own expense. His naivety, kindness and daring help him fight villains, make friends, win princesses' hearts and ultimately he is rewarded with half a kingdom or some similar accomplishment. 
The moral of these stories is that Ivan The Fool is rarely the fool, he is merely perceived as such by others owing to his simple nature and joviality.

I recently found these lovely illustrations by another incredible Russian illustrator, Igor Oleynikov, who was recently nominated for the 2014 Han Christian Andersen Award, and have been keeping them for an appropriate post. It occurred to me that today is perfect for them. Unfortunately I can't read Russian and the images don't make translating very easy. All I really know, apart from Mr. Oleynikov being the illustrator, is that the title of the book is Ivan the Fool and that it's an adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's literary fairy tale*, Ivan the Fool, retold by the loved and respected Russian children's poet, Andrei Usachev (published 2008). The fairy tale is also titled The Old Devil and the Three Small Devils or A Lost Opportunity.

Just from the illustrations it looks a lot like a few fairy tales I'm vaguely familiar with, combined into one, though the green bearded goblin-looking creature is actually supposed to be the/a devil in this story (who is defeated, of course).

A little fairy tale bonus for the day:
HERE's an online English translation of Tolstoy's fairy tale, thanks to the University of Adelaide in Australia.

Ivan the Fool

* It's Tolstoy so yes, expect a political agenda in this tale.

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