Old Peter's Russian Tales
'Old Peter's Russian Tales ' Summary
Ransome says in a Note at the beginning that "The stories in this book are those that Russian peasants tell their children and each other", and that it was written for "English children who play in deep lanes with wild roses above them in the high hedges, or by the small singing becks that dance down the grey fells at home".
Ransome had gone to Russia in 1913, to learn the language, and to escape from his first marriage. The book's introductory note says Vergezha, 1915. He had gone to Vergezha on the river Volkhov as a guest of Harold Williams and his wife Ariadna; to stay in her family home.
Ransome says in his autobiography that the English listeners "know nothing of the world that in Russia listeners and storytellers take for granted". So rather than direct translation (as William Ralston Shedden-Ralston did in his 1873 Russian Folk Tales; which he read in 1913) he read all the variants of the story, and rewrote them with Old Peter, Vanya and Maroosia rather than the Ogre, the Elf and the Imp. Publication was delayed, and he thought that the publishers did not expect to sell more than the initial 2000. But by 1956 more than 24,000 copies had been sold plus another 25,000 in cheaper editions and also several American editions, both piratical and legitimate
Hugh Brogan says that it was Ransome's "first indubitable literary success. It has never been out of print. Arthur Ransome's apprenticeship was over".
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