Archives for Russian fairytales

Book review: The Bear and the Nightingale

An entrancing, bewildering debut. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden is heavily-influenced by Russian fairytales and steeped in winter. Snow, ice and frost are the everyday reality for the Vladimirovich family in medieval northern Russia where winter lasts many months of the year. It is a land of legend, folklore and fairytales where the people pay homage to the gods of the forest. This is the story of Vasya, a wild child who sees the gods of the forests and the spirits of the house. Then one day a priest arrives from the city to challenge the superstitions and traditions of the country folk. It is a story of winter/summer, girl/boy, countryside/city but most of all, old magic versus the church. Is Vasya a free spirit, or is she a witch? Is her behaviour refreshing and engaging, or wicked? She alone can talk to the horses which teach her to ride like a Steppe boy, exhilarating and dashing but inappropriate for a young girl. The only other person who can see the demons is Anna, Vasya’s stepmother, but whereas Vasya understands the demons, Anna fears them. She begs the priest, Father Konstantin, for prayers to banish them. But
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Categories: Book Love.