Russian fables

Russian literature is no short of fables – stories that teach a moral lesson and often have animals as main characters. Perhaps, the most famous author of fables is Ivan Krylov. His stories might not be the easiest read (they are over 200 years old!), but they are witty and full of wisdom. Each fable is a valuable life lessons which is taught by depicting a human nature though the behaviour of various animals.

The Raven and the Fox (1807)

The most popular from all Krylov’s fables is about a raven and a fox – «Ворона и лисица». It is an ultimate lesson on flattery. Do you trust everything you hear? If so, this lesson may bring you a new perspective regarding compliments and flattery. It is such an iconic fable that there isn’t a single Russian who has not heard of it. Russian children even learn it by heart in schools!

The Monkey and the Glasses (1812)

Another well-know fable is «Мартышка и очки». The fable tells a story of a monkey whose eyesight got worse with age. The monkey heard from people that it was easy to fix it with glasses. It got a few pairs for herself,  but did not know how to use them correctly. It turns glasses in her hands, put them on the tail, sniff and lick them, but its eyesight does not improve. In the end, an angry animal throws the glasses against the stone they break.

The morale of the story: the monkey in the fable acts as an ignoramus, and glasses are knowledge. The knowledge must be properly applied to be of any use. Furthermore, often ignorant and narrow-minded people judge and criticize something without understanding its real value and importance. After all, if a person does not know how to use something, it is not a reason to speak badly about it.

The Dragonfly and the Ant (1808)

«Стрекоза и Муравей» – a fable about a carefree dragonfly and a hardworking aunt. The dragonfly was singing all summer, whilst ant was working. When winter came, ant had enough to eat, and the dragonfly had nowhere to live and nothing to eat.

The moral of the Dragonfly and Ant fable is that you cannot live like there is no tomorrow and just have fun. You also need to work, even if you do not want to, because no one will do it for you. It is a vivid example of two opposing qualities of character – laziness and hard work. The fable also underlines the importance of long-term planning.

Many phrases from over 200 fables written by Krylov became proverbs and are regularly used in speech. After all, the lessons Krylov teaches us through his fables are still relevant nowadays.

Team EBC