Russian folk tales

 In order to learn any language it is necessary to understand its culture. One of the ways to understand the culture is reading folk tales. Folk tales are stories passed down through generations, mainly by telling. Folk tales can be a wonderful resource not just for illuminating the traditional values and lifestyles of the culture, but also for increasing your vocabulary.

     Let’s look at the most famous Russian folk tale (in my opinion) – “Ryaba, the Hen” and afterwards I’ll explain the most common features for all Russian folk tales.

Курочка Ряба – Ryaba, the hen

Жили себе дед да баба,

(Once upon a time there lived an old man and an old woman.)

И была у них курочка Ряба.

(And they had a hen Ryaba.)

Снесла курочка яичко. Яичко не простое – Золотое.

(The hen laid an egg, not an ordinary one, but a golden one.)

Дед, бил, бил – не разбил.

(The old man hit it and hit it but could not break it.)

Баба, била, била – не разбила.

(The old woman hit it and hit it but could not break it.)

Мышка бежала, хвостиком махнула, Яичко упало и разбилось.

(A mouse ran past, waved its tail, the egg fell and broke!)

Дед, плачет, баба, плачет; А курочка кудахчет: “Не плачь дед, не плачь баба,

(The old man and the old woman cried, the hen cackled: “Don’t cry old man, don’t cry old woman.)

Я снесу вам яичко другое, Не золотое, а простое”.

(I will lay you a new egg, not a golden one, but an ordinary one.”)

You can watch “Ryaba, the Hen” on Youtube:

Main features of Russian folk tales:

An opening line

“Жили-были” or “жили себе” is the most common opening line in Russian folk tales, like in English “Once upon a time”.

The word used “да” for “and”

We sometimes use the word “да” instead of “и” for “and”

Ex. Дед да баба

This is quite common in folk stories, proverbs and sayings.

Verbs as sentence starters

One of the distinct features of a folk tale is the use of a verb as a sentence starter.

Ex. …И была у них курочка ряба…

…И снесла она яичко.

Normally, we would say: У них была курочка Ряба… Она снесла яичко…


Another feature of a folk tale is repetition of words that might seem unnecessary.

Ex. Дед бил, бил… Баба била, била… Дед плачет, баба плачет…

If you are interested in reading more Russian folk tales, you can download this book:

Russian folk tales (pdf)

Write down in comments below where you are from and what famous folk tales you have!

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