Comparative Analysis of Russian and English Folk Fairy Tales Вид работы

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Государственное бюджетное образовательное учреждение средняя общеобразовательная школа № 1246 с углубленным изучением английского языка

Comparative Analysis of Russian and English Folk Fairy Tales

Вид работы: Исследовательская работа

Выполнили: Ахгар Ник, Митин Егор

Научный руководитель: Тихоненкова Ирина Владимировна

Москва, Открытое шоссе д. 29А



1. Introduction………………………………………………………………..3

2. Elements of Fairy Tales……………………………………………………5

3. Types of Fairy Tales ………………………………………………………7

4. Differences and Similarities in English and Russian Fairy Tales…………9

5. Comparative Analysis of a Russian and English Fairy Tale……………..13

6. Conclusion…………………………………………………………………15

7. Bibliography………………………………………………………………..16

It is well known that wisdom and spirit of the nation are shown in the traditions and customs of the country, especially in its folklore. Folklore is the most mysterious and unusual genre of children’s literature. And one of the most popular parts of folklore is a fairytale. It has got an exciting plot, brave characters and a happy ending that really attracts readers. The most interesting and important folk tales pass from generation to generation. Such tales have become the part of culture, customs and history of people. Many generations of little kids have been brought up by these glorious and wonderful tales.

We are fond of fairy tales. Our parents and grandparents used to tell us fairy tales, they tried to show us the national wisdom and beauty of our mother tongue. We have been studying English for four years. We read a lot of English and Russian fairy tales. And we noticed that they have some similarities. We wonder what they have in common and how they differ.

The actuality of our work is determined by the importance of studying fairy tales as a special kind of folklore. This helps us to understand other cultural values, national symbols and beliefs better.

The hypothesis is the following: if we make a comparative study of Russian and English fairy tales, we can prove that fairy tales have similarities, while at the same time they have certain differences due to cultural and historical features of the people’s development.

The aim of the project is the comparison of English and Russian folk fairy tales. The objectives are:

  • to define a fairy tale in English and Russian culture;

  • to get acquainted with the types of fairy tales;

  • to establish the differences and similarities both in English and Russian fairy tales.

We have conducted research and the analysis of English and Russian fairy tales.

Research methods: observation, comparison and analysis.

The research question in the study is following:

What are the similarities and differences between two cultures’ folklore?
Fairy tales are stories created by oral traditions. Their plots demonstrate strong conflicts between good and evil, with magic and luck and usually have happy endings. One can find universal human feelings such as love, hate, courage, kindness, and cruelty in typical fairy tales. Students should read and learn to understand fairy tales so that they can better realize the national literature as well as the culture of the country in whole. Folk tales reflect people’s life, their history, beliefs, mentality. Different stages of nation’s development are presented in them in a certain way.

Elements of Fairy Tales
A fairytale is a short story that features fantasy characters such as fairies, elves, giants and mermaids. Fairytales are important because they usually teach us a lesson. Some famous fairytales you may know include: Cinderella, Beauty and The Beast, Little Mermaid and Aladdin.

How can you tell when a story is a fairy tale? There are things in the story called elements that will help you decide. Let's have a look at some of the elements of fairy tales. Not every fairy tale has all of these elements, but a story must have at least a few of them to be called a fairy tale.

The elements are:

1) Special beginning and/or ending words

One of the elements of fairy tales is that they often start and end with special words like "once upon a time," "a long, long time ago," and "they lived happily ever after." When you read these words, you know that the story could be a fairy tale.

2) Good character

Fairy tales always have at least one good character or a person in the story.

3) Evil character

An example of a bad character is the evil witch in Hansel and Gretel. In the end, the evil character usually loses somehow.

4) Royalty

Very often one of the characters is royalty, which means that the person is a king, a queen, a prince, or a princess.

5) Setting

Another element of a fairy tale is that the story often takes place in a castle, a forest, or a town. This is called the setting. The setting is where the story takes place. Little Red Riding Hood is set in the forest, and part of Cinderella is set in the castle of the prince.

6) Magic objects

Magic is often an element of fairy tales. You might see fairies, trolls, elves, goblins, etc.

7) Problem

One of the most important elements in a fairy tale is that they always have a problem that must be solved. For example, in the Princess and the Pea, the prince wants to find a real princess to marry. His mother, the queen, helps him find a real princess by putting a pea in the bed to find out if the princess can feel it.

8) Numbers

Often you’ll see things, phrases, tasks appear in "threes," “sixes,” and/or "sevens"

9) Universal Truths

The tale probably touches on some universal experiences (i.e., coming of age) or hopes (i.e., to have enough food and love)
There are also common motifs that readers can come across in fairy tales:

-Talking animals/ objects

- Word games

- Traveler’s tales

- Triumph of the poor

- Struggle between good and evil

- Guardians

- Magic words or phrases/repetition of phrases

- Keys , passes

- Human weakness explored ( greed, laziness, superiority)

- Human strengths glorified (kindness, generosity, patience)

- Impossible tasks

- Common lessons learned

Most children are familiar with a least a few fairy tales. Most fairy tales can be divided into a few categories. Fairy tales are traditionally shared orally or read from books, but many have been adapted into films or television shows.

Types of Fairy Tales

There are no rules that define fairy tales. Therefore, they are categorized by their elements, types, or motifs. Here are some of those types and examples of stories that fit those types:

Animal Tales

A large number of fairy tales feature animals. Many of these stories are quite old and may be called folk tales or fables. The animals in these stories can often talk and act like people. They are used to show simple morals as the animals are symbolic of abstract ideas. Such stories as "Cat and Mouse in Partnership," "The Billy Goats Gruff" and any of Aesop's fables fall into this category.

Tales of Magic

One motif that figures in many fairy tales is magic. Most fairy tales present some fantastic element, but these stories are ones where the narrative is centered on magical elements. Well-known stories, such as "Rumpelstiltskin" and "The Princess and the Frog," feature magic spells and supernatural elements. In some cases, a magical force imprisons characters, while in others; magic seems to be a device to move the story forward.

Monster Stories

In monster stories the main character comes across some sort of ghoul, ogre, witch or troll. These monsters present a difficulty or trouble that the hero must get over. Stories like "Jack and the Beanstalk" and "Hansel and Gretel" fall into this category. Monsters may represent punishment for disobeying or a general threat that children should be afraid of.

Princess Stories

Princesses and other royal figures appear in many fairy tales. These stories have been the subject of several film and television versions. These stories often present characters marrying royalty or discovering that they are royalty themselves.

Differences and Similarities in English and Russian Fairy Tales
Comparing Russian and English fairy tales, it is necessary to mention that in England folk tales were collected and written much later than the Russian ones in Russia. The first collections of the British folk tales appeared in the late 19th century.

Typical main characters of Russian folk tales are Ivan Tsarevich, Ivan the Fool, Elena Beautiful, Vasilisa the Wise. Some heroes have their prototypes (Russian hero Ilya Muromets, Nikitich, Alyosha Popovich).

Characters of British fairy tales are usually people of any specific professions: farmers, peasants and merchants. Typical names of the heroes of fairy tales are Peter Simpleton, Lazy Jack.

Let us compare the main characters of fairy tales, Ivan the Fool and Jack

In Russian fairy tales Ivan the Fool is a positive character. But the word "fool" denotes not the direct meaning of this word. According to the rules of the Russian language the word "clown" and "fool" - this is not the same thing, but in a fairy tale these words are used as similar in meaning. The word "fool" in Russian folk tales represents a person who behaves unusually. The image of Ivan the Fool is a collective portrait of a Russian peasant who can find happiness, despite all the difficulties. In many tales Ivan the Fool becomes Prince Ivan and finds his happiness (the kingdom, the bride, horse) after many troubles.

In British fairy tales the word "fool” is rare. The main character of the English typical fairy tale, Jack, has quite often only positive traits. "In the reign of good King Arthur in Cornwall, a farmer living on the Cape Land's End, and it was at the farmer's only son named Jack."

Jack is a clever guy with a quick and lively mind, "Jack - the winner of the giants". Jack is a collective image of the English folk tale as Ivan the Fool in Russian, but unlike him, Jack is presented in English tales as a boy, a son of poorer parents, an old soldier , etc. He also has the pursuit of happiness, the need for love.

Thus, the heroes of Russian and English traditional fairy tales have similar features. However, Ivan the Fool and Jack are two different popular characters that express a generalized representation of people of their own character with special, typical features.

It should also be noted that in Russian fairy tales one can find a wide range of fictional colorful characters such as fairy, witch, Baba Yaga, Bag of Bones, Dragon, Witch, goblin, house, Sivka-Burka, Princess -Lyagushka, Firebird.

In English fairy tales the main characters are giants, fairies, witches,elves, dwarves, trolls, pixies, goblins, the wizard Merlin, king Arthur, the knights.

Magic items found in Russian fairy tales can be magic carpet, magic tablecloth, cap of invisibility, a silver platter, sword kladenets.

In English there are tales of invisible coat, hat-nerdy, seven-league boots, a magic golden trumpet.

In Russian and English fairy tales about animals are found almost identical figures: the wolf, fox, bear, hare. Among the animals are the main characters of the rooster, mouse, cat, dog.

The general conclusion is that in English and Russian folk tales, the characters perform one function: they represent the mentality of their people and express it in a language that allows us to talk about the formation of the certain stereotype.

Comparing the plots of English and Russian fairy tales, it must be said that the main difference between them lies in the fact that the Russian folk tale is based on a fiction, an unexpected turn of events, magic and transformation. In the centre of the English fairy tales is specific information about some facts of everyday life. Therefore, the English fairy tale is not very magical and fabulous in terms of representatives of the Russian-speaking culture.

The setting in Russian fairy tales is not clearly defined. It speaks only of "the kingdom of Far Away, "a certain kingdom, a certain state."

In English fairy tales the place is often the exact name, really exists on a map of Britain: Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Devon, Wales, Cape Land's End.
The character of Russian fairy tales works a lot,travels to distant lands, overcoming a lot of difficulties and solving a lot of problems, while helping others.

The characters of Russian fairy tales, as a rule, have assistants. They always work together, help each other, someone always saves: Alyonushka and her brother Ivanushka, Prince Ivan and Frog Princess,etc

In the fairy tale "The Frog Princess" a drake helps Prince Ivan to catch a duck, a pike pulls out from the bottom of the sea egg with a needle, a bear takes the trunk of the tree. In the fairy tale "Ivan Tsarevich and the Grey Wolf" a grey wolf helps the character , assistance is provided even by Baba Yaga. This reflects our tradition of living community life.

The British fairy tales are characterized by an independent hero. He acts usually alone, and all his problems are solved by himself, but sometimes someone gives him good advice. This reflects a characteristic of the English-speaking culture phenomenon as "the man who made himself" , an isolated and independent, coming from the depths of time. For example, the hero of many tales, Jack, struggles with giant robbers and witches alone.

The main characters initially carry the ideas of moral values that need to be kind and nice towards others. Good Nastya in "Father Frost", that helped all around and then got the "whole sleigh" and married the first groom in the village, while her wicked sister Lushenka left with nothing.

The heroes of many English tales are hard-working, honest, noble and brave; some of them are real folk heroes. So, Jack, a peasant's son, the hero of a fairy tale «Adventures of Jack the Giant-Killer», entering into a fight with the ogres, initially only thinks about the award, but then becomes a true fighter for the freedom of his people from the giant villains.

At the end of Russian fairy tales we usually have "feast for the whole world", a wonderful wedding or victory over the serpent Gorynych.

Happiness for the hero of the English fairy tale lies in the fact that after a number of different events and fantastic adventures he finds some material wealth. Sometimes a fairy tale has a happy ending.

A distinctive feature of Russian fairy tales is a union of many supporting characters around the character in the pursuit of the goal. They are led by the desire to achieve justice. In this particular Russian fairytales reflect this feature of Russian life as a community.

English fairy tales the main character acts alone, so he has to do much more effort to achieve his own goals. In total, they want at the end of a fairy tale the result of their own efforts without resorting to help from the outside (a self-made man).

In addition, it is necessary to note the similarity of many subjects of English and Russian folk tales. Thus, the Russian folk tale "The Gingerbread Man" and the English folk tale "Johnny Donut»,Russian folk tale "Masha and the Three Bears" and the English folk tale "Goldilocks and the Three Bears”, Russian folk tale" The Wolf and the seven little kids "and the English folk tale" The wolf and the three kittens” have the same content, differing only in the details. This shows the universality of tales.

Comparative Analysis of a Russian and English Fairy Tale

We are fond of reading fairy tales in both Russian and English languages. We noticed that many of them have something in common.

We have chosen the fairy tale "The Three Little Pigs" for our work and we want to compare it with the fairy tale "Three pigs" ("Tri Porosenka")

The Tree Little Pigs”

Tri Porosenka”


Three pigs, mother, the wolf, a stranger

Three pigs, the wolf

Names of the pigs


Naf-Naf, Nif-Nif, Nouf-Nouf

The description of the main characters


All of the same height, round,pink with similar funny tales.

They even had the similar

names. The little pigs were

called Nif-Nif, Nouf-Nouf, Naf-


The pigs' description

The first one is weak, the

second one is stronger, the third one is clever and strong.

Funny, friendly, lazy.

The wolf's description

Hungry, wicked, cunning.

Hungry, wicked, cunning.

The obstacles that the characters dealt with

Pigs want to find their

"destiny", to get along in

life. The wolf's problem is

constant hunger.

Pigs build a house, to

get over bad weather, then they

need to save themselves

from the wolf. The wolf's

problem constant hunger.

The actions of the


The three little pigs build

the houses.

At first the three little pigs

have fun, then build the houses.

The beginning of the

fairy tale

The three little pigs start

looking for happiness.

The three little pigs

have fun.

The end of the tale

The wolf has eaten

two pigs, and has not

entered the house of the

third one. The third pig

stayed alone.

The third pigs live in

the brick house, they

have tricked the wolf.

The culmination

Wolf became angry,

because he did not deceive

the third pig.

Wolf tried to get in the

house of the third pig

through the chimney.


Wolf ate the two

little pigs,

when the wolf decided to

get to the house through

the chimney, the third one

put a pot under it, so the

wolf was boiled in that pot.

Wolf went to the house of

the pigs through the

chimney, but then he jumped out because he understood the danger.

The research shows that the plot of both fairytales is almost the same. Along with Russian fairy tale, fairy tales written in English let us study the customs and mentality. In Russian fairy tale the characters always do everything together helping each other, someone always saves each other. In English fairy tale the character usually acts by himself and solves all his problems alone. It reflects such a typical trait of the English culture, which comes from ancient times, as "self-made", solitary and independent man. Unlike Russian fairy tale, English ones have more unhappy endings.


Folk fairy tales are a real heritage of any country. Reading them we can master our language and admire the esthetic beauty of the national literature. Fairy tales reflect the nation’s history, culture, beliefs and mentality.

It’s really fascinating to identify the similarities and differences of fairy tales in both countries and realize the unique cultural values.

Tales of two countries have the same elements and types. Russian and English tales have the same beginnings with “Once upon a time...” and endings – “they all lived happily ever after”. Fairy tales happened in the long ago. Moreover, fairy tales have a problem that needs to be solved and it often takes three tries to solve the problem. In both cultures tales have clearly defined Good characters vs. Evil characters.

And despite different types of culture and different languages tales can have the same plots, similar characters or their plots can differ totally, but they would have a similar moral lesson. Both cultures have used a variety of unreal people like Baba Yaga, Koschei the Deathless (in Russian tales) or fairies, elves or trolls (in English tales), magical animals and trees that are highly intelligent and able to communicate with people. Fairy tales represent culture, traditions, history and mentality of the country.

In conclusion, I’d like to say that we got a great pleasure reading English and Russian folk fairy tales.


1. Folktales of the British Isles. – Moscow: Raduga Publishers, 1999

2. My favorite fairy Tales. – Москва: Издательства «Иностранный язык», 2007.

3. The New Encyclopedia Britannica. – Volume 4.

4. Afanasyev A. – Russian folk tales. – Moscow, 1986.

5. Hartland E. – English Fairy Tales, London, 1975.

6. Jacobs J. – English Fairy Tales, Germany, 1994.

7. Kerven R. – English Fairy Tales and Legends, Hong Kong, 2008.

8. Steel F. – English Fairy Tales, London, 1994.








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