Ukrainian Fairy Tales

Common to every culture, the fairy tale is a lynchpin of the human condition. At their mother’s knee, children have learned history and behavior through metaphor for centuries. Ukraine is a country wrought with persecution by conquerors hence the values of overcoming adversity through cleverness and ingenuity has given strength to the weak The quest for redemption and revenge can be found in the pages of old tales too. Because life was often difficult, children were expected to work from an early age and were confronted with adult problems and challenges too soon. Folk tales softened the blow of life’s harsher experiences.

Ordeal and struggle dictate many Ukrainian folk tales plot lines where the good character, often a peasant wins out over the evil machinations of a rich landowner or prince. Social satire plays a role as well examining human vices like stinginess, sloth, and adultery. Steeped in lyricism and poetry, the Ukrainian folk tale has recorded the most important events of the country’s history beginning with the princedom age traveling through the time of the Russian Tsars. Pagan motifs and symbols are often embedded in tales that appear to follow the Christian tradition on the surface.

Nature and animals played a central role in the early Ukrainian fairy tales. Vast forests and endless hills of the steppe dictated the experiences of farmers and hunters whose lives revolved around the seasons and rhythms of the earth. Fierce animals like bears and wild boar roamed the landscape giving rise to tales of caution. Ukraine has always been a country of metaphor and the fairy tale itself is deeply rooted in the past and the landscape.

Read more about Ukrainian folk tales in the following books listed and enjoy one on this website as well. Some of our favorites include:

  • The Rumor of Pavel and Paali: A Ukrainian Fairy Tale; By Carole Kismaric

  • The Birds’ Gift: A Ukrainian Easter Story: By Eric A. Kimmel

  • Ukrainian Folk Tales: By Ivan Rudchenko

  • The Mitten: A Ukrainian Folktale: By Jan Brett

  • Ukrainian Folk Tales: Retold by Christina Oparenko