Region: Eastern Europe, Russian Far East
Author: Folktales in English rendition and retelling by Miriam Morton
Original Language: Nanai
Translator: Irina Zheleznova
Descriptors: beauty; mothers and daughters; narcissism; parable; selfishness; vanity
Age: 3-10 years old
This brief, centuries-old fable tells the story of a little girl named Ayoga who is so absorbed by her own beauty that she spends all her time admiring herself, leaving no time for anything or anyone else, not even to help her own mother. Not only is it made apparent just how vain Ayoga really is, but also how devasting her rage and narcissistic nature can be, prompting her everlasting transformation. While the translation of this folktale reads fluently, there are moments when the sentence structure is unusual. The illustration helps to vividly show the beautiful Ayoga gazing upon herself before meeting her unfortunate fate.
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Notes: The anthology was published several decades ago, in the times of the U.S.S.R. existence. Librarians relying on this source should treat classifications and notes in this story with care and an understanding of historical context. Nanaian literature is not Russian literature, even if the Nanai people live on the territory of the Russian federation. In this sense, the title of the Anthology is a misnomer. This classification is an outgrowth of the past soviet approach towards smaller ethnic and linguistic groups. The story is translated from Russian into English; it could have been originally translated from Nanai into Russian or recorded in Russian from oral renditions. It is to be noted that it could also have been adapted in the process and may not reflect the Nanaian original exactly. The story is entered as a standalone item to bring North American children the magic of a world literature that has little international exposure. It is not entered under the Anthology title to correct the misrepresentation of Nanaian literature as Russian literature. Librarians may consider retelling rather than reading the story.
Reviewed by Tiffany Bowers