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The Golden Cup

Region: Eastern Europe, Russia, Buryatia

Author: Folktales in English rendition and retelling by Miriam Morton

Original Language: Buryat

Translator:  Irina Zheleznova 

Genre: Folktales

Descriptors: adventures; courage; family; fathers and sons;  journey; old people; parables; travel

Age: 5-10 years old



In this folktale from several centuries ago, it was told that a mighty Khan, or ruler, by the name of Sanad, decided that he and his subjects would make a long and arduous journey to better and richer lands. However, Sanad Khan ordered that all old people be left behind, for old people would be a burden to them on their trip, and any subject who dared to defy the Khan’s order would face severe punishment. Of all the fearful, obedient subjects, there was one young man named Tsyren who vowed he would not abandon his old father. As the Khan and his subjects traveled along, they encountered the mystique of a dazzling golden cup at the bottom of the sea, a scorching hot desert lacking life-saving water, and a wet, cold night that took away the needed campfires to stay dry and warm. Of all the subjects made by the Khan to take turns to retrieve what was needed, none was successful or even made it out alive. That is, until Tsyren’s turn came each time, and each time he managed not only to miraculously retrieve what the merciless Khan and his perished subjects had sought, but also to teach Sanad Khan a very valuable lesson along the way. The translation reads fluently but does have unusual sentence structure at times. The illustration richly, visually aids the story as it begins to unfold.  

More About This Book

The story is found in A Harvest of Russian Children's Literature (see notes below) 

Reviewed: print book (1967) by University of California Press. ISBN: 0520017455. Pages 169-172.


Notes: The anthology was published several decades ago, when Buryatia was part of the U.S.S.R. Librarians relying on this source should treat classifications and notes in this anthology with care and an understanding of historical context. Buryat literature is not Russian literature, even if the Buryats 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. This story also includes an inaccurate footnote: “The Buryats are a nomad people in the southeastern part of European Russia.” p. 169. The Buryats are an Asian people living in the Russian Federation, primarily in Siberia. The story is translated from Russian into English; it could have been originally translated from the Buryat language 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 Buryat 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 Buryat literature as Russian literature. Librarians may consider retelling rather than reading the story to eliminate unusual terminology and culturally biased and outdated references.  

Reviewed by Tiffany Bowers

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