cover image Russian Gypsy Tales

Russian Gypsy Tales

. Interlink Publishing Group, $11.95 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-940793-97-2

Folklorists Riordan ( The Sun Maiden and the Crescent Moon ), Druts and Gessler perform a genuine service by bringing to light these tales from the Gypsy people living in the former Soviet Union. The Gypsies (or as they call themselves, Rom), as a wandering people, took on the customs and even national heroes of the lands in which they made their home. One story anthologized here, for instance, deals with St. George bestowing the blessing of God upon the Rom people. The Gypsies also harbor legends about Rom involvement in the crucifixion of Jesus ( as the maker of the nails of the cross). In a tale evoking the Arabian Nights, an old Gypsy cheats Dame Death by entrancing her evening after evening with songs played on his guitar. The first story, however, may be the best: a fairy tale, complete with evil mother-in-law, about true love triumphing through the ages. In an excellent introduction, the translator gives a brief overview of Gypsy history and culture, pointing out that ethnographic evidence shows the group springs from northern India. In all, this is an immensely entertaining addition to collections of oral tradition. Illustrated. (Jan.)