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Lesja Ukrainka

Encyclopedia of the life and works


The forest song

Lesja Ukrainka

Translated by Percival Cundi

Dramatis personae

He Who Rends the Dikes”, a destructive sprite dwelling in the freshets of spring.

Lost Babes, water nixies.

Rusalka, a water nymph.

Water Goblin, guardian spirit of the lake.

Lev, a peasant.

Lukash, a peasant, Lev’s nephew.

Forest Elf, a woodland sprite.

Mavka, a forest nymph.

Will-o’-the-Wisp, a fire sprite (ignis fatuus).

Kutz, a malicious imp.

Mother of Lukash, a peasant woman.

Field Sprite, a nymph dwelling among the grain.

Kilina, a young peasant widow.

He Who Dwells in Rock”, a phantom signifying Death and Oblivion.

Starvelings, imps personifying Famine and Want.

A Boy, Kilina’s son.

Fate, a phantom.

[Ukrainian folklore is full of beliefs and superstitions, manifestly the survivals from a dim ethnic past. In substance they are all connected with natural phenomena as observed in the changing seasons as the year runs its course, and with the activity of the manifold spirits supposed to lie behind the visible world. This is the general background of this fairy drama. However, two remarks on the persons of the drama will be useful. "Lost Babe" is a fairy being conceived as coming from an unbaptized infant, the fruit of illicit love, after having been drowned by its desperate forsaken mother. Similarly, a "Mavka" is another sort of fairy being, whose origin is ascribed to a female infant which dies before receiving Christian baptism.]

Please be aware, that in ukrainian folklore and poetry the great role play kalyna (kalina) bush (guelder rose, May rose, viburnum). It is oftenly mentioned in the «Forest song» and have the great symbolic role in it. In P.Kandy's translation kalyna mistakenly translates as cranberry (we thanks Ph. D. Ella M. Zherebtsova for this hint). So reading cranberry one should substitite guelder rose.

Source: Ukrainka Lesya. Forest song: dramatic fairytale in 3 acts. – Lutsk: 2011, p. 3 – 143.