Mists on the River
by Yeremei Aipin; illustrations by Gennady Raishev; translation and editing by Marina Aipin and Claude Clayton Smith
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A delightful collection of Khanty folktales introducing children of all ages to the animal persons of Siberia, among them Cuckoo Mother, Paki the Bear, and Sandpiper. From these tales emerge the ancient voices of the forest, reminding us of the value of kinship with animals and spirits in the natural world. Colorful illustrations by Gennady Raishev add life and vibrancy to these treasured tales.
FICTION / Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology
JUVENILE FICTION / Animals / General
ISBN: 978-1-951651-40-4 (print; softcover; perfect bound)
Released July 2020
Yeremei Aipin, the son of a hunter and fisherman, was born in the village of Varyogan in West Siberia in 1948. Ethnically, he is of the Khanty people. As a young man he worked in the Siberian oil fields, then as a carpenter, before turning to creative writing at the Literary University in Moscow. Subsequently, he spent a decade at the Center for the Native Arts in Khanty-Mansiisk, where he later established the Native Heritage Park, a museum and sacred-place memorial known as Torurn Maa. Much of Aipin’s career has been devoted to politics, working on behalf of the Khanty people as a member of the Duma, the parliament of the Russian State. He is the editor of a monthly newspaper, The Word of the Peoples of the North. His writing has been translated into German, Finnish, Hungarian, English, and several languages spoken by Muslims around the world.
Gennady Raishev is the son of a Khanty hunter. In 1954 he began his studies at Hertzen University in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad), specializing in Russian literature. After his second year, he began classes at the evening art school as well, ultimately graduating with a dual degree. It was not until the 1990s that his gift as an artist received national recognition with many solo shows. His permanent studio in Khanty-Mansiisk now serves as a memorial museum and is open to the public. Raishev’s style is unique, expressive, and readily recognizable, as his illustrations of Aipin’s tales demonstrate. He is influenced by Khanty legends and mythology. Raishev employs black-and-white techniques mainly in printmaking, but works in oil and watercolor as well. “Art must be mysterious,” Raishev says. “The Khanty love flat surfaces and the freedom to fantasize.”
Claude Clayton Smith, Professor Emeritus of English at Ohio Northern University, is the author of eight books and co-editor/translator of two others. His own work has been translated into five languages, including Russian and Chinese. With his late colleague Alexander Vashchenko of Moscow State University, Dr. Smith co-edited MEDITATIONS After the Bear Feast (Shanti Arts, 2016) and The Way of Kinship (Minnesota, 2010), the world’s first anthology of Native Siberian literature. The latter included fiction and nonfiction by Yeremei Aipin, whom they had earlier introduced in the chapbook I Listen to the Earth (Ohio Northern University, 1996). In all of these publications, Dr. Smith’s role was to polish for an American audience the Russian-to-English translations of Dr. Vashchenko. In the case of the present work, the Russian-to-English translator was Marina Aipina, Yeremei Aipin’s daughter.
“This slim, but delightful collection of Khanty folktales introduces children to the animal persons of Siberia, among whom the Khanty have lived for millennia. As retold by the celebrated Khanty author Yeremei Aipin, translated into English by his daughter, Marina, and splashed with the colorful illustrations by renowned Khanty artist Gennady Raishev, these stories will carry you into a world familiar yet faraway, where all the creatures of the Siberian forests—birds, beasts, and people—made a common home.”
—Andrew Wiget, New Mexico State University
“Alive with the spirit of Indigenous northern places, these untrue (true) tales about the animals, birds, and fish who share the Khanty and Mansi lands near the Arctic Circle have many things to teach us about being human. Through them, we learn the origin of mosquitoes, how not to cook a Sandpiper, and why our bear brothers and sisters are the same, especially when it’s time to stand up and fight the monsters that crash and roar through the trees. The words by Yeremei Aipin have fins, backbones, and beaks, and the illustrations by Gennady Raishev are endearing and authentic.”
—Staci L. Drouillard, author of Walking the Old Road: A People’s History of Chippewa City and the Grand Marais Anishinaabe
“From the dense taiga forests and the sparkling waterways of the Khanty in Siberia emerge the ancient voices of Cuckoo Mother, Rosy Cranberry, and Sandpiper. Paki the Bear ambles along through the forest into his own story of life and death. These folktales express the core Khanty value of kinship with animals and spirits in the natural world. Yeremei Aipin’s stellar writing is complemented by Gennady Raishev’s rich watercolor illustrations.”
—Susan Scarberry-García, Institute of American Indian Arts