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)
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
Articles and Reviews
Naomi Caffee, “Mists on the River Review,” Sibiric, Spring 2021.
“The volume’s eight tales bring a compelling glimpse of Khanty culture to an English-speaking audience . . . Mists on the River could be put to good use in the classroom, alongside appropriate secondary literature, in courses on folklore, indigenous studies, Russian/Eurasian area studies, and world literature.”
James Ruppert, “Mists on the River Review.”
“Oral narratives like these from the folk realm have sometimes been looked upon as fairy tales. However, such a designation tends to relegate them to juvenile entertainment rather then allow them to expand into cultural and social wisdom. While these narratives were surely told to children, people lived with them coming back to them as cultural touchstones embedding values and reminding listeners of some simple basic connections.
“Picture a dark cabin with a fire going. A multi-generation family group listening to an elder tell these tales. Laughter and commentary ensue as the young ones see the humor and foolishness of some characters and the adults see the stories match parts of their experience in self-reflective moments. They may silently appreciate how clear the values are expressed or they may use the story as a way to remind the younger member of the audience of some desirable or undesirable actions. Remember these stories are communal and alive. . . .
“These stories will be appreciated by both young and old as the Cuckoo, Sandpiper, Paki the Bear and others are introduced and take form. Though these words are on the page, they lead us back outdoors to the places where human and animal worlds converge.”
Yvonne Gleason, “Mists on the River Review.”
“Gifting us with voices of indigenous storytellers from the Arctic Circle and beyond, Yeremei Aipin ushers forth animal spirits and characters from folk history and brings them into the now. Through the beloved Bear or the Cuckoo we learn significant and foundational life lessons.” more