There are items and phenomena closely linked to the human name. Edison’s light bulb, Bell’s telephone, Dal’s or Ozhegov’s dictionary. But when it comes to folk tales, a man of education will immediately recall Alexander Afanasiev.
Why Afanasiev, if tales come from the people’s folklore? Horribile dictu, we might never have known Repka (The Gigantic Turnip), Kolobok (The Little Round Bun), Kurochka Ryaba (The Speckled Hen), Tsarevna-Lyagushka (The Frog Princess) without Alexander Nikolayevich Afanasiev who was born in Pushkin’s lifetime in Boguchar, the chief town of the uyezd in Voronezh Governorate. It was Alexander Nikolayevich, a graduate of the Moscow University and an employee of the Main Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was so enthusiastic about collecting the Russian folklore that it became his life’s work and immortalized his name. It is frightening to say but the collection of Afanasiev’s Russian fairy tales includes about two thousand fairy tales, if variants to be counted. This is the world’s largest collection of fairy tales. For example, the famous Grimm brothers collected about two hundred fairy tales. They simply collected these tales, while Afanasiev systematized them. He was the first to divide all the fairy tales into sections — fairy tales about animals, tales about magic, satirical tales, epic tales, popular tales...
But where did the folklore historian and ethnographer take these fairy tales? He looked through the ancient books in archives he was obsessed with. The Russian Bibliographical Society, which Afanasiev was a member of, offered him fairy tales collected by the folklore specialists on expeditions. Vladimir Dal gave him a thousand fairy tales.
Apart from the fairy tales for children, Alexander Nikolayevich collected adult tales. He could not publish The Treasured Tales in Russia. The book was eventually released in Geneva with the help of Alexander Herzen. It was titled The Russian Forbidden Tales. Only one out of 77 fairy tales from this collection featured no obscene words or juicy situations.