Arthur Ransome and Dmitri Mitrokhin: Translating the Russian Folktale

  • Tatiana Bogrdanova University of Eastern Finland
  • Asya Usmanova Moscow State University
Keywords: translation history, Old Peter’ s Russian Tales, Arthur Ransome, Dmitri Mitrokhin, cultural interaction, affinity, British-Russian enchantment at the turn of the twentieth century


This paper focuses on Arthur Ransome’s and Dmitri Mitrokhin’ s collaboration in translating the Russian folktales. Old Peter’s Russian Tales (1916), Ransome’ s first serious (and sustained) success, was the translation product of his early sojourns in Russia, illustrated by Dmitri Mitrokhin. The aims of the research are threefold: (1) to explore the cooperation between the British translator and the Russian artist in translating Russian folktales as an insight into the intense British-Russian dialogues of the time; (2) to examine the interaction of the translated texts and the images in terms of the translation strategy employed, as well as the influences of the contemporaneous tastes and trends; (3) to gain a better understanding of the translator’s agency and human interaction in building an important link between the cultures and the countries. The research has required close reading of primary and secondary sources, including archival materials, as well as the textual analysis of the translated stories, the translator’s correspondence and other papers pertaining to his micro-history. These latter are used to explore the interplay of the translated text and the pictures against the background of personal, as well as wider British-Russian cultural interaction at the turn of the twentieth century.
Ransome’s book of over three hundred pages was illustrated with Mitrokhin’s seven full-page coloured pictures and twenty nine black and white head-pieces and end-pieces, which the author found admirable and his publishers were pleased with, though later editions would be illustrated by the other artists as well. Ransome’s translation strategy in retelling the Russian tales to his young reader at home was largely domesticating; however, he was careful to convey their culturally specific character, which was enhanced by Mitrokhin’s effort to acquaint the foreign reader with the Russian peasant world. The main result achieved is that the examination of the interplay between the text and the picture shows the specific relevance of aesthetically and emotionally powerful images in rendering the culturally distinct character of folktales. This is, therefore, a case study of the intercultural dialogue between the translator and the artist which produced an interesting interpretation of Russian folklore for the international reader and made an important contribution to the cultural links between the countries.


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Author Biographies

Tatiana Bogrdanova, University of Eastern Finland

Faculty of Philosophy

Asya Usmanova, Moscow State University

Faculty of Foreign Languages and Area Studies

How to Cite
Bogrdanova, T., & Usmanova, A. (2016). Arthur Ransome and Dmitri Mitrokhin: Translating the Russian Folktale. Journal of Language and Education, 2(3), 14-21.