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Yershov () Pyotr Pavlovich
The Humpback Horse

Yershov () Pyotr Pavlovich (18151869)The Humpback Horse-

Pyotr Pavlovich Yershov was a Russian poet, the author of the famous fairy-tale poem The Humpbacked Horse (konek-gorbunok).

Pyotr Yershov was born in the village Bezrukovo, near town of Ishim, Tobolsk gubernia (currently Tyumen oblast). During his childhood he lived in town of Beryozov. In 1827-1831 he studied in Tobolsk gymnasium, there he reportedly created a society for study Ethnography of Siberia, that even planned to publish their own scientific journal. In 1831-1836 he studied philosophy at Saint Petersburg University, where he wrote his masterpiece the fairy tale The Humpbacked Horse. A large extract from it was published in 1834 and brought Yershov an instant fame. Alexander Pushkin wrote that Yershov fully in command of his verses as a landowner is in command of his serfs. Pushkin also announced that he would stop writing fairy tales as Yershov did it much better (he wrote the The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish one year after this announcement anyway).

In 1836 Yershov returned back to Tobolsk, where he worked a teacher and since 1858 as the principal of Tobolsk gimnasium. He died in 1869 in Tobolsk. Biographers of Yershov note that disasters frequented his life. In 1834 just after the triumph of The Humpback Horse both Pyotr's father and brother died within a few days. In 1838 his mother died, in 1845 his wife died, in 1847 he married again, but the second wife died in 1852. Out of his 15 children only six survived.

Yershov published many lyrical verses, a drama Suvorov and a Station Master, short stories but neither of them had the same success as The Humpbacked Horse. He also reportedly wrote a large fairy tale poem Ilya Muromets and a huge poem Ivan Tsarevitch (in ten volumes and one hundred songs) but destroyed them. Only a short extract from Ivan Tsarevitch survived.

The Humpbacked Horse (konek-gorbunok) is a version of the Golden-Maned Steed. The little horse helps Ivan, a peasants son, carry out many unreasonable demands of the tsar. During his adventures Ivan gets the beautiful magic firebird for the tsar, keeps his magic horse and finds his love (princess Elena the Beautiful). At the end the princess and the peasants son live happily for many years after.

Censors banned the complete story for over 20 years in the mid-19th century because it made the tsar appear foolish. Until 1856 the tale was published with dots instead of many verses ans even songs. It is meant to be a satire on the absurdities of Russian feudal and bureaucratic life at the time. Now it is considered just a classical children fairy tale.

Court of FishArthur Saint-Leon created a ballet from the book, the ballet was originally performed in Mariinsky Theatre.

After The Humpback Horse was published, many people did not believe that Pyotr Yershov was a real person; they were sure it was a Pushkin poem. Indeed Pushkin wrote the first four lines of the final version of the poem and helped with its editing.

The first variant of the poem was supposed to emulate a real-life talk of the peasants an had many obscenities. The magical words that Ivan used to call the magical horse were: Vstan' peredo mnoju kak khuy pered pizdoyu (Arouse before me as a penis before a cunt). In the final variant the words were nonsensical: Vstan' peredo mnoju kak list pered travoju (Arouse before me as a leaf before a grass).

Mongolia, 1970, Ivan on The Humpback Horse

USSR, 1961, The Little Humpbacked Horse

USSR, 1976, The Firebird

USSR, 1988, The Little Humpbacked Horse

Russia, Ershovo, Tyumen region

USSR, Ershovo, Tyumen region

USSR, 1990.03.06, Ershovo. 175th Birth Anniv of Ershov

USSR, 1990.03.06, Moskow. 175th Birth Anniv of Ershov

Russia, 1993, The Humpback Horse

Russia, 2000, Wonder-Whale

USSR, 1965, The Little Humpbacked Horse

USSR, 1966, The Little Humpbacked Horse

USSR, 1988.02.17, Ivan on The Humpback Horse

USSR, 1990, 175th Birth anniv of Yershov


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