Review by Edna Boardman, Bismarck, North Dakota
Sinner, Samuel D. Twelve German Tales from Russia. Twelve Tales of Fantasy and the Supernatural. North Dakota State University Libraries, Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, Fargo, North Dakota, 2001.
Readers who wish to taste the folklore of the German colonists
who lived in Russia, stories not touched by the emigrant/immigrant
experience, will enjoy this collection. The tone is somewhat different
from that of the stories told by the settlers who established homes
on the prairies of
America and mixed memories of the old homeland with the exigencies of the new life. Sinner focuses on stories from the Volga colonies, but some of them will be familiar also to those whose ancestors hailed from the Black Sea colonies. At the beginning of the book, Sinner briefly places each story in its context, commenting sadly that the will to believe has faded.
Many of the stories reveal a belief in the supernatural and some
incorporate the foreboding that accompanied the threats, first by
the last czar, later by the communists, to displace the German people
and destroy their way of life: An ancient tree's leaves sing out
death, poverty, bread.
Real ghosts and goblins appear. A pipe-smoking pastor disappears but the people expect him to return. The onion prophecy fails. An astrologer foresees death and suffering in the stars for child after child. People are spooked by a meteor shower. Ancient prophecies predicting disaster are
coming true. A man predicts his own death when he can no longer see his own shadow. Elements of the belief in the old Germanic deities linger in the stories. Each story is strengthened by Melissa Sinner's haunting black and white illustrations, each is done in a somewhat different style.
An excellent contribution to the body of German Russian folklore.