Arthur Ransome (author of the delightful Swallows and Amazons series) retells this outlandish Russian (tall) tale. The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship is illustrated by Uri Shulevitz and is the winner of the 1969 Caldecott Medal. [I’ll be sharing two more books written and illustrated by Shulevitz in the following days.]
Children may be interested to know that Arthur Ransome was an English author and journalist who travelled to Russia to study Russian folklore. He became a foreign correspondent during WWI and witnessed the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917.
If you have Amazon Prime, you can watch the Rabbit Ears production of The Fool and the Flying Ship (the version retold by Eric Metaxas) on Amazon streaming for free. It is read by Robin Williams and the voices are fantastic, as you can well imagine.
Older children could compare this folktale to other stories about “fools” who aren’t as foolish as others might think, such as Many Moons.
The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship tips its hand on the very first page:
“But however it was with his father and mother, this is a story that shows that God loves simple folk, and turns things to their advantage in the end.”
Much happens after the first page, however, and the long narrative of comical events may cause kids to forget the moral of the story by the time they reach the end.
Crime Scene [Setting]
Countryside—lots of fields full of crops
The Czar’s Palace—ornate, colorful
Clearly a fairy tale world where characters have supernatural abilities
Summer? (the fields look ready to harvest)
Over a period of days?
Old peasant and his wife—showed favoritism to clever sons, ignored or were unkind to “foolish” simple son
Two clever brothers—obviously not so clever since they were never heard of again
The Fool of the World—simple, never did harm, cheerful, didn’t complain, followed instructions, merry, friendly
Czar—a bit foolish to offer his daughter for a flying ship, didn’t have integrity to honor his promise, prejudiced