Article by Lyubov Tsarevskaya of Voice of Russia about Pavel Bazhov: http://english.ruvr.ru/radio_broadcast/2249099/2959375.html
Web Resources on Pavel Bazhov:
“Tales of Copper Mountain – Foreward”: An interesting introduction to Bazhov that credits the tales’ source as Vasily Khmelinin, the storyteller whose tales Bazhov eventually wrote down and published, decades after hearing them as a boy. (No longer on the web, but archived below)
http://www.bazhov.ru – Bazhov Prize homepage (in Russian)
http://www.russianexpedition.net – The Russian Folklore Expedition
http://welcome-ural.ru/tours/156/272/ — Ural Expeditions & Tours led by trained geologists which feature mineral collecting; this tour visits sites popularized by Bazhov
http://uralring.eunnet.net/bazhov/bajhov/places.htm – Bazhov, on UralRing (in Russian)
BazhovLand – A theme park (to be the “Russian Disneyland”) which may or may not have ever been built. (scroll about halfway down the page of this press clipping, dated October 2001) — Who can tell us if this park was ever created or not?!?
The Stone Flower, or: The Goddess of the Copper Mountain, retold by Kathleen Jenks, PhD. of the wonderful MythingLinks.org site
(Originally posted: April 7, 2008)
And lastly, a personal archive of a text which even the lifesaving Wayback Machine at Archive.org did not record and save [although much of Paganruss’ Bazhov material is still archived there], but which I found & saved years ago (accessed April 1, 2008; no longer connects as of Sept. 2011) and which I present here, to save the text and keep it freely available on the Web:
Tales of Copper Mountain – Foreword
The Old Copper Miner
The tales in this series were born of legends and superstitions circulating among Ural copper miners, prospectors, serfs and freedmen. They were recollected and written down by Pavel Bazhov in the late 1930’s, some fifty years after he had first heard them from an old copper miner named Vasily Khmelinin. <http://www.paganruss.narod.ru/gumeshki.jpg>
It is Kmelinin who should get credit for being the true author of “The Malachite Box,” “The Stone Flower,” and the other tales featuring the Mistress of Copper Mountain, for it was he who told them, in a style uniquely his own, with his special expressions like “y’hear?” As Khmelinin sat on the front stoop of his guard shack on Council Hill, telling the stories to a crowd of young boys (ten year-old Pavsha Bazhov among them), he would point out places in the landscape – the abandoned Red Hill iron mine, the Gumeshki mines, the Field River copper works, and the abandoned hoist drums of Copper Mountain where Stepan told the mine manager where to go. On a distant hill stood the hunting lodge of the current owners. The kids probably never saw them, but Khmelinin included them in his stories, (“See that gazebo over there?”) and this brought legend and reality to the point of overlapping in a way no conventional fairy-tale could.
Vasily Khmelinin was born in 1826. At age ten he went to work in the copper mines, first as one of a crew of boys who sorted the ore as it came to the surface. Here is his story in his own words:
It’s the most kid’s kind of work – to sort rocks, just like playing games! So, I landed in these games. By and by, they sent me down into the mine. The mine supervisor decided the lad grew up, time for him to run with a wheelbarrow. I was lucky to end up with good foremen – I’ve got no bad word for any of them. They cared about us young-uns, as much as anyone did in those times, of course. Pulling hair, or a smack on the head, those counted as treats, but they never took us to the whipping post, and for that I’m thankful. I grew up some more, they gave me a mattock and crowbar, wedges and a hammer, chisels of all sorts. “Have fun!” they said. And I had me some fun. I never met the Copper Mistress, but I did smell her sweet scent pretty often. It was a kind of smell in the Gumeshki mine – at first it smells sweet, but if you inhale, it chokes you, like sulfur from a match. There was a lot of sulfur gas in that place. From the gas, and the “fun,” my health started to go. That’s when my late father started begging the mine management – Put my boy on an easier job. He’s all sick. I don’t want him dying when he’s not even twenty-three yet! Since then, they started sending me on open-pit and prospecting jobs. These, they figured, are in the open air, the rain may soak him, but the sun will dry him. And even if the sun doesn’t come out, the kid won’t fall apart.
Bazhov was a boy of ten or eleven when the family moved to Sysert, where his father got a job as a smelter. One of the neighborhood boys told him about “Grandpa Shot-glass,” as Khmelinin was called (because he liked a shot of vodka at the end of the day). Khmelinin was by now nearing seventy. He was too old for any heavy work, so the management had made him night watchman at the firewood storage yard up on Council Hill, which allowed a good view of the area of his stories. At eight o’clock, the old man would ring the watch bell, then he would remark something like “Well, this hill don’t need much watching; it ain’t a dog that’s gonna run away!” light his pipe and settle down for an evening of storytelling. Area boys would abandon their games to come and listen whenever the old man was on duty.
Birth of a Folktale
Up until the publication of “The Malachite Box” (unfortunately called “The Malachite Casket” in British-English) Bazhov was an obscure hack writer of the Soviet Communist school. His books on the revolution, the collective farms, and other works-to-order of the communist propaganda machine, earned him a comfortable living but have no literary merit whatsoever. The politically-correct “folk” tales he wrote for inclusion in “The Malachite Box” (“The Hero’s Mitten,” “The Eagle Feather,” “The Dear Name.”) positively reek of phoniness. They are written merely in a forced imitation of the spoken language, without the unpredictability, the spark, the twinkle in the eye, of a genuine folk storyteller like Khmelinin, who felt each story with his heart and could make listeners do the same.
But, in one of those wonderful twists of fate, during a party in 1936 celebrating his twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, Bazhov read the story of the Mistress of Copper Mountain, as recollected from the words of Vasily Khmelinin, to his wife and guests. The assembled guests, who included many prominent writers, urged him to publish the story. Thus the first series of Ural Tales, written in the Khmelinin storytelling style, were published in the late 1930’s. These led to a more complete collection, in 1940, which Bajov, under the spell of the theme, was inspired to name “The Malachite Box”, and the rest is history. The stories have been translated into many languages (including an absolutely awful job in English). “The Stone Flower,” an especially moving tale of love, fidelity, the quest for beauty, and a woman’s determination, was made into a famous ballet by Sergei Prokofiev. “The Mistress of Copper Mountain” – into a guitar suite by Yevgeny Baev. Attempts have been made to film a movie of the story, but, apparently, the Mistress of Copper Mountain doesn’t like the idea. After several disasters, including an overturned bus full of cast and crew, filmmakers decided the story was a cursed theme, like “Macbeth” and “Superman”, and shelved the project forever.
The Legend and History of Copper Mountain
Once upon a time the western Urals were the native land of Elves known as The Old People. The Old People gathered minerals and metals in the hills, from the surface, seldom digging deep. They preferred copper, did not know iron, and had no use for gold (which is too soft to use for tools). They lived in caves and earthen mounds, and avoided all contact with humans. And, until the discovery of gold in those hills, humans had little reason to venture into the Old People’s territory.
But among the Elves there was a rebellious teenager, named Malachite Girl, who was attracted to human men. She told them where the gold was buried, and pretty soon the Urals were flooded with Russian prospectors. The Old People moved out of the mountains, no one knows where. But they left Malachite Girl behind, to “hold the fort” with a cat to keep her company. In time, Malachite Girl became known among humans as The Mistress of Copper Mountain. She lives in a beautiful palace deep under the copper mines, with her cat (who is so huge its ears stick out of the ground), an army of lizards, and a human adopted daughter who looks just like her.
In 1702 two brothers discovered rich deposits of gold in the region. Around these, and deposits of copper, iron, gemstones and other minerals grew the Sysert mining complex covering over a thousand square miles. In the 1740’s Empress Elizabeth gave the merchant Turchaninov a charter to operate the complex as a proprietor (i.e.: with the right to pocket the profits). It is here that our story begins . . .