Tale of Tales (1979 film)

Tale of Tales (Russian: Сказка сказок, Skazka skazok) is a 1979 Soviet/Russian animated film directed by Yuri Norstein and produced by the Soyuzmultfilm studio in Moscow. It has won numerous awards, has been acclaimed by critics and other animators, and has received the title of greatest animated film of all time in various polls.[1] It has been the subject of a 2005 book by Clare Kitson titled Yuri Norstein and Tale of Tales: An Animator's Journey.

Tale of Tales
Skazka skazok (screenshot).jpg
Little Grey Wolf from Tale of Tales
Directed byYuri Norstein
Produced bySoyuzmultfilm
Written byLyudmila Petrushevskaya
Yuri Norstein
StarringAlexander Kalyagin
Music byMikhail Meyerovich
Johann Sebastian Bach
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
CinematographyIgor Skidan-Bossin
Edited byNadezhda Treshcheva
Natalya Abramova
Release date
5 January 1979
Running time
29 minutes
CountrySoviet Union


Tale of Tales, like Tarkovsky's Mirror,[2] attempts to structure itself like a human memory. Memories are not recalled in neat chronological order; instead, they are recalled by the association of one thing with another, which means that any attempt to put memory on film cannot be told like a conventional narrative. The film is thus made up of a series of related sequences whose scenes are interspersed between each other. One of the primary themes involves war, with particular emphasis on the enormous losses the Soviet Union suffered on the Eastern Front during World War II. Several recurring characters and their interactions make up a large part of the film, such as the poet, the little girl and the bull, the little boy and the crows, the dancers and the soldiers, and especially the little grey wolf (Russian: се́ренький волчо́к, syeryenkiy volchok). Another symbol connecting nearly all of these different themes are green apples (which may symbolize life, hope, or potential).[3] Yuri Norstein wrote in Iskusstvo Kino magazine that the film is "about simple concepts that give you the strength to live."[4][5]

Music and poetryEdit

In addition to the original score composed by Mikhail Meyerovich, this film makes use of several other pieces of music. Excerpts from works by Bach (notably the E flat minor Prelude BWV 853 (from The Well-Tempered Clavier)) and Mozart (the Andante second movement from Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, K41) are used, and the World War II era tango Weary Sun, written by Jerzy Petersburski, features prominently. However, the most important musical inspiration is the following traditional Russian lullaby, which is included in the film in both instrumental and vocal form.

Russian Transliteration English translation

Не ложися на краю.
Придёт серенький волчок,
Он ухватит за бочок
И утащит во лесок
Под ракитовый кусток.

Ne lozhisya na krayu.
Pridyot serenkiy volchok,
On ukhvatit za bochok
I utashchit vo lesok
Pod rakitovy kustok.

Baby, baby, rock-a-bye
On the edge you mustn't lie
Or the little grey wolf will come
And will nip you on the tum,
Tug you off into the wood
Underneath the willow-root.

Many situations in the film actually derive from this lullaby, as well as the character of the little grey wolf. Indeed, the film's original title (rejected by the Soviet censors) was The Little Grey Wolf Will Come.

The name Tale of Tales came from a poem of the same name by Turkish poet Nazım Hikmet that Norstein loved since 1962.[1][6]

Russian Transliteration English translation

Стоим над водой -
солнце, кошка, чинара, я
и наша судьба.
Вода прохладная,
Чинара высокая,
Солнце светит,
Кошка дремлет,
Я стихи сочиняю.
Слава Богу, живем!..

Stoim nad vodoy -
solntse, koshka, chinara, ya
i nasha sud'ba.
Voda prochladnaya,
Chinara vysokaya,
Solntse svyetit,
Koshka dryemlyet,
Ya stihi sochinyayu
Slava Bogu, zhivyom!..

We stand above the water -
sun, cat, plane tree, me
and our destiny.
The water is cool,
The plane tree is tall,
The sun is shining,
The cat is dozing,
I write verses.
Thank God, we live!..



Director Yuri Norstein (Ю́рий Норште́йн)
Writers Lyudmila Petrushevskaya (Людми́ла Петруше́вская)

Yuri Norstein (Юрий Норштейн)

Art Director Franchesca Yarbusova (Франче́ска Ярбусова)
Animator Yuri Norstein (Ю́рий Норште́йн)
Camera Operator Igor Skidan-Bossin (И́горь Скидан-Босин)
Executive Producer G. Kovrov (Г. Ковро́в)
Composer Mikhail Meyerovich (Михаи́л Мееро́вич)
Sound Operator Boris Filchikov (Бори́с Фильчико́в)
Script Editor Natalya Abramova (Ната́лья Абрамова)
Voice Actor Alexander Kalyagin (Алекса́ндр Каля́гин) as Little Grey Wolf
Film Editor Nadezhda Treshcheva (Наде́жда Трещёва)

In popular cultureEdit

Australian electronic duo The Presets paid homage to Tale of Tales in the music video for their song "Girl and the Sea" from their album Beams.[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Byatt, AS (2005-04-16). "Sweet little mystery". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ [2]
  4. ^ Malpas, Anna (April 8, 2005). "Teller of Tales". The Moscow Times. Archived from the original on September 10, 2005.
  5. ^ Norstein, Yuri (February 2003). "Снег на траве". Iskusstvo Kino (in Russian). Archived from the original on January 19, 2004.
  6. ^ Russian Madison | Новости русскоязычного Мэдисона | Article Archived 2007-01-23 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ The Olympiad of Animation: An Interview With Fini Littlejohn
  8. ^ Cartoon Brew: Leading the Animation Conversation » Lee Lennox’s “Girl and the Sea”
  • Kitson, Clare (2005-06-15). Yuri Norstein and Tale of Tales: An Animator's Journey. John Libbey & Co Ltd. ISBN 0-86196-646-5.
  • Kitson, Clare (September 2005). Yuri Norstein and Tale of Tales: An Animator's Journey. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-21838-1.

External linksEdit