Sunday, October 28, 2012

Russian Ghost Folktale: The Two Corpses

Russian folktales about ghosts often involve corpses coming back to life. These tales mix horror with ghost stories. I find some of them scary and even macabre because they have “corpses” trying to kill and eat the living. In contrast, these stories often have elements of a person being honored or giving respect to others. Lastly, they often mention God as being the salvation of the person being threatened.

Here is my version of one such tale: *

A soldier given leave headed home to honor his parents and give thanks to God for delivering him. As the sun set slowly the soldier was walking along a country lane near an old graveyard. As the scene around him darkened the soldier was startled to hear footsteps behind him. He had not seen another living soul for miles so he glanced around to see who it was. He saw no one but feeling uneasy he quickened his pace.

Alarmed he heard the footsteps behind him also hasten. He glanced around once more but no one was there. In a panic he started to run. He heard the foot falls behind also break into a run. In the next moment he heard a voice close by cry, “Stop, you can’t escape!”

He dared to glance back one last time. To his horror he spotted a white boned corpse running after him. Its skull seemed to lurch forward and the soldier saw white gumless teeth gnashing quickly. Now desperate to get away the soldier leapt to one side of the lane. He spied the darkened outline of a small chapel and bolted toward its entryway.

He raced inside the chapel but before he could catch his breath he saw yet another corpse laid out on a cold stone slab in front of him. Several thin candles glowed around the body covered in dust and cobwebs. Not finding any comfort he quickly hid in a dark corner. As he stilled his breath he questioned his sanity. The soldier shook off his fear and hoped that what he was experiencing was just a nightmare from which he could awake.

But a cold numbness settled over him as he watched the corpse who had chased him rush into the chapel. In the next moment the corpse laid out on the slab jumped up dislodging several cobwebs.

“What have you come here for?”

Still gnashing his teeth the first corpse replied, “I chased a soldier in here. Where is he? I intend to eat him.”

“Come now you can’t be serious, brother. He has run into my house, therefore he is mine to eat.”

The soldier horrified, quietly watched and listened as the two corpses continued to argue over which one would eat him.

“He is mine.”

“No, he is mine.”



As the two corpses gripped each other in mindless anger the dust in the old chapel was stirred into a violent frenzy. They continued this struggle until the first cock’s crow. The soldier then saw the two corpses fall lifeless onto the ground. He left the chapel swiftly, grateful for the morning's light. The soldier knew God had once more spared his life.

*  As stated this is my version of a Russian folktale. It can be found in W.R.S. Ralston’s book entitled, Russian Folk-Tales, 1873. Ralston’s source was Aleksandr Afanasyev.

No comments: