2

In folk stories and fairy tales of every nation, there appear certain magic items or devices that, being obedient to a hero's will, always help him and the goodness triumph.

In the Russian folklore, for example, the most popular ones, which I can think of, have always been the following (the definitions are entirely mine):

"Шапка-невидимка" — a hat which, being put on, makes a man invisible;

"Сапоги-скороходы" — self-running boots;

"Скатерть-самобранка" — a table-cloth which produces all sorts of meal and drinks according to its user's preference;

"Ковер-самолет" — a self-flying carpet;

"Живая и Мертвая вода" — the two kinds of water, one called "live" and the other — "dead". The former heals the hero's wounds, the latter revitalizes him;

"Молодильное яблоко" — an apple which, having been eaten, turns the old into the young.

My question is this:

Does any of the above-listed exist in the English language oral tradition? What are their names in English? What other magic items or devices can be often met in the English-speaking world's folklore and fairy tales?

2
  • This is a really good question, but I think it is more about culture than language equivalency. Anyway, "Ковер-самолет" could be a "flying carpet", as in Alladin stories, or "magic carpet" for example Magic Carpet Ride.
    – user3169
    Jul 31 '16 at 20:32
  • @user3169 Thanks awfully, but is there a culture without a language and vice versa? I'm asking about what exists in the English language in the form of a word and what can hardly be found in dictionaries unless you do know what to look for. I don't. Is it an off-topic request?
    – Victor B.
    Jul 31 '16 at 20:43
1

Most of the time, the names aren't particularly inventive.

"Шапка-невидимка" — a hat which, being put on, makes a man invisible;

This would probably be an invisibility hat or hat of invisibility, compare to a cloak of invisibility (which is quite a common item).

"Сапоги-скороходы" — self-running boots;

Compare with seven-league boots, which make each step cover 7 leagues of distance (38.8km). Also compare with the winged sandals of Hermes in Greek mythology.

"Скатерть-самобранка" — a table-cloth which produces all sorts of meal and drinks according to its user's preference;

I don't know of anything common that's similar to this, but it did remind me of the Land of Goodies from Enid Blyton's The Faraway Tree books – the Land of Goodies is a place where everything is made of delicious food.

"Ковер-самолет" — a self-flying carpet;

Just a "flying carpet" or "magic carpet" in English. I imagine most people would think of Aladdin when you mention flying carpets.

"Живая и Мертвая вода" — the two kinds of water, one called "alive" and the other — "dead". The former heals the hero's wounds, the latter revitalizes him;

I haven't heard of anything like this. Something more general would be potions, magic concoctions which may have any number of effects. The term "elixir" is also for liquids which heal and give strength.

"Молодильное яблоко" — an apple which, having been eaten, turns the old into the young.

Not a food, but compare with the Fountain of Youth, which is a fountain which makes young anyone drinking or bathing in its waters.


As for common English folklore, a very common story is Jack and the Beanstalk, where a young boy (Jack) barters for magic beans. During the night following the beans being planted, a giant beanstalk grows. At the top of the beanstalk, Jack finds a large castle inhabited by a giant. Jack steals from the giant, and the giant chases him down the beanstalk. Jack then fells the beanstalk, killing the giant and living happily ever after on his ill-gotten riches.

The phrase "happily ever after" is also a common element in many English-language folk stories.

An element in Scottish folklore is the kelpie, a water spirit that lives in lochs that is said to have the strength of many horses. These are particularly noteworthy due to the massive statue called The Kelpies that was built in Falkirk.

1
  • Thank you very much for a most interesting answer and for the links I'm going to explore as soon as I can -- it is already midnight here, time to turn in. By the way, I saw a Japanese cartoon based on the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk when I was a kid.
    – Victor B.
    Jul 31 '16 at 21:01

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .