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Seals and mountain spirits

Making tri-lingual folktale books

Kira Van Deusen

For political and economic reasons, oral storytelling has lagged behind other art forms in the Siberian cultural revival. The deep spiritual philosophy found in ancient tales can clarify and unite viable approaches to today's political, artistic and ecological concerns. Since most Siberian indigenous languages are considered to be threatened, if not almost extinct, and since languages are basic to stories, perhaps revival of storytelling can facilitate initiatives to preserve language. This article looks briefly at storytelling and language during the Soviet period and the first decade after, and describes two tri-lingual folktale book projects undertaken in collaboration with Udeghe and Khakassian folklorists and cultural activists.