Pyotr Pavlovich Yershov

Pyotr Pavlovich Yershov

Pyotr Pavlovich Yershov ( _ru. Пётр Павлович Ершов, OldStyleDate|March 6|1815|February 22 - OldStyleDate|August 30|1869|August 18) was a Russian poet, the author of the famous fairy-tale poem "The Humpbacked Horse (konyok-gorbunok)".


Pyotr Yershov was born in the village Bezrukovo, near the town of Ishim, Tobolsk gubernia (currently Tyumen oblast). During his childhood he lived in the town of Beryozov. From 1827-1831 he studied in Tobolsk gymnasium, where he reportedly created a society for the Ethnographic study of Siberia - and even planned to publish their own scientific journal. From 1831-1836 he studied philosophy at Saint Petersburg University, which was where he wrote his masterpiece, the fairy tale "The Humpbacked Horse". A large extract from it was published in 1834 and brought Yershov instant fame. Alexander Pushkin wrote that Yershov was as fully in command of his verses as a landowner is in command of his serfs. Pushkin also announced that he would stop writing fairy tales as Yershov did it much better (he wrote the "The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish" one year after this announcement anyway).

In 1836 Yershov returned back to Tobolsk, where he worked as a teacher and from 1858 as the principal of Tobolsk gymnasium. He died in 1869 in Tobolsk. Biographers of Yershov note that disasters frequented his life. In 1834, just after the triumph of "The Humpbacked Horse" both Pyotr's father and brother died within a few days. In 1838 his mother died; in 1845 his wife died; in 1847 he married again, but his second wife died in 1852. Out of his 15 children only six survived.

Yershov published many lyrical verses, a drama ("Suvorov and a Station Master") and short stories, but none of them had the same success as "The Humpbacked Horse". He also reportedly wrote a large fairy tale poem, "Ilya Muromets", and a huge poem called "Ivan Tsarevitch" (in ten volumes and one hundred songs) but destroyed them. Only a short extract from "Ivan Tsarevitch" survived.

The Humpbacked Horse

"The Humpbacked Horse" (konyok-gorbunok), sometimes known in English as "The Magic Horse" or "The Little Magic Horse", is a version of a common fairy-tale character "Golden-Maned Steed", although a large part of the plot of this story is based on Tsarevitch Ivan, the Fire Bird and the Gray Wolf. The little horse helps Ivan, a peasant’s son, carry out many unreasonable demands of the tsar. During his adventures Ivan gets the beautiful magic firebird for the tsar, keeps his magic horse and finds his love (princess Yelena the Beautiful). At the end the princess and the peasant’s son live happily for many years after.

Censors banned the complete story for over 20 years in the mid-19th century because it made the tsar appear foolish. Until 1856 the tale was published with dots instead of many verses and even songs. It is meant to be a satire on the absurdities of Russian feudal and bureaucratic life at the time. Now it is considered just a classical children fairy tale.

Ballet adaptation

Arthur Saint-Léon created a ballet from the book to the music of Cesare Pugni for the Imperial Ballet (today the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet). The work premiered in December 13, 1864 at the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. The resounding premeiere was attended by Emperor Alexander II.

The ballet lived on for many years in the repertory of the Imperial Ballet and the Kirov Ballet, and of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow in a version by Alexander Gorsky (1901). Marius Petipa revived the ballet in 1895 as "The Tsar Maiden" for the Ballerina Pierina Legnani.

Alexander Radunsky choreographed his own version to a score by Rodion Shchedrin for the Bolshoi Ballet in 1960, a version which was filmed in 1961 with Maya Plisetskaya as the Tsar Maiden and Vladimir Vasiliev as Ivanushka.

A version of Saint-Léon's original was filmed in 1989 for Russian television with graduates from the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet in the lead roles. The film included narrated sections and illustration from a popular 1964 Russian version of Yershov's book.


* After "The Humpbacked Horse" was published, many people did not believe that Pyotr Yershov was a real person; they were sure it was a Pushkin poem. Indeed Pushkin wrote the first four lines of the final version of the poem and helped with its editing.

External links

*en icon [ Full text of "Prince Ivan, Firebird, and the Grey Wolf"]
*en icon [ Plot of "The Humpbacked Horse (konek-gorbunok)"]
*ru icon [ Poem "The Humpbacked Horse (konek-gorbunok)" text and illustrations of 1964]
*ru icon [ Biography]
*ru icon [ Alexander Zvereev "He wrote more than only The Humpbacked Horse]
*ru icon [ Biography]

NAME=Yershov, Pyotr Pavlovich
SHORT DESCRIPTION=poet, writer, teacher
DATE OF BIRTH=March 6, 1815
PLACE OF BIRTH=Bezrukovo, Russia
DATE OF DEATH= August 30, 1869

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