The Iron Bridge and Digging deep: the enchanted underground in Pavel Bazhov's 1939 collection of magic tales, The Malachite Casket.

  • Rebecca Hurst

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis is comprised of two parts, each of which is intended to stand alone. Although conceived and created separately there is, inevitably, some resonance between the two projects, which over the course of four years of research and writing have entered into dialogue with each other. Both poetry and critical essay are concerned with the fairy tale as a literary form and share motifs of the underground, doubling, and the creation of enchanted or mythical landscapes. I. The Iron Bridge The Iron Bridge is a collection of poetry that interrogates and subverts the traditional tropes, characters and themes of the fairy-tale form. It is grounded in place, and in the exile's experience of far-from-home. And it is deeply interested in the human compulsion to gossip and chat, sing songs and tell stories. My poems are rooted within the genre of fairy tale and folklore. However, these roots have branched out in many different directions, complicating my initial thoughts on the collection, and encompassing themes of: the landscape, history, and folk music of the Sussex Weald; the travels and tribulations of the Victorian nurse and explorer, Kate Marsden; and the art of the Surrealist painter and writer, Leonora Carrington. II. Digging deep: the enchanted underground in Pavel Bazhov's 1939 collection of magic tales, The Malachite Casket. Grounding his folkloric fairy tales in the local legends he heard in childhood, Pavel Bazhov used mining and mountain lore to create an original and paradoxical literature of descent. This thesis excavates The Malachite Casket, his 1939 collection of Soviet magic tales. Writing at the height of the Stalinist Terror in the mid-1930s, whilst in hiding and underground™, Bazhov created characters and narratives that traverse above and below ground. In his stories the subterranean realm is an ambiguous space of hard labour and punishment, enchantment and transformation. I argue that concealed within the text of these utopian and socialist realist magic tales is not only the story of Bazhov's own time underground, but also his oblique critique of Stalinism's impact on Russia's rural peasant underclass. In exploring these hidden themes I employ a synthetic approach, using sociohistoric and subtextual analysis. The intention of my underground reading is to mimic Bazhov's katabatic themes, exposing the negotiation in tales and text between what is above and below, and revealing more fully their cultural and literary significance, and enduring legacy.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorCarol Mavor (Supervisor) & Vona Groarke (Supervisor)


  • Russia
  • Katabasis
  • Landscape
  • Leonora Carrington
  • Pavel Bazhov
  • Kate Marsden
  • Soviet literature
  • Underground
  • Stalinism
  • Fairy tales
  • Poetry
  • Magic tales

Cite this