F O L K L O R E
C H I L D R E N S' B O O K S
P O E T R Y
Saglana Salchak, a soon-to-be-five-year-old girl, lived with her grandparents in the taiga forest of Siberia, near the Mongolian border. When she awoke one morning last month, she wasn’t able to rouse her grandmother. Her grandfather, who is blind, told her to go to the nearest neighbor, five miles away, and get help. Saglana took a box of matches in case she needed to light a fire.
“It was very cold and I was so hungry,' said the girl. "But I wasn't scared. I was just walking, walking, walking. And I finally got there."
Semen Rubtsov, head of search and rescue in Tuva, praised the girl:
“Herders’ children are more prepared to such extreme situations than kids who live in the cities. . . .There was a great danger—wild animals. Bears are hibernating now, but Tuva is crowded with wolves . . . . In the dark she could easily have stumbled on a pack. This girl was lucky that she did not meet them. Her only hope would have been to climb a tree.”
This real-life adventure contains elements of "Little Red Riding Hood,” but in a different configuration. Did Saglana’s family tell her a tale about a child, a solo journey, and a wolf, I wonder. Many folktales for young children offer practical advice for dangerous situations. European "Red Riding Hood" tales warn children to stay on the path. Chinese “Red Riding Hood” tales describe escaping a tiger by climbing a tree.
I am an author and folklorist based in Portland, Oregon.
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