Arthur Ransome’s charming collection of Russian folk tales, as told by Old Peter the forester to his grandchildren, Vanya and Maroosia, is this Christmas’s family offering on Radio 4. First published in 1916, Old Peter’s Russian Tales was published by Jane Nissen Books in 2003 with illustrations by Faith Jacques and introduction by Ransome expert Christina Hardyment. Written in Russia, where Ransome was a journalist in the lead up to and during the revolution, the stories sympathetically depict Old Peter as a devout Tsarist, despite Ransome’s strong personal friendship with Trotsky and Lenin (he married Trotsky’s secretary). The stories have been dramatised by David Britton and will be broadcast, with Trevor Cooper playing Old Peter, in Woman’s Hour at 10.45 each morning and then repeated at 19.45. Each story will be given 15 minutes and will go out from 25/12 to 29/12. (Sadko on 25/12, The Fool of the World on 26/12, Baba Yaga on 27/12, The Silver Saucer and the Transparent Apple on 28/12 and Little Master Misery on 29/12) Old Peter, Vanya and Maroosia live in a hut in the middle of the snowbound forest, in Russia, but their lives are rich. They have firewood, good soup, Vladimir, the affectionate cat, and wonderful stories to keep them going through the winter.
Trevor Cooper stars as Old Peter, with newcomers Harry Hughes and Jemmy Mackenzie Brown as the children. Trevor is a familiar face on British television, most recently seen as Oliver Hardy in BBC4’s Stan, and as Scaevinus in Ancient Rome and is currently filming The History of Mr Polly for ITV. He also played Henry Moss in Michael Attenborough’s The Late Henry Moss for the Almeida Theatre.
Arthur Ransome’s Old Peter’s Russian Tales (Jane Nissen Books £7.99 1-903252-16-4)