Arthur Ransome Wiki

The War of the Birds and the Beasts and other Russian tales was published after Arthur Ransomes death in 1984, and includes 'The Soldier and Death' which was first published in 1920.

Some of the stories had been published in Country Life or The Wheatsheaf, but others were in typescript or holograph in the Brotherton Collection. The editor Hugh Brogan said they required little editing, but he eliminated a few anti-Semitic details which reflected social conditions in the old Russian Empire, but have no place in English books for children today.

The tales are grimmer than Old Peter's Russian Tales but reflect the dark side of the Russian peasantry. Not all the archive stories are included so they display Ransome at his best, his early attempts at translation were rejected by the author himself as too clumsy and wordy. He had decided to translate Russian folk-tales after coming across in 1912 a famous ethnographic collection of translations to English by William Shedden Ralston; the tales were delightful but the language and style could hardly have been worse.

'The Soldier and Death' was first published in 1920, but Brogan used the text of the third edition of 1963, the last to appear in the author’s lifetime.

Some chapters are from a 1913 collection of Caucasian tales for which Ransome could not find a publisher. Other chapters including 'The War of the Birds and the Beasts' were written at Stockholm in the autumn of 1918.