The Scarlet Flower (Аленький цветочек, Alenkiy tsvetochek) is a popular Russian folktale based on Sergey Aksakov’s rendition of the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. Similar to the traditional tale, it begins when a merchant father, Stepan Yemelyanovich, asks his three daughters what gifts they would like from his travels. The oldest daughter, Gordeya, wishes for an expensive tiara. The middle daughter, Lyubava, wishes for a magic mirror in which she will always look young. And Nastenka, the youngest, asks for a scarlet flower like the one she saw in her dream.
While on his trip, Stepan finds the first two gifts for his daughters, but cannot find a scarlet flower, so he sets sail for home. However, on his journey back, he gets shipwrecked on a mysterious island where he finds a flower like the one in Nastenka’s dream, and picks it for her. But upon taking it, he learns that the flower belongs to a beast, who allows him to keep it, but tells him to send one of his daughters in return. The father refuses, and the beast gives him a magic teleportation ring and tells him that either his daughter must wear the ring to come back, or the father must return and be killed.
At the time the Soviet Union was in place, Aksakov’s version of the folk tale was best known. When the writer was young, his housekeeper would tell him stories, and he remembered hearing The Scarlet Flower when he was ill and suffering from insomnia. Later, Aksakov said in a letter to his son, “I am writing a story which in my childhood I knew by heart.”
Director Lev Atamanov brings the story to life in his lovely and delightful 1952 animation. I love this version for the beautiful animation and deep, rich color combinations.
The film was made in Soyuzmultfilm studio with screenplay by Georgiy Grebner and lyrics by Yakov Shvedov. The music was written by Nikolai Budashkin, with chamber singer Victoria Ivanova performing Nastenka’s song “During This Time in a Darling Party.” I like the Russian version with English subtitles best, but couldn’t find a video for it, so instead, here is a short 11 second clip to illustrate the animation.