If we classified the Russian fairy tales according to the plot, we would divide them into 3 main groups: animal tales, animal-human tales & human-spirit tales. The first group represents a set of rather simple stories commonly known as “for kids”. The second & the third ones are more complicated & usually have a deep, profound sense, so they are for those who are older.
Unlike the modern trend telling foreigners that Russia is the place where bears with balalaikas wander, the bear is not a common animal in our folklore. Certainly, there are stories about them, (mostly belonging to the second group), – but rather few.
The most popular animals in the Russian fairy-tales are Fox, Wolf, Hare, then Bear and Rooster or other birds. Fox symbolizes slyness & too often wisdom. Its behaviour has something in common with the famous le Roman de Renart veiled with the Slavic spirit. Wolf represents simplicity or cowardice & he often is punished for his friend Fox‘s doing, but never anger or violence. It is very likely that originally this character was a dog. Its manner of behaviour points to that. Hare is an example of courage, creativity & helplessness. He usually suffers from Fox & Wolf’s crafty designs. Bear is stupid & ignorant. He always gets into a pretty mess due to his reluctance to think or to learn. Rooster is a symbol of justice, but he is a rather rare character in our folklore.
I wonder why we have no horse, pig or cow stories though. Maybe because our Slavic ancestors used to live in the forests & they did not regard domestic animals as ones deserved to be mentioned in folk-tales.