An English Translation of ‘How a Handplane Made a Handplane: A Fairy Tale’

Note to readers: Yesterday (25 May) some of you may have received a version of this post. That version was pulled back shortly after publishing due to multiple problems with how the images were loading. I apologize for any confusion this may have caused you. Chris Schwarz very kindly ran the images through his design software to straighten out the problem.

In early April I wrote a short post about two Russian children’s books published in the 1920s. One book was titled “Table” (about making a table) and the other was a fairy tale about a handplane making another handplane. Both books are in the Special Collections of the University of Washington Libraries. You can read the original post here.

Published in 1927, “How a Handplane Made a Handplane: A Fairy Tale” was written by Samuil Iakovlevich Marshak, considered to be the founder of Russian children’s literature. The illustrations are by Vladimir Vasil’evich Lebednev who introduced bright and bold graphics and changed the design of children’s literature. Together they produced an appealing tale for both children and adults.

Without a translation it is possible to partially figure out the plot. The book opens with a handplane, tools are introduced, a tree is felled and another handplane is made. With a translation a door is opened to the voices of the handplane and the other tools and you learn why a second handplane is made.

My translation is in prose. Although rhyming poetry is common in children’s books (and kids love it), I am not up to translating poems from one language to another, much less rhyming poems! Nevertheless, it is a charming story and I hope you enjoy it.

You can read the individual pages below. If you want to print and assemble your own book with a two-page spread you can download a pdf using this link:

Handplane Fairytale2

Handplane FairytaleHandplane Fairytale2Handplane Fairytale3Handplane Fairytale4Handplane Fairytale5Handplane Fairytale6Handplane Fairytale7Handplane Fairytale8Handplane Fairytale9Handplane Fairytale10Handplane Fairytale11Handplane Fairytale12Handplane Fairytale13Handplane Fairytale14

Suzanne Ellison

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19 Responses to An English Translation of ‘How a Handplane Made a Handplane: A Fairy Tale’

  1. Maurice says:

    Merci Suzanne pour cette traduction, j’aime les livres “pour enfants“,ils ont des dons incroyables, celui-ci me fait croire que je comprends très bien l’anglais 🙂

    • saucyindexer says:

      Merci Maurice! Je suis d’accord que les livres pour enfants ont un art incroyable et des histoires imaginatives (et facile à comprendre pour les adultes 🙃).

  2. Rajesh Devabhaktuni says:

    I’ve received a mail notification of your yesterday’s post on same book and saved the “EN Translation” images from that mail notification. Thanks for your time and effort in translating this and i appreciate it. I’ve saved the PDF and images as well.

    are you going to translate “Table” book as well?

    • saucyindexer says:

      Hi Rajesh, I don’t have plans to translate “Table” as the many illustrations make it an easier story to follow from felling a tree, all the steps in processing the wood, to putting the table together. Handplane Fairy Tale had a mystery to it that I wanted to unlock.

  3. How beautiful, I almoste teared up! I will go downstairs and sharpen my handplane… thank you for such dreamy content.

  4. What a nice story. Being Russian myself, I’ve never came along this book, but still I’ve liked the translation. Might go look for an original text.

  5. nrhiller says:

    Fantastic. Thanks for a bright spot at this time.

  6. Good morning,

    Is the Russian original available online? I have a number of emigre friends with children who might enjoy reading it with their children.

    Thank you! Peter McLaughlin Chicago

    • saucyindexer says:

      Yes, If you use the link at the end of the first paragraph it will take you to my post of 5 April. That post has links to both books in Russian: “Table” and the handplane fairy tale.

      • Alexander says:

        I spent my afternoon translating the poem to English. Mostly literally, but it might be interesting for you to take a look.
        The original text itself is quite accurate regarding to operating a handplane and selecting the right stock 🙂

  7. Richard Brunelle says:

    I don’t know about everyone else, but I need no apology nor re-do on this cute enjoyable story. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Dave Fisher says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Suzanne! I love the illustration of the tree falling and the blueprint — actually pretty useful — of the plane. Wonderful story.

  9. Roland Stewart Chapman says:

    Very nice

  10. Lovely story! Thanks for taking the time to do the translation. (Wish I could hear the original Russian read out loud. I don’t read or speak the language, but you can usually tell it’s verse when you hear it.) I may have to read this one to my own kids and see what they think.

  11. Klaus N. Skrudland says:

    Fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing! I enjoyed every bit of it!

  12. Lee Hockman says:

    Thank you! I will add this to the stories, and books such as Grandpa’s Workshop to read to my 2 year old grandson, maybe in a couple more years. For bedtime I’ll read chapters about the Radio Woodworker. If anyone knows of others to read to him please let me know.

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