As part of my efforts to understand more about the Russian culture, I recently purchased a book of Russian Fairy Tales. I think cultures use such stories as a way to teach their children core values, so I was quite surprised and very amused by some of the tales I've read so far.
For example, here is the synopsis of one fairy tale called Salt.
A merchant had three sons. The youngest son was called Ivan the fool. One day, he bought a cheap boat and went out to sea. After four days, he was blown to a remote island where he found a mountain of pure Russian salt. He loaded up his boat with the salt and traveled to another country hoping to trade it.
The country where Ivan landed had never seen salt before and did not value it. So he sneaked into the King's kitchen and put salt into his food. The King loved the improved taste so much he decided to buy all Ivan's salt for silver and gold. He also allowed Ivan to become engaged to his daughter, a beautiful princess.
When Ivan returned with his bride and riches, his brothers became jealous and kidnapped him. They took him out to sea and threw him overboard. In addition, the eldest brother stole his bride and arranged for her to marry him instead.
Ivan swam to a nearby island and was rescued by a giant. The giant carried Ivan on his shoulders back across the sea to his homeland, and told him that if he mentioned the rescue to anyone, the giant would kill him. Ivan promised he would keep it a secret, thanked the giant and walked back home.
When he got back home, he told his father about what had happened. The father was furious and drove the other brothers out of the house. Ivan was reunited with his bride and had a great celebration.
During the feast, Ivan got drunk and told a story about his rescue to the other revelers. Just then, the giant appeared and told Ivan that because he had broken his promise, the giant would have to kill him. Ivan told the giant that it was not him talking, it was his drunkenness.
The giant did not know the meaning of drunkenness, so Ivan commanded that the giant be given a hundred gallon barrel of wine and a hundred gallon barrel of beer. The giant drank it all, then wrecked the village and slept for three days and three nights.
When the giant awoke, he saw what he had done to the village and told Ivan that he now understood drunkness. Then he told Ivan than he would not kill him after all and he could talk about the rescue whenever he wanted.
If not too sure what the moral of this story is, but it might be having an effect on the consumption of Russian Vodka!