A Nursery Tale

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"A Nursery Tale"
Author Vladimir Nabokov
Original title "Сказка"
Translator Vladimir Nabokov, Dmitri Nabokov
Language Russian
Published in "Rul'"
Publication type Newspaper
Publication date 27 and 29 June 1926
Published in English 1975

"A Nursery Tale" (Russian: Сказка, Skazka) is a short story by Vladimir Nabokov first published in the expatriate Russian newspaper Rul on 27 and 29 June 1926 and in the book form in The Return of Chorb in 1930. The English translation by the author and his son, Dmitri Nabokov has appeared in 1975 in collection Tyrants Destroyed and Other Stories.

Plot summary[edit]

Erwin, the protagonist, is shy and “collects” an imaginary harem of women by tagging them mentally when looking from the streetcar. One day, he encounters the Devil in the shape of a German middle-aged women, Frau Monde, who tells him he can have all the women he can “collect” before midnight provided their number is uneven. Erwin tries to do so but ultimately fails.


The story makes reference to a teenage girl as one of the women Erwin tries to make part of his collection, an early reference to the theme of hebephilia that is later spun out in Lolita. This may be the earliest reference in Nabokov’s work to the attraction of pubescent girls.[1]


  1. ^ "10 – A Nursery Tale". Mantex. 2005. Retrieved 4 January 2018. 


  • Fantasy, Folklore, and Finite Numbers in Nabokov's "A Nursery Tale" by Susan Sweeney, The Slavic and East European Journal, Vol. 43, No. 3 (Autumn, 1999), pp. 511–529.