Russian Folk-Tales/Iváshko and the Wise Woman

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IVÁSHKO AND THE WISE WOMAN


Once there lived an old man and an old dame, and they only had one little son, and you can't imagine how they loved him.

One day Iváshechko asked his mother and father, "Please may I go and catch fish?"

"What nonsense! you're much too little yet: you might get drowned, and that would be a fine story."

"Oh, no, I won't get drowned. I'll go and catch you a fish: let me go!"

So grandfather gave him a little white shirt to wear, with a big red sash, and off he went. Soon he was sitting in a boat and singing:

Little boat, little boat, sail far away,
O'er the blue water away and away.

The little skiff sailed far and far away and Iváshechko started fishing. Soon, how long I don't know, up came the mother to the shore and said:

Iváshechko, Iváshechko, my little son,
Up to the shore let your little boat run:
Here is some drink and here is a bun!

And Iváshechko said:

Little boat, little boat, sail to the shore:
My mother's calling me.

The little skiff sailed up to the shore; the woman took the fish and fed her little boy, changed his shirt and sash and sent him out again to catch fish. And there he sat on the boat and sang:

Little boat, little boat, sail far away,
O'er the blue water away and away.

The little boat sailed out so far away, and Iváshechko started fishing. Soon the grandfather came to the shore and called his son:

Iváshechko, Iváshechko, my little son,
Up to the shore let your little boat run:
Here is some drink and here is a bun!

And Iváshechko said:

Little boat, little boat, sail to the shore:
For father's calling me!

The little skiff sailed up to the shore; the grandfather took the fish and fed his little boy, changed his shirt and sash and sent him out again to catch fish. And there he sat on the boat and sang:

Little boat, little boat, sail far away,
O'er the blue water away and away.

Now the wise woman saw how his grandparents called Iváshechko, and wanted to get hold of the boy. So she came to the shore and called out:

Iváshechko, Iváshechko, my little son,
Up to the shore let your little boat run:
Here is some drink and here is a bun!

But Iváshechko knew the voice, and whose voice it was. So he sang:

Little boat, little boat, sail far away,
O'er the blue water away and away.
The Evil Woman's calling me

So the wise woman saw she must act the mother's voice, so she ran to the smith and asked him, "Smith, just forge me a thin little voice like the one Iváshechko's mother has, or I'll eat you up!" So the smith forged the voice just like the mother's. So up she went to the shore and sang:

Iváshechko, Iváshechko, my little son,
Up to the shore let your little boat run:
Here is some drink and here is a bun!

Iváshechko sailed up; she took the fish and seized and took Iváshechko himself away. When she reached home, she told her daughter Alyónka: "Just make my stove nice and hot and cook Iváshechko all through. I'll go assemble my guests."

And Alyónka heated the stove very hot and told Iváshechko: "Come and sit on the shovel."[1]

"I'm too young and stupid," Iváshechko answered; "show me how to sit on the shovel."

"Oh, that's easy enough!" said Alyónka; and as soon as she was on Iváshechko shoved her into the stove, slammed the door to and went out of the hut, and climbed a great big tall oak tree.

The wise woman came with her guests and knocked at the hut; there was no reply, no one to open the door. "Oh, confound Alyónka; she must have gone out to play." The wise woman climbed up into the window, opened the door and admitted her guests, opened the oven door, took out Alyónka, who was well cooked, and they all sat down to table and ate and ate and drank, and at last went out to take a turn on the grass:

"I am dancing, I am prancing, I have eaten Iváshechko's flesh."

Then Iváshechko interrupted from the top of the tree: "Dance and prance! you have eaten Alyónka's flesh."

"Did I hear anything?" said the wise woman; "it must have been the leaves rustling," Again the wise woman said, "I am dancing, I am prancing, I have eaten Iváshechko's flesh!"

Iváshechko repeated: "Dance and prance! you have eaten Alyónka's flesh!"

So at last she looked up and saw Iváshechko, and began to gnaw at the oak-tree on which he was sitting, and gnawed and gnawed, broke two of her front teeth, and went to the smithy. She called the smith. "Smith, smith, make me some iron teeth, or I'll eat you up."

The smith made her two iron teeth.

So back she went and gnawed away at the tree, and as soon as she had gnawed it through Iváshechko just jumped on to the next oak-tree, whilst the one the witch had gnawed through fell down.

Then the wise woman gnawed and gnawed at this tree, and gnawed and gnawed, broke the two front teeth, and went to the smithy. She called the smith: "Smith, smith, make me two more iron teeth, or I'll eat you up."

The smith made her two more iron teeth.

So she went back and gnawed away at the tree.

So Iváshechko did not know what to do. He looked up and saw geese and swans flying; he asked them:

Geese and swans, geese and swans,
Waft me away on your pinions:
Take me home to my mother and father;
With my mother and my father
There is plenty to eat
And life is sweet!

"The next covey may take you," said the birds.

So he waited. And another flock came, and he repeated:

Geese and swans, geese and swans,
Waft me away on your pinions:
Take me home to my mother and father;
With my mother and my father
There is plenty to eat
And life is sweet!

"Perhaps the last may take you."

So he waited on, and as the third flock appeared he said:

Geese and swans, geese and swans,
Waft me away on your pinions:
Take me home to my mother and father;
With my mother and my father
There is plenty to eat
And life is sweet!

They took him home on their wings up to the hut and placed Iváshechko in the loft.

Early next day the woman cooked a pancake on the stove, and whilst cooking it thought of her poor little boy Iván, and said: "Where is my Iváshechko? I dreamed of him last night!"

And gaffer said: "I dreamed last night the geese and swans were wafting our little Iván home."

She had finished the pancake by now, and said: "Now, gaffer, we'll share it, this bit for you, this bit for me!"

"And none for me!" Iváshechko chimed in.

"This is for you, and this is for me!"

"And none for me!"

"What's that noise, gaffer?" the woman asked.

The grandfather clattered up into the loft and found Iváshechko. They were overjoyed, asked him all about everything, and lived a jolly life.


This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

 
  1. Shovels are used to insert loaves and pots deep into the oven.