The invasion of Ukraine and talk of its relationship to Russia made me recall a Ukraininan-American woman I enjoyed seeing at a library where I used to work. She took Russian as her foreign language in college, but the professor was wise to her background and wouldn't let her "Russify" Ukrainian. It was easy to relate to that difference when I once acquired a Bible I thought was in Russian to help me learn to read Russian. It was in Ukrainian and useless for my purpose. Found it a Ukrainian home.
Hearing the Ukrainian capitol is called Kyiv and not Kiev made me think of those two incidents. Wikipedia's article on the Ukrainian language began to show just how complicated their history and culture are. I went looking for books of Ukrainian folklore I own, but none are in the Public Domain. Looking on Project Gutenberg I was surprised to find the only folklore in English is by R. Nisbet Bain, whose book of Russian Fairy Tales is a source of Russian folklore I enjoy. Not only that, but the Ukrainian folklore is in Cossack Fairy Tales and Folk Tales. Bain was quite a linguist using over twenty languages. (I drool and think about Lawrence Block's series about The Spy Who Could Not Sleep -- look it up and enjoy!) Bain went from translating Russian to Ruthenian, which Wikipedia explains is the earlier name for Ukrainian. The Cossacks are a vital part of Ukraine's history and culture which admittedly has been intertwined and at other times separated from Russia. I was surprised to see it included a NATO partnership back in 1994. There's a reason it was long called "Little Russia." Clearly there are ties and antagonisms which feel rather like a large family where much is shared, but also fights spring up from time to time.
Cossack Fairy Tales and Folk Tales has some interesting stories including some well worth saving for Halloween, but these three brief tales, for all their brevity give a view into Ukrainian spirit even when they seem at their most helpless. The first is one of those cumulative tales rather like the old woman who must cross over a stile and her pig won't do it until she asks help from a long string of reluctant helpers. (Joseph Jacobs' "Fire! Fire! Burn Stick!" is a good example.) I love assigning members of the audience these "reluctant helpers" for some audience participation. It also helps remember the long string of participants needed to accomplish a task.
There are many illustrations throughout the book by Bain's brother, Noel, but none for these short bits. Here's a glimpse of his work from the title page.
A pair of footnotes follow at the end of the three stories. I'll also add "tussle with" could be substituted for "touzle" in "The Old Dog."
THE SPARROW AND THE BUSH
THE SPARROW AND THE BUSH
A sparrow once flew down upon a bush and said, “Little bush, give good little sparrow a swing.”––“I won’t!” said the little bush. Then the sparrow was angry, and went to the goat and said, “Goat, goat, nibble bush, bush won’t give good little sparrow a swing.”––“I won’t!” said the goat.––Then the sparrow went to the wolf and said, “Wolf, wolf, eat goat, goat won’t nibble bush, bush won’t give good little sparrow a swing.”––“I won’t!” said the wolf.––Then the sparrow went to the people and said, “Good people, kill wolf, wolf won’t eat goat, goat won’t nibble bush, bush won’t give good little sparrow a swing.”––“We won’t!” said the people.––Then the sparrow went to the Tartars and said, “Tartars, Tartars, slay people, people won’t kill wolf, wolf won’t eat goat, goat won’t nibble bush, bush won’t give good little sparrow a swing.”––But the Tartars said, “We won’t slay the people!” and the people said, “We won’t kill the wolf!” and the wolf said, “I won’t eat the goat!” and the goat said, “I won’t nibble the bush!” and the bush said, “I won’t give the good little sparrow a swing.”––“Go!” said the bush, “to the fire, for the Tartars won’t slay the people, and the people won’t kill the wolf, and the wolf won’t eat the goat, and the goat won’t nibble the bush, and the bush won’t give the dear little sparrow a swing.”––But the fire also said, “I won’t!” (they were all alike)––“go to the water,” said he.––So the sparrow went to the water and said, “Come water, quench fire, fire won’t burn Tartars, Tartars won’t slay people, people won’t kill wolf, wolf won’t eat goat, goat won’t nibble bush, bush won’t give good little sparrow a swing.”––But the water also said, “I won’t!” So the sparrow went to the ox and said, “Ox, ox, drink water, water won’t quench fire, fire won’t burn Tartars, Tartars won’t slay people, people won’t kill wolf, wolf won’t eat goat, goat won’t nibble bush, bush won’t give little sparrow a swing.”––“I won’t!” said the ox.––Then the sparrow went to the pole-axe and said, “Pole-axe, pole-axe, strike ox, ox won’t drink water, water won’t quench fire, fire won’t burn Tartars, Tartars won’t slay people, people won’t kill wolf, wolf won’t eat goat, goat won’t nibble bush, bush won’t give little sparrow a swing.”––“I won’t!” said the pole-axe.––So the sparrow went to the worms and said, “Worms, worms, gnaw pole-axe, pole-axe won’t strike ox, ox won’t drink water, water won’t quench fire, fire won’t burn Tartars, Tartars won’t slay people, people won’t kill wolf, wolf won’t eat goat, goat won’t nibble bush, bush won’t give little sparrow a swing.”––“We won’t!” said the worms.––Then the sparrow went to the hen and said, “Hen, hen, peck worms, worms won’t gnaw pole-axe, pole-axe won’t strike ox, ox won’t drink water, water won’t quench fire, fire won’t burn Tartars, Tartars won’t slay people, people won’t kill wolf, wolf won’t eat goat, goat won’t nibble bush, bush won’t give little sparrow a swing.”––“I won’t!” said the hen, “but go to the sparrow-hawk, he ought to give the first push, or why is he called the Pusher!”––So the sparrow went to the sparrow-hawk and said, “Come, pusher, seize hen, hen won’t peck worms, worms won’t gnaw pole-axe, pole-axe won’t strike ox, ox won’t drink water, water won’t quench fire, fire won’t burn Tartars, Tartars won’t slay people, people won’t kill wolf, wolf won’t eat goat, goat won’t nibble bush, bush won’t give little sparrow a swing.”
Then the sparrow-hawk began to seize the hen, the hen began to peck the worms, the worms began to gnaw the pole-axe, the pole-axe began to hit the ox, the ox began to drink the water, the water began to quench the fire, the fire began to burn the Tartars, the Tartars began to slay the people, the people began to kill the wolf, the wolf began to eat the goat, the goat began to nibble the bush, and the bush cried out:
“Swing away, swing away, swi-i-i-i-ing!
THE OLD DOG
THE OLD DOG
There was once a man who had a dog. While the dog was young he was made much of, but when he grew old he was driven out of doors. So he went and lay outside the fence, and a wolf came up to him and said, “Doggy, why so down in the mouth?”––“While I was young,” said the dog, “they made much of me; but now that I am old they beat me.” The wolf said, “I see thy master in the field; go after him, and perchance he’ll give thee something.”––“Nay,” said the dog, “they won’t even let me walk about the fields now, they only beat me.”––“Look now,” said the wolf, “I’m sorry, and will make things better for thee. Thy mistress, I see, has put her child down beneath that wagon. I’ll seize it, and make off with it. Run thou after me and bark, and though thou hast no teeth left, touzle me as much as thou canst, so that thy mistress may see it.”
So the wolf seized the child, and ran away with it, and the dog ran after him, and began to touzle him. His mistress saw it, and made after them with a harrow, crying at the same time, “Husband, husband! the wolf has got the child! Gabriel, Gabriel! don’t you see? The wolf has got the child!” Then the man chased the wolf, and got back the child. “Brave old dog!” said he; “you are old and toothless, and yet you can give help in time of need, and will not let your master’s child be stolen.” And henceforth the woman and her husband gave the old dog a large lump of bread every day.
THE FOX AND THE CAT
THE FOX AND THE CAT
In a certain forest there once lived a fox, and near to the fox lived a man who had a cat that had been a good mouser in its youth, but was now old and half blind. The man didn’t want puss any longer, but not liking to kill it, took it out into the forest and lost it there. Then the fox came up and said, “Why, Mr Shaggy Matthew! How d’ye do! What brings you here?”––“Alas!” said Pussy, “my master loved me as long as I could bite, but now that I can bite no longer and have left off catching mice––and I used to catch them finely once––he doesn’t like to kill me, but he has left me in the wood where I must perish miserably.”––“No, dear Pussy!” said the fox; “you leave it to me, and I’ll help you to get your daily bread.”––“You are very good, dear little sister foxey!” said the cat, and the fox built him a little shed with a garden round it to walk about in.
Now one day the hare came to steal the man’s cabbage. “Kreem-kreem-kreem!” he squeaked. But the cat popped his head out of the window, and when he saw the hare, he put up his back and stuck up his tail and said, “Ft-t-t-t-t-Frrrrrrr!” The hare was frightened and ran away and told the bear, the wolf, and the wild boar all about it. “Never mind,” said the bear, “I tell you what, we’ll all four give a banquet, and invite the fox and the cat, and do for the pair of them. Now, look here! I’ll steal the man’s mead; and you, Mr Wolf, steal his fat-pot; and you, Mr Wildboar, root up his fruit-trees; and you, Mr Bunny, go and invite the fox and the cat to dinner.”
So they made everything ready as the bear had said, and the hare ran off to invite the guests. He came beneath the window and said, “We invite your little ladyship Foxey-Woxey, together with Mr Shaggy Matthew, to dinner”––and back he ran again.––“But you should have told them to bring their spoons with them,” said the bear.––“Oh, what a head I’ve got! if I didn’t quite forget!” cried the hare, and back he went again, ran beneath the window and cried, “Mind you bring your spoons!”––“Very well,” said the fox.
So the cat and the fox went to the banquet, and when the cat saw the bacon, he put up his back and stuck out his tail, and cried, “Mee-oo, mee-oo!” with all his might. But they thought he said, “Ma-lo, ma-lo!”––“What!” said the bear, who was hiding behind the beeches with the other beasts, “here have we four been getting together all we could, and this pig-faced cat calls it too little! What a monstrous cat he must be to have such an appetite!” So they were all four very frightened, and the bear ran up a tree, and the others hid where they could. But when the cat saw the boar’s bristles sticking out from behind the bushes he thought it was a mouse, and put up his back again and cried, “Ft! ft! ft! Frrrrrrr!” Then they were more frightened than ever. And the boar went into a bush still farther off, and the wolf went behind an oak, and the bear got down from the tree, and climbed up into a bigger one, and the hare ran right away.
But the cat remained in the midst of all the good things and ate away at the bacon, and the little fox gobbled up the honey, and they ate and ate till they couldn’t eat any more, and then they both went home licking their paws.
Shulyak means both sparrow-hawk and push.
What a little! What a little!
Looking at the many former countries gobbled up by the old Soviet Union, let's hope these "Cossacks" remain free to choose their own destiny. history, and culture.
Just found this link for resources to discuss the invasion of the Ukraine with young people, including military families.
- There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection. I have long recommended it and continue to do so. He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key. http://folkmasa.org/motiv/motif.htm
- You may have noticed I'm no
longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his
offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking
specific types of stories. There's another site, FairyTalez
claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales,
folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for
phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.
Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"
- Zalka Csenge Virag - http://multicoloreddiary.blogspot.com doesn't give the actual stories, but her recommendations, working her way through each country on a continent, give excellent ideas for finding new books and stories to love and tell.
You're going to find many of the links on these sites have gone down, BUT go to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to find some of these old links. Tim's site, for example, is so huge probably updating it would be a full-time job. In the case of Story-Lovers, it's great that Jackie Baldwin set it up to stay online as long as it did after she could no longer maintain it. Possibly searches maintained it. Unfortunately Storytell list member, Papa Joe is on both Tim Sheppard's site and Story-Lovers, but he no longer maintains his old Papa Joe's Traveling Storytelling Show website and his Library (something you want to see!) is now only on the Wayback Machine. It took some patience working back through claims of snapshots but finally in December of 2006 it appears!