Sisters Kate Douglas Wiggin and Nora Archibald Smith together edited 16 books packed with wonderful stories. Each wrote on their own beyond those anthologies and both Wiggin and Smith were strong leaders in the Kindergarten movement. While it's easy to think of their books as being for children, the anthologies include folklore for all. I prowled Tales of Laughter with just the key word of "mother" for Mother's Day. It right away turned up this little gem from Russian folklore. It matches a common theme found again and again in stories whether in history, folklore, or nature about mothers. . . mothers will do whatever it takes to protect their young. Of course it helps if she's clever, too.
Tales of Laughter carries the series subtitle of A Third Fairy Book, but there's not a fairy to be found in this tale.
The Disappointed Bear
Once upon a time a little old woman, who was walking in the forest, climbed up into a wild-cherry tree to gather cherries. Now, a bear espied her, and he came under the tree and cried, “Come down, old woman, that I may eat you!”
“Go along with you!” answered the old woman. “Why should you eat a scrawny old woman like me. Here, gnaw upon my shoe till I come down, and I will take you to my house; I have two little children there, named Janko and Mirko; they will make you a right savory dish. So have patience till you get them.”
So said the little old woman, and threw down one of her shoes. Master Bruin gnawed and gnawed upon it, but the more he gnawed the hungrier he grew. Greatly enraged, he screamed up to the old woman:
“Come down, you old wench, and let me eat you!”
“Just wait a little longer, till the old wench has gathered enough cherries,” she answered. “Here, gnaw this other shoe a while; she’ll soon come down and show you the way to her house.” So saying, she threw down the other shoe.
When Bruin found that the second shoe was no juicier than the first, he made no further effort, but contented himself with thinking of the fat little children at the old woman’s house. When she had gathered cherries enough, down she came and went home, the bear tramping along behind her.
When they reached the house the old woman said: “I’ll tell you what; first let me give the children a good supper, that they may be all the fatter; and meanwhile do you run about till evening to get up a better appetite.”
So Bruin went away and ran about in the woods all the rest of the day, and at evening he came back to the hut.
“Here I am, little mother!” he cried; “now bring out Janko and Mirko, and see me polish them off. I am starving to death!”
“Oho!” answered the little old woman from within; “Janko has made the door fast with bolts, and I have just put Mirko to sleep. I couldn’t think of waking him. And the little mother is so old and weak that she can’t unbolt the door alone. Come some other day!”
Then Master Bruin perceived that he had been fooled, and he walked reluctantly away, with drooping snout and an empty stomach.
May your Mother's Day enjoy this little story over some delicious food! (May that food also be cooked by anybody BUT mother!)
This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain." The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated. I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century. My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them. I hope you enjoy discovering new stories.
At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience. Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week. This is a return to my regular posting of a research project here. (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.) Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other postings as often as I can manage it.
Other Public Domain story resources I recommend-
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!"