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Translated by Fainna Solasko
Illustrated by Y.Rachov
A Nivkh Story
Bear padded his den with dry leaves and moss, curled up in a dark corner and fell so soundly asleep that he didn't know it had begun to snow, didn't hear the blizzards raging over the forest or the old firs and cedars creaking in the frost.
When the spring sun rose over the taiga, melting the snow and bringing forth the first gurgling streams, Bear awoke.
He crept out of his den and sat down on a log, rubbing his eyes, stretching and grumbling. "Yes, spring is here, but there's nothing to eat. What am I going to do?" he said.
Indeed, Bear was very hungry, for he had not had a bite to eat all winter. No wonder he was famished. He tramped off in search of food, but since there was still a lot of snow on the ground he could not hope for much. There was not a single green blade of grass in sight, to say nothing of the berries and nuts which he loved so and which would not appear for quite some time.
Bear lumbered through the forest until he came to an old stump. Something was moving under it. Bear got hold of the stump and tried to pull it up. The stump was big and its roots were deep, while Bear was still very weak.
"Is there anybody here? Come on out!" he roared.
A little brown animal darted out from under the stump. It was Chipmunk. He'd been hibernating all winter, too, snug in his burrow among the roots. Now Chipmunk looked up to see Bear roaring fiercely.
"Why're you so angry, Grandfather Bear?"
"Because I'm hungry. I haven't had a bite to eat all winter. D'you have anything to eat?"
"Be right back," Chipmunk said, scooted down into his larder which he'd filled with tasty tidbits the previous autumn and brought out some small, sweet roots. "Here you are."
Bear ate them and felt better. "Thanks, Chipmunk. Though you're not very big, you're big-hearted." At this Bear patted Chipmunk gently, but still, his claws made dark stripes down Chipmunk's brown back.
The stripes did not go away. Ever since then chipmunks have had black stripes down their backs. When the other animals ask them why their fur is striped they say, "That's because Grandfather Bear patted us."
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