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Russian fairy tale
Translated by Irina Zheleznova
Illustrated by O.Vukolov
Once upon a time there lived two brothers, and they were both called Ivan: Ivan the Rich and Ivan the Poor.
Ivan the Rich had bread in the oven and meat on the table, a well-furnished house and a well-stocked stable, bins full of flour and stores full of wheat, and good things to wear as well as to eat. His sheep they were fat, and his cows they were sleek, and they walked in the meadows by a winding creek. In short, he had everything, and no one to care for but himself and his wife. For Ivan the Rich had no children, big or small.
As for Ivan the Poor, he had seven children and nothing to his name save a cat by the fire and a frog in the mire. And all his seven children they sat in a group, and they begged for buckwheat porridge and for cabbage soup. But, alas, there was nothing to give them to eat, not a crust of bread, nor a scrap of meat.
There was no help for it, and so Ivan the Poor went to his rich brother to ask for some food.
"Good morrow, brother!" said he.
"Good morrow, Ivan the Poor! And what brings you here?"
"Lend me a bit of flour, brother. You shall have it back, I promise you."
"Very well," said Ivan the Rich. "Here is a bowl of flour for you, and you'll give me back a sackful."
"A whole sack in return for a bowl! What are you saying, brother! Don't you think it's too much?"
"Well, if it is, then don't bother me, but go and beg at someone else's doorstep!"
There was nothing to be done and, with tears rolling down his cheeks, Ivan the Poor took the bowl of flour and went home. But he had only just reached the gate of his house when a gusty Wind began to blow. Shrieking and whistling, he came spinning like a top at Ivan the Poor, blew all the flour out of the bowl and, leaving only a bit on the bottom, flew off again.
Now this made Ivan the Poor very angry indeed.
"Ah, you bad North Wind!" cried he. "You have done my poor children an ill turn, you have left them hungry. But wait and see, I shall find you and make you pay for your mischief!"
And Ivan the Poor set off to catch the Wind. The Wind swept along the road, and Ivan the Poor ran in his wake. The Wind rushed into the forest, and Ivan the Poor hurried after him. They came upon a huge oak-tree, but no sooner had the Wind stolen into a hollow in its side than there was Ivan creeping in with him.
Said the Wind when he saw Ivan the Poor there beside him:
"Come, tell me, my good man, why do you follow me about?"
"I will tell you if you wish to know," said Ivan the Poor in reply. "I was bringing my hungry children a bit of flour, and you, mischief- maker that you are, flew at me and whistled and scattered all the flour. And how can I go back home empty-handed!"
"Oh, is that all!" said the Wind. "Well, there's no need to be so upset. Here is a magic table-cloth for you: it will give you whatever you ask for."
Ivan the Poor was overjoyed. He bowed to the Wind and ran home.
As soon as he reached his house he spread the table-cloth on the table and said:
"Cloth, cloth, magic cloth, let us have something to eat and to drink!"
And no sooner were the words out of his mouth than there appeared on the table-cloth cabbage soup and mushroom pie and a great big ham to cheer the eye.
Ivan the Poor and his children ate till they could eat no more and then they went to bed. And in the morning, just as they had sat down to breakfast, who should come into the hut but Ivan the Rich.
Seeing the table groaning under the weight of the food, Ivan the Rich turned red with anger.
"What is this I see, brother!" he cried. "Have you become rich all of a sudden?"
"Not rich, really. But at least I shall never want for food any more and will always have enough left over to give you a meal too. Oh, and that reminds me. I owe you a sack of flour, don't I? Well, you shall have it back right now. Cloth, cloth, magic cloth, let me have a sack of flour!"
And lo! no sooner were the words out of his mouth than there was the sack of flour on the table.
Ivan the Rich took the flour without a word and left the hut.
But when evening came, there he was back again to see his brother.
"Do be kind and help me out, brother," said he. "Do not leave me in a fix. I've a full house of people from a rich village come for a visit, and as the stove has not been heated or the bread baked, I have nothing to feast them with. So please lend me your magic table-cloth for an hour or two."
And what did Ivan the Poor do but give him the magic cloth.
Ivan the Rich fed his guests and saw them off and, hiding the magic table-cloth in his chest, he got out another just like it except that it was an ordinary and not a magic cloth, and took it to Ivan the Poor.
"Thank you, brother," said he. "We have dined as well as anyone could wish for."
After a time Ivan the Poor and his children sat down to eat, and they spread the table-cloth on the table.
"Cloth, cloth, magic cloth, let us have some supper!" said Ivan the Poor.
And the table-cloth lay there white and clean and shining but, though they waited patiently, no food appeared on it.
Ivan the Poor ran to his rich brother's house.
"What have you done with my magic table-cloth, brother?" he asked him.
"Whatever are you talking about?
Why, I gave it back to you."
Ivan the Poor burst into tears and went home.
A day passed, and another flew by, and his children began to cry and ask for food. And there was nothing at all to give them to eat, not a crust of bread, nor a scrap of meat. It could not be helped, and Ivan the Poor went to see his rich brother again.
"Good morrow, brother!" said he.
"Good morrow to you, Ivan the Poor! What brings you here?"
"My children are crying, they are so hungry. Let me have a bit of flour, brother, or a piece of bread."
"I haven't any flour to give you, or any bread, either. But there's a plate of oat jelly in the pantry. You can have that if you like. It's on the barrel by the door, and don't come back to ask for more."
Ivan the Poor took the plate of jelly and went home. The day was warm, the Sun shone brightly, and his rays fell straight on to the jelly in the plate. The jelly melted, and it all dribbled away. Nothing was left of it but a little puddle in the road.
Ivan the Poor was very angry.
"Ah, you foolish, foolish Sun!" he cried. "It's only a game for you, but it's ill luck indeed for my poor children. I'll find you, and I'll make you pay for your mischief."
And Ivan the Poor set out to catch the Sun. He walked and he walked, but the Sun was always ahead of him, and it was only towards evening that he sank down beyond the mountain. It was there that Ivan the Poor found him.
Said the Sun when he saw Ivan the Poor there beside him:
"Come, Ivan, tell me, why do you follow me about?"
"I will tell you if you wish to know," Ivan the Poor replied. "I was taking some oat jelly home to my hungry children when you, foolish Sun that you are, began to shine brighter and brighter and to play with the jelly. The jelly melted and it trickled all out on to the road. And how can I go back home to my children empty-handed!"
"Oh, is that all!" said the Sun. "I was the one to make you suffer, and I shall be the one to help you. Here is a goat for you from my own flock. Feed it with acorns, and it will give gold instead of milk."
Ivan the Poor bowed to the Sun and drove the goat home. He fed it with acorns and then began to milk it. And instead of milk the goat gave liquid gold.
From that day on Ivan the Poor's life changed for the better and his children always had enough to eat.
When he heard about the goat, Ivan the Rich came running to see his brother.
"Good morrow, brother!" cried he.
"Good morrow to you, Ivan the Rich."
"Do be kind and help me out, brother. Lend me your goat for an hour. I must return some money I owe, and I haven't a kopek."
"Very well, you may take it, but do not try to cheat me again."
Ivan the Rich took away the goat and milked it, and when he had got enough gold and to spare, he hid the goat in a shed and drove an ordinary goat back to Ivan the Poor's house.
"Thank you for helping me out, brother," said he.
Ivan the Poor fed the goat with acorns and then began to milk it, and the milk ran from its udders and down to its hoofs, but not a speck of gold was there anywhere to be seen.
Ivan the Poor ran to his rich brother, but the other would not so much as listen to him.
"I know nothing about it," said he. "I gave you back the very same goat I got from you."
Ivan the Poor burst into tears and went home.
The days passed, and the weeks flew by, and his children began to cry with hunger again. Winter had set in, it was very cold, and there was nothing in the house to give them to eat, not a crust of bread, nor a scrap of meat. There was no help for it, and Ivan the Poor went to his rich brother to ask for food.
"My children are crying, they are so hungry, brother," said he. "Do lend me a bit of flour!"
"I haven't any flour or bread to give you, but you can have some of yesterday's cabbage soup. It's in the pantry in a pot, and is a treat when eaten hot."
Ivan the Poor took the pot of soup and went home. He walked along, and there was a crackling Frost out. The wind howled and droned, and it grew colder by the minute. And now the Frost began to play with the cabbage soup. He would spread a film of ice over it first, and then sweep some fine, dry snow over the ice. He played and he played, and he froze the cabbage soup all up. There was nothing left in the pot save a small piece of dark ice on the bottom.
Ivan the Poor was very angry.
"Ah, you bad old Frost, you old Red Nose, my cheeks you nipped and my feet you froze. It's only a game for you, but it's ill luck indeed for my children. Wait and see, I will catch you and make you answer for your mischief!"
And Ivan the Poor set out to catch the Frost. The Frost tore over the fields, and Ivan the Poor trudged after him. The Frost swept into the forest, and Ivan the Poor followed close behind. The Frost lay down under a large snowdrift, and there was Ivan the Poor at his side.
Said the Frost in wonder:
"Why do you dog my steps, Ivan? What is it you want of me?"
"Well, if you really wish to know, I will tell you," Ivan replied. "I was taking a pot of yesterday's cabbage soup home to my children, and you started playing your pranks and froze it all up. And how can I go back home empty-handed! My brother took away my magic table-cloth and the goat that gave gold instead of milk, and now you have gone and spoiled the cabbage soup!"
"Oh, is that all!" said the Frost. "Well, to make it up to you, I shall give you a sack-help-me-out-with-a-whack. Say ‘Two out of the sack!'—and the two will jump out. Say ‘Two into the sack!'— and the two will creep back into the sack again."
Ivan the Poor bowed and went home. He came into the house, took out the sack and said:
"Two out of the sack!"
And lo and behold! two thick cudgels of pine sprang out of the sack and they fell on Ivan the Poor and began to thrash him, saying:
"Ivan the Rich thinks of nothing but gain, learn to be wise or he'll trick you again!"
So hard did they thrash him that it was all Ivan the Poor could do to get his breath back and to cry "Two into the sack!" And at once the two cudgels crept into the sack and lay there very quietly.
Evening had scarcely arrived when Ivan the Rich came running to his brother's house.
"Where have you been, Ivan the Poor?" he asked. "And what have you brought back with you?"
"I paid the Frost a visit, brother, and he gave me a magic sack for a gift. You have only to say ‘Two out of the sack!' and the two will jump out and do all that needs to be done."
"Do be kind, Ivan the Poor, and lend me your sack for a day. My roof is all broken, and there is no one to repair it."
"Very well, Ivan the Rich, you may have my sack."
Ivan the Rich took the sack home with him and locked the door.
"Two out of the sack!" he cried.
And lo and behold! two thick cudgels of pine sprang out of the sack. They fell on Ivan the Rich and began to thrash him, saying:
"What belongs to your brother is not for you, give him back his goat and his table-cloth too!"
Ivan the Rich ran to his brother's house, and the two cudgels flew after him, beating and thrashing him soundly as they went.
"Save me, Ivan the Poor!" begged Ivan the Rich. "I'll give you back your magic table-cloth and your goat."
"Two into the sack!" cried Ivan the Poor.
And at once the two cudgels crept into the sack and lay there quietly. And Ivan the Rich dragged himself to his house more dead than alive and came back again bringing the magic table-cloth and the goat that gave gold instead of milk.
From that day on Ivan the Poor and his family lived in good health and cheer and grew richer from year to year. And if you looked into their house today, you would see all the seven children sitting in a group and eating buckwheat porridge and cabbage soup. Their spoons are gaily coloured, their bowls are made of wood, there is butter in the porridge, and the soup is very good.
Author: Russian fairy tale; illustrated by Vukolov O.
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