Once there was an old man who was such an awful drunkard
as passes all description. Well, one day he went to a kabak,
intoxicated himself with liquor, and then went staggering home
blind drunk. Now his way happened to lie across a river.
When he came to the river, he didn't stop long to consider, but
kicked off his boots, hung them round his neck, and walked
into the water. Scarcely had he got half-way across when he
tripped over a stone, tumbled into the water--and there was an
end of him.
Now, he left a son called Petrusha. When Peter The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard saw that
his father had disappeared and left no trace behind, he took the
matter greatly to heart for a time, he wept for awhile, he had a
service performed for the repose of his father's soul, and he
began to act as head of the family. One Sunday he went to
church to pray to God. As he passed along the road a woman
was pounding away in front of him. She walked and walked,
stumbled over a stone, and began swearing at it, saying, "What
devil shoved you under my feet?"
Hearing these words, Petrusha said:
"Good day, aunt! whither away?"
"To church, my dear, to The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard pray to God."
"But isn't this sinful conduct of yours? You're going to
church, to pray to God, and yet you think about the Evil One;
your foot stumbles and you throw the fault on the Devil!"
Well, he went to church and then returned home. He
walked and walked, and suddenly, goodness knows whence,
there appeared before him a fine-looking man, who saluted him
"Thanks, Petrusha, for your good word!"
"Who are you, and why do you thank me?" asks Petrusha.
"I am the Devil. I thank you because, when that woman
stumbled, and The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard scolded me without a cause, you said a good
word for me." Then he began to entreat him, saying, "Come
and pay me a visit, Petrusha. How I will reward you to be
sure! With silver and with gold, with everything will I endow
"Very good," says Petrusha, "I'll come."
Having told him all about the road he was to take, the Devil
straightway disappeared, and Petrusha returned home.
Next day Petrusha set off on his visit to the Devil. He
walked and walked, for three whole days did he walk, and then he
reached a great forest, dark and dense--impossible even to see
the sky The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard from within it! And in that forest there stood a rich
palace. Well, he entered the palace, and a fair maiden caught
sight of him. She had been stolen from a certain village by the
evil spirit. And when she caught sight of him she cried:
"Whatever have you come here for, good youth? here
devils abide, they will tear you to pieces."
Petrusha told her how and why he had made his appearance
in that palace.
"Well now, mind this," says the fair maiden; "the Devil will
begin giving you silver and gold. Don't take any of it, but ask
him to The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard give you the very wretched horse which the evil spirits
use for fetching wood and water. That horse is your father.
When he came out of the kabak drunk, and fell into the water,
the devils immediately seized him and made him their hack, and
now they use him for fetching wood and water."
Presently there appeared the gallant who had invited
Petrusha, and began to regale him with all kinds of meat and
drink. And when the time came for Petrusha to be going homewards,
"Come," said the Devil, "I will provide you with
money and with a capital horse, so that you will speedily The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard get
"I don't want anything," replied Petrusha. "Only, if you
wish to make me a present, give me that sorry jade which you
use for carrying wood and water."
"What good will that be to you? If you ride it home
quickly, I expect it will die!"
"No matter, let me have it. I won't take any other."
So the Devil gave him that sorry jade. Petrusha took it by
the bridle and led it away. As soon as he reached the gates
there appeared the fair maiden, and asked:
"Have you got the horse?"
"Well then, good youth The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard, when you get nigh to your village,
take off your cross, trace a circle three times about this horse,
and hang the cross round its neck."
Petrusha took leave of her and went his way. When he
came nigh to his village he did everything exactly as the maiden
had instructed him. He took off his copper cross, traced a
circle three times about the horse, and hung the cross round its
neck. And immediately the horse was no longer there, but in
its place there stood before Petrusha his own father. The son
looked upon the father, burst into tears, and led him The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard to his cottage;
and for three days the old man remained without speaking,
unable to make use of his tongue. And after that they
lived happily and in all prosperity. The old man entirely gave
up drinking, and to his very last day never took so much as a
single drop of spirits.
The Russian peasant is by no means deficient in humor, a fact of
which the Skazkas offer abundant evidence. But it is not easy to find
stories which can be quoted at full length as illustrations of that
humor. The jokes which form the themes of the Russian facetious tales
are for the most The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard part common to all Europe. And a similar assertion
may be made with regard to the stories of most lands. An unfamiliar
joke is but rarely to be discovered in the lower strata of fiction. He
who has read the folk-tales of one country only, is apt to attribute
to its inhabitants a comic originality to which they can lay no claim.
And so a Russian who knows the stories of his own land, but has not
studied those of other countries, is very liable to credit the Skazkas
with the undivided possession of a number of "merry jests" in which
they can claim but a very The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard small share--jests which in reality form the
stock-in-trade of rustic wags among the vineyards of France or
Germany, or on the hills of Greece, or beside the fiords of Norway, or
along the coasts of Brittany or Argyleshire--which for centuries have
set beards wagging in Cairo and Ispahan, and in the cool of the
evening hour have cheered the heart of the villager weary with his
day's toil under the burning sun of India.
It is only when the joke hinges upon something which is peculiar to a
people that it is likely to be found among that people The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard only. But most
of the Russian jests turn upon pivots which are familiar to all the
world, and have for their themes such common-place topics as the
incorrigible folly of man, the inflexible obstinacy of woman. And in
their treatments of these subjects they offer very few novel features.
It is strange how far a story of this kind may travel, and yet how
little alteration it may undergo. Take, for instance, the skits
against women which are so universally popular. Far away in outlying
districts of Russia we find the same time-honored quips which have so
long figured in collections of English facetiae. There is The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard the good old
story, for instance, of the dispute between a husband and wife as to
whether a certain rope has been cut with a knife or with scissors,
resulting in the murder of the scissors-upholding wife, who is pitched
into the river by her knife-advocating husband; but not before she
has, in her very death agony, testified to her belief in the scissors
hypothesis by a movement of her fingers above the surface of the
stream. In a Russian form of the story, told in the government of
Astrakhan, the quarrel is about the husband's beard. He says he has
shaved it, his The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard wife declares he has only cut it off. He flings her
into a deep pool, and calls to her to say "shaved." Utterance is
impossible to her, but "she lifts one hand above the water and by
means of two fingers makes signs to show that it was cut." The
story has even settled into a proverb. Of a contradictory woman the
Russian peasants affirm that, "If you say 'shaved' she'll say 'cut.'"
In the same way another story shows us in Russian garb our old friend
the widower who, when looking for his drowned wife--a woman of a very
antagonistic disposition--went up The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard the river instead of down, saying to
his astonished companions, "She always did everything contrary-wise,
so now, no doubt, she's gone against the stream." A common story
again is that of the husband who, having confided a secret to his wife
which he justly fears she will reveal, throws discredit on her
evidence about things in general by making her believe various absurd
stories which she hastens to repeat. The final paragraph of one of
the variants of this time-honored jest is quaint, concluding as it
does, by way of sting, with a highly popular Russian saw. The wife has
gone to the seigneur of The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard the village and accused her husband of having
found a treasure and kept it for his own use. The charge is true, but
the wife is induced to talk such nonsense, and the husband complains
so bitterly of her, that "the seigneur pitied the moujik for being so
unfortunate, so he set him at liberty; and he had him divorced from
his wife and married to another, a young and good-looking one. Then
the moujik immediately dug up his treasure and began living in the
best manner possible." Sure enough the proverb doesn't say without
reason: "Women have long hair and short wits The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard."
There is another story of this class which is worthy of being
mentioned, as it illustrates a custom in which the Russians differ
from some other peoples.
A certain man had married a wife who was so capricious that there was
no living with her. After trying all sorts of devices her dejected
husband at last asked her how she had been brought up, and learnt that
she had received an education almost entirely German and French, with
scarcely any Russian in it; she had not even been wrapped in
swaddling-clothes when a baby, nor swung in a _liulka_. Thereupon
her husband determined to remedy The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard the short-comings of her early
education, and "whenever she showed herself capricious, or took to
squalling, he immediately had her swaddled and placed in a _liulka_,
and began swinging her to and fro." By the end of a half year she
became "quite silky"--all her caprices had been swung out of her.
But instead of giving mere extracts from any more of the numerous
stories to which the fruitful subject of woman's caprice has given
rise, we will quote a couple of such tales at length. The first is the
Russian variant of a story which has a long family tree, with
ramifications extending over a The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard great part of the world. Dr. Benfey has
devoted to it no less than sixteen pages of his introduction to the
Panchatantra, tracing it from its original Indian home, and its
subsequent abode in Persia, into almost every European land.
THE BAD WIFE
A Russian Fairy Tale
A bad wife lived on the worst of terms with her husband, and
never paid any attention to what he said. If her husband told
her to get up early, she would lie in bed three days at a stretch;
if he wanted her to go to sleep, she couldn't think of sleeping.
When her The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard husband asked her to make pancakes, she would say:
"You thief, you don't deserve a pancake!"
If he said:
"Don't make any pancakes, wife, if I don't deserve them,"
she would cook a two-gallon pot full, and say,
"Eat away, you thief, till they're all gone!"
"Now then, wife," perhaps he would say, "I feel quite sorry
for you; don't go toiling and moiling, and don't go out to the
"No, no, you thief!" she would reply, "I shall go, and do
you follow after me!"
One day, after having had his trouble The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard and bother with her
he went into the forest to look for berries and distract his grief,
and he came to where there was a currant bush, and in the middle
of that bush he saw a bottomless pit. He looked at it for
some time and considered, "Why should I live in torment with
a bad wife? can't I put her into that pit? can't I teach her a
So when he came home, he said:
"Wife, don't go into the woods for berries."
"Yes, you bugbear, I shall go!"
"I've found a currant bush; don't pick it."
"Yes The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard I will; I shall go and pick it clean; but I won't give
you a single currant!"
The husband went out, his wife with him. He came to the
currant bush, and his wife jumped into it, crying out at the top
"Don't you come into the bush, you thief, or I'll kill you!"
And so she got into the middle of the bush, and went flop
into the bottomless pit.
The husband returned home joyfully, and remained there
three days; on the fourth day he went to see how things were
going on. Taking a long The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard cord, he let it down into the pit, and
out from thence he pulled a little demon. Frightened out of his
wits, he was going to throw the imp back again into the pit,
but it shrieked aloud, and earnestly entreated him, saying:
"Don't send me back again, O peasant! let me go out into
the world! A bad wife has come, and absolutely devoured us
all, pinching us, and biting us--we're utterly worn out with it.
I'll do you a good turn, if you will."
So the peasant let him go free--at large in Holy Russia.
Then the imp said The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard:
"Now then, peasant, come along with me to the town of
Vologda. I'll take to tormenting people, and you shall cure
Well, the imp went to where there were merchant's wives
and merchant's daughters; and when they were possessed by
him, they fell ill and went crazy. Then the peasant would go to
a house where there was illness of this kind, and, as soon as he
entered, out would go the enemy; then there would be blessing
in the house, and everyone would suppose that the peasant was
a doctor indeed, and would give him money, and treat him to
pies The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard. And so the peasant gained an incalculable sum of money.
At last the demon said:
"You've plenty now, peasant; arn't you content? I'm going
now to enter into the Boyar's daughter. Mind you don't go
curing her. If you do, I shall eat you."
The Boyar's daughter fell ill, and went so crazy that she
wanted to eat people. The Boyar ordered his people to find out
the peasant--(that is to say) to look for such and such a physician.
The peasant came, entered the house, and told Boyar to
make all the townspeople, and the carriages The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard with coachmen, stand
in the street outside. Moreover, he gave orders that all the
coachmen should crack their whips and cry at the top of their
voices: "The Bad Wife has come! the Bad Wife has come!"
and then he went into the inner room. As soon as he entered
it, the demon rushed at him crying, "What do you mean, Russian?
what have you come here for? I'll eat you!"
"What do _you_ mean?" said the peasant, "why I didn't
come here to turn you out. I came, out of pity to you, to say
that the Bad Wife has come here The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard."
The Demon rushed to the window, stared with all his eyes,
and heard everyone shouting at the top of his voice the words,
"The Bad Wife!"
"Peasant," cries the Demon, "wherever can I take refuge?"
"Run back into the pit. She won't go there any more."
The Demon went back to the pit--and to the Bad Wife too.
In return for his services, the Boyar conferred a rich guerdon
on the peasant, giving him his daughter to wife, and presenting
him with half his property.
But the Bad Wife sits to this day in the pit--in Tartarus The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard.
A Russian Folk Tale
Our final illustration of the Skazkas which satirize women is the
story of the _Golovikha_. It is all the more valuable, inasmuch as it
is one of the few folk-tales which throw any light on the working of
Russian communal institutions. The word _Golovikha_ means, in its
strict sense, the wife of a _Golova_, or elected chief [_Golova_ =
head] of a _Volost_, or association of village communities; but here
it is used for a "female _Golova_," a species of "mayoress."
A certain woman was very bumptious. Her husband came
from a village council one day, and she asked him The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard:
"What have you been deciding over there?"
"What have we been deciding? why choosing a Golova."
"Whom have you chosen?"
"No one as yet."
"Choose me," says the woman.
So as soon as her husband went back to the council (she was
a bad sort; he wanted to give her a lesson) he told the elders
what she had said. They immediately chose her as Golova.
Well the woman got along, settled all questions, took bribes,
and drank spirits at the peasant's expense. But the time came
to collect the poll-tax. The Golova couldn't do it, wasn't able
to collect it The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard in time. There came a Cossack, and asked for the
Golova; but the woman had hidden herself. As soon as she
learnt that the Cossack had come, off she ran home.
"Where, oh where can I hide myself?" she cries to her
husband. "Husband dear! tie me up in a bag, and put me out
there where the corn-sacks are."
Now there were five sacks of seed-corn outside, so her husband
tied up the Golova, and set her in the midst of them. Up
came the Cossack and said:
"Ho! so the Golova's in hiding."
Then he took to slashing at The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard the sacks one after another with
his whip, and the woman to howling at the pitch of her voice:
"Oh, my father! I won't be a Golova, I won't be a Golova."
At last the Cossack left off beating the sacks, and rode away.
But the woman had had enough of Golova-ing; from that time
forward she took to obeying her husband.
Before passing on to another subject, it may be advisable to quote one
of the stories in which the value of a good and wise wife is fully
acknowledged. I have chosen for that purpose one of the variants The Foktale of the Awful Drunkard of a
tale from which, in all probability, our own story of "Whittington and
his Cat" has been derived. With respect to its origin, there can be
very little doubt, such a feature as that of the incense-burning
pointing directly to a Buddhist source. It is called--