Maschenka and the Bear: A Russian Tale

 

I'm not the craftiest.  I made a Maschenka puppet Waldorf-style, but the bear is an old gray sock.

I’m not the craftiest. I made a Maschenka puppet Waldorf-style, but the bear is an old gray sock.

I like to tell this story in September.

I originally read this traditional story from the The Juniper Tree, a wonderful source for children’s stories, especially if you sign up for Suzanne’s newsletter.  I have adapted it into prose from the rhyming version, which has some rather archaic words, but did keep a few of the rhymes.  That’s the nice thing about old tales- you can always change them up a bit to suit you.

***

One upon a time there lived a little girl named Maschenka.  She lived with her grandparents on the edge of a great, dark forest.  One day she wanted to do something new so she asked her grandparents, “May I go into the forest to pick mushrooms and berries?  I would like to go all by myself!”

The grandparents said, “You’re getting old enough now so you may.  Just remember- don’t get lost and come home before night fall.”

Maschenka promised and said good-bye.  She had such a wonderful time in the forest picking berries and mushrooms that sure enough she got lost.  She spent a long time trying to find the way home, but the sun’s rays were getting longer and longer, redder and redder, and she knew night was coming.  Then she began to run.  But she only ran deeper and deeper into the dark forest, until it was so dark she could hardly see anything at all.  Then, she came to a small hut made of sticks.

She knocked on the door.  “Is anyone home?  Please can I come in?”

No answer.

So Maschenka tried the door and found it unlocked.  She was so tired she fell asleep right on the floor.

Soon, the owner of the house returned.  It was a big gray bear, and he said,  “Gruff and grim!  What is this on my floor?  A little girl!  Just what I needed!  You will cook for me, and light the fire, clean for me, and bake my bread, and you will stay here forever.”

“No, no,” cried Maschenka, who of course was awake now.  But there was nothing she could do.  She had to stay there in the hut and cook for the bear, and make the fire, and sweep the floor and bake his bread.

But she wanted to go home and soon she had an idea.

She got flour, sugar, eggs and milk, and mixed them together, and baked a nice cake.  Then she put it all nice into a big basket and she called the bear.

“Please let me go to the village, just for a little bit, and give this cake to my grandparents!  I do miss them so much.”

Of course, the bear was having none of that.  “You will stay here.  I will take the cake to them.”

Actually, that was fine with Maschenka- it was just what she wanted!

“Very well,” she said.  “But don’t you eat that cake.  Don’t smell it.  Don’t you even LOOK at it!  I am going to climb up that tall tall tree just outside.  And I will be able to see far and wide, and if you open the basket I will know.”

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“Oh… I won’t,” promised the bear.

“Good.  Now go outside and check the weather.  It would never do to travel in the rain and arrive with a soggy cake.”

The bear shuffled outside to check the weather.  Quick as a mouse, Maschenka hopped into the basket with the cake and pulled the lid shut over her.

The bear came back and there was no Maschenka to be seen.  “I guess she’s up in that tree,” he muttered to himself.  He picked up the basket and trudged on his way to the village.

It was a long way!  Soon the bear felt so tired and the cake smelled so nice and good.

“I think right now I will just sit

And from this cake I’ll taste a bit.”

But no sooner did the bear reach his big paw out for the basket cover, he heard a piecing voice:

“I’m watching you, I’m seeing you

I know just what you want to do.

Get up get up for heaven’s sake

And to my grandparents bring the cake.”

The bear was very surprised!

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“Oh me, oh my,

How she can spy with her bright eye!

I guess she’s still up in that tree

And that’s how she can see.”

And he went on his way.

It was a long way!  Soon enough, he got even more tired, and hungry, and the cake smelled sweeter than ever.

“I think right now I will just sit

And from this cake I’ll taste a bit.”

But no sooner did the bear reach his big paw out for the basket cover, he heard a piecing voice:

I’m watching you, I’m seeing you

I know just what you want to do.

Get up get up for heaven’s sake

And to my grandparents bring the cake.”

The bear was very surprised!

“Oh me, oh my,

How she can spy with her bright eye!

I guess she’s still up in that tree

And that’s how she can see.”

And he went on his way.

Finally, very tired and hungry, he arrived in the village.  He knocked on the cottage door, but just then he heard an awful yipping and howling and barking.  All the village dogs were after him!  The bear dropped the basket in fright and took off into the forest.  He never wanted to come to the village again!

Then the grandparents opened the door.

“Oh look, a gift!” said Granny.

“Nothing can make me very happy without my Maschenka,” said Grandfather.  “But we may as well open it.  Oh look, a cake, and…

MASCHENKA!

The little family was so happy to be together again and they began to dance and sing.

Grandfather dear, Grandmother dear, Hey diddle dee

Forever now I’m staying here, hey diddle dee.

Maschenka sweet, Maschenka dear, forever now you’re staying here

Hey diddle diddle dee

How happy we will be!

Hey diddle diddle dee

How happy we will be!

Snip, snap, snout

My tale is all told out.

September is a Season

September Nature Table.  First row: pine, sage, rosemary, oregano. Secone row: pecans and pinecones, plums, magnolia seeds, moss ball thingy.

A Gulf Coast September Nature Table. First row: pine, sage, rosemary, oregano. Secone row: pecans and pinecones, plums, magnolia seeds, moss ball thingy.

Ah September.  September is autumn.  It is crunching through orange leaves through the autumn mists on the way to your one-room red schoolhouse, plucking apples from the trees on the way, clapping your hands to get warm, inhaling the brisk air of fall.  Tra la la… or not.

Maybe if you live in rural Vermont.  September here on the Gulf Coast plain tells a different story and it doesn’t look like that at all, (even though those are the images children receive from school, books and movies each year).  But we do have a change of season.  September may not look like orange leaves, but there are significant changes none-the-less, and it’s fun to discover them with children.  Along the way we might discover that our wet, stormy, semi-tropical subtle fall has its own beauty.

September is…

September is RAIN!  Those delicious afternoon storms piling indigo upon indigo in the clouds, almost every afternoon.  It’s monsoon season… and unfortunately it’s also hurricane season.

September is pecans and pecan shells underfoot, if you happen to have the trees in your yard.  If you know how to open them (nutcracker, hammer for the less refined of us) you can feast every time you go outdoors, and make things of the shells, little boats and fairy dishes.

September is saying goodbye to some of our bird friends.  The white wing doves are still around but why are they not singing any more?  I guess courting time is over…

doves

The Sound of Silence.

I still glimpse the iridescent black and blue coat of our loud, cussing friend, the Grackle, but I don’t notice armies of them ominously hunkered on the telephone wires any more.

What?

What?

I wonder why some birds stay and some move on.

September is hot days still, but cooler mornings, and maybe even the first cool front.

September is bees, and flowers blooming- our second spring.  Black-eyed Susan, trumpet vine, morning glories, oh my!  A friend tipped me off: you can see our second spring blooming at the Mercer Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

Who says we don't get fall colors in Houston?  From the Mercer Arboretum

Who says we don’t get fall colors in Houston? From the Mercer Arboretum

By the end of the month, I’ll see that September is dusk falling at 7 pm instead of 8, and the noon light changing from hard white to a softer yellow.

SunBee’s September story will be posted soon!  In the meantime, just look at the garden at  Te House of Tea where we have our circle… what a lovely September garden.

Flowers in September

Flowers in September

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The beautiful new trellis

 

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All enclosed by morning glories

What do you and your children notice about Houston September?  Is there anything I might have missed?

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