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Old site version

Telesyk, one of the most ancient Ukrainian folk fairy tales

 

Once upon a time, there lived a man and his wife. Years passed, they grew old but they remained childless. Who will take care of us when we get feeble and die, bemoaned they their sorry condition. One day the woman tells her husband, Go to the forest, find a nice piece of wood and bring it home. Well make a cradle, Ill put that piece of wood into the cradle and rock it to sleep. Itll comfort me a little.

At first, the man refused to do it but his wife kept begging, and finally he yielded to her entreaties. He went to the forest, cut down a sturdy branch, returned home and made a cradle. They put the branch into the cradle and the woman began rocking it and singing lullabies,

Sleep, baby, sleep,

Go into sleep deep,

O Telesyk, my boy,

Bring us joy!

She kept rocking the cradle well into the night, and rocked herself to sleep. When she woke up in the morning she discovered a little boy in the cradle. What a joy it was for the old man and the old woman to see this miracle happen. They gave the boy a pretty name, Ivasyk-Telesyk.

The boy grew fast, and soon he became very handsome and so nice that the old man and his wife were overjoyed and delighted.

When he grew some more, he said, Father, make a little gold boat for me and a little silver oar. Ill go fishing and will catch enough fish to feed you.

The old man made a little gold boat and a little silver oar for Telesyk, and took it to the river and put it on the water. Telesyk climbed into the boat and went fishing. He had a good catch and brought the fish home. The fish was cooked and the old couple ate and had their fill. And Telesyk went back fishing.

The old woman said she would bring food for Telesyk. When I start calling you, please come back to the bank, but if you hear someone else calling you, keep away.

She cooked breakfast for Telesyk, brought it to the bank and started calling,

Ivasyk-Telesyk, my boy,

Come back here to enjoy

Food and drink, ahoy!

Telesyk heard her calling him.

Come closer, my boy, its me, your mother, Ive brought some food for you!

He steered his boat to the place where she was standing, got out of the boat, ate and had his fill, then climbed back into the boat, pushed off, and went fishing again.

But the serpent that was hiding in the bushes, heard how Telesyks mother called Telesyk to get back to the bank and now he began calling to the boy himself,

Ivasyk-Telesyk, my boy,

Come back here to enjoy

Food and drink, ahoy!

But the serpent had a gruff voice, and though the boy heard the call, he said to himself,

No, its not my mothers voice! Sail on, my boat! Sail on!

And he put the oar into the water and started rowing. The serpent waited and waited on the bank, but seeing that the boy was not coming, he turned and went away.

In the meantime, the old woman cooked lunch for Telesyk and brought it to the river. She stood on the bank and began calling out,

Ivasyk-Telesyk, my boy,

Come back here to enjoy

Food and drink, ahoy!

Telesyk heard her calling and turned his boat towards the bank, Sail, my boat, sail to the bank! Its my mother calling me to give me lunch.

He climbed out of the boat, ate and had his fill, gave his mother the fish that he had caught, climbed back into the boat, pushed off, and went fishing again.

Then the serpent came back to the bank again and started calling in the same gruff voice,

Ivasyk-Telesyk, my boy,

Come back here to enjoy

Food and drink, ahoy!

Telesyk heard the call but he knew it was not his mothers voice. He put the oar into the water and started rowing away. Sail on, my boat! Sail on!

The serpent, seeing he could not lure the boy to the bank, left and went straight to the blacksmith. Hey, blacksmith, forge a very thin voice for me, a voice like Telesyks mothers!

And the blacksmith did as he was bidden. The serpent returned to the river and started calling,

Ivasyk-Telesyk, my boy,

Come back here to enjoy

Food and drink, ahoy!

Telesyk heard the call and thought it was his mother calling out to him.

Sail, my boat, sail to the bank. Its my mother calling me. Shes brought food for me!

The moment he reached the bank, the serpent jumped out of the bushes, grabbed the boy and brought him to his house.

The serpent knocked on the door, and shouted,

Olenka, little serpent, open the door!

Olenka, the serpents daughter, opened the door, and the serpent walked in.

Now, Olenka, get the oven so hot that the stones become red, and bake this boy well. Ill go and invite guests! Well have a feast!

The serpent turned and left. He flew over dale and vale, over hill and rill, inviting guests.

Olenka gets the oven so hot the stones become red, and says,

Now, Telesyk, get on this shovel!

And he says,

I dont know how.

Olenka says,

O come on, just climb on it!

He puts a hand on the shovel and says,

Like this?

No, not just the hand, get all of yourself onto the shovel!

Telesyk puts his head on the shovel.

Like this?

No! No! Not like this!

But how? says Telesyk. Show me how to do it!

She climbed onto the shovel and the moment she did it, Telesyk grabbed hold of the handle and shoved the shovel with Olenka the Serpent on it into the oven. Then he shut the oven door firmly, latched it, and ran out, closing the door behind him.

Telesyk climbed the tallest maple tree that stood close by and hid himself there.

The serpent arrived with guests in tow.

Hey, Olenka, open the door, we are back!

No answer.

Hey, Olenka, open the door, we are back!

No answer.

Olenka, damn you, where are you?

No answer.

Shes gone somewhere, said the serpent angrily and pushed the door. The door opened and the serpent and his guests trooped into the house. They sat down at the table and the serpent opened the oven door and pulled out what was inside. When they saw food on the table, they fell to and ate eagerly. They had their fill and then walked out of the house. They fell down on the ground and began rolling on the grass, shouting,

What a good meal weve had!

Telesyk tasted not too bad!

And Telesyk, hearing this, piped from the maple,

Roll on the grass, friends, roll,

with your stomachs full of Olenkas all!

They heard this but did not know where it came from. They continued rolling on the grass back and forth, and shouting,

What a good meal weve had!

Telesyk tasted not too bad!

And again they heard a voice piping,

Roll on the grass, friends, roll,

with your stomachs full of Olenkas all!

They got up from the ground and began looking around. They searched here and there and everywhere, and at last spotted Telesyk hiding in the maple tree. They rushed to the tree and began gnawing at it. They stopped gnawing only when they had all their teeth broken against the hard wood. But they failed to bring the tree down. And they rushed to the blacksmith.

Hey, blacksmith, forge us strong teeth so that well be able to gnaw through that tree!

And the blacksmith did as bidden. They rushed back to the tree and began gnawing at it again. The tree began to sway. As it was about to topple, Telesyk saw a flight of geese flying over him. He called out to them,

O geese, high in the sky, kind geese,

Pick me up from this tree, o please,

Carry me back to my dad,

Who never treats anyone bad,

Hell give you drink and food,

A place to rest, and youll feel good!

But the front geese said,

Let those in the middle pick you up! And flew on.

The tree is shaking, about to topple. And Telesyk calls out again,

O geese, high in the sky, kind geese,

Pick me up from this tree, o please,

Carry me back to my dad,

Who never treats anyone bad,

Hell give you drink and food,

A place to rest, and youll feel good!

But the geese in the middle of the flight said,

Let those in the back pick you up! And flew on.

And the maple tree began leaning to the side. The serpents took a little rest and then got back to gnawing at the trunk. And Telesyk called out again,

O geese, high in the sky, kind geese,

Pick me up from this tree, o please,

Carry me back to my dad,

Who never treats anyone bad,

Hell give you drink and food,

A place to rest, and youll feel good!

Let that last one pick you up! And flew on.

And the maple tree was already leaning, about to fall. Telesyk saw the last goose that was lagging behind all the others. It was small and very tired and could hardly keep itself in the air. Telesyk called out to it,

O little, little goose, hurry up,

From this tree, pick me up,

Carry me home, to my dad, hes best,

Hell give you food and a place to rest!

Hell give you water, hell feed you up,

Then youll fly up again, and up and up!

And the little goose picked Telesyk from the tree. It could not fly high and flew close to the ground. The serpent gave chase but failed to catch up with the goose.

The goose carried Telesyk all the way to his house, put him down on the ground in the backyard, and began grazing. Telesyk walked over to the window and heard the old woman say,

Take this cake, my dear, and I will take one for myself.

And Telesyk called out through the window,

What about me?

Then the old woman took another cake from the oven and offered it to her old man,

Take this cake, my dear, and I will take one for myself.

And Telesyk called out through the window again,

What about me?

And they heard him this time. Whose voice is that?

Have you heard it, my dear? A voice calling?

Yes, said the old man, I think I heard a voice too.

And then she took another cake from the oven and said,

Take this cake, my dear, and I will take one for myself.

What about me? called out Telesyk again.

Yes, a voice calls out again! And she looked out the window and saw Telesyk.

They rushed out of the house, picked Telesyk up and carried him into the house. How happy they were!

The little goose was strutting around in the yard. The old woman saw it and said,

Look, theres a goose walking about the yard! Ill catch it and butcher it and cook a meal!

And she made as if to go but Telesyk cried out,

No, mother, dont catch him! Better give him some food! If it were not for him, I would not be here with you!

And they gave the little goose food and drink, and put millet under his wings to last him on his journey. And then the little goose flew away.

 

Thats a story for you, and you can give me a bag of bagels, if you liked it.

 

Art by Oleksandr Melnyk

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