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The Grindstones. A Ukrainian fairy tale

 

Once upon a time there lived an old man and his wife. They were so poor that their main staple were acorns which they gathered in the forest. At home, they ground the acorns into flour, and made pancakes with it. Once, one of the acorns fell off the table and rolled into a hole and from that hole into the cellar. And soon it released a shoot which began to grow.

Some time later, the old woman went into the cellar to fetch something and discovered a small oak growing there. She called out to her old husband,

Hey, old man, come here quick, have a look at this oak in our cellar!

The old man took an axe not to chop down the oak but to make a hole in the floor through which the young oak would grow. It kept growing very fast. Soon, a hole in the roof had to be made to let the tree grow still higher. And the oak kept growing until its top touched the sky.

One day, the old woman says to her husband,

Now that weve got this tree right in our house, maybe you climb up and look for some acorns?

The old man did what he was told to do but not without great difficulty.

He climbed up to the place where he saw two small grindstones and a rooster perched nearby on a branch.

The rooster says to the old man in a human voice,

Take me down, old man, and get those two grindstones. I and these grindstones will stand you in good stead.

The old man did as he was told and climbed down, even with a greater difficultly.

When he placed the grindstones on the table, his wife began to turn the upper one and at every turn the grindstones produced a cake, or an apple, or a pie. Several turns later the whole table was laden with goodies.

And since then the old couples life greatly changed. They did not have any problems with food.

A wealthy neighbour learnt about the magic grindstones and one day he turned up at the old couples house and said,

Could I borrow your grindstones for an evening? I have an unexpected guest and theres nothing to feed him with.

The old couple were too kind to refuse. But the neighbour did not bring back the grindstones either later in the evening, or the next day. Then the rooster says,

Ill go and fetch those grindstones for you.

And off he went.

On his way he meets a fox. The fox asks the rooster,

Where are you going, little rooster?

Im going to fetch the grindstones for the old couple form a neighbour.

Can I join you? asks the fox.

Yes, you can. Climb into this bag.

And the fox did climb into the bag that the rooster was carrying.

Soon the rooster meets a wolf.

Where are you going, little rooster?

Im going to fetch the grindstones for the old couple from a neighbour. Do you want to join me? If you do, climb into this bag.

And the wolf did climb into the bag that the rooster was carrying.

After some time, the rooster meets a bear.

Where are you going, little rooster?

Im going to fetch the grindstones for the old couple from a neighbour. Do you want to join me? If you do, climb into this bag.

And the bear did climb into the bag that the rooster was carrying.

At last, the rooster comes to the gate of the fence around the wealthy neighbours house, enters the front yard and starts shouting,

Hey, neighbour, give us back the grindstones!

The man heard the shout, rushed out of the house, saw the rooster, grabbed it and threw him into the pen with geese, hoping the geese would peck the rooster to death.

But the rooster immediately released the fox from his bag and the fox made short work of the geese.

And the rooster started shouting again, louder than before,

Hey, neighbour, give us back the grindstones!

The man heard the shout, rushed out of the house, grabbed the rooster and threw him into the pen with rams, hoping the rams would gore the rooster to death.

But the rooster immediately released the wolf from his bag and the wolf made short work of the rams.

And the rooster started shouting again, much louder than before,

Hey, neighbour, give us back the grindstones this very minute!

The man heard the shout, rushed out of the house in great anger, grabbed the rooster and threw him down into a deep well with water. But the rooster began drinking the water and drank all the water that was in the well. Then he started shouting again, still much louder than before,

Hey, neighbour, give us back the grindstones this very minute!

The man heard the shout, rushed out of the house in great anger, picked the rooster from the well and threw him into an oven hot with fire. But the roster released all the water that was in his stomach and the water extinguished the fire.

And the rooster started shouting again, much louder than before,

Hey, neighbour, give us back the grindstones this very minute!

The man, in fierce anger, grabbed the oven prongs and raised them to hit the rooster but the rooster released the bear from his bag, and shouted,

If you do not give us back the grindstones, this bear will maul you to death!

The man shook with fright and gave back the grindstones.

The rooster brought the grindstones back to the old couple and they lived happily ever after.

I was at their place once and they treated me to the pancakes that the grindstones produced.

They were very delicious.

I wish I could give you one to try.

 

Art by Oleksandr MELNYK

 

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