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Old site version

A Lame Duck, Ukrainian folk fairy tale

 

Once upon a time there lived a man and his wife, and though they were well advanced in years, they never had any children. It made them very sad.

Once the old man says to his wife,

My dear, lets go to the forest and look for some mushrooms.

It did not take them long to pick baskets  and out the door they went.

Once in the forest, the old couple discovered a meadow with lots of mushrooms in it.

When the old woman was picking a particularly big mushroom that was growing by a bush, she saw a little duck sitting on a tuft of grass.

Hey, old man, look here  what a nice duck!

And the old man says,

Lets take it home  well take care of it.

As she was picking the little duck from the ground, the old woman saw that one of the little ducks legs was broken. It made her be particularly careful.

They brought the little duck home, made a nest for it, placed soft feathers in it and then put the little duck on top of the feathers. Later, they went to the forest again, to look for more mushrooms.

When they came back, they were greatly surprised to find that their house had been tidied up; there was freshly baked bread on the table and a pot of borsch sitting on the stove.

They rush to their neighbours and ask them whether they have seen anybody come to the house and do all that wonderful job of cleaning up and cooking.

But the neighbours did not see or hear anything.

Next day, when they return home after a walk in the forest looking for berries, they discover a big bowl full of freshly boiled varenyky (stuffed dumplings) sprinkled with sour cream sitting on the table.

They again rush to the neighbours with the same questions and one of the neighbours says,

Ive seen a young girl who carried water from the well to the house. She was good-looking although a little lame.

It made the old couple think hard who it could have been. But they could not make head or tail of it.

Then the old woman says, You know what? Tomorrow, lets say loudly that we are going to the forest to look for faggots. We leave the house as though we really intend to go to the forest, but then we hide behind the pantry and see what happens.

And that was what they did the next morning. They hid behind the pantry, and when they heard the door of the house open, they peeped out.

And what do they see? They see a beautiful young woman carrying two buckets fixed to the shoulder-yoke. Everything was so fine in her except for her limping. When she began filling the buckets with water from the well, the old couple tiptoed into the house and discovered that the nest was empty  no little duck in it, only feathers.

They grabbed this nest and threw it into the flames of the oven  and watched it burn.

The girl comes in carrying water. She sees the old woman and the old man near the stove, she looks into the corner where the nest used to be, understands what has happened and bursts into tears.

The old folks start comforting her, Dont cry, dear! We dont have children  be a daughter for us! We shall love you and take care of you as if you were our native child!

And the girls says,

I would live with you forever if you had not spied on me and then burned my nest, but now I do not want to stay with you. Just give me a spindle and yarn.

The old woman and the old man begin to cry  they ask the girl not to go away but stay with them. But she just repeats her request. The old man gives to her what she has asked for. She takes the yarn and the spindle, goes out of the house, sits down on a bench, and begins spinning. And there, in the sky, a flock of ducks is seen flying over the house. When the birds see the spinning girl, they begin to sing,

Oh, there she is,

Our good girl,

Sitting on the bench,

With a spindle,

Spinning yarn 

Come with us!

Come with us!

Well give you feathers,

Feathers good and fine!

And the girl sings back,

No, I wont go

With you!

When I broke my leg,

You left me behind,

A helpless cripple!

 

The ducks drop down some feathers and fly on on their way.

Soon another flock of wild ducks flies over the house. When they see the girl, they begin to sing,

Oh, there she is,

Our good girl,

Sitting on the bench,

With a spindle,

Spinning yarn 

Come with us!

Come with us!

Well give you feathers,

Feathers good and fine!

But the girl sings back,

No, I wont go

With you!

When I broke my leg,

You left me behind,

A helpless cripple!

The ducks drop down some feathers and fly on on their way.

Soon still another flock of wild ducks flies over the house. When they see the girl, they begin to sing,

Oh, there she is,

Our good girl,

Sitting on the bench,

With a spindle,

Spinning yarn 

Come with us!

Come with us!

Well give you feathers,

Feathers good and fine!

These ducks also drop down feathers, and this time the girl picks all the feathers up, throws them all over herself, turns into a duck and flies away. And the old man and his old woman are left behind, crying, disconsolate and childless.

 

Art by Oleksandr Melnyk

 

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