It’s two years now that I have presented the tale whose protagonist, the fox spends its time in various attractive dens, just like the ones into which I as a child have imagined myself on the basis of a popular picture book presenting the animals living under earth. Since then, I have planned to publish the latter book, and before I can do so, I illustrate with three other tales the idea of those holes so dear to the fantasy of a child.

Taberna Mylaensis: Fammi ristari ’nto menzu di to braccia

The well-furnished den, which I have always longed for, is exhibited in a sumptuous way, complete with every modern comfort, in the the tale The fox and the mouse by the popular tale writer of the 80s Vitaly Bianki. No matter that – btw, due to a fox – it ends quickly, you can be sure that the mouse would build it again somewhere else, in a more beautiful and improved edition, complete with many more chambers and tunnels.

– Mouse, mouse, why is your nose dirty? – I have been digging the earth.

– Why have you been diggin the earth? – I have been building a den.

– What is that den for? – To hide from you, fox.

– Mouse, mouse, I will catch you when you come out! – I have my bed in the den!

– You will come out when you want to eat! – I have my pantry in the den!

– Mouse, mouse, I will destroy your den! – And I will escape through the back door – and steal away!

Vitaly Bianki wrote also that other tale, whose refrain – Терем, теремок, кто в тереме живет? – “House, little house, who lives in this little house?” – may be familiar to those who had Russian courses back in the 80s. More and more animals settle in the hole of the old oak tree, growing larger from year to year, until it definitely rots and leans out. The dream-like illustrations of the book were drawn by Tatiana Kapustina.

But the roots of the den motif go back to much earlier times, perhaps to that book which was very popular at the beginning of the 20th century, and in which Sybille von Olfers (1881-1916) described and illustrated how the “root children” sleeping in large underground cavities wake up at the first wind of the spring, how they prepare to come forwad to light, and how they return there in the fall. This den tale is therefore particularly relevant in these days. This Art Nouveau tale book, published in 1906, was translated to Russian already in 1912: in this version the original four-line poems in German were replaced by long and detailed tales. Here now I quote and translate the original German poems

Front page of the original German and of the Russian edition of Wurzelkindern

“Wacht auf, wacht auf, ihr Kinderlein,
es wird nun wohl bald Frühling sein!”
Da reckt und streckt die kleine Schar
und fährt sich durch das wirre Haar.
“Wake up, wake up, children
because spring is coming!”
And the small flock is stretching,
and combing their tangled hair.

Schnell machen alle sich bereit
und nähn sich selbst ihr Frühlingskleid.
Mit Nadel Schere, Fingerhut,
geht ihre Arbeit schon ganz gut.
They all quickly get reay
and they are sawing their spring dresses.
With needle, scissors and thimble
the work is going on quite well.

Nun kommt ein jedes Wurzelkind
und bringt sein Kleidchen ganz geschwind
hinein zur guten Mutter Erde,
damit’s von ihr gemustert werde.
And now every root child is coming
and bringing her own little dress
to good Mother Earth
to put it under her scrutiny.

Die Wurzeljungen unterdessen
haben auch nicht ihr Amt vergessen:
Mit Pinsel, Bürste, Farbentopf
gehn sie den Käfern an den Schopf.
The root kids at the same time
do not forget about their duties:
with brush, paints and colors
they are working on the beetles.

Und als der Frühling kommt ins Land,
da ziehn gleich einem bunten Band,
die Käfer, Blumen, Gräser klein
frohlockend in die Welt hinein.
And when the spring finally comes,
as one long colorful band
the beetles, flowers and grasses
march up joyfully in the world.

(The same picture from the Russian edition: the German poem shield was replaced with roots)

Im Walde unterm dichten Grün,
sieht man alsbald Maiglöckchen blühn.
Ein lust'ger Schelm die Schneck' erschreckt,
das Veilchen sich am Baum versteckt.
In the forest, under the dense foliage
the lily of the valley is blooming.
A lusty rogue frightens the snail,
and violets are hiding behind the tree.

Es spielen hier den ganzen Tag
Vergißmeinnicht am klaren Bach;
wie eine kleine Königin
läßt's Mummelkind umher sich ziehn.
They play all day long,
distracted, at the clear brook:
the mermaid girl, as a little queen
attracts everyone to herself.

Auf grüner Wies' am Feldesrand
die Blümlein tanzen Hand in Hand,
Gräslein und Käfer freun sich sehr,
ach, wenn's doch immer Sommer wär'!
On the green meadow at the edge of the field
the flowers are dancing hand in hand.
The grasses and beetles all rejoice:
oh, may summer never pass away!

Da kommt der Herbst mit Sturm und Wind,
treibt sie zur Mutter heim geschwind.
“Geh’ nun zu Bett, du kleine Schar
und schlaf dich aus bis nächstes Jahr”.
But the autumn comes with storm and wind
and it drives them home to their mother.
“Go to bed now, you little flock,
sleep out until the next year.”

5 comentarios:

Rupert Neil Bumfrey dijo...

MOCKBA dijo...

Thanks for the Fox and the Little Mouse! It was my first book and I still remember all the pictures :)

Studiolum dijo...

Well, once you say it: can you see the price on the back cover? :)

MOCKBA dijo...

5K must be five thousand LOL? Priceless. That's a replica of exactly the edition I had, of 1964, illustrated by famous Yury Vasnetsov (a distant relation to the art nouveau grand). But the tale itself is much older. It has first been published in 1938 in Chizh magazine. Bianki's Forest News of 1925, with an abundance of B&W illustrations, was my absolute favorite. I suspect that he had little choice but to write for the children, having been effectively banned from most occupations because of his socialist-revolutionary past ... but he must have totally enjoyed writing for the kids!

Studiolum dijo...

Yes, Bianki’s Forest News is my great favorite, too. But you did not pay enough attention to the price. 5K is five kopeek. Never mind. What is important, is the price stamped over it: Ft 1. One Hungarian Forint. In the 1970s, when I regularly purchased such booklets in the Gorky Bookshop, it was the price of half kilo of bread, of one ice cream, of one little plastic Soviet soldier, of a thin 16-pages school booklet, of a copy of the newspaper The People’s Liberty.