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Author: Alexander Afanasyev - 1855

Translated into English
  by Irina Zheleznova

Original title (Russian):
Жадная старуха

Country of origin: Russia

Translations

English - aligned


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The Greedy Old Woman

Alexander Afanasyev / Irina Zheleznova

There once lived an old man and an old woman, peasants both. One day the old man went to the forest to chop wood. He found an old tree, took up his axe and was about to set to work, but the tree said in a human voice: "Spare me, Old Man, and I will do for you whatever you wish." "All right, then, make me rich." "Very well! Go home, and you'll find that you'll have everything you want waiting for you." The old man came home, and lo!—in place of the old hut stood a new one, and it was full of everything! There was money enough to burn, flour enough to last him and his old woman for dozens of years, and there were so many cows, horses and sheep in the barnyard that it would have taken three days and over to count them all. "Where did all this come from, Old Man?" the old woman asked. "Well, you see, Wife, I found a tree that says it will give me whatever I ask for."
A month passed, and the old woman was no longer content with her rich life. "I know we're rich, but what good does it do us when people show us no respect!" said she." If the steward wants to, he can make us work very hard, and if there's something he doesn't like, he can have us flogged. Go back to the tree and ask it to make you a steward." The old man took his axe, went to the forest and up to the tree and made as if to chop it down. "What do you want, Old Man?" the tree asked. "I want to become a steward." "Very well. And now go with God!"
He came back home, and lo!—he had been made a steward, and there were soldiers waiting for him who wanted him to find them quarters in the village.
"Where have you been gadding about, you old devil?" they shouted. "Find us quarters and good ones. Come on, be quick about it!" And they went at him with the blunt sides of their broadswords and gave him a sound trouncing.
Seeing that a steward too does not always get the respect due him, the old woman said: "What's the good of being a steward! The soldiers gave you a beating, so what is there to say about the landlord: he'll do whatever he wants with you. Go to the forest and ask the tree to make you a landlord."
The old man took his axe, went to the forest and up to the tree and made as if to chop it down. "What do you want, Old Man?" the tree asked. "I want to become a landlord." "Very well. And now go with God!"
The old man became a landlord, but after leading a life of leisure for some time the old woman felt it was not enough and said to the old
man: "What's the good of you being a landlord! Now, had you been a colonel it would be a different matter, for everyone would envy us." And she told the old man to go and ask the tree to make him a colonel. The old man took his axe, went to the forest and up to the tree and made as if to chop it down. "What do you want, Old Man?" the tree asked. "I want to become a colonel," the old man said. "Very well, a colonel you shall be! And now go with God!" The old man came back home, and lo!—he had been made colonel.
Some time passed, and the old woman said: "Being a colonel isn't all that much. You could be put in the guardhouse by a general if he so wished. Go to the tree, Old Man, and say that you want to become a general." The old man went to the forest and up to the tree and made as if to chop it down with his axe. "What do you want, Old Man?" the tree asked. "I want to become a general." "Very well. And now go with God!" The old man came back home, and lo!—he had been made general.
Some more time passed, and the old woman, who was no longer content being a general's wife, said to the old man:
"Being a general isn't all that much! If the king so wishes, he can exile you to Siberia. Go to the tree and ask it to make you a king and me a queen." Off went the old man to the forest and up to the tree and made as if to chop it down with his axe. "What is it you want, Old Man?" the tree asked. "I want to be king." "Very well. Go with" God!" The old man came back home, and there were envoys there waiting to take him to the palace. "The king is dead," said they, "and you have been made king in his stead."
The old man and old woman had not reigned very long when the old woman decided that it wasn't enough to be a queen. So she called the old man and said: "To be king isn't all that much! If God so wills, he'll send death after you and you'll find yourself dead and buried. Go to the tree and ask it to make gods of us." Off went the old man to see the tree, but when it had heard out his mad speeches, it rustled its leaves and said: "Not gods shall you be, both of you, but bears!" And the same moment the old man turned into a he-bear and the old woman into a she-bear, and away they ran into the deep of the forest.