Multilingual Folk Tale Database


Information

Author: Alexander Afanasyev - 1855

Translated into English
  by Irina Zheleznova

Original title (Russian):
Гуси-лебеди

Country of origin: Russia

Translations

English - aligned


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The Swan-Geese

Alexander Afanasyev / Irina Zheleznova

There once lived a man and a woman who had a little daughter and a son who was still a baby. One day the mother and father prepared to go to the field, and the mother said to the daughter: "Your father and I are going out to work, child, and if you will be a good and a clever girl, take good care of your little brother and never leave the yard, we will bring you back a bun, buy you a kerchief and make you a pretty dress." The mother and father went away, and the little girl never gave her mother's words a thought. She seated her brother on the grass under the window and herself ran out into the street where she began playing with friends and got so caught up in the games that she quite forgot what she had been told. All of a sudden a flock of Swan-Geese came flying up. They swept up the little boy and carried him off on their wings.
The girl came home, and her brother was not there! She oh'd and ah'd and rushed about looking for him, but there was not a sign of him anywhere! She called to him, and she wept and sobbed, saying over and over again that her mother and father would punish her, but he never replied. Now, the Swan-Geese were known to be wicked birds who did much evil and stole little children, and so, guessing that it was they who had carried off her brother, she decided to run after them and to try and overtake them. She ran and she ran and she came to an oven. "Please, Oven, tell me where the Swan-Geese have flown," said she. "Eat one of my rye buns, and I will." "A rye bun? Never! Why, at home we don't even eat wheaten buns!" The oven kept mum and would tell her nothing, and the girl ran on. By and by she came upon an apple- tree. "Please, Apple-Tree, tell me where the Swan-Geese have flown," said she. "Eat one of my wild apples, and I will!" "Not I! Why, at home we don't even eat garden apples!" On she ran, and she came to a river of milk with fruit jelly banks.
"Please, milk river with fruit jelly banks, tell me where the Swan- Geese have flown," said she. "Eat some of my jelly with milk and I will." "Not I! Why, at home we don't even eat jelly with cream!"
The girl ran on, and she would have been roaming the fields and woods to this day if she hadn't been lucky enough to meet a hedgehog. She wanted to push it away, but did not, for she was afraid of getting pricked. "Please, Hedgehog, tell me, have you seen where the Swan- Geese have flown?" she asked. "Over there.'" And he showed her where. On she ran and she came to a hut on chicken feet which kept turning round and round. Inside the hut sat Baba-Yaga the Witch with a face lined and grey and a leg of clay, and on a bench beside her sat the little girl's brother playing with some golden apples. The girl crept up to him, seized him and carried him off with her. But the Swan- Geese, wicked birds that they were, flew after her and if she did not want to get into their clutches she had to find some place to hide. There before her was the milk river with the fruit jelly banks, and she bent over it and said: "Please, River, be a mother to me and hide me." "Have some of my fruit jelly first!" There was nothing to be done, so she had some of the jelly. The river hid her under its bank, and the Swan-Geese flew past and never saw her. She thanked the river and ran on with her brother, but the Swan-Geese had turned back and were flying straight toward her. What was the girl to do! There before her was the apple-tree, so she turned to it and said: "Please, Apple-Tree, be a mother to me and hide me!" "Eat one of my wild apples, and I will!" The girl ate one quickly, and the apple-tree hid her and her little brother among its leaves and branches. The Swan-Geese flew past, and the little girl picked up her brother and ran on. The Swan-Geese saw her and flew after her. They were very close now, they flapped their wings and were about to tear her brother out of her arms at any moment! Luckily, there was the oven just in front of her. "Please, Mistress Oven, hide me!" she begged. "Have one of my rye buns, and I will!" The girl popped a rye bun into her mouth and herself crawled into the oven. The Swan-Geese flew round and round, screaming and honking, but after a while gave up and flew away. The little girl ran home with her brother, and she got there just in time, for her mother and father came in right after her.