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The russian folk art

French version

The little humpbacked horse

Part one


ast the woods and mountains steep,
past the rolling waters deep,
you will find a hamlet pleasant
where once dwelt an aged peasant.
of his sons-and he had three,
th'eldest sharp was as could be;
second was nor dull nor bright,
but the third-a fool all right.

S.Orlov "The little humpbacked horse"

S. Orlov "The little humpbacked horse"
Overglaze painted design
and gilt on porcelaine. 1954  Leningrad

Night fell and the white moon rose.
On his beat Ivan now goes,
Looking sharply all around;
Then he sits upon the ground,
Munching slowly at his bread,
Counts the bright stars overhead.
Suddenly, a neigh resounded-
To his feet our sentry bounded;
Peering round with shaded eyes,
In the field a mare he spies.
Now, this mare, I'd have you know,
Whiter was than whitest snow,
Silken mane in ringlets streaming
To the ground, all golden gleaming.
"Oh, ho ho-so this is it!
You're the rogue-but wait a bit!
I don't like such nasty jokes
Played on honest farming folks!
Trifling never was my line
And I'll jump upon your spine,
Nasty little plague," said he
And, approaching stealthily,
Seized her tail as in a vice,
Mounted on her in a trice,
Landed on her with a smack,
Back to front and front to back.
But the mare, whose blood was hot,
Started bucking on the spot.


V.Fomin "The little humpbacked horse"
V. Fomin "The little humpbacked horse"
Box. 1955.  Kholui

Eyes ablaze with angry glow,
Like an arrow from its bow
Over hills and valleys sped,
Over streams and gullies fled,
On her haunches rearing, prancing,
"Neath the forest branches dancing,
All her wiles and strength in vain
Plying, to be free again.
But-she found her match at last-
To her tail Ivan stuck fast.
Finally, she said to him,
Spent, and trembling in each limb:
"Since you sat me,
I confess I am yours now to possess;
Find a place for me to rest,
Care for me as you know best,
But-remember this my warning:
That for three days, every morning,
You must let me out to graze.
At the end of these three days,
Two such handsome steeds I'll bear
As have ne'er been seen, I swear;
And a third I promise you,
Only twelve hands high, with two
Little humps upon his back-
Ears-a yard long; eyes-coal-black;
If you wish, why, sell the two,
But, Ivan, whate'er you do,
Part not with the little steed,
Though you be in direst need,
Nor for gold, nor silken raiment,
Nor for lucky charm in payment.
Faithful friend to you he'll be,
Where you go, on land or sea;
He'll find shade from summer's heat,
Keep you warm in snow and sleet,
Find your food in time of need,
Quench your thirst with cooling mead,
Afterwards, you'll set me free,
Let me roam at liberty."


V.Fomin "The little humpbacked horse"
V. Fomin "The little humpbacked horse"
Box. 1955.  Kholui

Let us now forget those two
And, good people, Christians true,
I'll amuse you if I can
With the deeds of our Ivan.
How he ruled the stables over,
Living like a lord in clover,
And was taken for a sprite;
How he lost his feather bright;
How he laid the Fire-Bird's snare;
How he stole the Tsar-Maid fair;
How he found her ring for her,
How he was her messenger;
How the Sun, at his request,
Gave the Monster Whale his rest;
One more deed, but not the least,
How he thirty ships released;
How, when boiled in cauldrons, he
Came out handsome as could be.
In a word, how our young man
Ended up as Tsar Ivan.


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The russian literature /

Piotr Yershov

  The little humpbacked horse
     Part one
     Part two
     Part three


Now, these brothers planted wheat,
Brought it to the royal seat,
By which token you may know
That they hadn't far to go. There they sold their golden grain
Counted carefully their gain
And, with well-filled money bags,
Home again would turn their nags.
But, upon an evil day,
Dire misfortune came their way-
Someone, 'twixt the dark and dawn,
Took to trampling down their corn;
Never had such grief before
Come to visit at their door;
Day and night they sat and thought
How the villain could be caught,
Till at last it dawned upon them
That the way to solve the problem
And to save their crops from harm
Was, each night to guard their farm.
As the day drew near its close,
Up the eldest brother rose
And, with pitchfork, axe in hand,
Started out his watch to stand
Dark and stormy was the night,
He was overcome with fright
And, of all his wits deprived,
In the nearest haystack dived.
Slowly night gave way to day;
Our brave watchman left his hay,
And, with water from the well,
Soused himself-then, with a yell,
Pounded on the cottage door;
And you should have heard him roar!
"Hey, you sleepy owls," cried he-
"Open up the door-it's me!
I am soaked right to the skin!
Hurry, there, and let me in!"

The little humpbacked horse

   "Who knocks so loud?"
"Me, the Fool," came answer proud.
So they opened up the door,
Let him in, and roundly swore
At Ivan-how did he dare
Give his brothers such a scare?
But Ivan, with heedless air,
Climbed up on the oven, where,
Lying down in all his clothes,
He related, at repose,
His adventures-while, amazed,
Open-mouthed, his hearers gazed.
"Well, I didn't sleep all night,
Counting all the stars so bright.
Possibly, the moon was there,
Though I really wouldn't swear-
Satan suddenly appeared,
Bristling whiskers, bushy beard,
Cat-like face and saucer eyes;
I stared on in stark surprise
As that devil, with his tail,
Whipped the wheat as with a flail.
You know, joking's not my line-
So I jumped right on his spine.
He led me a dance, look you-
Nearly broke my head in two.
But I'm not a fool-not quite-
Like a vice, I held him tight.
How that cunning rascal tried!
Finally, he begged and cried:
'Spare my life this once, please do!
For twelve months, I promise you
Not to break a single law,
Christian folks to plague no more.'
I believed him on the spot-
Off the devil's back I got."


The little humpbacked horse

   Well, Danilo-(I should say-
This was on a holiday)
Tipsy, reeled along the track
Leading to that shepherd's shack.
There he saw a handsome pair-
Steeds, with manes of golden hair,
And beside them, in its stall,
Stood a horse, so queer and small,
Two humps on his little back;
Ears a yard long; eyes-coal-black.
All the fumes immediately
Left Danilo's head, and he
Murmured: "Hm! At last it's clear
Why that fool is sleeping here!
"Breathless bursting home, Danilo
Cried excitedly: "Gavrilo,
Come and see that lovely pair
Our young fool has hidden there-
Steeds, with manes of golden hair-
No one saw their likes, I swear."
Fast as legs could carry, Dan,
Barefoot, with Gavrilo ran,
Through the fields, as though on wings,
Heedless of the nettle stings.


The little humpbacked horse

When he stopped outside the gate,
All the people straightaway
Kneeled and wildly cheered: "Hurray!"
In reply, the Tsar smiled brightly,
Bowed, and.from his coach sprang lightly...
Charmed by those two steeds, the Tsar
Gazed at them from near and far,
Praised and praised them once again,
Softly stroked each golden mane,
Gently patted each steed's spine,
Felt their necks, so sleek and fine.
After he had gazed his fill,
He turned round with right goodwill,
Saying: "My good people, who
Owns these handsome chargers two?
Who's the master?" Here, Ivan,
Arms akimbo, like a Pan,
Pushed his brothers both aside,
Puffed his cheeks and proudly cried:
"Tsar, these steeds belong to me,
I'm their owner, too, you see."
"Will you sell them to me, say?"
"No, I'm swapping them today."
"What will you be taking, then?"
"Twice five caps-and that makes ten,
Full of silver-that's my price!"