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Emelian the Fool a tale   By: (1859-1937)

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EMELIAN THE FOOL A TALE

Translated from the Russian BY GEORGE BORROW

LONDON: PRINTED FOR PRIVATE CIRCULATION

1913

INTRODUCTION

The tale of Emelian , of which we give here a version, is highly popular amongst the peasantry of Russia, and is told by them at their merry makings from the upper shores of the Gulf of Finland to the Ural Mountains. It bears some resemblance to the tale of Aladdin , the pike playing in the Russian story much the same part as the lamp in the Arabian one, and it is by no means impossible that both tales are derived from the same myth. But from whatever source the story of Emelian may have sprung, the manner in which it is wrought is essentially Russian, and from it, as here rendered, the English reader may form a better idea of the way of life, and the feelings of the Russian mujiks, or peasantry, than from a dozen common books of travels in Russia. Emelian is represented as a fool, but there is much in what he says and does common to the Russian mujik in general. He lies in the izbushka, or cabin, upon the petsch, or stove, and when told to get up, he says: “What should I get up for?—Mnie zdies teplo, i ia lieniós—’tis warm here, and I am lazy.” There spoke the genuine mujik, the most prominent features of whose character are a love of warmth and a hatred of exertion, though, when he chooses to get up and rouse himself, he is capable of very great things, can outwit the tchort himself, bear hunger and fatigue better than any other man, and contend even with the Briton at the game of the bayonet. Perhaps we may hereafter present to the public in an English dress some other popular tales illustrative of the manner of life and ideas of the mujiks, to whom the attention of the English public has of late been much directed, owing to the ukase of the present Tsar, by which they are emancipated from serfdom,—a measure likely to be productive of much weal or woe throughout his extensive dominions.

The tale is as follows:—

EMELIAN THE FOOL

In a certain village there lived a mujik, or yeoman, who had three sons; two were clever, but the third was a fool, who was called Emelian. When the good man had reached an extreme old age, he called all his sons to him, and said:

“Dear children, I feel that I have not long to live; I therefore leave you house and cattle, which you will divide in equal portions. I also leave you money: a hundred roubles for each.”

Soon after these words he died, and his children, having given him a decent funeral, lived very comfortably. After a little time, the brothers of Emelian took it into their heads to start for the city, and employ in traffic the three hundred roubles which their father had left them; so they said to the fool Emelian:

“Harkee, fool, we are going to the city, and will take your hundred roubles with us, and if our traffic goes on profitably we will buy you a red caftan, a red cap, and red boots; but do you remain at home, and if your sisters in law, our wives (for they were married) order you to do anything, be sure you do it.”

The fool, wishing to receive the red caftan, red cap, and red boots, told his brothers in reply that he would do whatever his sisters in law should order him. After this, his brothers set out for the city, and the fool remained at home, and lived with his sisters in law. After some time, on a certain day, when it was winter, and there was a terrible frost, his sisters in law told him to go for water; but the fool, who was lying on the petsch, or stove, said:

“Yes, indeed, and why not you?”

“Why not we, you fool?” cried the sisters in law; “don’t you see what a frost it is? and that none but a man can go out in such weather?”

“But,” said he, “I am lazy... Continue reading book >>




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