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359 Ivan the Bear’s Son 152. In this certain village, there lived and dwelt a rich peasant and his wife. Once she went off into the forest after pepper caps [Agaricus piperatus– JVH], got lost, and wandered into a bear den. The bear took her for his own, and after a long or short time, he had a son with her—down to the belt human, but up to the belt a bear. His mother called her son Ivanko Medvedko, or Ivanko the Little Bear. The years passed. Ivanko Medvedko grew up, and he and his mother decided to go away into the village to be with people. They waited until the bear had gone off to some apiary , collected their things, and ran away. They ran and ran and eventually reached the place. The peasant saw his wife and was overjoyed; he had never hoped that she would return home. But then he looked at her son and asked,“And what sort of freak is this?” His wife told him everything that had happened, how she had lived with the bear in his den, and she had produced this son with him: a man to his belt, and from the belt up a bear. “Well, Ivanko Medvedko,” said the peasant, “go into the back yard and kill a sheep. We need to make dinner for you.”“And which should I slaughter?”“Probably the one that stares at you!” Ivanko Medvedko took a knife and set off for the back yard and shouted out at the sheep. All the sheep stared fixedly at him. Medvedko immediately slaughtered them all, skinned them, and came to ask where he should take the meat and skins. “What?” the peasant shouted at him. “I told you to slaughter one sheep, and you’ve butchered them all!” “No, Father, you told me to slaughter the one that stared at me. I went into the back yard, and every last one of them stared at me. They each of them eyed me!” “Oh, you’re a clever one! Now go and bring all the meat and skins into the shed, and tonight you guard the door to the shed so that thieves don’t steal it and dogs don’t eat it!” “Very good, I’ll guard it.” That very night a storm got up, and there was a downpour. Ivanko Medvedko broke down the door to the shed, carried it off to the bathhouse , and spent the night there. It was a dark night, all to the aid of 360 h Ivan the Bear’s Son thieves. The shed was open, and there was no guard—they could take what they wanted! In the morning, the peasant woke up and went to see what was happening. As it were, nothing remained. The dogs had eaten some; thieves had stolen the rest. He started looking around for his watchman, found him in the bathhouse and cussed him out even more than before.“Oh, Father! How am I guilty?”said Ivanko Medvedko. “You yourself told me to guard the door, and the door is what I guarded. Here it is! No thieves stole it, nor did any dogs eat it.”“What am I to do with this fool?” thought the peasant. “If he stays here a month or two, he’ll completely ruin me. How can I get him off my hands?” And then he thought of this: The next day he sent Ivanko Medvedko to the lake to weave a rope of sand. And a lot of unclean spirits dwelt in that lake—let those devils drag him into their whirlpools! Ivanko Medvedko set off for the lake, sat down on the shore, and began weaving his rope from sand. Suddenly an imp jumped out of the water. “What are you doing, Medvedko?” “What am I doing? I’m weaving a rope. I want to rile up the lake and rile up you devils, because you live in whirlpools and don’t pay your proper taxes!” “Wait up, Medvedko! I’ll run and tell Grandfather.” And with that, he plopped into the water. In about five minutes, he jumped out again.“Grandfather said that if you can outrun me, he’ll pay the tax. But if I outrun you, then he said to drag you yourself into the whirlpool.”“So then, you’re a sly one! Well, so how can you outrun me?” said Ivanko Medvedko.“I have a little grandson, just born yesterday, and...


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