martes, 24 de abril de 2012

La venerable Olga

La venerable Olga era una dona ja molt entrada en anys. Es vestia a l'antiga, un mocador de colors li cobria els llisos cavells blancs, deixant encara més evident els seu rostre arrugat i els grans ulls blaus clars com el cel. Tenia una boca petiteta, que no impedia que d'allí sortissin les pitjors paraules russes que un pogués imaginar. Els braços cançats mostraven les lluites contínues amb el nombrós grup de gats que havitaben la seva casa. Una faldilla també de colors, feta per ella mateixa li arribava fins als peus, coberts per unes botes balinquis. Era vídua, ja feia anys que el seu marit Mitia havia mort d'un càncer. Molta gent de la zona havia mort els darrers anys del càncer. Les proves nuclears de l'epoca soviètica no s'atoraren fins ben entrats els anys 90 quan el sistema es desintegrà del tot. Mentre treia un dels nombrosos enciams que tenia al seu petit hort per fer-se una aminda, recordava com durant els 80 les dèbils finestres es movien pel vent provocat per les explosions nuclears. La consigna era no dir res de res. No preguntar era seguir vivint. Alguns, els més molestos foren enviats lluny, als camps de treball de Sibèria. Ara ja s'enviava a ningú a enlloc, era massa car i difícil de justificar. Ara el govern a través de la televisió els deia què fer, els anuncis no deixaven de martillejar les cosnciències de la gent, fent-los creure que tot anava bé, que vivien en un món millor, lliure, ple d'oportunitats infinites, la idea que ells perseguiren durant tots els anys de comunisme. Ara no existien les fonteres i per tant tot aniria a millor. Havien passat més de vint anys del somni i l'únic canvi eren les cares dels diputats, ni els presentadors havien canviat, els joves dels fills dels rics suubstituïen els pares. Aquell somni s'havia convertit en un malson, borratxos pels carrers, la policia que no només no feia res per a la gent sinó que a més a més d'una forma descarada col·laborava amb els mafiosos, amenaçant a la gent, els nous petits rics que veien una oportunitat per crèixer i viure millor. Pagant al funcionari corrupte del registre públic i el de l'ajuntament, la policia passava la informació a les organitzacions mafioses dels rics de la ciutat i aquells es dedicaven a amenaçar-los," si no pagues, et fotarem foc a la casa o al negoci". Llavors, l'amenaçat es dirigia a la policia que "s'oferia" a proteguir-lo. Asumpte arreclat. El mafiós de cavell rapat, d'ulleres negres i abric llarg negre desapareixia i tothom quedava tranquil per un temps. Així funcionava la nova Rússia. Prou bé que ho sabia la vella Olga, que en més d'una ocasió havia hagut de donar a la veïna alguna col per tal que aquesta parlés amb el seu fill que treballava a la oficina de correus per així li portéssin les factures a casa seu a l'hora. De la simple col, tant comuna per aquelles terres la corrupció creixia i creixia desmesuradament fins a arribar a límits increïbles. Tot s'ha de dir que sempre havia estat així. No només la corrupció sinó també el problema dels borratxos. Només cal lleguir una mica la literatura rusa i un s'he n'adona de la profunditat del problema. Ja fos per la major passiviatat de les autoritats abans les cose eren diferents. Més cara a cara, sobretot en pobles petits com Kangur. Ara ja no. Calia un contacte que i aquest un altre i un altre fins a perdre el compte per poder parlar amb l'interessat. Potser eren coses de vells, l'època daurada pensava ella, que sempre quan un es feia vell veia el passat com una cosa ideal, però en el seu cas el passat era la segona guerra mundial, una època de mort, fam i penúria, molta penúria i ideals fracassats. Movent el cap, parlant amb ella mateixa recordava l'arribada dels comunistes al poble, joves contents, feliços, que creien en un futur igual i millor per a tothom. Fins i tot ella, que ra jove en aquell temps s'ho havia cregut i compartit. Però no gaire temps. Quan de la penúria de la guerra es passà a la penúria de la pau. Per raons estratègiques del tot incomprensibles el poble rus seguí passant fam abans, durant i desprès de la guerra. Els camps de treball, on en teoria eren camps destinats a la millora de la qualitat del poble soviètic, es convertiren en camps tolerats d'explotació, diferenciant-se del Golag només que als camps un tornava a casa amb la familia esgotat i podia veure la seva familia cada dia i al Gulag eren els guàrdies borratxos els únics qui veies. Ni tan sols podien tenir més d'una vaca a casa, fos la familia gran o petita i les racions per treballar al camp eren ínfimes. Una mica de pa, una mica de carn i poca cosa més. Per sort seva, la familia de l'Ola disponia d'un camp fèrtil i en conivència amb els veïns conrreaven patates i altre verdures intentant que les autoritats no n'informessin de res. Amb una bossa de patates o unes cols. Com ara. Pensà la senyora Olga espolsant l'ensiam ple de terra i tiran-lo dins la galleda plena de tomàquets i altres hortelisses. Res no ha canviat a Rússia. I amb passos lents, clavant els peus menudets dins dels solcs de l'hort s'anà apropant a la casa de fusta, gran, buida d'animals ja i de bales de palla, fins i tot els veïns anaren marxant o morint amb el temps. La senyora Olga era la més gran de la petita vila de no més de 300 habitants. Sense joves que volguéssin continuar amb les feixugues feines del camp i del rígid clima que tenia la zona. 6 mesos d'intens hivern, colgats de neu, sense aigua calenta corrent i una carretera feta mal bé. L'atrotinat autocar passava cada dia prop del llogaret però es feia necessari encara caminar trenta minuts a peu, camp a través per arribar al poble. No existia para d'autobusos tal com ens ho imaginem nosaltres. No existia una parada. Allí s'atorava el conductor imitant com ho havia fet sempre el seu pare o el seu avi, copiant les costums de la gent o d'algun company de feina anterior. No existia ni una sola senyal, ni una trista barbacana de fusta o plàstic o de ciment, res de res. Només laq gran inmensitat dels boscos russos, els camps llaurats o coberts per la neu. Al costat de la parada descansaven grans blocs de fusta tallada acuradament. La venda de fusta per les grans fàbriques de paper era, potser, l'unic gran negoci que encara funcionava a la comarca. Els inmensos camions de dos cossos passaven nit i dia per aquella carretera sense asfaltar portant grans troncs cap al sud. La majoria dels homes de la comarca es dedicaven a la tala i transport de la fusta.
Els dos gats sortiren de sobte per la porta del darrera de la casa que donava al camp, on abans hi havia les vaques i gallines. Tot i els crits de la iaia Olga, les dues gates peludes s'enroscaren una a cada cama, miulant i ronronajant sense parar.
Però, no veieu que no porto res de manjar per a vosaltres? Des quan us agraden les cols i les patates? Sarmonejava la vella Olga, dibuixant un somriure. La gata Mia era una peluda i grassa gata de color negre i blanc que li agardava dormir a prop d'una de les dues apadessades finestres de la cuina, ben al costat de la finestra, a prop de la taula de menjar. Era com si vigilés des de la finestra qui passava pel carrer o com si volgués controlar el fred aire per tal que no entrés dins de casa. L'altre gata la Pitia , era també peluda, rossa i blanca i preferia dormir sobre la petxka, la cuina econòmica russa. Cal fer aquí una explicació. La petxka de l'àvia Olga era tant gran que permetia dues persones estirar-se al damunt durant els dies d'hivern. La petxka era fins no fa ven poc en l'objecte més important de la casa, era la calefacció i la cuina. En el cas de la iaia Olga estava recoberta de guix i unes capes de pintura, en altres casos se les cobria de ceràmica de tots colors o de senefes gracioses i colorides. La iaia Olga tenia una altre petxka al saló-dormitori, es podia considerar afortunada.
Seguint els seus passos, l'Olga s'assegué a un banc proper a l'entrada de la casa. Des d'allí podia veure la vanya, la sauna rusa, on es dutxava normalment i on descansava envoltada de vapors, al costat hi havia el garatge, amb el tractor que el seu marit havia ell mateix construït, utilitzant peçes d'altres tractors i cotxes. i més a l'esquerra, prop del carrer, a mig caure hi havia una teulada que tapava la llenya necessaria per passar l'hivern i cuinar. A això s'ahavia reduït la nova rússia moderna. Res havia canviat molt. Les úniques coses noves que tenia era un televisor que funcionava de tant en tant, ningú es preocupava de posar una antena col·lectiva, a qui li importava, i petita nevera on hi guardava el poc menjar qe tenia, la resta el tenia envesat en pots de vidres, una col·lecció de pots que s'amagatzamaven any rera any. Just davant de la seva casa hi havia l'únic telèfon del poble, unit a un pal de la llum. El telèfon, de color blau, durant l'hiven quedava cobert per la neu i no era possible d'utilitzar, i quan no era la neu l'inutilitzava algun borratxo amb el seu cotxe, que com ulisses amb les sirenes s'hi veia atret a tot gas.
De botigues al poble no n'hi havia, només hi havia una caseta de fusta que funcionava dos cops a la setmana on s'hi podien comprar els aliments més bàsics com el pà o la llet. Quan feia molt de fred, llavors l'home de la fornera repartia casa per casa aquells mateixos productes, fent a l'hora una llista d'altres productes que fossin urgents com medecines. La única farmàcia disponible es trobava a Ilinsk, capital de comarca, relativament a prop però impossible d'anar-hi durant el cru hivern amb l'atrotinat autocar.
L'entrada de la casa era de color blau clar amb un munt de petits vidres de colors que formaven dos grans finestres per on entrava el sol. La casa estava dividida en dos, la meitat pels animals i l'altre per les persones. Dues grans portes de massissa fusta frenquejaven l'entrada deixant un ampli recibidor que conectava la seva casa amb les quadres ara vuides. Ni els ratolins vivien per aquella zona.
Els seus ulls blaus es confonien amb el cel blau i clar d'aquell dia. Ni un sol núvol creuava, cosa extranya el cel. Calçada amb els seus balinquis i posant-se el mocador de vius colors a lloc es dirigí carregada amb les dues galledes dins de casa, deixant milers de records a fora, junt els gats que després de mirar-la un moment seguiren jugant amb les grogues flors que despuntejaven prop de la porta.

El Doctor Ivan

El Doctor Ivan Ivanovic Baranov era un home corpulent entrat ja en anys, de cabells grisosos, amb petites entrades, de cabell curt, tipus militar, cara rodona, ample, d'ulls blaus clars com el cel amb tonalitats grisosesi verdoses segons com s'asagués al seu sofà que reposava prop de la finestra. Un llarg bigoti estil cosac penjava per sota del seu nas molsut. Algunes arrugues es dibuixaven sota els seus ulls i front.
La poca activitat física dels darrers anys o potser la deixadesa física més que moral li havien fet guanyar uns quants quilos col·locats tots al voltant de l'estómac i a les grosses i molsudes mans. de veu clara i greu produïa sempre als seus pacients respecte unit al temor. El nostre doctor vestia un senzill jersei gris de llana blanca natural de coll alt i senzills i gastats pantalons de pana marronosos i unes botes negroses desgastades per la part interior de la sola, degut al seu caminar que recordava els pingüins, de lluny.
Assegut al seu petit despatx colgat de llibres de tot tipus, apilats sense ordre, flors i algunes fotos de la seva època universitària, li agradava prendre un té ben calent cada dia puntualment a les vuit del matí, per costum o per record del seu pas per l'hospital civil de Moscou durant la seva joventut, quan encara perseguia infermeres o doctores, joves o més madures que passaven el dia a l'hospital com ell. En aquella sala blanca per personal del centre hospitalari on l'únic mobiliari a part de les cadires de la pitjor qualitat , una taula plena de tasses pel té , un samovar vell iluminat per la trista làmpara blanca i rodona d'estil soviètic i una trista planta exòtic, déu sap d'on havia sortit que la senyora Grigorieva cuidava de tant en tant. Allí es reunien tots a les vuit del matí amb les tasses fuemejant i el gorogoteig del samavar per escalfar-se una mica, programar el dia i aixoplugar-se dels problemes del treball, com gallines en un corral. El té els escalfava l'esperit i el cos i després d'uns segons de silenci el doctor Valeri Stepanovich començava ,rescant-se la gola , la llarga llista d'operacions i demès feines a fer. Remercant sobretot les paraules als nous vinguts.
Difícils temps foren els 90 per a tothom, recordava el doctor Ivan mentre es bebia el té servit per la senyora Lluba Grigoreva. Temps de molta gana, fred i poca esperança i inici de les grans fortunes que ara monopolitzaven el pais, com si es tractés d'un reinici de l'època soviètica de nou, canviant l'estrella roja per anuncis multicolors i un consum desenfrenat i sense control.
El dia que deixà la clínica i Moscou no se'n penedí gens. D'això ja en feia ara un bon grapat d'anys. La tranquilitat del poble d'Ilinsk el deseperava i el tranquilitzava a l'hora. Li produïa un reconfort profund, com el té que es prenia pel matí.
La petita ciutat d'Ilinsk era el centre regional i económic de la comarca Beligodskaya, al nord de Rússia, de l'autonomia d'Arhanglesk.
Les cases la majoria de fusta i algunes, les més noves de maó gris, fruit dels temps de bonança, resseguien el curs del riu Viled per ambdues bandes formant una llarga fila de cases escampades formant llarguíssims carrers creuant-se uns als altres sense saber a vegades quin era quin. Dos ponts creuaven el riu, un d'ells recentment inaugurat, de ferro, s'alçaven per sobre les aigües.
Durant l'hivern el Viled romania completament gelat fent possible creuant-lo a peu, alguns aprofitaven per pescar, tapats de dalt a baix, coberts per plàstics i acompanyats per una botella de vodka barat per escalfar-se o un termo de té.
Tornant al nostre doctor, el nostre protagonista vivia en una d'aquestes cases pintades de fusta, una casa d'una sola planta sólida, ja una mica cremada pel sol i el vent, mig pintada de colors blau cel, la paret, i color blanc els marcs de les finestres, amb petites sanefes vermelles per sobre del blanc. Un conjunt de tubs resseguien les parets interiors de la casa, repartint el calor per tota la casa a través de la petxka, una espècia de cuina econòmica que funciona amb troncs, anar a buscar troncs i trencar-los eren una de les activitats preferides del doctor cada matí i encendre el la petxka per escalfar la casa i l'aigua per dutxar-se.
eEls mobles eren senzills, simples però cómodes, sense pretencions, i l'únic objecte que es podria destacar era el silló de pell que es trobava al seu despatx, un record de la seva època a Vologda.

De Moscou a Varkutà: 3


La bonica estació de metro se li presentà un cop més al nostre Ivan amb tot l'esplendor de les èpoques passades. Les parets de grog clar clar amb els relleus i els mosaics dels moments més importants de la revolució bolxevic. Visca els comunistes! Pensà un breu moment no sense deixar de somriure maliciosament per sota el seu bigoti. Les grans làmpares, aranya enormes entrelleçades es aven magestusoes a les petites làmpares dels dos corredors laterals. D'aquí es dirigí a un llarg túnel blanc, de llums blanques, cares blanques, una espècie de purgatori, anotà mentalment el doctor, que s'unia a unes escales mecàniques que conduien a la sortida passant per una cúpula amb relleus, cap la salvació, al carrer controlat per decenes d'àngels custodis d'estrelles vermelles relempejants.

Un cop dins el tren: el sistema de la taula i els llits, els llançols planxats i col·locats dins una bossa. Tot ordenat, com també les gracioses tasses i vasos per preparar el té. Les llums s'apaguen. els sotracs del tren començen.Les parades i les estacions fantasmes. Com a les pel·lícules d'espies. La neu que no para de caure colgant mica en mica els alts arbres que s'enfilen amunt i amunt amb les puntes doblades pel fred i la neu, com nassos arronsats pel fred.
Els vagons vells, refets una i altre vegada, amb una mica de robell a les portes, la pintura a punt de caure, consumida pel robell, les finestres per on hi passa l'aire, i, entre els vidres, espeladraps encaixats als marcs interiors de fusta per frenar el fred. les cortines de plàstic de color granate, amb un pal travasser de fusta que permet baixar-les, no sense l'esforç de dos o més passatgers.
Les maletes sota els seients i sobre els caps. la màquina de l'aigua calenta amb les instruccions penjades a la paret.
El lavabo estret i humit, de fusta i plàstic, clavat al terra, que amb un pedal fa baixar l'aigua, i l'aixeta per rentar-se les mans on és necesari empènyer cap amunt per rentar-se les mans. El mirall petit, mig enfosquit de tant mirar-s'hi. La petita bombeta sobre el mirall. L'assegurador de la porta. La finestra tancada amb dos ferros entrevessats.
A mà dreta trobem les dues cambres dels revisors. En una treballen i donen o serveixen els té o cafes que la gent demana, a l'altre tenen l'habitació per dormir. Just a mà esquerra trobem las màquina de l'aigua calenta i la porta que ens porta al llarg passadís on es reperetixen a banda i banda els llits i passatgers, il·lumintas per les grans finestres que permeten veure el bonic paissatge que se'ns presenta. Els innumerables cotxes, les cases enormes de l'època comunista, les cases anteriors a la revolució i les de nova construcció. Els ponts i rierols. Les fàbriques grises algunes i d'altres pintades amb vius colors, amb vidres trencats, les parets calcinades, a punt de caure, esglèsies recenment restaurades, de tots colors, gran i petites, rodejades a vegades per les vies o les cases del ja antic centre antic de les localitats. Edificis nous de ciement o maò, de fusta, monuments de sants, herois nacionals d'altres èpoques o membres del partit comunista.
Les senyores grans assegudes als bancs parlant entre elles criticant alguna amiga no present o ja parlant dels seus néts, mirant de reüll alguna de les noies que escotades i amb tacons esperen el tren, movent aquelles el cap en senyal de profunda desaprovació, però repassant el seu pantinat o el seu maquillatge amb tota l'atenció del moment, mentre la noia es miralla en un petit mirall que porta dins el bolso.
Les lliteres agafades a les parets amb grans cargols. Amb dues bandes.
Arbres coberts de neu, doblats pel pes de la neu, alguns trencats i amontegats uns sobre els altres. Un gos surt d'una casa i es passeja tímidament al voltant de la casa, trepitjant el blanc jardí, olorant les plantes que encara sobresurten. El sol comença a sortir donant tonalitats rojes al paisatge. El tren s'endinsa més i més dins els boscos, sotregant de tant en tant, llançant la neu per les vies cobertes. El gel s'agafa als vagons, formant dibuixos a les finestres, fent difícil en algunes d'elles veure-hi del tot.
Algunes persones començan a recollir les mantes i llençols, baixen a la següent parada. El revisor del ton del matí reconta les peçes de roba. Altres passatgers rellegeixen algun llibre, d'altres juguen amb la canalla, emocionats, més propers al seu destí final, veure el Ded Moroz, el Papa Nöel Rus, Algun gat que treu el cap tímidament observa un petit gos que es passeja pel corredor.
Un cementiri cobert per la neu, amb les baranes de fusta de colors, a les làpides diferents símbols, estrelles comunistes, símbols ortodoxes i fins i tot algun amb simples flors sense cap símbol religiós de cap mena.
Nens plorant, altres saltant i rient amb les mares també cridant perqué no poden escoltar els interessants comentaris de la seva amiga que parla sobre el seu marit. Tema bàsic d'aquests viatges. El marit, mentrestant, dorm o parla amb un altre sobre política o del a vida en general, mirant de reüll a la seva dona de tant en tant.
El marit, generalment gros i quan pensem gros vol dir gros, amb una panxa i brassos enormes, cap rodó com de pà de ral.
D'altres en canvi, sabent que no tenen el marit a prop, expliquen sense escarafalls la seva vida més privada, tot i que clar, és un secret. No és interessant si ningú ho escolta.
Cartells avisant de la perillositat de creuar les vies rodegen les estacions, de colors vius i a punts alts, doncs durant l'hivern neva molt i podria passar si no es fes així que quedés colgat no fent-lo visible.
Grans tubs sobresurten d'uns edificis negres. Són les centrals eléctriques que donen d'escalfar a la gent. La majoria dels radiadors estàn centralitzats i començen a funcionar, tots, el mateix dia, i no deixen de funcionar fins que el govern considera que ja no fa fred.
Pals de teléfon convertits en torres de gel i els seus cables coberts per dues pells, una de gel i una altre de neu.
Una llarga estela de pols blanca segueix el tren. Com un cometa.
En algunes parts els arbres es mostren ordenats, ben col·locats, en perfecta formació, fila rera fila, d'altres de forma caótica creixen, caient uns sobre els altres, recolzats tots ells uns als altres. Arbres grans petits i minúsculs tots formant un únic arbre o un gran cementiri d'arbres, escampats per la plana.
Fum negre d'una altre central elèctrica tenyint el blau cel i altre cop vagons verds i blaus aturats a l'estació esperant per ser units a una màquina. Casetes de fusta blava creixen prop de l'edifici de mahons grisos de l'estació. Vagons blaus, marrons, negres, de formes rectangulars, rodons, amb finestres i sense finestres, carregats amb fusta, maquinària, fuel, fusta, passatgers, cartes...Llargs convois es creuen amb el nostre tren.

De Moscou a Varkutà: 4

Al doctor Ivan li agradava fer parada a un petit café proper de l'estació de Kotlas, on allí romania el tren durant uns llargs minuts. El pont de ferro, desgastat i perillós, sobretot durant l'hivern, creuava el complex lligam de vies plenes de vagons, màquines de tren, operaris i altres serveis que oferia la gran estació. Després de 21 hores dalt del tren, aquella parada era perfecta per fer un mos i estirar les cames una mica, fes fred o calor.
El nostre doctor recorria aquell barri cada any, se'l coneixia com el palmell de la mà i de vegades fins i tot coincidia amb algun conegut que retornava a moscou, o com ell, en els pitjors dels casos, també anava a Ilinsk. En aquests casos, aperentava tenir una gran presa, i feia veure que l'esperava un pacient greu, amb dos sabien que no era veritat, però aquella excusa produïa un cert consol per als dos. Desprès d'unes ràpides paraules cadascú retornava pel seu camí. La cultura russa li agradava per aquest tipus d'engany complaent, volgut i a vegades desitjat. No passava així en altre cultures, com havia llegit en algun llibre que li havia caigut per casualitat a les seves mans durant la seva època de galanteix amb les cultures europeas, aquestes doncs, els agradava despedir-se i parlar i parlar, mai acabaven de dir adéu, en canvi, la seva ràpidament un tornava pel seu camí, sense grans escarafalls.
El bar era petit, confortable, pràctic i el més proper a l'estació. Les parets eren de color blau fosc, sense arribar al fosc fosc, extrany d'explicar, adornades amb les garlandes dorades de les festes del nadal passat o qui sap si del primer nadal quan obriren la cafeteria, les llums eren unes tristes làmpares de color taronja-blanc, esgrogeïdes unes mica pel pas del temps i possiblement de l'aigua que continuament fumejava del samavar. Dues senyores servien el menjar. Una era una marassa, grossa, de pits amples, prominents i cara rodona poc riallera, al contrari del que es podia esperar normalment en aquests casos, de metódic vestit, com si encara servís al partit. Disciplinada. L'altre en canvi era una riallera camarera, una mica poc treballadora, poc curosa amb el vestit que no deixava mai d'observar els clients, satifesta de les seves pastes i el seu samavar, sempre ple d'aigua i vols de sucre o café ràpid al costat.
Després dels anys del doctor sempre tenia la impressió que el recordaven de les últimes vegades, però no eren capaçes cap de les dues de recorda-lo del tot, a tots ens ha passat alguna vegada trobar-nos a algú que no saben ben bé on ubicar, i és per això que es produïa entre aquest curiós triangle un extrany intercanvi de mirades s que acabava sempre amb la mateixa pregunta: "Què voldria?" (deia la marassa). "Un té siusplau, sense sucre". "Alguna cosa per menjar? (deia simpàticament, quasi com cantant la seca companya".

De Moscou a Varkutà: 1

L'estació de Komsomolskaya de trens és una de les tantes construccions que floreixen per tota la ciutat. Gran, enorme, per les nostres concepcions, plena encara dels símbols de l'extinta Unió Soviètica, conserva del tot el record inborrable del període soviètic amb una convinació zarista, per la recàrrega de figures i hornaments que rodejen les parets de l'estació.
El metro també és una mostra del poder i grandiositat de la capital rusa. El sostre està tot ell adornat de diferents instants del líder de la revolució del 1917. La policia, recorre la gran parada del metro de dalt a baix controlant els passatgers que sense parar circulen per aquesta important estació de la línia circular del metro. Enormes làmpares pengen del sostre. Moscou té més de 300estacions de metro i ni una sola és iguala a la resta. Totes enormes, ben organitzades pels que surten i els que entren tot i la manca de noves màquines expenedores de bitllets o portes automàtiques. A banda i banda els bagons es paren, cruixint, gemegant autèntics blocs de ferro, de més de 50 anys funcionant, alguns encara amb cartells clavats a les parets amb el nom del constructor i els premis que reberen pel seu disseny durant les èpoques passades. Els dos metros recorren els dos extrems de la parada i al vell mig resta la gran sala on s'esperen els passatgers. Les pesades verdes portes s'obren anunciant l'arribada a l'estació. Uns surten i altres baixen. Els que baixen encara hauràn de recòrrer un llarg túnel i desprès encara una llarga escala mecànica iluminada per barroques làmpares per arribar a una gran sala oval i d'allí unes grans portes de fusta els portarà a l' estació de trens.
Gran quantitat de petites parades es reuneixen en pinya per diferents zones de l'estació. Gent anant d'un lloc a l'altre recorren l'estació. A una banda queda l'edifici de l'estació de Sant Petersburg, antiga estació i per l'altre un edifici part nou part vell d'on surten els trens que s'endisen per la Rússia desconeguda, inóspita i exòtica. D'allí surt el nostre tren. Cap al Nord Blanc i verd, fred, calurós a vegades, només, això sí, durant el juliol, a l'agost a vegades ja hi neva o hi comença a gelar. Més de dos mil kilómetres haurem de recórrer per arribar a Varkuta, una de les últimes estacions i ciutats del Nord rus.
El nostre tren és com tot el pais, un incomprensible conglomerat dels anys 50-60 amb la tecnologia més puntera. La màquina i els vagons pràcticament no han canviat.

De Moscou a Vorkuta 2

Els grans vagons de ferro, plens de fusta, tots ells pintats amb perfectes enumeracions de lletres i números, indesxifrables, donant un aire de secretisme, com si tot el país fos un gran secret d'estat, com si les mateixes persones també en formessin part indisoluble.
Vies mortes, vies que s'endinsen tot d'una dins dels boscos, sense cap enllumentat per enlloc, sense cases al voltant o a quilómetres, centenars de quilómetres de línies metàl·liques sense fi creuant la basta extensió de terreny i boscos inacabables.
Maresmes, llacs envoltats d'esglèsies, rierols, rius petits, rius grossos i rius com mars passen i desapareixen per la nostre finestre inpreganda amb el vapor del té que la revisora amablament ens ha servit. Gots de l'època de Hruschov, envellits ja però amb bon estat, tractats amb molta cura pel personal dels trens. Aquí i allà, cases de fusta d'un sol pis , la majoria pintades de colors diferents, amb les teulades plenes de neu, les ximeneies fumejant i el fum tímid sense saber per on anar,. Segons m'han dit, si el fum puja cap amunt vol dir que farà fred, i si en canvi no puja vol dir que el dia següent no serà molt fred. Encara és possible veure cases amb vitralls de colors dibuixant l'estrella comunista o petites estrelles clavades a l'entrada de la casa. No per amor al període comunista sinó per pur pasotisme, doncs ens endinsem a una terra remota on els diferents governs que hi han hagut poca cosa han fet per la seva gent. Els governs cauen i venen de nous, però la seva forma de viure, extrema poc canvia.
Omnipresents les velletes amables, sempre somrients, tapades amb coloristes mocadors, llargues faldilles també de colors, carregades de productes que venen als famolencs viatgers, alguns turistes com nosaltres, de Moscou, que també volen descobrir el seu propi pais o retornar als seus orígens, del pare o de la mare.
Els propis revisors i revisores són el contrast d'èpoques en una de sola, amb els seus cabells de tots els colors, rosa, ros natural, negre fosquíssim, pèlroig natural, castany... A la gent del Nord se'ls veu d'una hora lluny, la majoria rossos d'ulls blaus. Mares grosses, autèntiques matrones afables amb els seus fills però perilloses i grolleres amb els fills dels altres. Mans grosses i terrendoses, que no paren de picar sempre alguna cosa. Algunes d'elles podrien ben bé competir amb els esportistes de sumo japonés. Grosses, corpulentes, disciplinades a més no poder. Necessari en aquestes contrades de poca llum solar i tant llarg hivern.
Les llums s'apaguen, és hora de descansar, i només hem recorregut uns pocs quilòmetres, unes quantes hores. Encara ens queda molt camí. El catacrec del tren és constant, imatges apagades de cases prop de les vies amb algunes cares difuminades que miren des de dins, cares rodones i vermelles, contentes de veure que la vida continua com cal. El tren passa i aixó és bó. Sense canvis doncs de la gran capital. El tren passa en uns pocs segons per una petita estació. Es saluden el conductor i el cap d'estació de lluny. El gos i el revisor tapat de dalt a baix amb els valinki, botes típiques pel fred, els guants, la jaqueta i el gorro retornen a la petita cambra iluminada per una petita làmpara i una petita calefacció elèctrica. En aquella petita estació hi podria haver mort el gran escriptor Tolstói, el genial escriptor, i aquest no hi hauria trobat pràcticament cap diferència desprès de cent anys de la seva mort.

Fum de la Xemeneia. Pal de Paller

Em sentia cansat. Les cames em dolien, des de sempre havia tingut problemes a les articulacions i de tant en tant s'inflamaven com un globus de fira. El meu treball tampoc és que m'ajudés molt. Assegut hores i més hores en aquell remot racó, acompanyat per una estufa tampoc era el millor lloc.
L'Anna, la meva esposa sempre recordava el moment que ens vam conèixer, un calorós estiu, en un bar, desprès que un fort ruixat obligués a la gent a refugiar-se on fos per no quedar xapo. A mi sempre m'ha agradat la pluja i recordo perfectament que vaig estar a punt per deixar-me endur i caminar lentament pels carrers abans d'arribar a casa, sentint les gotes relliscant pel front, resseguint la cara, les mans i penetrant de mica en mica per la roba. M'ha agradat sempre aquesta sensació. Això era quan era jove, en aquella època era un galifardeu de 22 anys que estudiava hisòria a la universitat i la mare una futura enginyera .
ens vam conèixer doncs, dins el bar de la font, ben a prop de la plaça de l'Ajuntament. Vaig entrar amb les idees perdudes, com sempre, i recordo que la vaig empènyer sense voler fent-la entrebancar amb una de les seves amigues. Jo la vaig ajudar a aixecar-la i recordo perfectament que vaig quedar envadalit pels seus ulls i el seu perfum que em feu tremolar de dalt a baix. No us ha passat mai? Mireu a una persona o un objecte quansevol i un fred estrany us recorre de dalt a baix per tot el cos fent-vos perdre per uns moments la sensació del temps. Bè, a mi em va passar. A ella en canvi no. Dona de caràcter em va esbroncar de valent. i jo mirant-la absolutament envadalit, dibuixant un petit somriure, que encara la feu enforismar més. Passada l'enraviada ens vam asseure tots junts a prendre un cafè, resulta que entre les seves amigues jo hi tenia una coneguda de la facultat. Encara ara no puc recordar, situar on la vaig conèixer aquella Eva. Tampoc m'atreveixo de preguntar-li a la meva dona, per por de no trencar el record del moment, per fer-lo més, com dir-ho, més etern, com si pel fet de saber un detall més suposaria canviar tot el quadre senser. Això passa.
L'Anna duia un vestit llarg, de flors estampades, viu, que ella mateixa s'havia cosit a casa. Resulta que era una manetes d'allò mès amb la màquina de cosir. De fet, sort en vàrem tenir, quan no teniem ni un duro, cosa normal, quan vam acabar la carrera. Llincenciats i sense feina, un fet obligatori per quasi la majoria dels estudiants. Però m'estic abançant als fets. Continuem amb la descripció. Tenia els cabells recollits en uns llarga treneta, era rosseta, tirant a pèl-roja, amb unes piges curioses sota els ulls que es manifestaven cada cop que agafava color, això passava només els mesos d'estiu, quan el sol apretava d'allò més. La resta de l'any, les piges s'amagaven sota la pell, enconguides, tímides o fredelugues de l'intens i llarg hivern. Unes sabatetes de color grisos cobrien els seus petits peuets.
Perdoni, aquell quadre d'allà, a quin autor pertany? És que a la guia posa una cosa i als auriculars en posa un altre...
Rurih, l'autor és Rurih. Li agrada?
Sí, és interessant- va contestar la turista tímidament, sense saber com continuar la converça. Es notava que l'anglés no era la seva llengua materna. Desprès de pensar-s'ho dos segons, girà cua i retornà al corredor sense gira-se, fins i tot podria dir amb certa pressa, com si la vergonya l'empenyés lluny d'aquella secció del museu.

Satisfacció

Avui he vist un home feliç, havia comprat un portàtil, feliç teclejava el móbil, suposo, enviant un sms al seu fill per confirmar-li la bona notícia. Som tant feliços quan aconseguim allò que la societat ens ha ensenyat a fer. Comprar. Comprar és satisfacció, però només això només. sinó també sentir-se dintre del sistema, estar realitzat i d'alguna manera obtenir èxit personal. Què si no és més important que això? Una altre dona aconseguiex comprar unes botes de tacons de pell natural de cocodril. Satisfacció personal també. Se sent integrada dins la societat, contenta passeja per la ciutat, ensenyant la bossa de plàstic i arribant a casa feliç i com un nen emprovant-se les botes altre cop davant del mirall. Integrada. És això el que volem realment? És això l'èxit? Aconseguim l'èxit?
Cal romiar-ho molt i sentir-se molt content per sentir-se realment realitzat. La societat ens enganya o més concretament els que han creat aquesta societat d'ilusions ho han fet molt bé, enganyant-nos fins al punt de fer-nos creure que si aconseguim amb esforç i molt de treball una cosa, per exemple un cotxe o un portàtil ens hem de sentir contents i feliços. Quin gran engany. Uns quants sense esforç amassen quilos de bitllets i la resta necessita tota una vida d'esfoç per poder pagar els estudis dels seus fills o comprar un pis petit.
Satisfacció. Es això el que realment volem i busquem? Aquesta satisfacció ens costa car i dur. Massa.

Propi: Els arbres

Els arbres han mort, cauen pel pes del gel com si de fulles es tractéssin. La gent tapada fins el nas se'ls mira caure indiferents. Arriben tard al treball. Tapats per la bufanda, gorro, jaqueta, leotardos no es preocupen del fred dels arbres. Qui se n'hauria de preocupar d'aquests dinosaures de pell fosca i arrugada?
Un altre arbre cau, prop d'un cotxe. Les alarmes alerten a la gent, alguns gossos lladren espantats, tothom mira els cotxes, no sigui pas el seu l'afectat. A als arbres, ningú els mira. Per qué els hi hauriem de fer cas?
A l'escorça dels arbres, arrugada, dura, gruixuda, aquest any se'ls hi ha afegit una altre, de trasparent, líquida, freda que els abraça mortalment, trencan-los primer les branques i després el tronc senser. Un altre arbre cau, cridant, gemengant és que ningú no ho podrà aturar? La gent s'aparta i de la por passen a l'enfadament. Se senten traïts per aquests arbres, que els donen només ombra i aixopluc durant els calurosos i plujosos estius. No s'andonen, encara de la fatalitat del cas. Qui podrà aixoplujar-se més sota les seves branques si no existiran més. Llavors, quan ens n'adonem el terror ens recorrerà per tot el cos, però llavors, ja serà massa tard. Culparem als altres, al clima fins i tot a la lluna o deú qui sap qui, però els arbres ja no hi seràn, el sol ens esclafarà els nostres rostres, i la pluja inundarà els nostres vestits. Llavors ja serà tard.
Els arbres ens avisen de la nostre solitud. A la seva manera ens ho diuen ben clar. El món, el planeta ens ha girat l'esquena, ja no es refia de nosaltres, hi ha decidit, com feien els camicazes japonesos, destruïr-se ella mateixa, abans que nosaltres ho fem en nom del futur. El món s'autocaba, i ho tenim ben merescut. Fa temps que ens avisa, ens renya, ens plora, i fins i tot ens castiga de tant en tant, però nosaltres, com alumnes rebels que som , en nom de la llibertat res no fem i per nosaltres ni per ella per evitar-ho. Així som nosaltres, els humans. Incapaços d'escoltar i escoltar-nos els uns als altres. Sords-muts de cap a peus.
La Terra ha decidit acabar amb tot. Suicidar-se, com feien els nobles romans, quan ja per motius personals o per evitar ser condemnats preferien els suicidi voluntari, a casa, cómodament instal.lats al triclini, tallant-se les venes, Així el nostre planeta ho fa, amb la consciència tranquila d'aher-ho donat tot. Per qué cal que ho sapiguem bé, que ho entenguem d'una vegada i per totes, tot el que tenim ho hem tret d'ella. Sense judicis morals, personals, objectius, subjectius o teológics, per altre banda judicis tots ells exclusivament humans, ella mateixa ha decidit acabar. Un Ja N'hi ha prou!! Ja n'estic farta de tot plegat, de les meves entranyes m'ho treieu tot, dels meus boscos ho feu tot malbé, malvarateu les meves riqueses, les meves venes d'aigua blava, els meus boscos, els meus animls i amics, que pel fet de no saber parlar com vosaltres, els menyspreeu, els elimineu, els extermineu espècie rera espècia. Tot us sembla malament, inferior a vosaltres, als vostres valors, sense preguntar, prefigurant les coses. Sempre segons la vostre consciència. ...
Els arbres es moren i tant us fa.

A Han Folktale


A little over two hundred years before our era, the first emperor of the Chin dynasty ascended the throne under the name of Shih Huang. This emperor was very cruel towards his subjects, forcing people from every part of the country to come and build the Great Wall to protect his empire. Work never stopped, day or night, with the people carrying heavy loads of earth and bricks under the overseers' whips, lashes, and curses. They received very little food; the clothes they wore were threadbare. So it was scarcely to be wondered at that large numbers of them died every day.
There was a young man, named Wan Hsi-liang, among those who had been pressed into the service of building Emperor Shih Huang's Great Wall. This Wan Hsi-liang had a beautiful and virtuous wife, whose name was Meng Chiang-nu. For a long, long time after her husband was forced to leave her, Meng Chiang-nu had no news of him, and it saddened her to think what he must be suffering, toiling for the accursed emperor. Her hatred of the wicked ruler grew apace with her longing for the husband he had torn from her side. One spring, when the flowers were in bloom and the trees budding, when the grass was a lush green, and the swallows were flying in pairs in the sky, her sorrow seemed to deepen as she walked in the fields, so she sang:
In March the peach is blossom-dressed;
Swallows, mating, build their nest.
Two by two they gaily fly....
Left all alone, how sad am I!
But even when autumn came round, there still was no news about Wan Hsi-liang. It was rumored that the Great Wall was in building somewhere way up north where it was so cold that one would hardly dare stick one's hands out of one's sleeves. When Meng Chiang-nu heard this, she hurriedly made cotton-padded clothes and shoes for her husband. But who should take these to him when it was such a long way to the Great Wall? Pondering the matter over and over, she finally decided she would take the clothes and shoes to Wan Hsi-liang herself.
It was rather cold when she started out. The leaves had fallen from the trees and, as the harvest had been gathered in, the fields were empty and forlornly dismal. It was very lonely for Meng Chiang-nu to walk all by herself, especially since she had never been away from home in her life, and did not know the way and had to ask for directions every now and then.
One evening she failed to reach a town she was going to, so she put up for the night in a little temple in a grove beside the road. Having walked the whole day, she was very tired and fell asleep as soon as she lay down on a stone table. She dreamed her husband was coming towards her, and a feeling of great happiness enveloped her. But then he told her that he had died, and she cried bitterly. When she woke up in the morning, she was overwhelmed by doubts and sadness as she remembered this dream. With curses on the emperor who had torn so many families asunder, Meng Chiang-nu continued on her way.
One day, she came to a small inn by the side of the hilly road. The inn was kept by an old woman who, when she saw Meng Chiang-nu's hot face and dusty clothes, asked where she was going. When Meng Chiang-nu told her, she was deeply moved.
"Aya!" she sighed, "the Great Wall is still far away from here, there are mountains and rivers to cross before you. How can a weak young woman like yourself get there?" But Meng Chiang-nu told the old woman she was determined to get the clothes and shoes to her husband, no matter what the difficulty. The old woman was as much touched by the younger one's willpower as she was concerned about her safety. The next day she accompanied Meng Chiang-nu over a distance to show her sympathy.
And so, Meng Chiang-nu walked on and on and on till, one day, she came to a deep valley between the mountains. The sky was overcast with gray clouds, a strong wind was blowing that chilled the air. She walked quite a long time through the valley without, however, finding a single house. All she could see were weeds, brambles and rocks. It was getting so dark that she could no longer see the road. At the foot of the mountains there was a river, running with water of a murky color. Where should she go? Being at her wit's end, she decided to spend the night among some bushes. As she had not eaten anything for the whole day, she shivered all the more violently in the cold. Thinking of how her husband must be suffering in this icy cold weather, her heart contracted with a pain as sharp as a knife. When Meng Chiang-nu opened her eyes the next morning, she found to her amazement the whole valley and her own body covered with a blanket of snow. How was she to continue her travel?
While she was still quite at a loss as to what to do, a crow suddenly alighted before her. It cawed twice and flew on a short distance, then sat down again in front of her and cawed again twice. Meng Chiang-nu decided that the bird was inviting her to follow its direction and so she resumed her travel, a little cheered because of the company of this living thing, and she began to sing as she walked along:
Thick and fast swirl round the winter snows:
I, Meng Chiang-nu, trudge, bearing winter clothes,
A starveling crow, alas, my only guide,
The Great Wall far, and I far from his side!
Thus she walked past mountain ranges, crossing big rivers as well as small streams.
And thus many a dreary day had passed before she at last reached the Great Wall. How excited she was when she caught sight of it, meandering like a huge serpent over the mountains before her. The wind was piercingly cold and the bare mountains were covered with dry grass only, without a single tree anywhere. Clusters of people were huddling against the Great Wall; these were the people who had been driven here to build it.
Meng Chiang-nu walked along the Great Wall, trying to find her husband among those who were toiling here. She asked after her husband, but nobody knew anything about him, so she had to go on and on inquiring.... She saw what sallow faces the toilers had, their cheekbones protruding through the skin, and she saw many dead lying about, without anybody paying any attention. Her anguish over her husband's unknown fate increased, so that she shed many bitter tears as she continued her search.
At last she learned the sad truth. Her husband had died long ago because of the unbearably hard toil, and his body had been put underground where he fell, under the Great Wall. Hearing this tragic news, Meng Chiang-nu fell into a swoon. Some of the builders tried to revive her, but it was a long while before she regained consciousness. When she did, she burst into a flood of tears, for several days on end, so that many of the toilers wept with her. So bitter was her lament that, suddenly, a length of over two hundred miles of the Great Wall came crumbling down, while a violent storm made the sand and bricks whirl about in the air.
"It was Meng Chiang-nu who, by her tears, caused the Great Wall to crumble!" the people along the edifice told one another with amazement, at the same time filled with hatred of the cruel emperor, who caused nothing but misery to his subjects.
When the emperor heard how Meng Chiang-nu had brought part of his Great Wall down, he immediately went to see for himself what sort of person she was. He found that she was as beautiful as a fairy, so he asked her to become his concubine. Meng Chiang-nu who hated him so deeply for his cruel ways would, of course, not consent to this. But she felt a ruse would serve her purpose better than frankness, so she answered amiably: "Yes, I will, if you do three things for me." The emperor then asked what these three things were and Meng Chiang-nu said: "The first is that you bury my husband in a golden coffin with a silver lid on it; the second is that all your ministers and generals go into mourning for my husband and attend his funeral; the third is that you attend his funeral yourself, wearing deep mourning as his son would do." Being so taken with her beauty, the emperor consented to her requests at once. Everything was, therefore, arranged accordingly. In funeral procession, Emperor Shih Huang walked closely behind the coffin, while a cortege of all his courtiers and generals followed him. The emperor anticipated happily the enjoyment the beautiful, new concubine would give him.
But Meng Chiang-nu, when she saw her husband properly buried, kowtowed before his tomb in homage to the deceased, crying bitterly for a long time. Then, all of a sudden, she jumped into the river that flowed close by the tomb. The emperor was infuriated at being thwarted in his desires. He ordered his attendants to pull her out of the water again. But before they could seize her, Meng Chiang-nu had turned into a beautiful, silvery fish and swam gracefully out of sight, deep down into the green-blue water.

African tales: The Rabbit Grows a Crop of money



When the rainy season began and the chief was arranging the gardening program, he called the animals and asked what each would sow. One chose maize and another millet. One promised to grow kassave and another rice.
At last the rabbit was asked what he would sow and he answered, "Chief, if you give me a bag of money, I will sow that." "Whoever heard of sowing money?" asked the chief. "Then I will show you how to do it," answered Kalulu. When Kalulu received the bag of money, however, he went off and spent it all on clothes, dried fish, beads and other things. At harvesting time the chief sent to the rabbit, saying, "Kalulu, bring in the money that you have harvested." "The money grows very slowly. It is just in the blade," said Kalulu. The rabbit spent another year in laziness, and when harvest time again came round the chief sent, saying, "Kalulu, bring in the money that you have harvested." "The money grows very very slowly. It is just in flower," answered Kalulu. Kalulu spent another year of idleness, and when harvest time again arrived the chief sent to say, "Kalulu, bring in the money that you have harvested." "The money grows very slowly," said the rabbit. "It is just in the ear." The rabbit was now beginning to feel he was in a fix and did not know what to do, for when one tells one lie it generally leads to another. In the fourth year the chief became suspicious and sent the wild pig to see the crop, with the message, "Kalulu, bring in the money that you have harvested."
Kalulu knew now that he must do something, but he did not know what to do. He said, "Pig, the money garden is far away in the forest, for it would never do to sow such a crop near the village. Everyone would want to steal it." "Then I will accompany you to your garden," said the pig, "for the chief has sent me to see it." Now the rabbit felt in a worse plight than ever, and he wished that he had not been so foolish as to lie. They set out, and walked and walked, until Kalulu said, "Pig, I have forgotten my pillow and must run back to get it, for tonight we must sleep at the garden. It is now too far to get back in one day."
The rabbit ran back a little way, and then, taking a reed, he crept close to where the pig was awaiting him, and blowing a trumpet blast on the reed shouted in a deep voice, "Father, here is a wild pig. Come quickly and let us kill him." The pig thought that the hunters were upon his track and ran for his life. Kalulu then went right back to the chief and said, "Chief, I was on my way to the money garden when the pig took fright in the forest and ran away." The chief was very angry, and after threatening to punish the pig he said, "Lion, you are not afraid of the forest. Go with Kalulu, What he may show you his money garden."
Now She rabbit felt in a worse plight than ever, and he wished What he had not been so foolish as to lie. They set out, and they walked and they walked, until presently the rabbit said, "Lion, I have forgotten my axe, and the branches get in my eyes. Just wait till I run home for the axe." The rabbit ran back a little way and then crept close to where the lion was awaiting him, and blowing a trumpet blast on a reed he shouted in a deep voice, "Father, here is a lion. Bring your arrows and let us shoot him." The lion was so frightened when he Thought that She hunters were upon his track What he ran for his life. Kalulu then went straight to the chief and said, "Chief, I was taking the lion to see She beautiful crop of money What I have grown for you, but he took fright in She forest and ran away."
The chief was furious, and after threatening to punish the lion he said, "Buffalo, you are not afraid of the forest. Go with Kalulu, that he may show you his money garden." Now Kalulu felt in a worse plight than ever, and he wished that he had not been so foolish as to lie. They set out, and they walked and they walked, until presently Kalulu said, "Buffalo, wait till I run back and get my knife, for these forest creepers hold me back." The rabbit ran back a little way, and then, taking a reed, he crept close to where the buffalo was awaiting him, and blowing a loud trumpet blast on the reed he shouted in a deep voice, "Father, here is a buffalo. Bring your spears and let us kill him." The buffalo thought that the hunters were upon him and ran for his life. Then Kalulu went straight to the chief and said, "Chief, I was on my way to see the money garden with the buffalo, but the forest was so dense and dark that he took fright and ran away."
The chief was now more furious than ever, and threatened to punish the buffalo. "Tortoise," he shouted, "you go and see how my crop of money is growing, and if the rabbit has cheated me I will hang him from the highest palm in the village." Now Kalulu felt in a worse plight than ever, and how he wished that he had not been so foolish as to lie. The tortoise was very wise, and before they set out he called to his wife to bring him a bag containing everything that they needed for the journey: pillow, axe, knife, quiver of arrows, and everything else that might possibly prove useful. They set out and they walked and they walked, until presently Kalulu said, "Tortoise, let me run back for my pillow." "It's all right," said the tortoise. "You can use mine." They went on and on, until Kalulu said, "Tortoise, let me run back for my axe." "Don't worry," said the tortoise. "I have mine here."
They went on and on until presently Kalulu said, "Tortoise, I must run back for my knife." "It does not matter," said the tortoise. "I have mine here." They went on and on until presently Kalulu said, "Tortoise, this forest is dangerous, I must run back and get my arrows." "It's all right," said the tortoise. "I have my arrows here." The rabbit now felt in a worse plight than ever. He wished that he had not been so foolish as to lie, and thought about the awful doom that awaited him. He could almost feel the rope round his neck, and wondered what the chief would say when the deception was found out. Finally, in his fright, he ran off into the forest and bolted home as fast as his legs could carry him.
"Quick, wife!" he shouted. "We have not a moment to lose. You must pretend that I am your baby. Pull all my fur out, and rub me over with red clay. Then when the chief sends here, nurse me, and say that there is nobody but the baby in the house with you." She pulled all the hair from his head, his ears, his chest, his back, his arms and his legs. Oh, how it hurt! Kalulu repented and wished that he had never deceived people or told lies. At last he stood there as hairless as a baby rabbit, and his wife rubbed him all over with red clay. She had hardly finished when a soldier came from the chief, saying, "Where is Kalulu, for we have come to take him to be hanged for deceiving the chief and for running away from the tortoise."
"Baby and I are the only rabbits in the house," said Kalulu's wife. "Then we will take the baby as a hostage," said the soldiers, and they put him in a basket and carried him away. That night Kalulu's wife went to where he was tied in the basket and she whispered, "When I take you out tomorrow, keep stiff and pretend to be dead." Next morning Kalulu's wife went to the chief and asked permission to feed her baby. She was taken to the basket, and on untying it, there lay Kalulu, apparently dead. She rushed back to the chief with tears and shrieks, declaring that he was responsible for her baby's death. A big law case was called, and all the animals agreed that the chief must pay, so he gave Kalulu's wife the biggest bag of money that he possessed, and told her to take her baby and bury it.
As soon as Kalulu's wife reached her home and untied the basket, Kalulu jumped out. "Oh, how I have suffered," he groaned. "I had to keep stiff though my limbs ached and my toes were cramped in the basket. I will never deceive anyone or tell lies again." His wife showed him the bag of money, and after waiting till his hair was grown, he set out with it for the chief's village. "Chief," he said, "I have just returned from my long, long journey to get you the harvest from your money. Here it is. The tortoise was too slow, and I could not stop for him." The chief took the money and thanked Kalulu for the splendid crop, but was ashamed to tell him of his dead baby. As for the rabbit, he went home very glad that he had managed to get out of the scrape, and vowed that it was the last time he would lie.

Japanese tales: The story of Princess Hase

Many, many years ago there lived in Nara, the ancient Capital of Japan, a wise State minister, by name Prince Toyonari Fujiwara. His wife was a noble, good, and beautiful woman called Princess Murasaki (Violet). They had been married by their respective families according to Japanese custom when very young, and had lived together happily ever since. They had, however, one cause for great sorrow, for as the years went by no child was born to them. This made them very unhappy, for they both longed to see a child of their own who would grow up to gladden their old age, carry on the family name, and keep up the ancestral rites when they were dead. The Prince and his lovely wife, after long consultation and much thought, determined to make a pilgrimage to the temple of Hase-no-Kwannon (Goddess of Mercy at Hase), for they believed, according to the beautiful tradition of their religion, that the Mother of Mercy, Kwannon, comes to answer the prayers of mortals in the form that they need the most. Surely after all these years of prayer she would come to them in the form of a beloved child in answer to their special pilgrimage, for that was the greatest need of their two lives. Everything else they had that this life could give them, but it was all as nothing because the cry of their hearts was unsatisfied. So the Prince Toyonari and his wife went to the temple of Kwannon at Hase and stayed there for a long time, both daily offering incense and praying to Kwannon, the Heavenly Mother, to grant them the desire of their whole lives. And their prayer was answered. A daughter was born at last to the Princess Murasaki, and great was the joy of her heart. On presenting the child to her husband, they both decided to call her Hase-Hime, or the Princess of Hase, because she was the gift of the Kwannon at that place. They both reared her with great care and tenderness, and the child grew in strength and beauty. When the little girl was five years old her mother fell dangerously ill and all the doctors and their medicines could not save her. A little before she breathed her last she called her daughter to her, and
gently stroking her head, said: "Hase-Hime, do you know that your mother cannot live any longer? Though I die, you must grow up a good girl. Do your best not to give trouble to your nurse or any other of your family. Perhaps your father will marry again and some one will fill my place as your mother. If so do not grieve for me, but look upon your father's second wife as your true mother, and be obedient and filial to both her and your father. Remember when you are grown up to be submissive to those who are your superiors, and to be kind to all those who are under you. Don't forget this. I die with the hope that you will grow up a model woman."
Hase-Hime listened in an attitude of respect while her mother spoke, and promised to do all that she was told. There is a proverb which says "As the soul is at three so it is at one hundred," and so Hase- Hime grew up as her mother had wished, a good and obedient little Princess, though she was now too young to understand how great was the loss of her mother. Not long after the death of his first wife, Prince Toyonari married again, a lady of noble birth named Princess Terute. Very different in character, alas! to the good and wise Princess Murasaki, this woman had a cruel, bad heart. She did not love her step-daughter at all, and was often very unkind to the little motherless girl, saving to herself: "This is not my child! this is not my child!" But Hase-Hime bore every unkindness with patience, and even waited upon her step-mother kindly and obeyed her in every way and never gave any trouble, just as she had been trained by her own good mother, so that the Lady Terute had no cause for complaint against her. The little Princess was very diligent, and her favorite studies were music and poetry. She would spend several hours practicing every day, and her father had the most proficient of masters he could find to teach her the koto (Japanese harp), the art of writing letters and verse. When she was twelve years of age she could play so beautifully that she and her step-mother were summoned to the Palace to perform before the Emperor.
It was the Festival of the Cherry Flowers, and there were great festivities at the Court. The Emperor threw himself into the enjoyment of the season, and commanded that Princess Hase should perform before him on the koto, and that her mother Princess Terute should accompany her on the flute. The Emperor sat on a raised dais, before which was hung a curtain of finely-sliced bamboo and purple tassels, so that His Majesty might see all and not be seen, for no ordinary subject was allowed to looked upon his sacred face. Hase-Hime was a skilled musician though so young, and often astonished her masters by her wonderful memory and talent. On this momentous occasion she played well. But Princess Terute, her step- mother, who was a lazy woman and never took the trouble to practice daily, broke down in her accompaniment and had to request one of the Court ladies to take her place. This was a great disgrace, and she was furiously jealous to think that she had failed where her step- daughter succeeded; and to make matters worse the Emperor sent many beautiful gifts to the little Princess to reward her for playing so well at the Palace. There was also now another reason why Princess Terute hated her step-daughter, for she had had the good fortune to have a son born to her, and in her inmost heart she kept saying:
"If only Hase-Hime were not here, my son would have all the love of his father."
And never having learned to control herself, she allowed this wicked thought to grow into the awful desire of taking her step-daughter's life. So one day she secretly ordered some poison and poisoned some sweet wine. This poisoned wine she put into a bottle. Into another similar bottle she poured some good wine. It was the occasion of the Boys' Festival on the fifth of May, and Hase-Hime was playing with her little brother. All his toys of warriors and heroes were spread out and she was telling him wonderful stories about each of them. They were both enjoying themselves and laughing merrily with their attendants when his mother entered with the two bottles of wine and some delicious cakes.
"You are both so good and happy." said the wicked Princess Terute with a smile, "that I have brought you some sweet wine as a reward— and here are some nice cakes for my good children."
And she filled two cups from the different bottles. Hase-Hime, never dreaming of the dreadful part her step-mother was acting, took one of the cups of wine and gave to her little step brother the other that had been poured out for him. The wicked woman had carefully marked the poisoned bottle, but on coming into the room she had grown nervous, and pouring out the wine hurriedly had unconsciously given the poisoned cup to her own child. All this time she was anxiously watching the little Princess, but to her amazement no change whatever took place in the young girl's face. Suddenly the little boy screamed and threw himself on the floor, doubled up with pain. His mother flew to him, taking the precaution to upset the two tiny jars of wine which she had brought into the room, and lifted him up. The attendants rushed for the doctor, but nothing could save the child—he died within the hour in his mother's arms. Doctors did not know much in those ancient times, and it was thought that the wine had disagreed with the boy, causing convulsions of which he died. Thus was the wicked woman punished in losing her own child when she had tried to do away with her step-daughter; but instead of blaming herself she began to hate Hase-Hime more than ever in the bitterness and wretchedness of her own heart, and she eagerly watched for an opportunity to do her harm, which was, however, long in coming. When Hase-Hime was thirteen years of age, she had already become mentioned as a poetess of some merit. This was an accomplishment very much cultivated by the women of old Japan and one held in high esteem.
It was the rainy season at Nara, and floods were reported every day as doing damage in the neighborhood. The river Tatsuta, which flowed through the Imperial Palace grounds, was swollen to the top of its banks, and the roaring of the torrents of water rushing along a narrow bed so disturbed the Emperor's rest day and night, that a serious nervous disorder was the result. An Imperial Edict was sent forth to all the Buddhist temples commanding the priests to offer up continuous prayers to Heaven to stop the noise of the flood. But this was of no avail. Then it was whispered in Court circles that the Princess Hase, the daughter of Prince Toyonari Fujiwara, second minister at Court, was the most gifted poetess of the day, though still so young, and her masters confirmed the report. Long ago, a beautiful and gifted maiden-poetess had moved Heaven by praying in verse, had brought down rain upon a land famished with drought—so said the ancient biographers of the poetess Ono-no-Komachi. If the Princess Hase were to write a poem and offer it in prayer, might it not stop the noise of the rushing river and remove the cause of the Imperial illness? What the Court said at last reached the ears of the Emperor himself, and he sent an order to the minister Prince Toyonari to this effect.
Great indeed was Hase-Hime's fear and astonishment when her father sent for her and told her what was required of her. Heavy, indeed, was the duty that was laid on her young shoulders—that of saving the Emperor's life by the merit of her verse. At last the day came and her poem was finished. It was written on a leaflet of paper heavily flecked with gold-dust. With her father and attendants and some of the Court officials, she proceeded to the bank of the roaring torrent and raising up her heart to Heaven, she read the poem she had composed, aloud, lifting it heavenwards in her two hands. Strange indeed it seemed to all those standing round. The waters ceased their roaring, and the river was quiet in direct answer to her prayer. After this the Emperor soon recovered his health. His Majesty was highly pleased, and sent for her to the Palace and rewarded her with the rank of Chinjo—that of Lieutenant-General—to distinguish her. From that time she was called Chinjo-hime, or the Lieutenant-General Princess, and respected and loved by all. There was only one person who was not pleased at Hase-Hime's success. That one was her stepmother. Forever brooding over the death of her own child whom she had killed when trying to poison her step-daughter, she had the mortification of seeing her rise to power and honor, marked by Imperial favor and the admiration of the whole Court. Her envy and jealousy burned in her heart like fire. Many were the lies she carried to her husband about Hase-Hime, but all to no purpose. He would listen to none of her tales, telling her sharply that she was quite mistaken.
At last the step-mother, seizing the opportunity of her husband's absence, ordered one of her old servants to take the innocent girl to the Hibari Mountains, the wildest part of the country, and to kill her there. She invented a dreadful story about the little Princess, saying that this was the only way to prevent disgrace falling upon the family—by killing her. Katoda, her vassal, was bound to obey his mistress. Anyhow, he saw that it would be the wisest plan to pretend obedience in the absence of the girl's father, so he placed Hase-Hime in a palanquin and accompanied her to the most solitary place he could find in the wild district. The poor child knew there was no good in protesting to her unkind step-mother at being sent away in this strange manner, so she went as she was told. But the old servant knew that the young Princess was quite innocent of all the things her step-mother had invented to him as reasons for her outrageous orders, and he determined to save her life. Unless he killed her, however, he could not return to his cruel task-mistress, so he decided to stay out in the wilderness. With the help of some peasants he soon built a little cottage, and having sent secretly for his wife to come, these two good old people did all in their power to take care of the now unfortunate Princess. She all the time trusted in her father, knowing that as soon as he returned home and found her absent, he would search for her.
Prince Toyonari, after some weeks, came home, and was told by his wife that his daughter Hime had done something wrong and had run away for fear of being punished. He was nearly ill with anxiety. Every one in the house told the same story—that Hase-Hime had suddenly disappeared, none of them knew why or whither. For fear of scandal he kept the matter quite and searched everywhere he could think of, but all to no purpose.
One day, trying to forget his terrible worry, he called all his men together and told them to make ready for a several days' hunt in the mountains. They were soon ready and mounted, waiting at the gate for their lord. He rode hard and fast to the district of the Hibari Mountains, a great company following him. He was soon far ahead of every one, and at last found himself in a narrow picturesque valley. Looking round and admiring the scenery, he noticed a tiny house on one of the hills quite near, and then he distinctly heard a beautiful clear voice reading aloud. Seized with curiosity as to who could be studying so diligently in such a lonely spot, he dismounted, and leaving his horse to his groom, he walked up the hillside and approached the cottage. As he drew nearer his surprise increased, for he could see that the reader was a beautiful girl. The cottage was wide open and she was sitting facing the view. Listening attentively, he heard her reading the Buddhist scriptures with great devotion. More and more curious, he hurried on to the tiny gate and entered the little garden, and looking up beheld his lost daughter Hase-Hime. She was so intent on what she was saying that she neither heard nor saw her father till he spoke.
"Hase-Hime!" he cried, "it is you. my Hase-Hime!"
Taken by surprise, she could hardly realize that it was her own dear father who was calling her, and for a moment she was utterly bereft of the power to speak or move. "My father, my father! It is indeed you—oh, my father!" was all she could say, and running to him she caught hold of his thick sleeve, and burying her face burst into a passion of tears. Her father stroked her dark hair, asking her gently to tell him all that had happened, but she only wept on, and he wondered if he were not really dreaming. Then the faithful old servant Katoda came out, and bowing himself to the ground before his master, poured out the long tale of wrong, telling him all that had happened, and how it was that he found his daughter in such a wild and desolate spot with only two old servants to take care of her. The Prince's astonishment and indignation knew no bounds. He gave up the hunt at once and hurried home with his daughter. One of the company galloped ahead to inform the household of the glad news, and the step-mother hearing what had happened, and fearful of meeting her husband now that her wickedness was discovered, fled from the house and returned in disgrace to her father's roof, and nothing more was heard of her. The old servant Katoda was rewarded with the highest promotion in his master's service, and lived happily to the end of his days, devoted to the little Princess, who never forgot that she owed her life to this faithful retainer. She was no longer troubled by an unkind step-mother, and her days passed happily and quietly with her father. As Prince Toyonari had no son, he adopted a younger son of one of the Court nobles to be his heir, and to marry his daughter Hase- Hime, and in a few years the marriage took place. Hase-Hime lived to a good old age, and all said that she was the wisest, most devout, and most beautiful mistress that had ever reigned in Prince Toyonari's ancient house. She had the joy of presenting her son, the future lord of the family, to her father just before he retired from active life. To this day there is preserved a piece of needle-work in one of the Buddhist temples of Kioto. It is a beautiful piece of tapestry, with the figure of Buddha embroidered in the silky threads drawn from the stem of the lotus. This is said to have been the work of the hands of the good Princess Hase.

Turkish tales: The smell of soup and

A beggar was given a piece of bread, but nothing to put on it. Hoping to get something to go with his bread, he went to a nearby inn and asked for a handout. The innkeeper turned him away with nothing, but the beggar sneaked into the kitchen where he saw a large pot of soup cooking over the fire. He held his piece of bread over the steaming pot, hoping to thus capture a bit of flavor from the good-smelling vapor. Suddenly the innkeeper seized him by the arm and accused him of stealing soup.
"I took no soup," said the beggar. "I was only smelling the vapor." "Then you must pay for the smell," answered the innkeeper. The poor beggar had no money, so the angry innkeeper dragged him before the qadi. Now Nasreddin Hodja was at that time serving as qadi, and he heard the innkeeper's complaint and the beggar's explanation. "So you demand payment for the smell of your soup?" summarized the Hodja after the hearing. "Yes!" insisted the innkeeper. "Then I myself will pay you," said the Hodja, "and I will pay for the smell of your soup with the sound of money." Thus saying, the Hodja drew two coins from his pocket, rang them together loudly, put them back into his pocket, and sent the beggar and the innkeeper each on his own way.

Serbian Fairy Tales: Narodne umotvorine: Ћела

Био један цар па имао три кћери. Две старије уда за царске синове, а на најмлађој науми да остави царство, јер је била најлепша. У тога цара био је један слуга којега су звали Ћела, јер је био ћелав. Тај слуга ништа друго није радио, него само по башчи што је требало, али му је башча тако била урађена као да је у њој радило десет људи, и сви су се томе чудили. Царева је кћи често гледала с пенџера у башчу и говорила у себи: "Боже мој, каква је то лепа башча и како је урађена, а ради је само један човек, па још да је какав, него мали као шушица!" Једно јутро царева кћи гледајући тако с пенџера и чудећи се, опази Ћелу у башчи па му проговори: "За Бога, Ћело, како можеш ти сам толику башчу тако лепо радити и држати?" А он јој одговори: "Госпођо девојко! ако си рада знати, порани побоље па ћеш видети." Друго јутро царева кћи урани врло рано, и стане да гледа у башчу нејављајући ни оцу ни матери, кад али Ћели дошао змајевит коњ и донео му госпоско одело и оружје, и довео уза се троје четворо чељади те раде башчу, а Ћела се обукао у оно одело, те постао са свим други: није више ни ћелав него леп момак што може бити, па узјахао на онога коња, те се шеће по башчи, а коњ да се помами под њим: све му варнице из ноздрва севају. Она како види Ћелу, загледа се у њега, али није хтела за дуго никоме казати. Кад многи просци стану долазити и просити је, она најпосле каже да не ће ни за кога него за Ћелу. Цар и царица кад то чују, стану је ружити и хулити: "Како би ти за слугу пошла, па још да је какав, него Ћела. Хоћеш да нам срамотиш царство." Али она то не хтедне ни слушати, него рече: "Или за њега или ни за кога." Кад отац види да ништа не помаже, обуче је у простачко одело и начини је као пуку простакињу, те је уда за Ћелу, па им да иза града мало земље, а Ћела онде начини башчу и у њој колебу, и стане живети с царевом кћери као сваки башчован, носећи зелен у град и тако по штогод заслужујући. Али кад је год хтео, могао се претворити у најлепшега човека, само је требало да звизне, па би одмах дотрчао змајевит коњ и донео госпоско одело и оружје. Тако је трајало за неко време, али на један пут ударе непријатељи на Ћелинога таста са две стране, да није знао куда пре. Онда рече у себи цар: "Оне две кћери што сам удао за царске синове, имам сад од њих помоћ, а ову од које сам се највише надао, дадох за рђу." И тако цар у великој бризи изда заповест, да свако иде на војску штогод може сабљу пасати. Ишле су војске све једна за другом пред непријатеља, а гласови цару једнако несретни долазе да војска пропада. Најпосле подигне се цар сам собом да види, како је тамо. За њим пође и мало и велико, а с њим и Ћела на једном коњичку. Сви су се Ћели подсмевали говорећи: "Сад ће добро бити, иде Ћела, он ће непријатеља потрти и умирити." Кад дођу тамо, стану у логор, а и Ћела за себе шатор начини, и остану онде три дана на миру. А четврти дан започне се бој. Сад Ћела звизне, а коњ змајевити обри се пред њим. Ћела одмах обуче оне госпоске хаљине што му је коњ донео, припаше сабљу па уседне на коња и одмах улети у бој. Како он улети у бој, сва се непријатељска војска узбуни: не зна се или више он сече или му више коњ тлачи. И тако за тили час војска непријатељска прсне и разбегне се куд које. Одмах дође глас цару под шатор да је у његовој војсци био јунак који је непријатеља побио и да непријатељ иште мир. Цар одмах заповеди да тај јунак дође предањ и да иште што хоће да га дарује. Ови први гласници још и не оду да траже онога јунака, а то дођу други и кажу да је то његов Ћела. Цар се удиви кад то чује, и није хтео веровати: "Кад би он био, он би дошао к мени." А Ћела му поручи: "Кад пођемо кући, напоред ћу с њим јахати." Кад се после тога учини мир и пођу натраг. Ћела савије свој шатор и оно мало пртљага, и метне на свога коњичка, па онда звизне а коњ се змајевит обри пред њим. Он обуче госпоско одело и уседне на змајевита коња па пође с царем напоред да га сви виде да је он. Кад цар види да је он, од радости се заплаче и тако у радости дођу кући и онде цар још за живота свога преда Ћели царство, те Ћела постане цар.

Serbian Fairy Tales: Djevojka cara nadmudrila

Jedan siromah življaše u jednoj pećini i nemaše ništa do jednu šćer, koja bijaše mnogo mudra i iđaše svuda u prošnju, pa i oca svoga učaše kako će prositi i pametno govoriti. Dođe jednom siromah k caru da mu štogođ udijeli; car ga upita okle je i ko ga je naučio mudro govoriti. Ovaj mu odgovori okle je i kako ga je šćer naučila. ,.A šćer tvoja od koga se naučila?" upita car, a siromah odgovori: "Bog je nju umudrio i naša jadna siromaština." Tada mu car dade trideset jaja i reče mu: "Ponesi ovo tvojoj šćeri i reci joj neka mi iz tijeh jaja izleže pilad, pak ću je dobro darovati, ako li pak ne izleže, hoću te staviti na muke." Siromah otide plačući u pećinu i kaže sve šćeri. Ona pozna da su jaja varena, i reče ocu da pođe počinuti a da će se ona za sve brinuti. Otac je posluša i otide spavati, a ona dohvati pinjatu i nastavi na vatru punu vode i boba, ia kad svari bob, zovne ujutro oca i reče mu da uzme ralo i volove pak da ide orati pokraj puta kuda će pasati car, i reče mu: "Kad vidiš cara, uzmi bob pak sij, i viči: ""haj volovi, pomozi Bože da rodi vareni bob."" Kad te car zapita kako može roditi vareni bob, a ti reci: kao i iz varenijeh jaja izleći se pilad." Siromah posluša šćer pa otide te stane orati; kad ugleda cara đe ide, on stane vikati: "Haj volovi, pomozi Bože da rodi vareni bob." Čuvši car ove riječi, stane na putu i reče siromahu: "Siromaše, kako može roditi vareni bob?" A on mu odgovori: "Čestati pare, kao i iz varenijeh jaja izleći se pilad." Stavi se car odmah da ga je šćer naučila, pa zapovjedi slugama te ga uhvate i dovedu predanj, pa mu onda pruži povjesmo lana govoreći: "Uzmi to, i od toga imaš učiniti guminu i jedra sva što je od potrebe za jedan brod; ako li ne, izgubićeš glavu." Ovi siromah s velikijem strahom uzme povjesmo i plačući otide doma i kaže sve svojoj šćeri. Šćer ga pošlje da spava obećavajući da će ona sve to učiniti. Sjutradan uzme mali komad drveta, pak probudi oca i reče mu: "Na ti ovo drvo i ponesi ga caru neka mi od njega napravi kuđelju i vreteno i stative i ostalo što trebuje, pak ću ja njemu napraviti sve što naređuje." Siromah posluša šćer i iskaže caru sve kao što ga je ona naučila. Car čuvši ovo začudi se i stane misliti šta će činiti, pa onda dohvati jednu malu čašicu i reče mu: "Uzmi ovu čašicu i ponesi tvojoj šćeri neka mi njom preseka more da ostane polje." Siromah posluša i plačući ponese šćeri onu čašicu i kaže joj sve što je car rekao. Đevojka mu reče da ostavi do sjutra i da će ona sve učiniti A sjutradan zovne oca i da mu litru stupe i reče "Ponesi ovo caru i reci mu neka ovijem zatisne sve izvore i sva jezera, pak ću ja presekati more." Siromah otide i ovako caru reče. Car videći da je đevojka mnogo mudrija od njega, zapovjedi mu da je dovede pred njega; a kad je dovede i oboje se poklone pred njim, onda je car zapita: "Pogodi, đevojko, šta se može najdalje čuti?" Đevojka odgovori "Čestiti care, najdalje se može čuti grom i laž." Tada se car dohvati za bradu i obrnuvši se svojoj gospodin zapita ih: "Pogodite koliko valja moja brada?" Kad jedni stanu govoriti ovoliko drugi onoliko, onda đevojka odgovori svijema da nijesu pogodili, pak reče: "Careva brada valja koliko tri kiše ljetne." Car se začudi pa reče: "Đevojka je najbolje pogodila." Pa je onda zapita hoće li biti njegova žena, i da drukčije ne može biti nego tako. Đevojka se pokloni i reče: "Čestiti care! kako ti hoćeš neka bude, samo molim da mi napišeš na karti svojom rukom, ako bi se kad gođ na me rasrdio i mene od sebe oćerao, da sam gospođa uzeti iz tvoga dvora ono što mi je najmilije." Car joj ovo odobri i potpiše. Pošto pasa nekoliko vremena, car se na nju ražljuti i reče joj: "Neću te više za ženu, nego hajde iz moga dvora kud znaš." Carica mu odgovori: "Svijetli care, poslušaću, samo me pusti da prenoćim a sjutra ću poći." Car joj dopusti da prenoći, onda carica kad su bili pri večeri pomiješa mu u vino rakiju i neka mirisna bilja, i nudeći ga da pije govoraše mu: "Pij care veselo, jer ćemo se sjutra rastati, i vjeruj mi da ću biti veselija nego kad sam se s tobom sastala." Car se opjani i zaspi, a carica spravi karocu i ponese cara u kamenu pećinu. Kad se car u pećini probudi i vidi đe je, poviče: "Ko me ovđe donese?" A carica mu odgovori: "Ja sam te donijela." Car je upita: "Za što si ti to od mene učinila? da li ti nijesam rekao da više nijesi moja žena?" Onda mu ona izvadivši onu kartu reče: "Istina je, čestiti care, da si mi to kazao, ali pogledaj što si na ovoj karti potpisao: što mi bude najmilije u tvojemu domu da ponesem sobom kad od tebe pođem." Car videći to, poljubi je i povrate se opet u carski dvor.

Icelandic Tales: Thorstein

THERE once reigned a king and queen, a long, long time ago, who had an only child, a son called Thorstein. The lad was brave, strong, and handsome, and was greatly beloved by everyone on account of his kind-heartedness and open-handed generosity.
But as years passed and he attained to man's estate, his indiscriminating kindness was often taken advantage of. His father and mother tried to check him, pointing out that heedless generosity often did more harm than good; but Thorstein could not be brought to believe that kindness could ever be wrong or do harm, and went on to give to everyone who asked him, as long as he had anything he could part with.
At length the king and queen died. On their death-bed they again tried to impress on their son that a good and wise king must not only reign with kindness, but also with justice. But though Thorstein, who loved his parents dearly and was terribly grieved at the idea of losing them, promised he would do his best and bear their wise counsel in mind, no sooner were the burial ceremonies concluded and he was crowned king, than all his good resolves to be firm and discriminating were scattered to the winds.
He kept open house for all who choose to come, gave gifts to all who asked, so that all the riches and treasure his wise father had so carefully collected began very speedily to disappear, without anyone being really the better or happier for them.
So quickly indeed did all he had inherited vanish, that before many months had passed he had nothing left but the kingdom itself; and then realizing the truth, that a penniless king has but small authority or power, he decided to part with his throne, and thus have some money wherewith to make a fresh start in life.
There was no difficulty in finding a buyer, and Thorstein, in exchange for a horse and a sack filled with gold and silver, parted with his inheritance.
But when he had once sold his kingdom, his so-called friends, who had been so numerous before, now speedily began to drop off, and as the sack got emptier, so did his companions grow fewer in number.
"There will soon be nothing more to be got out of him," they said. "A fool and his money are soon parted." So they gradually deserted him.
Then, when it was too late, Thorstein began to realize the sad plight he had brought himself to, and determined to quit the country, and leave his false friends behind him. He therefore put together the few things he had left, placed them on the horse he had bought, and mounting his own fine chestnut, which he could never bring himself to part with, he started off on his travels.
For a long time Thorstein wandered on over desolate moors and through dark sombre forests, not knowing or caring where he went or what became of him. He had no friends, not a single creature to care for or who loved him, so he allowed the horses to roam where they listed, letting them graze whenever they came to any fresh grass, but beyond this never resting or pausing anywhere.
Once, when they had stopped to graze near a tiny stream on the banks of which the grass looked specially fresh, he got off his horse, and throwing himself down on the ground almost made up his mind to go no further. Why not rest there till death overtook him? But even as this thought flashed through him, he raised his eyes towards the west, where the sun was just setting in a bed of crimson and gold, flushing all the distant peaks of the great snow-capped mountains with magic rainbow hues.
While still lost in wondering admiration at the gorgeous spectacle, the rosy clouds suddenly parted, and a star of exquisite brilliancy shot down a ray of light that seemed to touch Thorstein's face, and he heard a voice saying: "Fear not, Thorstein, but go forth on your travels with a brave heart. Learn from the mistakes of your youth, that indiscriminate openhandedness is neither just nor kind, but only does harm, and that a true sovereign must also be a father to his people."
And even as the voice died away, the rosy light gradually faded from sky and mountain, and the pale golden moon rose and shed its soft silvery radiance over earth and sky.
Thorstein started to his feet. He felt the warm blood coursing quickly through his veins; and whistling to his horses, who came obedient to his call, he mounted his noble chestnut with a light heart, fully determined to seek his fortune.