June is storytelling month on the blog! This week’s story is my retelling of a Russian folk tale called Mashenka and the Bear. Enjoy!
Once upon a time there was a girl named Mashenka who lived with her mother and father. One summer day she wanted to go berry picking with her friends in the woods. Her parents warned her to stay with her friends and close to the trail so that she would not get lost. Mashenka had a lovely day in the summer woods, picking berries and eating her fill, but she forgot her parent’s words, and in the afternoon she wandered from the trail, going from bush to bush in search of the best berries. After awhile she looked up and realized that she could not see her friends or the trail. Mashenka wandered about in the woods but she was completely lost.
Finally she came to a small cottage. There was no one home, so she let herself in. As evening fell, a bear came to the cottage, for it was his home. The bear liked Mashenka and he wanted her to stay and keep him company. Mashenka cried and missed her parents but the bear would not take her home. He said that he would take good care of her and she must not run away. The bear fed Mashenka supper and made a soft bed of moss for her. Mashenka stayed there for many days. She helped to keep the house and she cooked and baked. She had everything she needed, but she missed her parents and cried every day for them.
One day, Mashenka had an idea for how to escape from the bear’s cottage. She asked the bear if he would take some of her fresh-baked pies to her parents and let them know that she was alive and well. The bear took pity on Mashenka and agreed to take her pies to her parents. So Mashenka baked her berry pies. Then she told the bear that she needed a bigger basket to fit all the pies, so would he please go and fetch her a bigger basket? The bear left the cottage in search of a bigger basket, and while he was gone, Mashenka was very busy. She took a broomstick, an old ball, and a curtain, and she made a figure to look quite like herself. She put the figure on the roof of the house. When the bear brought Mashenka the basket, she waited until he had left the room, and then she put herself into the basket and the pies on top, and covered it all with a cloth!
The bear came to take the basket to Mashenka’s parents, and he was surprised to feel how heavy it was. “No wonder she needed a bigger basket,” he thought, “She has baked enough pies for the whole town.” He plodded along for a bit and then said aloud to himself, “I think I’ll have a seat and a little pie to eat.” Mashenka, who was hiding in the basket, cried out, “I see you! I see you! Don’t you dare have a seat or a little pie to eat!” The bear looked up and saw the figure of Mashenka on the roof of the cottage. “Oh dear, he thought, that girl is quite clever and she is watching me!” And so he plodded on towards her parent’s house. When he had walked quite a distance, he said to himself, “I’m tired from carrying this heavy basket. I think I’ll have a seat and a little pie to eat.” Mashenka cried out again, “I see you! I see you! Don’t you dare have a seat or a little pie to eat!” The bear looked up and saw the figure of Mashenka way off in the distance on the top of his roof, “Oh dear, she can see quite a long way and she is watching me.” So the bear kept on walking but when he had almost reached the village, he said to himself, “Surely after such a long walk I could take a rest. I think I’ll have a seat and a little pie to eat.” And once again, Mashenka cried out, “I see you! I see you! Don’t you dare have a seat or a little pie to eat!” The bear thought, “Not only is Mashenka a clever girl, she has an eagle eye! I suppose I will just take the pies to her parents.”
And so the bear went and knocked on the door of Mashenka’s parents’ house. He set the heavy basket down on the stoop. And he was just about to tell her parents that she was safe and well and had baked them some pies, when all the dogs in the village set upon him. The dogs barked and chased the bear right out of the village! But as soon as the bear had set off running, out of the basket popped Mashenka! Her parents were overjoyed to have her back again safe and sound. They hugged and kissed and cried tears of joy. And then they all sat down together to eat the delicious berry pies. And from that day, Mashenka never strayed from her village again.