Ukrainian folk tail
A widowed peasant with a daughter married a widow who also had a daughter:
so they each had a stepchild. The stepmother was a wicked woman and constantly nagged the old man, 'Take your daughter off to the forest, to a hut. She'll spin more yam there." What could he do? He did as the woman said, carted his daughter off to the forest hut and gave her steel, flint and tinder, and a bag of millet, saying, "Here is fire;
keep the fire burning and the porridge boiling, sit and spin, and let no one in."
Night fell. The maid heated the stove, cooked the porridge, and suddenly heard a little mouse say, "Maid, Maid, give me a spoonful of porridge." "Oh, little mouse," she cried, "stay and talk to me: I'll give you more than a spoonful of porridge, I'll feed you to your heart's content." So the mouse ate his fill and left. In the night a bear broke in, calling, "Come on, girl, put out the light and let's play blindman's buff."
The mouse came scampering up to the maid's shoulder and whispered in her ear, "Don't be afraid. Say yes, then put out the light and crawl under the stove, and I'll run about ringing a little bell." And the game began. The bear started to chase the mouse, but could not catch him; he soon began to holler and hurl logs at him; he hurled one after the other, but kept missing, and he grew tired. "You are good at playing blindman' s buff, little girl," he said. "I will send you a drove of horses and a cartload of good things in the morning."
Next morning the old man's wife said, "Go and see how much yam the girl has spun since yesterday, old man." So off he set, while his wife sat waiting for him to bring back his daughter's bones! By and by the dog began to bark. "Bow-wow- wow! The old man is coming with his daughter driving a drove of horses and bringing a cartload of good things." "You're lying, fleabag!" shouted the step- mother. "Those are her bones rattling and clanking in the cart." The gate creaked, the horses raced into the yard, and there were the old man and his daughter sitting in the cart. With a cartload of good things! The woman's eyes gleamed with greed. "That's a pittance!" she cried. "Take my daughter to the forest for the night: she'll come home driving two droves of horses with two cartloads of good things."
The peasant drove his wife's daughter Natasha to the hut and provided her with food and fire. At nightfall she cooked porridge for herself. Out came the little mouse asking for a spoonful of porridge. But Natasha cried. "Be off. you pest!" And she threw the spoon at him. The mouse ran away. Natasha gobbled up the porridge all by herself, put out the light and lay down in a corner.
At midnight the bear broke in. crying. "Hey. where are you, girl? Let's have a game of blindman's buff." The maid was silent, only her teeth chattering from fear. "Ah. there you are." cried the bear. "Here. take this little bell and run. I'll try to catch you." Her hand trembling, she took the little bell and could not stop it ringing. Out of the darkness came the mouse's voice. 'The wicked girl will soon be dead!"
Next morning the woman sent her husband to the forest, saying, "Go and help my daughter drive back two droves of horses with two cartloads of good things." The peasant went off, leaving his wife waiting at the gate. The dog began to bark. "Bow-wow-wow! The mistress's girl is coming: her bones are rattling in the bag, the old man's sitting on the nag!" "You're lying, fleabag," cried the dame. "My daughter's driving droves and bringing loads." But when she looked up, there was the old man at the gate, handing her a bundle. When she opened it and saw the bones, she began to rant and rage so much she died next day from grief and fury. The old man lived out his life in peace with his daughter; and with a wealthy son-in-law, too.
Collected and edited by Michael Terletski