Russian Fables by Evgeny Khvalkov


Art by Victor Brauner

1. Based on the cycle about Reynard the Fox


One day a Wolf and a Fox were walking in a field and saw a Donkey. Since they were very hungry, they decided to eat it. So the Wolf says to the Donkey:

"Listen, big-eared, His Majesty the Lion, the King of beasts, has granted me the right to eat any animals that chew gum. So you're going to be my dinner tonight.

"Wait," said the Donkey. "His Majesty the Lion, the King of Beasts, has given me a safe-conduct that prevents any of the beasts from eating me”.

"Where is it?" the Wolf asked, puzzled.

"It is written on my hind hoof," said the Donkey seriously. – “If you like, learned gentlemen, you can read it”.

"Brother Fox," said the Wolf, "please read the letter on the Donkey's hind hoof."

"Brother Wolf," said the sly Fox, who realized that there was a catch - I would be glad, but I forgot my glasses at home. Would you care to read it?" After all, you are the most learned of all animals”.

The Wolf liked the Fox's praise and went to the Donkey and told him to raise his hind hoof.

The donkey raised its hind leg with a heavy horseshoe, and when the Wolf began to search for the royal charter, the big-eared hoof hit him hard in the forehead, so hard that the Wolf's eyes flowed out.

This is what happens to those who are careless and are led to flattery.


2. Once a Tiger fell into a deep hole. He was about to say goodbye to his life, but a peasant was walking by.

"Good man," begged the Tiger, "get me out of here!"

"But if I pull you out," said the peasant, "you will eat me!"

"No! No way!" exclaimed the Tiger. “I swear to you by all the tiger gods!”

The tiger swore a most terrible oath that he would not eat the man, and the man lowered a large log into the pit. The tiger climbed out of the hole, looked at the man, and licked his lips.

"I have had nothing to eat for two days," said the Tiger, "and now the dinner has come to me.

"But you made the most terrible vow!" the man exclaimed in despair.

"But I'm very hungry," Tiger growled, "so that vow doesn't count.

"Let's find someone to judge us!" - said the peasant.

And it happened so that a Fox ran by.

"Redskin," pleaded the peasant, "judge between me and the Tiger!"

And he told the Fox everything. The fox scratched behind his ear with a hind paw.

"How could the Tiger have fallen into the hole?" he asked. – “Isn't the peasant lying? Did he really pull the Tiger out of the pit and save him from mortal danger by taking the most terrible oath from him?”

The tiger and the man were waiting.

"I won't be able to make a final judgment until I see how it really was," the Fox said authoritatively. “Let the Tiger jump back into the hole that the man pulled it out of”.

The tiger didn't take long to jump back into the pit.

"Now," said the Fox, "both man and Tiger are in the same conditions as before. You, human, if you want to rescue the Tiger again, relying on his oath, you have the right to do so. And if you don't trust the Tiger, you have the right not to. Do as you see fit!”

The fox waved its tail and ran away. The grateful man returned home and told the story to his wife and children. And what about the Tiger? And the Tiger is probably still sitting in this hole, if he did not die.


3. One Horse was very jealous of the Deer, which was reputed to be the fastest of the animals. Since she couldn't match him, she decided to kill him. And she said to the Man:

"Let's catch a Deer together! Its meat, hide, and horns are very valuable”.

"How do we do that?" - the man was surprised. – “The deer runs very fast. No wonder everyone call him Lightfoot”.

“You will ride me," said the Horse, "and thus we will catch him."

So they did. All day they hunted a Deer, but they could not catch it. At last the Horse was exhausted.

"Get off me," she said to the Man.

"Oh, no!” - the man said. “I am not such a fool! I am your master now. You will have a bridle around your neck, a bit in your mouth, and I have a rein in my hands, and spurs on my feet. Now you will serve me and do whatever I want”.

This is what happens to those who envy others. People say: "Do not dig hole to another – you will fall into it yourself."


Saito Kiyoshi, Dachshund

4. There was a man who had a Dog and a Donkey. He was very fond of the Dog and pampered him, and the Donkey had to do a lot of hard work to do. The Donkey thought about it:

"Why does the master love the Dog so much and play with it and all I get is hard work and beaters?" Why does the Dog live in the house, and I live in the stable, the Dog eats from the master's table, and I get only thorns? I need to figure out how I can win him over, too”.

And one day, when the master came home, the Donkey wagged his tail like the Dog, roared (he believed that there could be no more euphonious music than his roar), jumped on the master, putting his front legs on his shoulders, and began to lick him like the Dog. The master decided that the Donkey was mad and would kill him with its hooves. He struggled to free himself from it, and when he did, he immediately sent the Donkey to the knacker's yard.

This is what happens to those who are jealous of others and want to take their place.


5. The Fox and the Cat went on a long journey and promised each other to stay together, help each other out, and share all the loot in a brotherly way. But one day they met hunters with dogs on the edge of the forest. Of course, they had to save their lives. The Fox said:

"Brother Cat, I have a bag full of tricks. The main thing is to stick together, and then we will not perish”.

"Brother Fox," replied the Cat, "I do not know what do you have in your bag, but I have one trick, and I will use it immediately”.

And the Cat climbed a tall tree and hid in its leaves.

"Isn't it time to open the bag of tricks, Brother Fox?" he called from the tree.

And the Fox ran away from the dogs as fast as he could, and it would have been bad for him if he had not come across a hole in which he hid.

When there is a danger, even the best friends often let down!


6. Once a Wolf picked up a ram and ate it, but accidentally swallowed one of the bones, and it went across his throat. The Wolf was about to say goodbye to his life, when he saw a Stork strutting not far away. The Wolf lunged at him.

"Brother Stork," the Wolf croaked, "help me, heal me! You have such a long neck and beak! Get that bone out of my throat!”

"Aren't you going to bite my head off?" - the Stork asked suspiciously.

- “No way!” - the Wolf replied. – “I will also reward you handsomely for your treatment. I will give you a bag of golden coins for that!”

The stork believed him, put his head in the Wolf's mouth, and pulled out a bone.

"Rrrrrr!" - the Wolf howled. "It hurts! Now you're going to pay with your head for hurting me so much”.

"How come?" said the Stork. – “I cured you! And you promised me a bag of golden coins as a reward…”

"No, look at him!" Wolf exclaimed. "He almost killed me, and he wants a reward for it! Get out of here before I rip your throat out!"

That's how some give thanks for the good they received!


7. One day a Lion, a Wolf, and a Fox went to hunt in a nearby village and got a bull, a ram, and a chicken. It was time to divide the spoils, but I must say that the Lion had already eaten the bull and wanted another bite. The Wolf says,

"Let the Lion have the bull, I will get the ram, and the Fox will get the chicken."

The Lion did not like such words and he hit the Wolf with his paw so that he tore off all the skin on his head. Then the Fox began to divide the loot. He said:

"Let the bull go to the Lion, and the ram to the Lion, and the chicken to the Lion.

"Who taught you to divide the loot so wisely?" - asked the Lion.

"Sire, I was taught by that gentleman in the red cap," replied the Fox, pointing to the Wolf.


One day the Fox got into one of the two buckets connected by a single rope that stood at the well, and accidentally fell into the well. He was about to say goodbye to his life, but the Wolf ran past.

"Hey, Brother Fox, what are you doing there?" - the Wolf asked curiously.

"I'm fishing, Brother Wolf! There's plenty of good fish at the bottom here," said the Fox.

“Really? How would I get there, too?" the Wolf licked his lips greedily.

"There's nothing easier," said the sly Fox, "just jump into the second bucket that hangs above."

The Wolf was delighted and jumped into the bucket, and since he was much heavier than the Fox, his bucket sank to the bottom, and the bucket with the Fox went up.

“Have a good fishing trip!” - the Fox shouted as he reached the top. "And say hello to the peasants when they come!"



About the author

Evgeny A. Khvalkov (born July 14, 1986, Sevastopol) is a Russian historian, medievalist, teacher, researcher of the history of the Genoese and Venetian colonies in the Northern Black Sea region and of intercultural communications in the Old World of the late Middle Ages. PhD (2015), Associate Professor of the Department of History of the Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg (2017). Since 2015, he has been working at the Department of History of the Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg: since 2015, senior lecturer, since 2017, associate professor, since 2018, also head of the research and training group (NUG), engaged in the study of sources on the history of medieval Italy.