Posted by Gary | Posted in Russian Dolls | Posted on 19-01-2011
Tags: babushka, russian dolls
Think of a Russian Doll and what image comes to mind? Think not only of the colours but also the face. If you instantly thought of the ‘grandmother’ doll then you would not be alone. This is the first answer many of our customers give. This familiarity might also account for the reason why the dolls are also referred to as Babushka dolls. Some may have guessed the Russian word ‘Babushka’ literally translates in to ‘grandmother’ in English but, how many are familiar with the legend of Babushka?
It’s a story that dates back to the turn of the twentieth century. In fact, I remember re-enacting the story for one of my school naivety plays. That was a long time ago so unfortunately I had to re-familiarise myself with the story before telling it here!
The story of Babushka is one that is told to many Russian children on Christmas Eve. It is a beautiful but very sad story that will fascinate children of all ages.
Once upon a time there lived an old lady who lived beside a crossroads. She lived a very lonely life with only the passing wagons and the farmers and donkeys to break the silence. During the long Russian winter, when the roads were too treacherous for the carts to use the lonely old lady had only the sounds of the birds to keep her company. This sad lady would feed the birds her left over crumbs of bread to pass away the hours.
The winter nights are very long in Russia. Because Babushka was so old and frail she did not have the strength to cut the wood to heat her home. She had no money either so could not afford to buy the candles to light up her home. She would spend her winter nights in her dark, cold and lonely cottage dreaming of the summer nights and the people she would meet.
One night when Babushka was trying to sleep she heard a tingling noise outside. “It must be the icicles on the trees” the lady said to herself. There was another tingle only this time it was louder than before. There were no carts or farmers around so from where could this sound be coming? The tingling grew louder and to her surprise Babushka could hear voices and grunts coming from animals. I wonder what is happening outside? thought Babushka.
Babushka pulled back her quilt and lit the very last candle she owned. Wrapping a scarf around her head she held her candle to the window. Before she could see outside there was a knock at the door. Knock. Knock. Knock. Who could it be? Babushka opened the door and was surprised to see a caravan parked outside. There were also three large animals the likes of which Babushka had never seen before. They were very strange and almost looked like they had come from another world! Each of these beasts was very tall and had very large humps in their backs. Their feet were padded with lots of fur and each one was as large as two grown-ups feet! On the back of these beasts sat three very rich men. They wore fur wraps and crowns that Babushka could not afford…she had only heard of such things in fairy tales!
Why were these men here? Why did they stop to speak to Babushka?
One of the men whispered some words in to the ear of beast he rode. The beast instantly knelt to allow the man to step off. “We are kings from a long far away” he told Babushka. “This evening we have seen the brightest star ever to appear in the sky and this will lead us to a newborn baby. But the star is lost behind the clouds and we need shelter for tonight. Where is the next village?”.
For the men to travel so far in freezing cold and snow this baby must be very important! So, Babushka asked “Who is this child?”. “The child is a Kind and we will find him with our gifts,” replied the man. “Please, come with us to meet this very special child”. Babushka wanted to go with the men but she was an old lady and didn’t like the cold. When she was a young woman Babushka would have joined the men on their journey to see this special child. But tonight, she simply could not.
After Babushka declined to join the men they rode off into the distance. The noise of the bells attached to the reigns of the beasts disappeared in to the night. Once again there was silence and the Babushka felt alone once more. Why did I not go? The old lady asked herself. She had no company where she lived and would have had fun on the adventure.
No! I must join the men, Babushka told herself. She wrapped herself up nice and warm and filled her basket with breads and sweets to give to this newborn King. The men were heading to the next village perhaps she would find them there? Babushka walked through many villages for many hours but could not find the men. The villagers could not help her and eventually when daylight broke through the clouds Babushka fell asleep.
Many, many years have passed since the night Babushka met the three men. The baby would have been born many years ago and would today be a man. However, to Babushka it still feels like she was visited only yesterday and so she still seeks this special baby. Every Christmas Eve she searches through every nursery looking for this child. If you look closely you may see a tear on their pillow left by Babushka when she realises the child is not the one she seeks.
I hope you agree, this is a beautiful and poignant story.
Gary Mullen from Russian Dolls.
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