A Ukrainian Fable: The Mitten

Deep Freeze Fête’s cultural fables

By Jan Brett // Adapted by Sofia Lukie. Arts on the Ave has allowed RCP to post this fable online.

Once upon a time, there was a boy named Kolya. He lived with his Baba, or grandmother, deep in the woods. It was getting close to Malanka, or Ukrainian New Year, and Baba was preparing the cottage for fun festivities.

She instructed Kolya to get wood for the stove. After insisting on wearing the beautiful white mittens Baba had knit him for Christmas, off he went, admiring his new mittens and their warmth, even from the Northwind.

Once he had gathered the wood in his sleigh, Kolya decided it was time to take a break. In keeping with Ukrainian tradition, he liked to dress up as a bear, or vedmeed, for New Year. He thought this would be a great time to practice his bear growl. “GRRRRRRRRR!” he shouted, catching the attention of a few forest animals.

As he was leaving, Koyla unknowingly dropped one of his white mittens on the ground. He didn’t seem to notice and kept walking.

A tiny mouse peeked out from behind a tree, curious to see where the growl came from. She scurried along after Kolya but then noticed the mitten. “This looks like a safe place to get out of the cold,” she thought. Just as she was snuggling up to get some warm rest, a sly fox knocked. “Hello? Hello? Is anybody in there? I was hoping I could come in to get away from this wind!”

The mouse contemplated, “I am scared of foxes. They are bigger and stronger than me, and I could be his dinner.” But the fox was shivering and looked so sad. In the spirit of the holidays, the mouse decided that no one, not even a fox, should be left out in the cold. The mouse welcomed the fox in.

No quicker than the fox entered the mitten, who should arrive but a wolf! The mouse was also terrified of wolves, but it appeared that the wolf was about to freeze. “We can’t let her freeze!” exclaimed the fox. They opened the mitten to let the wolf in.

Just as they got settled, a squirrel came hurriedly by and looked longingly at them. “Come in, squirrel! We have not much room, but we will make room for you! No one should be alone in the cold!” shouted the mouse.

A magpie flying above noticed the snow below. “How odd! That pile of snow is moving!” he thought to himself. He swooped down and discovered it was not snow at all, but a mitten full of furry forest animals! “How comfortable and warm it must be in there, but they will never accept me. I am so different from them,” the magpie muttered. Just as he was about to take flight, he heard someone shout, “Magpie! Magpie! Come in here, it’s windy out there, and we can find room for you!” He cocked his head and saw the squirrel in the mitten motioning for him to join them. He nuzzled his way into the mitten, thankful for their kind reception.

A rabbit came hopping down the path thinking, “this winter has been long and lonely.” At this moment, he hopped right on TOP of the mitten! “Ouch!” cried the animals!

Surprised, the rabbit asked, “Is anyone in there? It’s been a long and lonely winter. I sure could use some friends.” All the animals inside the mitten shouted at once, “Yes! You can come in as long as you get off from on top of the mitten!” The animals rearranged themselves to make enough room for the rabbit.

At this point, the mitten was so stretched it hardly looked like a mitten at all! Who should come along but a big black bear! He saw a white lump ahead, “Is that my cousin, the polar bear?” he thought, puzzled. As he approached the lump, he could see that it was not a polar bear at all but a group of animals seeking shelter together.

“I don’t suppose you would have room for me,” asked the bear. They could not possibly fit a bear, but the wolf offered a plan in a wave of genius. The animals pushed on the lining of the mitten as hard as they could, stretching out the mitten just enough to squeeze in the bear. “There is always a way to include everyone!” said the wolf.

Alas, Kolya was on his way home, retracing his exact steps because he had misplaced one of his mittens.

Kicking a stick aside in frustration, he nearly stumbled over the lost mitten. “My mitten! My mitten!” he gleamed. Noticing the size, he realized… the mitten was not the same as he left it. Peeking inside, he could not believe what he found. He ran to the cottage and found his Baba. “Baba! Baba!” he shouted excitedly! “The animals! In my mitten! All of them!”.

Curious to find out what her dear grandson was referring to, she came along with him. Together they found the mitten housing the burrowed animals. “A Malanka miracle!” Baba exclaimed. Kolya and Baba filled the sleigh with fresh baking and decorations and brought them to the mitten. “Room for two more?” Baba asked.

Looking at one another, the animals knew what to do and stretched the lining with one final push. The mitten expanded just enough, and they cheered for Baba and Kolya to come in. They celebrated Malanka, the Ukrainian New year, together, warm and happy!

Feature Image: The Mitten is a Ukrainian fable about sharing. | Rebecca Lippiatt


The Mitten
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