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The story of Kurochka Ryaba


There is a very famous Russian folk story for very small children – Ryaba the Hen (Ryaba comes from the word “ryabaya”, meaning spotty or speckled). This kurochka (the hen) Ryaba is a classic character from a classic tale and the inspiration behind the name and logo for Kurochka Clothing.

There are a lot of versions of the tale that come from different regions. Some make more sense than others, some are more dramatic, others shorter and more consice, but the core always remains the same:

Once upon a time in a village there lived an old man and the old woman and they had a hen named Ryaba. The hen laid an egg, not a plain one, but a golden one. The old man hit it and hit it but couldn’t crack it. The old woman hit it and hit it but couldn’t crack it. A small mouse ran by, swung his tail, the egg fell on the floor and cracked. The old man cried, the old woman cried, but the hen said: “Do not cry, old man! Do not cry, old woman! I will lay a new egg for you, not a golden egg, but a plain one.”

The story of Kurochka Ryaba which parents read to their children today was in fact altered in the 19th century by Russian teacher and writer Konstantin Ushinsky when he chopped off the ending. There are many versions with bizzare or horrific endings. One of these can be found in the book of Alexander Afanasyev, a Russian Slavist who published nearly 600 Russian folktales and fairytales.

In his version, it appears that after the Old Man and the Old Woman wept, their granddaughters came by and found out about the egg, broke their buckets and spilled the water. The mother, upon learning about the egg, broke a bowl of dough she was working on. The father, who at that time was working at the forge, managed the destroy the forge. The pope, passing by, demolished some nearby towers. The peasants, having learned about this event, began to fight with each other from frustration and anger.

Really heavy stuff for a bedtime story, so think twice which version you’d like to leave your kids with tonight.

March 21, 2012
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