Robin Redbreast

Robin Redbreast
Birds can represent the fluttering, darting thoughts of intuition. This is why little birds helped Cinderella help herself.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Baba Yaga: A Bit of Background, Pt.2 The Hedgehog’s Story

Baba Yaga sought an enchanted flower.  

Once upon a time, in a hut deep in the forest in Russia, a little girl was in a pan on top of the stove with a hedgehog.  He was telling  her a true story.  There lived, he said, “a tsar and a tsarina in a beautiful palace." Said the hedgehog.  "They have over 100 million rubles, but they have no children.  One day,” he continued, his mother, the tsarina had wished aloud for a son, if only no bigger than a hedgehog.  Soon after, he arrived, and the tsar and tsarina adored him.  They had tutors come in, and the little hedgehog made good progress in his lessons.  But when “ the country learned that the tsar and the tsarina had a hedgehog instead of a son, the people laughed  and laughed, louder and louder, until the tsar and tsarina could hear the laughter over the palace wall.  The tsar and the tsarina were ashamed.  The hedgehog leaned back against an onion.  His voice trembled. ‘ They set me upon a rooster and banished me to the forest, hoping that I would be eaten by a wolf or a bear. That was over a year ago; since then I have hardly had enough to eat.  I know only the ways of an educated person and life as a hedgehog bewilders me. “ The talked for some time, and the little animal told Marusia how his mother had sat by the beautiful, rare, black sunflower that grew in her garden, and wished for a son, even one like himself.  At this, Marusia took interest.  It was this very flower which Baba Yaga sought! “Tell me little hedgehog, where is the palace that you have talked about?’ ‘Only I know the way..’ he started to answer, but then the witch “clapped a cover over the pan.”  The girl and the hedgehog pushed it open again and yelled, “ I know where the black sunflower is!’  Then they pulled the cover down and waited.  Baba Yaga pulled the cover away from the pan.  Her iron teeth chattered. “ as she made them tell her about this flower.  She put them both into her magic mortar, and they all three flew away “for three nights and four days until they reached a mountain.  They had to pass through a very long tunnel, and when they emerged, “Baba Yaga leapt from the mortar and trampled over lilies, lilacs and roses until she had found the black sunflower.  She pulled at the enchanted flower, and as soon as the black sunflower left the earth, the hedgehog turned into a little boy named Dmitri.” But she didn’t even notice, such a hurry was she in, and off they flew again.  Back at the hut, the old woman put them right back into the pan!  “This is a fine reward!’ cried Marusia, after we helped you find the black sunflower.’ ‘ You have your turnips —that is enough reward!’ snapped Baba Yaga, and naughty girls make such a tasty stew!’ ‘But I am not a naughty girl!’ said Marusia.  ‘You lost your mother’s money, that is very naughty!’ said Baba Yaga.  She rubbed garlic around the pan.  ‘ But I did get what I was sent for.’ Marusia sneezed.  The garlic was very strong.  ‘ Turnips!’.  Baba Yaga lifted the girl out of the pan.  ‘So you did. ‘ she sighed. ‘But the hedgehog will be good for the stew.’ ‘But I am not a hedgehog!’ laughed Dmitri, although he was still wearing a hedgehog suit.  Baba Yaga studied the little boy.  ‘These eyes of fire do not see too well.  ‘she said.  ‘Why, you are a little boy. You would make a terrible hedgehog stew!’ “ So she let both children out of the pan.  Too make up for almost eating them, she allowed them to play in her house, and look into all of her cabinets and cupboards.  The next morning, “when the horseman rode his white horse out of the night” she stopped him, put the children onto the horse’s back behind him, and asked him to take them home.  “ They rode all the way back to Marusia’s cottage.  And they had turnips for supper. “ 
Notes: This tale is from Baba Yaga, (1966), Small, E.
The hedgehog’s story is is a classic European folktale, sometimes called Hans My Hedgehog.  It was included in the Brothers Grimm Volume One of Simple Household Tales as Simple Hans.  For a Freudian interpretation of this story, see Bettelheim, B. (1975) The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales (Vintage), pp.70-71.   For a very readable biography of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, see The Brothers Grimm: Two Lives, One Legacy
Montessori Connection 6-12: Biology/ Scientific Classificiation: Hedgehogs. 
1. Read about Hans the Hedgehog.
2. Find a picture of a hedgehog and look at it carefully.  
3. Draw a hedgehog using watercolor pencils and thick white paper such as white construction paper.  
4. Using the zoological circle material, identify the hedgehog and make labels for each of the concentric circles: mammalia, insectivora, Erinaceidae. There are 17 species of hedgehogs, and the animals are found on the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa.