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مجموعه: کتاب های فوق متوسط / کتاب: افسانه های محلی جهان / درس 1

کتاب های فوق متوسط

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The Good Peasant’s Son

Long ago, in a faraway czardom, an old peasant lived with his wife and his son, Martin. Time passed and the peasant became very sick. He eventually died, leaving his wife and son alone.

“Oh, my poor husband!” cried his wife. “He was such a good man. How could this happen?”

She cried for days and days. Her son tried to make her feel better, but he couldn’t.

Then her sadness changed to worry. At night she looked up into the sky and asked, “What are we going to do? How are we going to live?”

After many weeks like this, she began to take control of herself again and make plans for herself and her poor son.

Her husband had left them some money, 200 roubles. When they had finished almost all the food they had in the house, she gave Martin half the money and told him, “Go into town, my son, and use this money to buy flour, salt, and bread. Hopefully, these supplies will last until the spring. Then we can look for work.”

Martin did as his mother asked. He put the money in his pocket and walked into town. As he passed a butcher’s store, he saw that a crowd of people had gathered. The butcher had tied an old, sad-eyed hunting dog to a tree. He was beating the dog and the dog was crying with pain.

Martin pushed through the crowd and shouted, “Butcher!

Why are you beating this poor dog?”

“Because this ‘poor’ dog ate some of my best beef this morning! That’s why! How can I make a living when this stupid animal eats my best meat?”

“Oh, but I’m sure he was only hungry. And he looks so sad.

Listen. I could use a dog. Why don’t I buy him from you? I’ll give you 100 roubles for your dog.”

The butcher laughed. “You can’t be serious! You want to spend 100 roubles on this dog?”

“Yes, I’m serious,” replied Martin.

“Then you must be crazy. But you’ve made me happy even if you are a madman, so give me the 100 roubles and I’ll give you the dog.”

“Certainly,” said Martin and he took the poor, frightened dog away and began to walk back along the road, out of the town, and toward his home.

They walked slowly along until they came to a tree which had fallen by the road. Martin sat down, brought the dog close to him, and looked into his eyes.

“Jourka. That’s what I’ll name you. And you’ll have a safe and happy home with my mother and me.”

The grateful dog jumped up and kissed Martin’s face with his big pink tongue. He knew that Martin had saved his life and was a kind and gentle person. The two friends then continued walking slowly home, side by side.

When Martin arrived home and told his mother he had spent all their money on an old dog, she was very angry.

“What? You took our money and spent it on this dog? What good can this do us? You know we have nothing. I’ve made one small cake with the last of the flour we had left. That’s our dinner tonight! And there’s nothing else! Do you understand? Oh, what would your father do if he could see us now?”

“But mother, this dog is our good luck!” Martin tried to say.

His mother wasn’t listening. Without speaking, she gave Martin half of the small cake she had made and left him alone to eat it. Martin shared his small meal with Jourka, the dog.

The next day Martin’s mother sent him into town again. But before he left, she sat him down and spoke to him in a serious voice.

“These are our last 100 roubles. You mustn’t waste them this time. You must buy supplies so we can eat. Do you hear me?”

“Yes, mother,” answered Martin.

He left their house and walked along the road into town, with the 100 roubles in his pocket.

On his way into town Martin passed a small boy who had tied a rope around the neck of an old cat with a bent tail and was dragging her along the road. Martin couldn’t bear to see this treatment of a poor animal and asked the boy why he was doing it.

“Because this cat stole one of my mother’s special cakes. I’m going to show her what happens to a cat that steals. I’m taking her to the river and I’m going to throw her in!”

“Don’t do that,” said Martin. “I’ve been thinking that I would very much like a cat. I’ll buy her from you for 100 roubles.”

“One hundred roubles! For this old thing with the funny tail!

You’re joking, aren’t you?” laughed the boy.

“Oh no. I’m very serious. And here are the 100 roubles to prove it,” said Martin.

The boy couldn’t. believe it when Martin handed him the money. He happily untied the cat, which jumped into Martin’s waiting arms. Martin turned and started walking home with his new friend. He decided to name her Vaska.

When Martin arrived home this time carrying an old cat with a bent tail instead of the food they needed, his mother was very, very angry.

Martin tried to calm her anger. “Mother, this is our second piece of good luck!”

But she threw him out of their house and shouted at him to make his own way in the world and to take the dog and the cat with him.

So Martin left home to look for work and a place to live. His friends, the cat and the dog, never left his side.

One evening, after several days of searching, Martin came into a small village and passed a priest who was just closing the door of his church. The priest was curious about this young man with the dog and the cat, and started a conversation with him to find out more.

“Hello, young man. Where are you going with your two friends?”

“I’m looking for work and a place to live.”

“Well, if you work for me for three years, you won’t have a contract but you’ll have a roof over your head and food for you and your friends. And at the end of that time you’ll be paid well.”

So Martin accepted the priest’s offer and proved to be a good and honest worker.

At the end of the three years the priest came to Martin.

“You’ve been a good worker and now your three years with me have ended. I said that you would be paid well, and you will be.

You may choose one of these three payments.”

He then put in front of Martin a bag of gold, a bag of silver, and a bag of sand. Martin thought about it. If he chose the gold, he could buy whatever he needed for a long time. He could be almost as wealthy with the silver. But the sand? Why was the priest offering him a bag of sand?

“This must be some kind of test,” thought Martin. “And in this simple test I think there is some kind of deeper meaning.”

So he stepped forward and said, “I’m going to choose the bag of sand.”

“Well, if you don’t like silver and gold, of course take the sand,” the priest answered, and he handed Martin his bag of sand.

Martin then left the priest to search for more work, taking his bag of sand, Jourka, and Vaska with him. The bag of sand was very heavy and sometimes Martin wanted to leave it behind, but he never did.

After wandering for days he came to a thick, dark forest which was so silent that it seemed no one had ever stepped inside. He eventually came to an open space in the forest. In the center of this area a fire was burning, and a beautiful young woman was tied to a tree in the middle of the fire. The flames were almost touching her and she would soon be burned alive.

When the young woman saw Martin, she cried out, “Oh sir, please put out this fire! I’ll bring you good fortune for the rest of your days if you do.”

Martin didn’t care about the good fortune she promised. He only wanted to help the poor girl, so he quickly took his bag of sand and threw it on the fire to put it out.

“Thank you! Thank you! You’ve saved my life!” cried the girl as Martin untied her.

When she was free, the girl told Martin that she was the daughter of the czar of the Snake Czardom, and that a cruel czar who was at war with her father had done this to her. She then asked Martin where he had gotten his bag of sand. Martin told her he had chosen the sand, instead of gold and silver, for his three years’ work for the priest.

“Well, if you chose that sand, and not silver or gold, it must be very important to you,” she said to Martin. “I will always be grateful for your wonderful kindness, and to prove it I want you to have this ring.”

As she said this, the girl gave Martin a beautiful gold ring with shining jewels in it.

“This ring is very special,” she told him. “It’s a magic ring, which will give you anything you desire, even if your desire is to marry a czar’s daughter! To unlock its power, just take it off your finger and throw it from one hand to the other. But be careful.

You must guard the secret of the ring. If you tell others about its magic, it will bring you great unhappiness.”

As soon as she had said this, she turned into a snake and slid quietly away into the forest.

Martin watched her go and then looked down at the ring on his finger. He was suddenly filled with happiness.

He laughed and told Jourka and Vaska, “Do you realize what this means? We don’t need to search for work. We’ll have everything we need and I can help my poor mother! But let’s see this wonderful magic!”

So he took off the ring and threw it from hand to hand, as the girl had told him to do. He then watched in amazement, with Jourka andVaska, as twelve young men suddenly appeared and said, “Oh master, tell us what in the world you want and we will bring it to you!”

Martin couldn’t believe his eyes and ears. He answered, “Good men, take us back to my poor mother!”

And so they returned to his village. His mother, who was filled with guilt and sadness for sending her son away, was very happy to see him again.

“Oh, my son, I’ve missed you so much and worried so much.

Can you ever forgive me?” she cried.

“There’s nothing to forgive, dear mother!” cried Martin.”And our life is going to be wonderful now!”

Of course Martin couldn’t tell his mother about the magic ring, so he went quietly outside, took the ring off, and threw it from hand to hand. Immediately the twelve young men appeared again and said, “Oh master, tell us what in the world you want and we will bring it to you!”

Martin told them to bring the best food and wine, and the finest meat for Jourka and Vaska. They then celebrated their good fortune.

They all lived together in happiness for many months.

Whenever they needed anything, Martin just took off the ring, threw it from hand to hand, and immediately twelve young men appeared, bringing Martin whatever he desired.

Time passed and Martin began to think of marriage. He remembered what the Snake Czar’s daughter had told him—that he could have even a czar’s daughter! So he asked his mother to go to the czar’s palace and ask permission for Martin to marry the czarevna.

His mother was very worried and warned her son that this was a mistake. “The son of a peasant doesn’t marry the daughter of a czar. You should look for an ordinary girl to be your wife.

You’re asking me to do something which is very dangerous. The czar could have our heads cut off for even asking such a thing!”

But Martin had made his decision and wouldn’t change his mind, so his mother went to the palace feeling very anxious.

When she tried to enter the palace, the guards wouldn’t allow her inside. They tried to drag her away but she made such a noise that the czar eventually agreed to see her.

“You must be crazy!” he answered when she asked if Martin could marry his daughter. “How could you imagine that a czar would allow his daughter to marry a peasant!”

“But my son is the kindest and smartest young man in the whole world! He would make any wife proud!” she answered.

“Well, he may be smart. He may be kind. But I’ll tell you this.

A man who wants to marry the daughter of a czar must send beautiful and expensive gifts. Go away, old woman. Return when you can bring gifts of this kind. Then maybe we’ll talk again.”

The czar knew that a simple peasant would never be able to provide these beautiful gifts, so he thought this would be the end of the problem.

However, when Martin’s mother returned home and told her son, he immediately used the magic ring to produce cloth made of gold, jewels, fine clothes, and many other fine gifts. He then sent his mother back to the palace with these wonderful things.

The riches brought by Martin’s mother amazed the czar, but he was also upset, as he did not want his daughter to marry this young man. He repeated that it was impossible for a czar to consider marrying his daughter to a peasant.

“But I’ve done as you asked!” cried the mother. “You promised me that we would discuss the marriage if I brought these gifts.”

The czar didn’t know what to do and was quite worried. Then the prime minister spoke.

“My dear Czar. May I make a suggestion?”

“Certainly, Prime Minister!” answered the czar, hoping for a way out of this mess.

“Thank you. If, as this woman says, her son really is the ‘smartest young man in all the world,’ then he must build a beautiful palace next to yours for his wife to live in. And he must build a bridge of pure silver, with apple trees on either side with fruit of silver and gold. He must also build a great church for the couple’s wedding. I suggest that if this woman’s son is smart enough to do this, he can marry your daughter. If not, both mother and son should lose their heads.”

The czar happily agreed and told Martin’s mother that her son must produce these things by the next morning or they would lose their heads.

Martin’s mother rushed home with this news, thinking that they would surely die. But Martin wasn’t worried. That night he went to the czar’s palace, took off his ring, and produced everything that the prime minister had asked for.

The next morning the czar woke up and went outside to greet the day. When he stepped into his garden, he was amazed.

There in front of him stood a beautiful, shining palace, a bridge with trees of silver and gold apples, and a great church.

The czar knew then that he had to agree to the marriage, and preparations began in the palace. The czarevna and Martin were dressed in the finest clothes and a beautiful marriage ceremony took place in the great church. For days afterward there were wonderful celebrations at the palace. The young couple then began to live together as man and wife in their palace next to the czar’s.

But the czar’s daughter wasn’t happy. She was silly and proud and very angry that her father had married her to a simple peasant. She wanted to get rid of her husband and tried everything to find out what his secret was, always asking him questions in her sweetest voice.

“You’re so smart, my husband. But you’re such a mystery too.

How are you able to do all these wonderful things? Won’t you tell your loving wife?”

But nothing worked. Martin never forgot what the Snake Czar’s daughter had told him and he never gave away his secret.

Finally, one night, his wife thought of a new and better idea.

She put extra vodka in his cup at dinner and she filled his cup until he was very drunk. She then kept him talking until he finally told her all about the magic ring.

As soon as he was asleep, she took the ring from his finger and used it to take herself, the palace, the bridge, and the church away to a faraway czardom, leaving Martin lying alone in their bed.

When the czar discovered the next morning that his daughter was gone, he was very angry. He demanded to know where she was, but Martin was as shocked and confused as the czar was and couldn’t tell him anything. So the czar ordered his guards to build a high stone tower. Martin was locked up in this tower. There was only one tiny window and he was given no food or water. The czar planned to punish him with a long, slow, lonely death.

Jourka, the dog, had been away hunting, and when he returned he was very upset about what had happened to his friend. He ran to Martin’s mother’s house to tell her and found Vaska the cat lying by the fire sleeping happily.

“What are you doing here?” he shouted at her. “You only think about your own comfort when this terrible thing has happened to our friend, the man who saved our lives! Why aren’t you trying to help him when he’s in trouble?”

The cat felt very guilty and immediately left the fire. She then listened carefully as Jourka described his plan to trick people in the village out of their food and take it to Martin.

The next day Jourka and Vaska went into the village to carry our their plan. Vaska got under the feet of shoppers as they walked home with their cakes. When they dropped the cakes, Jourka caught them and the dog and the cat ran away.

When little Vaska climbed the stone tower and appeared in the one tiny window with the first cake, Martin cried with joy.

“My dear friends! You haven’t forgotten me!”

So their plan was a success and Jourka and Vaska managed to keep Martin alive in this way for a year.

When the year ended, Jourka decided that Martin couldn’t live this way for much longer. He told Vaska, “We must go together and try to find the magic ring that has caused all this pain and trouble.”

So they left together and crossed mountains, rivers, and even an ocean, with Vaska holding onto Jourka’s back.

After many months, they arrived in a faraway czardom, and found the beautiful palace that Martin had created for his wife, using the ring. Jourka told Vaska to find her way into the servants’

rooms and whenever they needed anything to run quickly and get it for them. Vaska soon became well known in the palace as a good helper, so the servants allowed her and her friend, Jourka, to sleep in the palace. In this way Vaska and Jourka were able to wander around and watch the czarevna closely. They saw that she always wore the ring. They wondered if she took it off to sleep, but her bedroom was the one room that they weren’t allowed into, and they were both too big to slide in under the door. Only a mouse was small enough to do this, so they decided to travel to the Czardom of the Mice.

“We must show them that we are strong and powerful so they will be frightened of us and agree to help us,”Jourka told Vaska.

And this is what they did. They went to the Mouse Czardom and chased and bit the mice until they were so frightened that they surrendered.

“We are powerless against you,” the Mouse Czar told them.

“What is it that you need? We are your servants.”

Jourka told them about the ring, so the Mouse Czar ordered one of the mouse soldiers to slide under the czarevna’s door that night and steal the ring. At midnight, when the whole palace was asleep, the mouse soldier went silently into her room and up onto her bed. Then he slipped the ring gently off her finger.

The next morning Jourka and Vaska had the ring back, the ring that would save their friend, so they began to prepare for their long journey home. Vaska put the ring in her mouth and climbed onto Jourka’s back. She then used her sharp claws to hold on tight while they started traveling across the ocean again.

After swimming in the rough sea for many days, they were both very tired, but Jourka didn’t stop, knowing that the ring would soon be safely back with their dear friend.

Suddenly, Vaska looked up and saw an angry sea bird flying down straight at her. The bird came down and bit Vaska on the head. The pain was so terrible that she couldn’t breathe! She watched as the bird flew back up into the sky. But just as Vaska was thinking that her terror was at an end, the bird flew down again, faster this time, and bit her on the head again. Vaska opened her mouth to bite the bird and defend herself, and the ring dropped into the ocean.

“Oh no!” she thought. “How am I going to tell Jourka?”

She waited until they reached land, and as soon as Jourka put her down, she climbed up into a very tall tree.

Jourka looked up, surprised, and asked, “What are you doing up there? Come down!”

“I can’t,” the cat shouted down to him.

“Why not?” asked Jourka.

“Because you’ll kill me!”

“Why? What are you talking about? What do you mean?”

Vaska knew she had to tell him. She also knew he couldn’t climb trees. So she stayed up in the tree and explained what had happened to the ring.

“Why didn’t you tell me when we were back in the ocean?”

Jourka cried.

“Because I can’t swim!” cried the frightened cat. “I wanted to wait until I was on dry land to tell you. I knew you’d be angry at me.”

“Oh, what are we going to do now,” said Jourka as he sat on the sand, his sad eyes looking out to sea.

Then Vaska had an idea. “What about the fish? They know the secrets of the sea. They can help us, can’t they?”

“You’re right,” replied Jourka. “But we must show them our power before they’ll help us. Come! Quickly!”

And Jourka swam deep into the ocean to the Fish Czardom.

He chased and threatened the fish until they were so frightened that they offered to help him. Jourka explained to the Fish Czar and his fish soldiers about the ring.

Then one shy fish came forward and told them, “Excuse me. I saw a large fish eat something gold earlier today. I don’t think it was very good for him because he’s now lying dead on the ocean floor.”

The Fish Czar immediately ordered his fish soldiers to dive to the bottom of the ocean and search for this fish. They quickly found it and brought it up onto the land. Jourka, who didn’t like the taste of fish, watched with excitement as Vaska started eating it. She finally bit into something hard and discovered that it was the ring.

Jourka and Vaska were filled with joy and rushed back to the tower. Vaska then quickly climbed up the stone walls and dropped the ring through the tiny window. Martin, who had not eaten for days, was very happy when he saw it.

“Oh thank you. Thank you, my good, true friends,” he cried.

“I was almost dead from hunger and thirst!”

He immediately threw the ring from hand to hand and ordered the twelve young men to bring him food and wine. He had his two friends brought up to be with him and celebrate. He then ordered musicians to play music so beautiful that people would be able to do nothing except listen to it and be joyful.

Back in his palace the czar heard the music in the tower. He was very angry that instead of dying Martin seemed to be celebrating! He sent his guards to stop this, but the guards could do nothing except stand and listen to the music. The czar then sent his soldiers to stop this noise, but they could do nothing except stand and sing happily. So in the end, the czar went himself but he found that he couldn’t move either. He eventually gave up and told Martin that if he explained everything he would be forgiven.

So Martin went with the czar to the palace and told him the story of the ring and what the czar’s daughter had done.

The czar was very sad to hear this and told Martin, “I know that my daughter should be killed for what she has done to you.

But she is my daughter. Can you find it in your heart to forgive her?”

Martin was as kind as he had always been. He couldn’t have the czarevna killed, so he agreed to take her back. The czar was happy that his daughter would live but he was still sad about her behavior.

Martin told him, “Go and rest tonight. And I’m sure everything will look different in the morning.”

The czar agreed and went to his room, after ordering his servants to bring Martin his best vodka and to put the finest silk sheets on his bed. That night, while everyone was sleeping, Martin went out into the palace gardens and used the magic ring to bring everything back. The next morning, when the czar went outside, he saw with great happiness the palace, the bridge, and the great church.

Martin and the czarevna lived as man and wife again, and after some time the czarevna realized what a good man Martin really was. She began to love him and they then lived together in happiness. Martin never removed the ring from his finger, and his friends Jourka the dog and Vaska the cat were always by his side.

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