Ethnic Enterprises

Oil in the Borsch

and Other Ukrainian Folk Tales Retold in English

There are thousands of Ukrainian folk tales, and they vary from the long and deadly serious to the lighthearted shorter ones, with everything between. This sample story is a shorter one, and is very entertaining. It is from Oil in the Borsch and Other Ukrainian Folk Tales Retold in English. The pictures were done by my niece, Deanna Evanishen.

One day in our village, a stranger stopped at the home of a widow and asked her for food.

"You are welcome to share my meal," said the woman, "although all I have to eat is a thin borsch. But in honor of your visit, I will put some oil in it."

The woman went to her pantry and found a small bottle of oil. She stirred the borsch on her little stove and tipped the oil bottle. Three drops of oil fell from the bottle into the borsch. That was all the poor woman had.

After the meal, the stranger said to the woman, "I thank you for the meal, and I thank you for the three drops of oil. For your kindness, I will pay you three gold coins, and good health to you."

Then the stranger left the amazed and pleased old widow holding the coins.

The story soon got around the village of how there was a stranger who paid a gold coin for each drop of oil in the borsch. Everybody was hoping to feed the stranger themselves.

Living in the village was a very greedy woman. Hearing of the stranger and his gold coins, she ran through the streets until she found the stranger and invited him to her house for supper.

At suppertime, the woman said:

"All I have to feed you is borsch, but I will put oil in it."

That day the woman had got herself a big bottle of oil. She tipped it into the borsch and the oil dripped out in many drops.

However, there were so many drops that they all joined together and fell into the borsch as one big drop. She was pleased with herself, seeing all the oil in the borsch. Surely she would get many gold coins.

"I thank you for the meal," said the stranger after he had eaten, "and I thank you for the one drop of oil."

And he gave her one big copper coin.