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From The Worry Imps and Other Ukrainian Folk Tales Retold in English

1. God and the Devil

by Daniel Evanishen
A Hutsul Folk Tale

In the beginning there was no land, only Heaven and water. One day while God was on the water in His boat, He saw a raft of foam with the devil on it.

"Who are you?" asked God.

"I will tell you if you take me in the boat."

"Please, come into my boat."

"I am Aridnyk."

They rode quietly for some time, and the devil finally said, "It would be good if there were some land." "It shall be so," said God. "Dive to the bottom of the water and bring a handful of sand. From this I shall create land. And when you take the sand from the bottom, be sure to say: "I take this sand in the name of God." When Aridnyk reached bottom he grabbed sand with both hands, saying, "I take this sand in the name of Aridnyk." When the devil returned to the surface, he found that his hands were empty. God told Aridnyk to go down again. This time when he took the sand, he said, "I take this sand in His name." He also hid some sand in his mouth. When he returned to the surface he found in his hands only the sand that was stuck under his fingernails.

God took the few grains of sand from the fingernails of Aridnyk and created some land, but He could only make a small island from the bit of sand He had been given. When night fell, they lay down on the island to sleep. When God was asleep, the jealous devil tried to push Him into the water and drown Him. Aridnyk pushed and the land grew beneath God as far as the devil pushed him. He pushed God one way and the land grew, then he pushed the other way, and the land grew; it grew wherever He was pushed. The sand in the mouth of Aridnyk also grew and grew, as the land God blessed grew and grew. The sand in his mouth grew so much that it forced his mouth open, and his eyes bulged and he could not breathe. He spit, and wherever Aridnyk spit, mountains grew and grew, each taller than the previous one, until they reached the sky. They would have pierced the sky had God not later cast a spell on them. Since then the mountains have not grown.

Finally Aridnyk slept. When God awoke, He returned to Heaven. Aridnyk followed. The angels sang in their multitudes, welcoming God back to Heaven. Aridnyk was upset to see this adoration for God and none for him. "How might I also have such a welcome?" Aridnyk asked God. "Wash yourself and, with the wash water, sprinkle the ground behind you." As soon as Aridnyk did so, there sprang up so many little devils that there was no room in Heaven for all of them. God saw this and commanded Saint Ilya to make a storm of thunder, lightning and much rain. Saint Ilya was happy to do so, and his storm raged for forty days and forty nights. There was so much rain that the fiery little devils began to be swept away, and they fell to earth. When there were only a few devils left in Heaven and the angels began to fall, God ordered Saint Ilya to stop the storm. Since then, bright little fires have darted about the heavens, and they still sometimes fall upon the earth.

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From The Worry Imps and Other Ukrainian Folk Tales Retold in English

2. The Fox and the Crane

by Daniel Evanishen

Once upon a time Mister Fox and Miss Crane were friends. They would always pass the time of day when they met by the lake or in the field. One day Mister Fox asked Miss Crane to come to his house for lunch.

"Please come, Miss Crane," he said. "I will prepare a delicious meal."

Miss Crane accepted the kind invitation and went to visit Mister Fox. Mister Fox had made an excellent kasha, which he brought to the table on a platter.

Miss Crane bent over the platter but, with her long beak, she was unable to get one bit of kasha. She bent her head this way and that, but could not pick up anything at all.

Mister Fox licked away until the kasha was all gone and, when the platter was clean, he said, "It was good of you to come and visit me. I hope we can do this again very soon."

"Thank you for everything, Mister Fox," said Miss Crane. "Tomorrow you must come and visit me for lunch."

"Thank you, Miss Crane," said Mister Fox. "I will be there."

Next day Mister Fox arrived at her home to find a delicious smell of cooking in the air. "What a lovely aroma that is," he said. "We are indeed going to have a fine meal."

When Miss Crane served the food she put it in a long thin pot with a narrow neck. "Help yourself, Mister Fox. Do not be shy," she said.

Mister Fox tried to put his paw into the pot, but it would not go in far enough. He tried to put his long nose in, but all he could do was peer into the pot and sniff the food. Miss Crane put her long beak down into the pot and had the meal all eaten up in no time at all.

When the food was all gone, Miss Crane said, "It was good of you to come and visit me. I hope we can do this again very soon."

Mister Fox was so embarrassed and angry that he left without saying a word.

From that day to this, Foxes and Cranes have not been the best of friends.