Friday, 5 October 2012

Unconditional Love of The Witch Olesya - Part 1

 "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). It's a little strange to start a post about a witch from the Bible's quote.. However these three lines is the foundation of the romantic stories by Russian writer Kuprin A.I.  These stories is another favorite read of mine I got from home this summer.
One of the most touching and beautiful of them is the one called "Olesya". I read it three days back, again. It always boosts my imagination and I walk half dreaming about it for few more days.
The protagonist, from whose side the story is narrated, is an official, sent to the "God-forsaken village in the Volhynian borderland of Polesye" as he says about the place. He tries to keep himself busy by game-shooting, giving medical help to locals, and noting the area's legends and tales. He doesn't like the place much and calls it "out-of-the-way corner... - simple manners, primitive characters". The relations with the peasants "never went beyond the fact that, on seeing me from a distance, they would take off their caps and, as they came alongside, would mutter sullenly "Speedjue," which was supposed to mean "God speed you." The locals would also start kissing the hands - "an old custom from the time of Polish serfdom". The main character is placed in such environment which doesn't relate his vision of the world. He underlines throughout the story the wildness of the local beliefs...
Ivan Shishkin (1832-1898), The hut in the Forest
The rationalism of the main character is opposed to the superstitions which fill the minds of the peasants. One winter day the main hero, which is called master by his helper Yarmola, sat in his room, while the severe storm was blowing outside...
"Where do you think this horrible wind comes from, Yarmola?"
"The wind?" Yarmola looked up lazily. "Why, don't you know, master?"
"Of course not. How could I know such a thing?"
"Don't you, really!" Yarmola was roused. "I'll tell you," he went on, a shade mysteriously. "Either a witch has been born, or a wizard's making merry." I pounced eagerly on this. "Who knows," I thought, "perhaps I may worm out of him some interesting story of magic, hidden treasures, or werewolves."
"Have you got any witches here in Polesye?" I asked..." This is how the main hero started getting involved in the world of witchcraft and... love. Yarmola then tells the master the tale that there was a witch but "the lads drove her away" to the forests, burning her house "so that not a chip would be left of her accursed nest".
Here we can see that the attitude towards witches is completely negative, moreover, the witch is blamed in whatever bad happens in the village. Thus the witch was driven away because she was believed to do loads of harm like casting spells, plait the stalks in the sheaves...and of course to cause serious illness in the family and furthermore a death of one woman's child!
The curiosity of the master rises as he gets to know that the witch is now living in the forest with her daughter or granddaughter. He intends to see her as soon as the days get warmer. Yarmola tells that the witch's name is Manuilikha...
I am going to cover the rest of the story in the next post, as this one gets too long to read at once. I am going to tell about the relations which tie up between the main hero and  the witch's granddaughter...Do you think it's going to be as successful as the mystic venture of the Master and Margarita?
P.S. the citations are from the  book "Olesya" translated from the Russian by Stepan Apresyan. The book is available here.


  1. Oh i know the feeling of missing your husband. Mine is a drummer and he is often on the road. What does your husband do?
    How much would you love to live in that little hut in the woods in the picture?
    Have a blessed week!!

  2. Oh, wow!:) Mine works for one automotive company and had to go for an official trip, so it makes me low when he is not with me... i wouldn't like to live there, but just illustrated my post...i was wondering how much scary it might be to live in the forest...
    Thanks for leaving a comment :)