Monday, January 11, 2010

End of the Tale

Today, a great author and human being passed away - Sergei Kozlov. He was 70 years old. Most westerners would not be familiar with him, although film buffs would recognize him as the author of "Hedgehog in the Fog" on which "Tale of Tales" (1975) is based on. As an aside, it is recognized by multiple awards, cinema guilds and associations, as the Best Animated Film of all time. Sergei Kozlov wrote tales, not fairy tales or folk tales, although they could be superficially called that; his characters were usually animals, but they are more human than most human characters. His books were ostensibly written for children, but they deal with issues of death and loss and hope and longing in such a poignant way that they’re among the very few written works that have ever reduced me to tears. To the best of my knowledge he has never been translated into English. As far as I am concerned, it would be a nearly impossible task. So, here it goes then:

Once upon a time lived in the forest Hedgehog-Needle. He had a house with an oven and a chimney, his house had a lightbulb and was made out of a mushroom, and there was a full larder. But still Hedgehog wanted something…
- I’m disquieted, - he would tell to Flower. – It aches here, - and would point to his chest. – I want to go to the sea, he would say.

But the Flower never saw the sea, and so would say:
- You’re being sad for no reason, Hedgehog. Look at how beautiful I am, look how tall the pines are, hear how the birds are singing! And everyone in the forest knows you and loves you. But every day the Hedgehog was growing sadder and sadder.

- I want to go to the sea, he would complain to the Ant.
- What’s it like? – would ask the Ant.
- Big. But I never saw it myself.

And so one early morning, when milky stars were still swimming in the sky, Hedgehog left his house and started walking to the sea. In his paw he had a stick, and on his shoulder a small sack with food.

Whether it took him a long time or a short time, eventually Hedgehog arrived at the sea.
- Hello, sea! – said Hedgehog
- Hello, Hedgehog! – said the sea.
And a wave rolled. “Pfff!... – it struck the shore. Shhhh…” – it hissed on the pebbles, retreating.
And Hedgehog also took a step forward and said: “Pfff!... and running back a little, - shhh-sh!...”
- I resemble you, right?
- Very much so! – said the sea. And once again a wave hit the shore.

Hedgehog played with the sea for a whole day: he would run to the very edge, or run away from the water. Falling a sleep on the sand under a rock, he would shiver, and it would seem to him that he was – a small sea on four small paws.

“Pfff-f!... – he mumbled under his breath. – Shhh-h!”
And his breath raised and lowered needles.”

Thank you Sergei.