The river Teza runs through the village of Kholuy, and every spring the river floods the village. This yearly flooding is the basis for the tale of Grandfather Mazay and the Hares. Nikolai Nekrasov wrote this tale in the form of a poem for children in 1870. Although he hunted them in winter for food, the kindly old Mazay went about as the river was flooding, picking up the poor rabbits and saving them from drowning. Nekrasov wrote the poem using the language and mentality of Russian villagers, and it comes off as very honest and down to earth. Today, there are many references in Russian culture to Grandfather Mazay, including a variety of jokes!
Grandfather Mazay and the Hares
In August near Maliye Vezhi
Mazay and I were shooting double snipes.
Suddenly it became very quiet.
The sun was shining through clouds in the sky.
The cloud was a little one
But there burst out a hard rain!
Straight and light, like iron twigs,
Streams of rain plunged into the ground
With an impetuous force. Mazay and I
Soaking wet hid in the hut.
Children, I will tell you about Mazay
Every time I am coming over.
I visit him and stay for a week.
I like his village.
In the summer I decorate it beautifully.
For ages marvelous hops were growing there.
It is lost in green gardens,
And houses there are on stilts.
This place floods with water
and the village floats on water in spring
Just like Venice.Old Mazay
Passionately loves his low land.
He is widowed, has no children, but a grandson.
He is bored to take the beaten road.
He does not hesitate
To go forty versts to Kostroma.
Running through the forest
Is nothing for him.
"The forest is no road, one can shoot a bird or an animal."
"But what about the wood-goblin?" "I don't believe it."
"Once I was waiting for them in the cover
The whole night I haven't seen any of them.
One can pick a basket of mushrooms,
eating raspberry and cowberry on the way.
In the evening a bird is singing gently,
Just like an Udod bird in an empty barrel.
An owl is echoing, flying at night
With sharpened little horns, hand-drawn-like eyes.
At night ... at night I was scared myself.
It is really silent in the forest at night.
Silent, like in church, after the service
is finished and doors are closed.
Only some pine tree would squeak
Or some old woman will talk in her sleep."
Mazay never spends his day without a hunt.
He would live peacefully, without a care
If his eyes would not betray him.
He started to lose the sharpness of his vision.
But he does not get upset
When he shoots and the hare runs away.
Mazay makes a threatening gesture with his finger.
"You are lying, you will fall down" he yells kindly.
He knows many entertaining tales
About famous village hunters.
Kuzya broke his shotgun's trigger
And always carries a box of matches with him.
Another hunter (Mazay) walks with a rifle
And carries a pot of burning charcoal with him.
"Why are you carrying those coals?"
"My hands get very cold"
"If I will see a hare
First I will sit down, put my shotgun on the ground
Warm my hands above the burning coal
And then I will shoot the scoundrel.
"That's a hunter!" - added Mazay.
I have to admit, I laughed my head off.
But better than peasants' anecdotes
(are they any worse than those of the nobility?)
I've heard the stories from Mazay
I wrote one of them for you, children.
Old Mazay chattered in the hut:
"In our swampy low-land place
we would have five times more game
If people would not catch them with nets
and kill them in traps.
And hares, I feel sorry for them to tears
when the spring waters come--
Hundreds of them die.
That is not enough! men run
Catch them, drown them, and beat them with sticks.
Where is their conscience? Once I went for fire wood.
I took a boat--there are many of those
floating around here during the spring.
I catch hares as I go, the waters are rising.
I see a small island-
With hares gathered together on it.
With every minute the water was getting
closer to the poor animals, there was only
Less than an arshin of land wide
and a sazhen long under them.
Here I come: they are shaking their ears,
But they were not moving. I took one
And commanded to the others: Jump yourself!
My hares jumped, no problem!
As soon as they got into the boat
The entire island was covered with water.
I said: "Don't even argue with me.
Listen you hares to grandpa Mazay."
So, jumping around, we are moving in science.
Just like a pole, a hare on a stump
Stands crossing his legs, poor thing.
I took him also--not much weight!
Just as I started working with the paddle
I saw a doe-hare in the bushes,
Barely alive but fat like a merchants wife.
I covered her with my jacket.
She was shaking already...it was not early.
A log floated near the boat.
Standing and laying down
There were a dozen hares on it.
"I'd take you all, but you will sink my boat."
Still I felt sorry for them,
so I grabbed the log by the knot
And towed it behind the boat.
It was a lot of fun for women and children
when Mazay went through the village with his boat full of hares
"Look at what old Mazay is doing."
Ok, you can look but don't bother us.
We appeared behind a village in a river.
There my hares went insane.
They were looking, getting up on two legs
Shaking the boat, and were not letting me paddle.
They saw the shore, the rascals--
Bare land, forest and bushes.
I moved the log close to the land
Parked the boat and said "Go with God"
And the hares
started running away
I said to them "Ahh
Faster, living things
Lookout, save yourself
And stay out of my sight in winter.
I'll point my rifle at you and BOOM
You will be down"
My entire team ran away
All but a pair of them.
They were wet and weak: I put them
In a bag and took them home
They warmed up overnight--
Dried themselves, slept and ate.
I took them out on a glen
Let them out of the bag.
"Don't get near me in the winter."
I don't hunt them in spring or summer
Then their fur is bad 'cause it fades.
N. A. Nekrasov, 1870