The Blackberry Princess by T.I. Smertina
Once upon a time in the village of Chernitsa, which is situated near the river Vyatka, there lived a little boy. His name was Fedyushka. One day he was eating thick pancakes and talking with his grandmother.
"Dear grandmother," asked Fedyushka his grandmother. "Why our village is called 'Chernitsa'? [The word 'chernitsa' can be translated into English as a whortleberry or a blackberry.]
"There is an ancient legend connected with the name of our village," replied the grandmother. "It happened long ago, when airplanes, cars, helicopters and space rockets hadn't been invented. Then our village was nameless, it consisted of only three peasant's log huts. In one of the huts, in a large family lived a young lad. He was handsome and hardworking; the only trouble was that he wasn't married. Once, the lad went to the forest to pick berries. The forest was dense, dark and wild. The lad's feet sank in the moss and it was difficult to make his way through the tree branches. He walked on and on farther into the forest but couldn't find any berries.
Suddenly, he came to a glade in the forest, muffled with the haze. In the middle of the glade a beautiful girl was dancing. Her braid was long and black like pitch and a wonderful flower wreath crowned her head. At the place where the girl waved her kerchief flowers appeared in a flash; at the place where she stepped, black, blue and red berries appeared. A small red squirrel was sitting on the girl's shoulder. The lad was very surprised.
"Who are you?" he asked. "I've never seen such a beautiful girl as you!"
Then he bowed low to the girl and offered her to be his wife. The girl burst into laughter and said, "You've made me laugh! I am not an ordinary girl. I am the Blackberry Princess. If I leave my forest I will pine and die! I will fade like a bunch of wild flowers because of unbearable anguish!"
"Are you a sorceress? Your hair is black like pitch!"
"I am the keeper of this forest. That is why I would like to give people who live in the nearest village my admonition. Don't fell trees and pollute the river water. Give me a chance to live in the forest near your village and keep it." Then the girl smiled, entered the forest, turned back and added, "Give your village the sweet name 'Chernitsa'!"
Saying these words the girl disappeared behind thick bushes.
Since that time the lad yearned for the Blackberry Princess and often strolled in the forest. He knew all the secrets of the forest: where berries and mushrooms grew and what forest plant could help cure people of different diseases. He was always healthy and died at the age of one hundred.
The lad related the Blackberry Princess's admonition to the people and urged them to take care of the forest and protect it from pollution. Later the village was called Chernitsa in memory of the Blackberry Princess. This is the end of the legend, my little boy."
Fedya sighed and asked his grandmother, "Is the Blackberry Princess still alive and living in our forest?"
"I don't think so," answered the grandmother. "Many years passed and people forgot the Blackberry Princess's admonition. The Vyatka River is polluted, almost every day people cut down trees and our village becomes smaller and smaller, people leave it and move to the town."
Fedyushka drank a mug of milk and said, "Let's go to the forest to pick berries! May be we will find there the Blackberry Princess."
So, they went to the forest. It was dark there. The air was fresh. Mosquitos were flying and humming everywhere. The earth was covered with green moss and bushes of blackberries. Fedya happily picked berries, his mouth and hands were black from the juice of black berries. He looked like a small imp. Blackberries were so tasty!
Suddenly the grandmother said, "Look! There is a squirrel!"
The boy was standing motionless. A red squirrel was jumping on the branches of the fir-tree. Fedya forgot about his grandmother and ran after the squirrel. He ran deeper and deeper into the forest and it grew darker and darker. Suddenly, he heard somebody crying under the fir.
Then the boy came to a glade in the forest, muffled with haze. In the middle of the glade he saw a beautiful girl sitting on a rock and crying bitterly. A wonderful flower wreath crowned her head. Her long braid was black like pitch and the small red squirrel was sitting on the girl's shoulder.
"Why are you crying so bitterly?" asked Fedyushka.
"My dear little boy," answered the girl. "I am the Blackberry Princess. I live in the forest and keep it. My brothers the trees are cut down, the river became very dirty, the air is polluted and I can't breathe anymore. I suffocate. Soon I will die!"
"Don't die!" shouted Fedya. "We will plant trees, we will clean the river! Believe me! Don't die!"
The Blackberry Princess looked at the boy sadly and disappeared. Soon Fedyushka heard his grandmother's voice, "Fedyushka, where are you, my little boy?!"
In a minute the grandmother was standing near her grandson. "Grandmother, I've seen the Blackberry Princess!"
The grandmother smiled and said, "I believe you. Our forest keeps many secrets and wonders! Remember the Blackberry Princess. Protect the forest and the river from pollution! Don't kill the Blackberry Princess!"