Sunday, December 18, 2011


A Russian Folktale -- retold by Patty Kyrlach

In Russia, at Christmastime, the little boys and girls don’t wait for fat-bellied, twinkle-eyed St. Nick. Instead they hope to catch a glimpse of a rather cranky, wrinkled old woman. Her name?


Russian Peasant Woman
 by L. Bakst
Throughout the winter months, she tip-toes into the bedrooms of children and leaves behind little gifts—a piece of candy or a wooden toy or a shiny ball. She loves to find babies sleeping in their cribs. She will bend down, look closely at their tiny curled fingers, listen to their soft little sighs, and sometimes on the baby's pillow, she will drop a single tear.

Some people say she is searching, always searching. But what is Babouscka looking for?

Many long years ago, Babouscka lived at a crossroads, in one of the loneliest places on earth. In summer, when the fields were full of flowers, she would venture outside and stare this way and that, down the roads facing north, south, east, and west—wondering where they might lead. In winter, she sat by the fire, while the wind howled liked hungry wolves, and the icy branches of trees chattered like shivering teeth.

On such a winter’s night, Babouscka was sweeping her house. Sweeping, sweeping—for she had no husband and she had no children. All she had was her little house, and she liked to keep it tidy—sweeping, sweeping with her broom.

Suddenly she heard the sound of a trumpet. Then voices of men and beasts. She must have thought she was losing her mind, for this was a clamor like a traveling circus.

She ran to the window and pulled back the curtain, and then she was certain she was losing her mind. For there before her small house was an entourage of foreign dignitaries--riding camels! She saw the men dismount.

They knocked loud and long on Babouscka’s door before she summoned the courage to answer.

Then she watched in amazement as one…two…no, three great kings entered her humble home. In the firelight, they glittered with jewels and silk, and a delicious scent of spices and incense filled her house.

The kings said they were following a bright star, searching for a child. Since they were strangers in this land, they asked Babouscka to come with them and help them find the right path.

Through the window Babouscka saw the gleam of the star, beckoning her to a great adventure. But she could still hear the cold wind howling in the deep black of night.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “but the wind is cold and the night is dark. And besides, I need to finish sweeping my little house. Why don’t you stay here by my warm fire tonight?”

But the travelers were anxious to be on their way.

The next morning, Babouscka awoke with an ache in her heart.

Why, oh why, had she stayed in her house at the crossroads, when she might have journeyed with kings? They had spoken of a child, born to be a king of all kings. They were going to worship him and to lay their gifts and their crowns at his feet. 

If only she could see this child! If only she too could bring him a gift.

With a thud, Babouscka shut the door of her little house behind her and set out to find the child for herself. And she is searching still.

In every child’s room, in every infant’s cradle, she looks for the Holy Child. She searches each child’s face with hope, but always turns away, disappointed once again.

Whenever the wind wolves howl, whenever icy branches chatter like teeth, look carefully and you may catch a glimpse of Babouscka quietly leaving your bedroom. Or you may find one of the gifts she leaves behind, for the sake of the Child she seeks.

Dearest Christ Child, may we not be so busy sweeping (or shopping, wrapping, entertaining) that we neglect to seek for you--for if we seek you, we will surely find you. Indeed, you came to seek for us.

Stark Raving Mythopath pieced this story of Babouscka from several different versions.

No comments:

Post a Comment