May 01, 2012

A Magic Tablecloth

A Magic Tablecloth
Anastasia Balatyonysheva

one of the most vivid images in Russian fairytales is that of the skatert-samobranka, a self-spreading tablecloth on which food miraculously appears. All you have to do is unfold it and a lavish feast fans out before your eyes: Skazano, sdelano! No sooner said than done!

Not only can the samobranka conjure food when there is none, it also protects against danger. In a classic tale of Ivan Tsarevich, the young Ivan encounters wood demons fighting over treasures: a self-spreading tablecloth, self-propelling boots, and an invisible cap. The demons explain the power of each item: “Spread out the tablecloth and twelve youths and twelve maids will bring as much mead and as many sweetmeats as you desire. If anyone should come upon you, just slip on the self-propelling boots and you’ll cover seven – even fourteen – versts in a single stride. If calamity truly threatens, put on the invisible cap, and not even dogs will be able to sniff you out.”

Ivan takes the gifts. A forest monster soon threatens to eat him, but with a single flick of the wrist Ivan is able to regale the monster with a fabulous meal. The monster eats and drinks so much that he falls asleep on the spot, and Ivan’s life is saved.

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