The dead mother

In a village far away in Old Russia there lived a widow with her three sons; two clever ones and the third fairly slow. Her late husband, who had been a merchant, had left them a considerable amount of money.

“My time is near and I want you to look after your brother; don't abandon him”, she told his two smart sons.

And she died in peace because her two clever sons told her that they would look after their simple brother. But the clever brothers shared out the inheritance without taking into account their brother. When the slow brother asked for his share, they told him that they had to get married and they had a lot of expenses. So, the simple brother took his mother on his shoulder and climbed up on the roof with her.

“Come everybody, come here, my brothers have killed my mother!”

Frightened by the shouting, the smart brothers gave him a hundred roubles and a horse. The simple brother sat his mother in the sleigh and went off.

He was on the way to Moscow when he came up against a wealthy man's carriage.

“Get out of the way!”, ordered the noble who was coming out of the capital.

“You get out of the way!”, said the simple lad.

Indignant at such cheek, the noble struck at him with his whip. But the slow boy quickly dodged the lash and the whip struck his mother, who was thrown into the snow.

“You have killed my mother!”, cried the lad.

The noble, fearing that the occupants of the other carriages and sleighs that were queuing up might hear, gave him a hundred roubles to keep him quiet. The simple lad took the money, put his mother in the sleigh and carried on the journey into the night.

He arrived in a small town and asked for the Orthodox Church priest. He entered the cellar of the priest's house — it was full of honey and milk. The slow son sat his mother on a chair and, with his left hand he picked up a mug of milk and, with his right, a spoon and then hid behind a barrel. Shortly after, the priest's servant came in and, on seeing that the woman had robbed the cream of the milk, the servant-girl hit her on the head with her keys. The mother of the simple boy fell on the floor.

“Help! Help! They have killed my mother!”, shouted the boy, coming out from behind his hiding place.

He ran up the stairs and out on to the street crying,

“Help! Help! The priest's maid has killed my mother!” When the priest found out, he ran out into the street and said to the slow lad,

“Quiet! Here, have a hundred roubles!”

“It's not enough”, said the simpleton.

“I'll bury your mother for free!”, said the priest.

“All right, then”, said the slow young man, accepting the deal.

Later he returned to the village without his dead mother but with all the money he had accumulated.

“What have you done with our mother?”, his brothers asked him.

“I sold her — look how much I've earned!”

On seeing so many roubles, the clever brothers thought that, if an old dead woman could be sold for so much, a dead young woman would fetch a lot more. So the clever brothers killed their young wives and took their bodies to the market where they tried to sell them. But the villagers, shocked by what the smart brothers had done, reported them to the authorities. The guards arrived and tied them up well.

They were put on trial and deported to Siberia, where there is no need for such cleverness.

Text: Koldo Izagirre

Translation: Joe Linehan

Voice: Tim Nicholson

This is the story about the dead mother — travelling on a snow sleigh all the way from Russia where the snow is deep and crisp and even

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