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A Russian Fairy Tale Story

In the olden years, long long ago, with the spring-tide fair and
the summer's heat there came on the world distress and shame.
For gnats and flies began to swarm, biting folks and letting
their warm blood flow.

Then the Spider[67] appeared, the hero bold, who, with waving
arms, weaved webs around the highways and byways in
which the gnats and flies were most to be found.

A ghastly Gadfly, coming that way, stumbled straight into
the Spider's snare. The Spider, tightly squeezing her throat,
prepared to put her out of the world. From the Spider the
Gadfly mercy sought.

"Good father Spider! please not to kill me. I've ever so
many little ones. Without me they'll be orphans left, and from
door to door have to beg their bread and squabble with dogs."

Well, the Spider released her. Away she flew, and everywhere
humming and buzzing about, told the flies and gnats of
what had occurred.

"Ho, ye gnats and flies! Meet here beneath this ash-tree's
roots. A spider has come, and, with waving of arms and weaving
of nets, has set his snares in all the ways to which the flies
and gnats resort. He'll catch them, every single one!"

They flew to the spot; beneath the ash-tree's roots they hid,
and lay there as though they were dead. The Spider came,
and there he found a cricket, a beetle, and a bug.

"O Cricket!" he cried, "upon this mound sit and take
snuff! Beetle, do thou beat a drum. And do thou crawl, O
Bug, the bun-like, beneath the ash, and spread abroad this news
of me, the Spider, the wrestler, the hero bold--that the Spider,
the wrestler, the hero bold, no longer in the world exists; that
they have sent him to Kazan; that in Kazan, upon a block,
they've chopped his head off, and the block destroyed."

On the mound sat the Cricket and took snuff. The Beetle
smote upon the drum. The Bug crawled in among the ash-tree's
roots, and cried:--

"Why have ye fallen? Wherefore as in death do ye lie
here? Truly no longer lives the Spider, the wrestler, the hero
bold. They've sent him to Kazan and in Kazan they've chopped
his head off on a block, and afterwards destroyed the block."

The gnats and flies grew blithe and merry. Thrice they
crossed themselves, then out they flew--and straight into the
Spider's snares. Said he:--

"But seldom do ye come! I would that ye would far more
often come to visit me! to quaff my wine and beer, and pay me

This story is specially interesting in the original, inasmuch as it
is rhymed throughout, although printed as prose. A kind of lilt is
perceptible in many of the Skazkas, and traces of rhyme are often to
be detected in them, but "The Mizgir's" mould is different from
theirs. Many stories also exist in an artificially versified form, but
their movement differs entirely from that of the naturally cadenced
periods of the ordinary Skazka, or of such rhymed prose as that of
"The Mizgir."