Granddaughter's Sled

A tale from Russia1

A man named Ivan lived with his elderly father and young daughter. At that time, so long ago, old people were thought to be useless. They were taken to the forest and left to die, all alone. Now that the old man was feeble and could no longer earn a living, Ivan tied him onto his daughter's sled.

"Where are you taking Grandfather?" asked the girl.

"To the forest," repiled Ivan.

"But why, Father?  He is too weak to cut down trees or pick berries."

"Never mind why, Daughter. It's something I must do."

"Can I come, too?" asked the girl.

"Yes, but no more questions."

The girl ran behind the sled, stoppping here and ther to pick wildflowers for her grandfather.  When they came to the middle of the forest, Ivan said, "I'm sorry to leave you here father, but you know how it is among our people."

"You can't leave Grandfather out here," said the girl.

"He will starve or be killed by the wolves."

"He is old and can no longer work. I have no choice, Daughter."

The girl thought for a moment and said, "But we can't leave my sled behind, because when you grow old, I'll need it to carry you into the forest."

Ivan frowned and then realized the truth of the girl's statement. He, too, would one day be left in the forest to die.

"You are right, Daughter. Let's take Grandfather Home. But don't tell any of our neighbors that he is still with us."

They hid the old man in a back room and kep his existence a great secret.

Soon afterward, a terrible famine swept the land.  Food became scarce and the people grew hungry. Ivan had less and less to take to his aged father. The old man did not complain.

The famine continued and the villagers ate the last of the wheat and rye. They even ate the seed grain and had nothing to plant in the spring. There was no hope of survival.

Ivan took his old father a small piece of hard bread and told him that the people were starving.

"Nonsense," said Grandfather. "Take the straw roof from the barn and thrash it well. You will find that there is more than a handful of grain left in the thatch. Plant the grain and you will get a healthy crop."

Ivan did as he was told and soon had a fine crop of rye. The villagers were grateful and asked him where he got such excellent advice.

"From my father, a wise man indeed."

"Your father is dead," said one of the villagers.

"Grandfather is not dead," explained Ivan's daughter. We have hidden him but not his wisdom. Grandfather has saved all our lives!"

So Grandfather came out of hiding, and from that time forth, old people were honored and respected in that village.

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s  elderly  very old
s  useless  of no value, good for nothing
s  feeble  weak, not strong
s  sled  a vehicle that slides on runners.
    Sometimes it is pulled by animals as in the Idtarod Dog Sled Race.
    Sometimes it is a child's toy for sliding down snowy hills.

s  starve  die from not eating
frowned  made an unhappy face
s  realized  came to know the truth
s  statement something someone says or writes
s  famine   a serious lack of food
s  terrible  very bad
s  scarce  not available or plentiful
s  seed grain  grain saved for planting the next crop
s  survival  staying alive
s  thrash  to hit very hard
s  thatch  reeds, straw, or leaves used to make a roof
s  rye  a cereal grain used to make and to feed animals
s  grateful  thankful
s  advice  opinion(s) or ideas given to someone about what to do
s  wise  having good judgment based on experience
wisdom  good judgement
s  honored   receiving praise
s  respected   approval and attention

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1  DeSpain, Pleasant L. (1933). Thirty-Three Multicultural Tales to Tell. Little Rock, AR: August House.

Most definitions are from the Newbury House Online Dictionary.