Ivan The Fool

(1886)

CHAPTER I

In a certain kingdom there lived a rich peasant, who had three
sons–Simeon (a soldier), Tarras-Briukhan (fat man), and Ivan (a
fool)–and one daughter, Milania, born dumb. Simeon went to war, to
serve the Czar; Tarras went to a city and became a merchant; and Ivan,
with his sister, remained at home to work on the farm.

For his valiant service in the army, Simeon received an estate with high
rank, and married a noble’s daughter. Besides his large pay, he was in
receipt of a handsome income from his estate; yet he was unable to make
ends meet. What the husband saved, the wife wasted in extravagance. One
day Simeon went to the estate to collect his income, when the steward
informed him that there was no income, saying:

“We have neither horses, cows, fishing-nets, nor implements; it is
necessary first to buy everything, and then to look for income.”

Simeon thereupon went to his father and said:

“You are rich, batiushka [little father], but you have given nothing
to me. Give me one-third of what you possess as my share, and I will
transfer it to my estate.”

The old man replied: “You did not help to bring prosperity to our
household. For what reason, then, should you now demand the third part
of everything? It would be unjust to Ivan and his sister.”

“Yes,” said Simeon; “but he is a fool, and she was born dumb. What need
have they of anything?”

“See what Ivan will say.”

Ivan’s reply was: “Well, let him take his share.”

Simeon took the portion allotted to him, and went again to serve in the
army.

Tarras also met with success. He became rich and married a merchant’s
daughter, but even this failed to satisfy his desires, and he also went
to his father and said, “Give me my share.”

The old man, however, refused to comply with his request, saying: “You
had no hand in the accumulation of our property, and what our household
contains is the result of Ivan’s hard work. It would be unjust,” he
repeated, “to Ivan and his sister.”

Tarras replied: “But he does not need it. He is a fool, and cannot
marry, for no one will have him; and sister does not require anything,
for she was born dumb.” Turning then to Ivan he continued: “Give me half
the grain you have, and I will not touch the implements or fishing-nets;
and from the cattle I will take only the dark mare, as she is not fit to
plow.”

Ivan laughed and said: “Well, I will go and arrange matters so that
Tarras may have his share,” whereupon Tarras took the brown mare with
the grain to town, leaving Ivan with one old horse to work on as before
and support his father, mother, and sister.