In which the gift of stories begins for this year: one about mittens

The Mitten  (Ukraine)
It’s been many years since an old grandmother knitted mittens for a little boy. Beautiful mittens they were, made of thick wool, and they kept the boy’s hands very warm when he went out into the forest to gather wood for their fire.

Now, how a boy can lose a mitten in the snow on the coldest day of the year and not notice, I cannot say, but that is how the story is told. And when the boy was gone, who should find that warm woolen mitten but a little mouse, running over the top of the snow and shivering with the cold.

“That mitten is the perfect place for me to sleep through this cold winter day,” said the mouse to herself, and she crawled inside and soon was very snug and warm.

She hadn’t been there very long when a sparrow fluttered down to the ground beside the mitten and poked her head in. “It’s very cold out here,” said the sparrow. “May I come inside your mitten and get warm?”

The mitten was a little crowded with a mouse and a sparrow inside it, but it was cozy for all of that.

They were just starting to drift off to sleep when a rabbit ran up to the mitten and called to the mouse and the sparrow, “Oh help me, oh hide me! A fox is chasing and I fear he will catch me!”

There was nothing for it but to make room for the rabbit inside the mitten. The wool stretched and strained, but it held for it had been well-knitted. When the fox ran by, he saw the bulgy woolen mitten but he never suspected that the rabbit was hidden inside it.

With a rabbit, a sparrow and a mouse inside the mitten, everyone was feeling a little squashed, but at least they were warm. They were unprepared for the surprise of an owl, who stuck his beak into the opening of the mitten and asked for shelter from the cold. Usually an owl will eat mice and sparrows and rabbits, but the day was so cold, and his promise to behave so sincere that they all agreed to make room, and the owl squeezed inside the mitten until everyone was warm, if slightly squashed. 

The mitten was absolutely as full of animals as it could possibly be, when the bear lumbered into the clearing and saw the mitten. A bear usually sleeps in the cold of winter, and this bear was tired and looking for a place to hunker down.

He didn’t even ask permission to move into the mitten—just started shoving and poking and pushing and jostling and crowding with his nose and then a paw and then a shoulder and another paw until, at last, the whole bear was jammed inside the mitten with all those other animals. 

Nobody dared to move, lest the mitten burst, but they were all inside—and best of all, they were all very, very warm.

They rested there for some time, when they heard the voice of a little, tiny, old cricket out in the snow, asking for respite from the cold. Might she come inside the mitten to get warm with everyone else?

Well, if a mouse and a sparrow and a rabbit and an owl and a bear could all fit inside the mitten, surely there was room for a little cricket too?

The cricket crawled into the mitten, and stood shivering on the nose of the bear.

It was all fine for a minute or two…until the sensation of a shivering cricket made the bear feel itchy. 

And scritchy. 

And sneezy! 

The bear breathed in, trying not to sneeze, but it was no use: he gave a gigantic AHHH-CHOOOOOOOO, and at last the stitching on that mitten burst, and all of those animals tumbled out onto the snow, laughing and shouting.

They scattered away, those animals, looking for another place to get warm. The story says that they each found a good, snug place, even the cricket. 

But as for the little boy, he never did find out what happened to his mitten.


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