Teremok - Baba Yaga - Russian folklore poem

Russian Folklore Poem: “Cream of Fool Ivan: A Recipe”

Today’s poem was actually published! The e-zine Quantum Fairy Tales included it in their Winter 2016 issue. BUT, alas, that issue (with the entire e-zine, it appears) is now little more than a broken link.

For that reason I expect no one will mind if I re-post “Cream of Fool Ivan: A Recipe” right here. >=)

To be honest, though, “Cream” is really less of a poem and more of a joke thrown into verses. And to get the punchline, it’s best to know a few things about folklore, especially Russian/Ukrainian folklore.

Crash Course in Russian Folklore

Baba Yaga Illustration - Russian folklore
Baba Yaga coming to get YOU! Either that or she’s really into her mushroom-picking.

Actually, you just need to know the cast of characters:

Baba Yaga (Баба-Яга) – The quintessential wily-wicked-witch of Slavic folklore. She lives in a little wooden cottage that stands on chicken legs, and she travels around in a mortar and pestle (because a broom is just way too Western Europe). In folktales, she can be a helpful ally to the hero, but often the hero or heroine has to outwit her in order to avoid becoming lunch. She’s not immune to the Hansel and Gretel treatment.

Ivan the Fool (Иван-дурак) – The quintessential youngest-son hero of Slavic folktales, who often appears in stories with Baba Yaga. He’s not so much foolish as simple and naive, and most of his success comes from a combination of dumb luck and/or help from magic horses, firebirds, and other creatures that know a whole lot more than he does.

Leshy (леший) – The forest spirit of Slavic folklore, just as ambiguous as Baba Yaga. He can be helpful, or he might tickle you to death. Also, if you take anything from him — including hospitality — it might come back to bite you in the form of wolves making off with your best cow.

Vodyanoy (водяной) – The uber-creepy water spirit of Slavic folklore, lurking in rivers, ponds, wells, and maybe even that old tub in your backyard? Anyway, he’s responsible for drowning people, and that’s about it. I don’t know any stories in which he is anything but malevolent.

Borscht (борщ) – OK, so, soup isn’t a folklore character, but it’s a traditional Ukrainian/Russian dish that forms the basis of my witch’s recipe. Just as the recipe suggests, it’s best enjoyed with a dollop of sour cream. 🙂

So now, without further ado, my semi-poetic parody on all of that:

Cream of Fool Ivan: A Recipe

To a boiling beetroot stew, add:

a pinch of the skin of the teeth
of mountain air (Caucasus ©, fresh)
four tails of witches sopped in milk of bear
one eye
two cups of twice-minced rain
from a mountain’s shadow (dried)
five field-mice stuffed with labor pains
and a cowherd’s neighbor’s wolf, best full of cow.

Stir in
one tickled-to-death
one drowned-in-a-puddle
and of course, one Fool Ivan
(de-veined; remove the horse).

For garnish, sour cream—two dollops set aside.

Stoke high the fire;
avoid the oven.

I can’t stress that last note enough.


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2 thoughts on “Russian Folklore Poem: “Cream of Fool Ivan: A Recipe”

  1. I find that conjuring a smile through poetry takes a lot more mastery than given credit for – this poem has all of my favorite ingredients (so to speak 😉 ) folklore, fairy tales, magic, and humor. I just love it! <3

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