Out on a bit of a wild goose chase to find a vet clinic, we happened across this playground of fairy tales across the street from the Oleksiivska metro.
First up, these three lovely gentlemen, ready for some lunch:
|In reference, perhaps, to the 1975 cartoon How The Cossacks Bought Salt (part of the entire "How the Cossacks..." series).|
And then the quaint cast of курочка ряба (Speckled Hen): Ded, Baba, Mouse, and the Speckled Hen with her golden egg.
|Click here for a YouTube animation of their tale.|
Next, here's a guy that would probably look more familiar to you if someone hadn't broken off his most distinguishing feature-
|Buratino! Known also as Pinocchio.|
There's also a poodle involved, as seen in this fountain at the Kiev Zoo-
|The entire cast of Buratino, including the evil puppeteer Karabas Barabas.|
Speaking of evil, let's talk for a moment about the undisputed Queen of Slavic folklore- Baba Yaga.
Baba Yaga is an old witch, rumored to have an affinity for the taste of children. Like any witch worth her salt, she's of course able to transport herself by air. Here's Baba Yaga in her flying rig:
|Found in a children's park in Yevpatoria.|
Baba Yaga is also famous for her creepy chicken-footed изба (hut).
Back to Monday's trip to Fairytale Meadow...
For westerners, this scene needs no explanation-
- but this might.
Behold Barmaley, the pirate villain of one of the most popular Soviet cartoons, Doctor Aibolit (Dr. Ouch, it hurts!). He's been quoted as saying: "I'm ruthless, I'm bloodthirsty, I'm the evil robber Barmaley! I prefer not chocolate, not marmalade, but small children!" (I asked a Ukrainian friend if Barmaley eats children. The response: "There are different opinions on this issue. I think he does but it was never confirmed.")
Dr. Aibolit, by the way, is another can't-miss character. References to the good doctor's deeds are everywhere, including this set of murals on Revolyutsii street-
Every time I start feeling fairly knowledgeable about Ukraine, some pop culture reference to a skazka or multik comes up and I feel like a novice all over again. To help you avoid the same fate, here are eleven of the most recognizable faces from everyone's childhoods...
1. Ну, погоди! (Well, just you wait!)
The first Soviet/Russian cartoon I ever saw, as this is what our St. Petersburg-born teacher would occasionally show us in Russian 102. There's a great article with more info on this duo here.
|Statues in a Yevpatoria children's park.|
2. Чебурашка (Cheburashka)
Cheburashka is impossible to not notice in Ukraine- he's everywhere.
He's painted on the walls of local playgrounds:
His long-standing identity crisis is often the subject of attention:
|from vk.com. "What am I?"|
|Kids' store in Poltava|
So take a couple minutes to get to know this little guy's story (and note that Cheburashka is not the same thing as chebureki [a tasty meat pastry] and if you accidentally ask for Cheburashka at a restaurant, you'll get a really weird look! It's like asking for a roasted Winnie-the-Pooh with mashed potatoes on the side :p)
3. Ежик в тумане (Hedgehog in the Fog)
What to say?
Really, really strange.
I still see that owl in my nightmares.
4. Колобок (The Gingerbread Man)
Sadly, Kolobok's tale comes to a tragic end:
|Overconfident pastry meets sly fox.|
5. Царевна лягушка (The Frog Princess)
Here's one more recognizable tale (with a reversal of genders in this version).
6. Алеша Попович (Alyosha Popovich)
7. Репка (The Giant Turnip)
8. Иван Царевич и Серый Волк (Ivan Tsarevich and the Grey Wolf)
The verdict? Very, very cool! Mermaids falling out of trees, scientist cats, Baba Yaga... what more could a viewer ask for?
Ivan Tsarevich and the Grey Wolf 2 was released in theaters last year.
9. Сказка о рыбаке и рыбке (The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish)
10. Kарлсон (Karlson)
Karlson is another character everyone here knows.
He was created by Astrid Lindgren, a Swedish name you may recognize as the author of the Pippi Longstocking series. Karlson is not one of my favorites. In fact, everyone in this cartoon is irksome- caricatured adults, a goody two-shoes child, and a obnoxious man with a propeller on his back- but the show obviously appeals to many, because Karlson is everywhere.
|Kharkov playground rules (the parrot is the narrator of cartoon Doctor Aibolit)|
|Flyer in Odessa for "Karlson's New Year Adventure"|
Here's the actual cartoon- maybe you'll enjoy it more than I did.
11. Kот в сапогах (Puss in Boots)
|Wooden carving in Kharkov's Youth Park|
It amazes me that most people my age in Ukraine are familiar not only with all the cartoons above, but also with the same TV shows I watched in the 80s and 90s as a kid.
"No way!" I said to D. "Seriously? You watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles too?"
"Of course! I loved that show! But it was called 'Turtle Ninjas' back then."
Sure enough, he saw all the same stuff (actually more than my parents allowed me watch): Duck Tales in Russian, Rescue Rangers in Russian, Gummi Bears in Russian, Transformers in Russian.
That's why I've been so obsessive in learning about Hedgehog in the Fog, Cheburashka, Buratino, and everyone else he grew up with... it seems only fair to be able to share the same references in Russian that he shares with me in English.
|Змей Горыныч in Yevpatoria, another popular character from folklore.|
But that means, wow, I've got a lot of multik-watching to do this year! : ) Does anyone else want to join the challenge?