Monday, October 26, 2009

Why Women Lost Their Rights

This is an actual Russian folktale found in the book An Anthology of Russian Folktales, translated and edited by Jack Haney. The tale was recorded in 1969 in the village of Варфоломевка. The teller of this version was Ukrainian.

When Jesus Christ and Peter were walking the earth, women were in charge. Once they dropped into a village to a certain man's house and asked him to let them in to spend the night. "I would let you in, but I'm afraid of my wife."

They persuaded him and the man was weak: he was persuaded. "Lie down over there beneath that bench, he said. (There used to be benches but now we have chairs and couches, but then there were just benches.)

So they lay down to sleep. Jesus Christ was beneath the bench and Peter was on the edge. The mistress came home. "Who are you? What are you doing here?"

"Those are some passersby who asked to spend the night, and I let them in."

"Who gave you permission? Why did you let them in?"

And then she started in. The mistress beat them and beat them, then beat them some more, as much as she could. She was exhausted and sat down to rest. She took Peter and started to let Peter have it. She beat him and beat him, as she wished. She again sat down to rest. Peter thought, "Wait, she won't get me underneath the bench. I'll hide beneath a bench and push Jesus Christ out and He can get his share."

When she was well rested, she started to give the second one his. She knew she had beaten the one on the edge, and the other one was underneath the bench, so she got him out and started beating Peter again. But Jesus Christ was asleep and heard nothing at all.

In the morning they left, Jesus Christ was walking with Peter, and Peter turned to Jesus Christ: "Oh Lord, take away women's rights," and only in these years of the Revolution has the woman won her rights, neither above nor below her husband, but as his equal.

I'm going to go ahead and blame the atrocious grammar on translation. But isn't this a great story? Women lost their rights because they very nearly beat up Jesus. Oh, those Russians.

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