Ukrainian and Slavic Folktales:  The Origin of the Mole

Jos Zwarts, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Presented here is a retelling of a folktale from Ukrainian and Slavic folklore followed by a brief discussion.  The story has similarities to tales from several different countries, and like them is a myth of the origin of the mole and gives a warning which is very relevant to this day. 

THE ORIGIN OF THE MOLE

This story tells how a rich man, and a poor man once shared a field.  The poor man was humble and respectful and followed God’s laws the best he could.  The rich man was proud and scornful, following no rules but his own.  One year, both simultaneously sowed their allotted parts with the same type of seed.  With the help of God, the poor man’s seed grew healthy and abundant, giving an excellent yield. However, the seed of the rich man, who scorned the Almighty, yielded a poor and spindly crop.

The rich man looked upon the poor man’s yield and grew jealous.  Then, being accustomed to having his way and the best of everything, he unrightfully claimed the part of the field that the poor man had sown, insisting the yield was his. 

See, here,” he said to the poor man, “See how well my seed has grown while your own has grown weak and spindly!”

The poor man was shocked at the false claim and protested.  But the rich man shook his head, refusing to listen to his protestations, and said,

“If you do not believe me, I can provide undeniable evidence of my ownership.  Should you wish to see it come into the field before sunrise, bringing as many witnesses as you choose, and I will give you infallible proof of my ownership for all to witness, and God alone shall be the judge of the matter!”

Upset and bewildered, the poor man went home while the rich man watched him go.  As soon as he was out of sight, he dug a hole in the poor man’s portion of the field and told his son to jump in and hide there until morning, telling him,

“Listen carefully to what I say, my son, and follow my instructions exactly as I tell you.  I will cover you over so that no one will know you hide in this hole.  You must wait here until just before sunrise tomorrow morning, when I, and others, will come into this field.  I will shout out as if speaking to God, asking him to reveal the owner of this part of the field.  You will loudly proclaim that this part of the field belongs in full to the rich man, and it is the other part of the field that the poor man owns.  Make sure you stay hidden in the hole until I tell you otherwise!”

After he was sure his son understood, he covered him over carefully, thoroughly disguising the hole from plain sight, and went home.

The next morning, before daybreak, he returned to the field where the poor man accompanied by a crowd of neighbors to act as witnesses waited. Unfazed, the rich man stood in the center of the disputed part of the field, raised his hands to the sky, and cried,

Oh, great and wise God speak your truth!  Who is the owner of this part of the field where I stand?   Does it belong to this poor man, or I, the rich man?”

His son, hearing his father, shouted back,

“You stand in the rich man’s part of the field with a fine crop growing that you sowed,  and the poor man’s crop that he sowed lies next to it growing weak and spindly.”

The rich man turned and laughed at the poor man whose face had dropped in bewilderment and disappointment.  All those who stood as witnesses were full of awe and wonder, except for one who was not a local man. No one knew who he was, or how he had joined them, but he stepped forward and spoke to the them saying sternly,

“Do not listen to this rich man; he is a cheat and liar!  The part of the field where the good crop grows belongs to the poor man who plowed and sowed it!”

He told the witnesses all about the deception and pulled the camouflage from the hole revealing the rich man’s son. To the rich man’s son, he commanded,

“Stay where thou art, and sit beneath the earth all thy days, so long as the sun is in the sky.” (1)

And the rich man’s son instantly transformed into the first mole.

DISCUSSION

The tale is allegorical and not quite what it seems, giving a fanciful explanation of the origin of moles, while warning those who seek to covet another person’s property to expect unforeseen consequences in the future.  In earlier times families tended to stay together often supporting parents and grandparents through their old age. The loss of such a support would have been a hard blow. The transformation of the rich man’s son into a mole seems like a harsh punishment for the son for following his father’s directions. 

But, if the rich man’s son was only following his father’s instructions, so does it mean the child automatically inherits the parent’s sins?

Maybe not, if the story is considered an allegory.  Children take on much of their behavior from their parents yet are not strictly bound by nature to continue that behavior.  They can, and do, change as they grow older, and this sometimes brings them into conflict with their parents’ values and philosophy of life and sometimes the society in which they live.  If such behavior becomes accepted and practiced from generation to generation, then, yes, the parents’ sins become those of the child.  They also become a continuous source of conflict between citizens, creating an increasing anti-social and dysfunctional society. 

Therefore, wrongdoing must be challenged and replaced by more healthy alternative behavior to prevent this.  Ideally, this should happen at the time of the misconduct or as soon as possible after.  But, unfortunately, sometimes it does pass on through the generations and becomes accepted as the social norm – the share standards of socially acceptable behavior – until someone dares challenge it.  In this light, members of a society are responsible for ensuring dishonest behavior is discontinued as soon as it is recognized.

When parents act immorally it does not make it correct for their children to continue the bad behavior from generation to generation.  The idea may be that rectifying dishonest or harmful behavior, preferably as it happens, or as soon as possible after it is recognized, leads to a more harmonious and fairer society.

Of course, there is much more that could be said, but it is entirely up to the reader to form their own opinions should they wish, or maybe accept it as no more than an entertaining tale.

© 16/03/2022 zteve t evans


REFERENCES, ATTRIBUTIONS AND FURTHER READING

Copyright March 16th, 2022 zteve t evans


Further Publications by zteve t evans

Tales of the Lost, the Drowned and the All-Seeing Eye – Vengeance Will Come!

Available as a Kindle Ebook And Large Print Paperback – Dimensions : 21.59 x 0.48 x 27.94 cm All Images Non-color



Havelok the Dane: Hero-King of Two Realms

Available as Kindle EBook


19 thoughts on “Ukrainian and Slavic Folktales:  The Origin of the Mole

  1. Pingback: Ukrainian and Slavic Folktales:  The Origin of the Mole – Glyn Hnutu-healh: History, Alchemy, and Me

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