The Horse with the Pink Mane (Astafiev)

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The horse with a pink mane
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Summary of the Short Story
from the Collection « The Last Bow»
Microsummary: Grandma sent her grandson to buy berries to sell them and buy him a gingerbread man. The bully tricked him into stuffing the basket with grass and putting berries on top. On discovering the deception, the grandmother scolded her grandson, but she bought the gingerbread.

The action takes place in the 1930s. The division of the retelling into chapters is conventional.

Grandmother's Promise

Grandmother Katerina Petrovna learned that the neighborhood kids were going for strawberries and sent Vitya with them.

Katerina Petrovna — Old woman from a poor Siberian village, very strict, raising her grandson.
Vitka — Narrator, Katerina Petrovna's little grandson, a round orphan, mischievous, his grandmother often punishes him; Astafiev himself can be guessed in the character.

She promised: if her grandson filled the birch bark box with berries, she would sell them along with the ones she picked herself and buy a "horse-shaped gingerbread." Gingerbread in the form of a horse with mane, tail and hooves, covered with pink icing, provided honor and respect and was their cherished dream of the boys of the whole village.

The family of Levontius' neighbor

Vitya went to pick berries with the children of Levontius, who was working at the logging site.

Levontius — the narrator's neighbor, a man with many children, a drunkard, a beggar.

The Levontiev family lived poorly. Unlike the other yards, there were no outbuildings near their little house, not even a bathhouse, and they bathed at their neighbors'.

Every spring they surrounded the house with a wretched rampart, and every autumn it went to the furnace. Grandmother reproached her neighbor, called him a bum, but Levontiy, a former sailor, answered that he loved freedom - the empty unfenced land around the house reminded him of the sea.

Every fifteen days or so, Levontius would get money, and then a feast would break out in his house, full of always hungry children, and Aunt Vasyona would run around the village and pay the debts.

Vasyona — Levontiy's wife, quick-tempered and silly.

On days like this, Vitka would sneak over to the neighbors' house by any means necessary. Grandma wouldn't let him in. "There's nothing to eat these proletarians," she said. At Levontiy's the boy was welcomed and pitied as an orphan.

...and such kindness enveloped the people that everything fell out on the table, and everyone spontaneously helped me and ate through their strength, then they sang, and my tears flowed as a river...

Levontiev's "eagles" were dragging out a mournful song in thin voices, and Uncle Levontiev was picking it up in his thick bass.

The money earned by the neighbor ran out quickly, and Aunt Vasyona ran around the village again, borrowing money until the next paycheck.


Vitya had managed to pick a few glasses of strawberries when the Levontius boys got into a fight - the older one noticed that the others were picking berries not in their dishes, but in their mouths. During the fight, the berries scattered and got crushed. Getting angry, the older one started picking the crushed strawberries and eating them, saying: "So you can have them, but I can't have them!"

When the berries were eaten, the Levontiev boys made up and decided to go down to the river. Just then they noticed that Vitya had some strawberries left. Sanka, who "was meaner and meaner than all the Levontiev kids," said the boy was a miser and was afraid of his grandmother, and "dared him" to eat the berries. Then Vitya and the others went to the river.

Sanka — One of Levontiy's many children, a bully, always hungry.

Vitka didn't remember about the strawberries until the evening. It was ashamed and afraid to go home with an empty box, because the strict Katerina Petrovna was not going to "get rid of lies, tears and various excuses". Then San'ka taught the boy to fill the box with grass and sprinkle a handful of berries on top. It was this "trick" that he brought home.

Deception Revealed

The grandmother praised her grandson for a long time. She did not pour over the berries - she decided to take them straight to town to sell. In the street, Vitya told everything to Sanka, who demanded a roll from him as payment for his silence. The boy didn't get away with one loaf and dragged him until Sanka was full. At night Vitya could not sleep, agonizing because he had cheated his grandmother and stolen the rolls. Finally, he decided to get up in the morning and confess everything.

Waking up, Vitya found that he had overslept - his grandmother had already left for town. He regretted that his grandfather's cabin was so far from the village. Vitya's grandfather was an unhurried man, he never swore at anybody, it was nice and quiet at his outpost, and he would not have harmed his grandson.

Having nothing to do, Victor went fishing with Sanka and after a while he saw a big boat sailing out from behind the cape. A grandmother was sitting in it, threatening her grandson with her fist. Seeing this terrible picture, the narrator went on the run.

Grandma, I'm sorry!

Vitya did not return home until evening, and immediately went into the pantry, where a summer bed had been made for him out of mats and an old saddle. Curled up, he felt sorry for himself and thought of his mother. Like his grandmother, she went to town to sell berries. One day an overloaded boat capsized and Mom drowned. "She was pulled under the rafting bonus," where she got caught in the scythe. The boy remembered how his grandmother had suffered until the river let his mother go.

Waking up in the morning, Vitya found that his grandfather had returned from the back country. He told him to ask Grandma for forgiveness. After scolding him to death, Grandma took the boy to breakfast, and then told everyone about "what her boy had done" and how she had almost sold a fake to a cultured lady in a hat.

...she rushed back and forth ... doing her various things, and every time she ran past the pantry door, she did not forget to remind me:
- You're awake, you're awake! I see everything!

And my grandmother brought a horse with a pink mane to her grandson after all. Many years have passed since then, the grandmother and the grandfather are dead, and the narrator's life is "drawing to a close," but he still can't forget "Grandma's wonderful carrot - that wonderful horse with a pink mane.

The retelling is based on revision of the story from the collection of Astafiev's works in 15 volumes (Krasnoyarsk: Offset, 1997).