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Soviet Classics: Hedgehog in the Fog Posted by on Mar 12, 2010 in Culture, History

There’s a rumor that Russian is much more difficult to learn than English. «Чепуха, господа!» [Nonsense, ladies and gentlemen!] For one, you can learn to read Russian in less than a day since it is a very phonetic language. «Как слышится, так и пишется!» [The way it sounds is the way it spells.]

 Admittedly, we do have our own issues, as with unstressed vowels, when «о» sounds like «а», «е» sounds like «и» and such. Still, the only difference between «корова» [cow] and «карова» [misspelled cow] is in a grade you get on your Russian language test.

 Really once you have all 33 of Russian letters memorized, you can read anything, from street signs to War and Peace (hey, I’m not saying you’ll understand it). By comparison, English is a «кошмар» [nightmare] of illogical spelling; a system that makes mountains of altered meaning out of molehills of the teeniest-tiniest «ошибочка» [small mistake].

 So I just hope that I got the title of today’s post right. Yes, I want to talk about something very dear to my heart – «ёжик» [hedgehog] that roams in «туман» [the fog]. I’m talking about an award-winning cartoon which recounts a story of a little hedgehog taking some «малиновое варенье» [raspberry jam] to his friend «медвежонок» [the bear cub] so they could sit by the bear’s house, drink tea from «самовар» [samovar] and «считать звёзды» [count stars].

 As I said, this cartoon is an award winner, including «лучший мультипликационный фильм всех времён» [the #1 Animated Film of All Times]. Now, that’s pretty big, right? Yet I remember that as a child I absolutely hated watching it.

 Back in the days, we had a nightly children’s program on TV, «на втором канале» [on Channel 2], called «Спокойной ночи, малыши» [Good night, little ones]. When the 15-minute show was over we were herded off to bed. And yet we looked forward to this show as our only predictable cartoon-watching time. And let me tell you, the nights «Ёжик в тумане» was the featured ‘toon were pure misery. We, my brother and I, felt «обманутыми» [cheated] and «разочарованными» [disappointed].

The reason was simple – this «мультик» [cartoon] was exceptionally unappealing to young children. Thinking about it, it was the exact opposite of what kids would be attracted to – bright colors, jokes, easy-to-remember action sequences.

 There are many beautiful animated films in Russia. Unfortunately, many older, Soviet-era, ones do not show well on «чёрно-белых телевизорах» [black-and-white TVs]. It’s always been «загадка» [a mystery] to me since B&W was what most everyone I knew had until late 80’s – early 90’s.

 Ironically, as we grew up, we became more and more enamored with old cartoons in general and «особенно» [especially] with «Ёжик в тумане». Now digitally re-mastered and played in full color, it’s a magical and beautifully animated short, practically «стих в прозе» [a poem in verse].

Many of the phrases from this simple story became «крылатые выражения» [proverbial expressions], including the title itself which took on a meaning of “being emotionally lost or adrift”. There are printed articles and online forums that discuss «философию ёжика» [the hedgehog’s philosophy]. If you are wondering how it is possible to discuss philosophy behind a 10-minute cartoon, here’s an excerpt from one such attempt:

 «Как и Ёжик, мы обманываем самих себя, списывая наше пришествие в Туман на какой-то интересующий нас факт или на обычное любопытство. Даже сами себе мы не можем признаться в правде. Мы лишь хотим скрыться в Тумане от проблем, находя различные отговорки.»

 [Like Hedgehog, we deceive ourselves by attributing our descent into the Fog to some curious fact or common nosiness. We are unable to admit the truth even to ourselves that those are but excuses and we are simply trying to hide in the Fog from our problems.]

 Admittedly, this is not the stuff little children do (or should) contemplate «перед сном» [before bedtime].

 If you want to read the ENTIRE Hedgehog story, of which cartoon is but a small part, you can find it (in Russian) – http://lib.ru/KOZLOW/ezhikwtumane.txt.

 P.S. Two important notes about Russian letter Ё ё:

  1. «Буква Ё – всегда ударная» [Letter Ё in a word is always stressed]
  2. Most of the time, it appears in print without its two “dots”, looking like its alphabet neighbor, letter Е е.
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Comments:

  1. josefina:

    Yelena, I absolutely love Ёжик в тумане, and thus I also absolutely love this post! Great job, once again 😀

  2. Arkadiy:

    What I would like to add, is that this cartoon has somehow become very closely associated with drug culture (comically of course), specifically with the marihuana smokers, possibly due to the ежик’s slight aloofness and general almost psychedelic qualities of the cartoon.
    A life of a cartoon short can never be predicted.

    • yelena:

      @Arkadiy you’re right! I completely forgot this aspect of Ёжик в тумане. As the saying goes: Вышел ёжик из тумана… кончилась марихуана [The hedgehog got out of the fog… marihuana ran out.]

  3. hugo ly:

    I just loved . very tender,
    thnak you

  4. Peggy:

    Brilliant. Can’t wait to share it. Peggy

  5. trudy ringer:

    Will we be hearing from someone living in Russia who would keep us in touch with current trends, new words, social exchanges, how the young people earn money, careers, dropout rate, и.т.д.

    • yelena:

      @trudy ringer Trudy,

      there are a few posts in the pipeline that I think you will like. Most of the times we plan our posts based on the comments we receive on already-posted articles. We’ll plan some more posts for April and May to cover some of the topics you’ve mentioned. By the way, when you say “current trends”, what trends are you particularly interested in?

  6. adel Hussein:

    I love all u post
    Thanks

  7. elizabeth:

    As a russian student I loved this multik because there was so little dialogue …

    What’s with the photo – the mramorny Ё ?

    • yelena:

      @elizabeth Ё – хорошая буква (ёжик starts with ё). Вот ей даже памятник поставили, в городе Ульяновске. Apparently, it is a fairly recent addition to Russian alphabet; it’s only 215 years old (believe it or not, but this is one case when it is known when and where a letter appeared in print for the first time). I think it just might be one of my favorite 33 Russian letters because it’s always a stressed vowel. Stress in Russian words is very unpredictable and any bit of help is great. More vowels should follow example of ё and make up their mind whether they should be stressed or unstressed 🙂

  8. nert:

    what’s this blog about? not helpful at all

    • yelena:

      @nert Nert, sorry this post wasn’t your cup of tea. What kind of info are you looking for? We always welcome readers’ questions and requests for specific topics.