Dog Tales by Fred Cartan

Ivan and the Taxes

In the forest, near the capital of Canidov, lived an old farmer dog, Dimetri. He had a big farm and many fields of hay, cabbages and potatoes and servant dogs to help him. He lived in a fine house with stout wooden walls, fine porcelain stoves, fine furniture and a strong wooden fence about the house to keep the forest away. He had strong horses to pull his wagons and fast horses to ride.

He had two strong sons. One was a great warrior. He had gone to fight the enemies of the czar and had not returned. His wife, a beautiful young dog, lived with the farmer and ran his house. The other son, Ivan, who was honest and innocent, helped his father run their farm.

One day, after dinner, the old farmerdog came to his son Ivan. He said, "Tomorrow you must go thru the forest to the capital and take our taxes to the czar." He brought out his iron strongbox and with Ivan and his sister-in-law watching, he counted out twelve gold coins and placed them in a leather bag. He closed the bag with a leather string and placed the bag in the the cupboard in the living room by the stove.

That evening, the daughter-in-law, who had been raised in a poor family and like many poor dogs liked money, began to think. She thought, "Twelve gold coins is a great amount of money. The Czar lives in a great house and has many servants. He does not need all this money." So she got up when all the others were asleep, crept into the living room and went over to the cupboard near the stove and took out the bag of gold coins.

At first she took out one gold coin, and she thought, "The Czar would not miss one coin." But then she thought, "There are still many coins in the bag. The Czar doesn't need them all, he would not miss two coins," so she took out another gold coin. And so she continued until she had taken out six gold coins. She lifted the bag. She thought, "The bag is too light. Ivan would notice." So she took six copper coins and put them in the bag and tied it up. Then she put the bag back in the cupboard and took the six gold coins and crept back to her room.

In her room, she handled the six gold coins and thought. "I must put these coins in a safe place but, if I put them in the house, some dog may find them. I must go out into the forest and hide them. So she crept out of the house and went to a oak tree in the forest nearby. She looked about carefully. She looked north and looked south. She looked east and looked west. She saw no one, not a dog or a wolf or a fox or a bear. But she did not look up. She did not see Stefan Alexandrovich, the woodsraven, who was in a branch overhead with his head under his wing. She thought, "This is a good hiding place." So she put the gold coins in a hollow in the oak tree trunk and covered them with leaves. "Now," she thought, "They are safe." Then she crept back into her bed and went to sleep.

Stefan, the woodsraven, had been asleep. But the noise the daughter-in-law made, hiding the coins had wakened him. He looked down and watched her as she hid the coins. "That is a peculiar thing." he thought. "But all dogs are peculiar." So he ruffled his feathers to make himself warmer, put his head back under his wing, and went to sleep.

Next morning, the farmerdog and his family got up. The farmer said, "Ivan, take my best horse and ride to the capital and take these taxes to my friend the Czar. But be careful, there are thieves in the forest and they might steal this money. The daughter-in-law will make you a lunch." And she did. So Ivan went out and saddled his father's best horse and put the lunch and the bag of coins in his saddlebag and then rode thru the forest towards the capital of Canidov. It was a warm day, and Ivan saw no one, not a dog, nor a fox nor a wolf nor a bear.

Ivan came to a stream. He took a drink of water and sat on the bank of the stream and ate his lunch. The day was warm and the bees were buzzing. Ivan fell asleep. After a while, he woke up, looked about, he saw no one, not a dog nor a wolf nor a fox nor a bear. He got up, got on the horse and went along his way.

Ivan came to the Czar's house. There was a strong wooden bridge across the stream in front of it. It was a fine tall wooden house with many windows all with glass in them. There were many chimneys rising from the roof. There were fine wood carvings of vines and fruits over the door and they were painted in bright colors.

There was a soldier in front of the house. Ivan came to him and said, "I have come to see the Czar. I must pay my father's taxes." The soldier said, "That is fine. The Czar likes to get taxes. Tie your horse to that railing, and then follow me. I will take you to the Czar."

Ivan tied his horse to the railing, took the bag of coins and followed the soldier into the house. There were many servant dogs in the house. They all wore the same colored clothing. Some were fetching and carrying and cleaning but most of them were only trying to look as is they were doing something.

Finally they came to a big room. The Czar sat in a big chair behind a table with many papers on it, all with writing on them. The soldier said, "Czar, this is Ivan. He has come to pay his father's taxes." The Czar said, "That is fine. I need taxes." He looked at one of the papers on the table. "Your father's taxes are twelve gold coins. Do you have them?"

"I do," said Ivan. "They are in this bag." Then Ivan put the bag on the table. The Czar said, "I must count them, and then write a letter to your father to tell him that his taxes were paid." He then opened the bag and poured out the coins onto the table.

The Czar looked at the coins. He looked at Ivan. He looked mad. "There are only six gold coins here," he said. "Where are the other six?" Ivan looked at the coins. "I don't know," he said. "There were twelve gold coins last night."

The Czar said, "Ivan, did you take the other six coins?" Ivan said, "No I did not!" The Czar said, "Did you come straight here from your fathers farm?" "Yes," Ivan said. "I came straight here and I saw no one, not even a dog, or a fox, or a wolf or a bear." "Did you stop?" asked the Czar. Ivan thought. "Yes," he said, "I stopped at the stream and ate my lunch." He thought some more and said, "I fell asleep, but it was only for a moment."

The Czar thought, "Perhaps thieves took six gold coins while you were asleep and left six copper coins -- very odd." He said, "Ivan, you are responsible and should be punished. But your father is my friend, and your older brother was a brave warriordog and fought for me. I will not punish you this time. But this must never happen again or I must punish you!"

He wrote on a piece of paper, blotted it and then gave it to Ivan. "Take this back to your father," he said, "and tell him what happened. But remember what I said. Now go home!"

Ivan rode sadly back thru the forest. "What had happened?" He thought. "What can I tell my father?" He stopped at the stream where he had eaten his lunch and looked all about. But he saw nothing. On the ride back he looked to see if anyone was about. But he saw no one, not a dog, nor a wolf, nor a fox nor a bear. He arrived back at the farm and met his father and gave him the paper from the Czar.

His father asked him what had happened. Ivan told him. His father said, "Someone has taken the six gold coins, but I don't know who." He asked the daughter-in-law if she had seen anyone or anything that was strange last night. She said, "I saw no one but you, Ivan, and the servants." The farmer said, "We must search the house." They did, and found nothing but much dust under one of the beds.

The farmer looked sad. "The Czar thinks that Ivan may have taken the gold coins. I do not think you did. However we must all watch and look for strangers. We must pay the taxes again in six months. This must not happen again."

Six months later, the old farmerdog called Ivan and the daughter-in-law into the living room. He opened up the iron strongbox and took out twelve gold coins. He put them in the same leather bag. He tied it with the same hide string. He put the bag into the cupboard near the stove. He told Ivan, "Tomorrow you must take these taxes to the Czar. Go to bed and sleep tonight so you will not fall asleep tomorrow."

Just as six months before, the daughter-in-law thought about the gold coins in the bag. "I am sure," she thought, "the Czar does not need those gold coins as much as I do. He is rich and I am poor. But I will only take one." And, as before, she crept into the living room and opened the cupboard and took out the bag. She took one gold coin from the bag. "The Czar did not punish Ivan last time, perhaps he does not care. I do not think he would miss another." And she thought again how badly she needed the gold coins. So as before she took out six of the gold coins and replaced them with six copper coins.

She crept out of the house, and went to the old oak in the forest. She looked north and south, she looked east and west but could see no one. She put the six gold coins she had taken into the hollow in the oak with the other coins and then crept back to bed and to sleep.

The next morning Ivan got up and ate his breakfast. There was snow on the ground. It was cold, so he put on his fur coat and cap and went out to saddle his father's best horse. He brought the horse to the house.

His father was waiting. He gave the bag of coins to Ivan and told him, "Take these taxes to the Czar and do not stop on the way." The daughter-in-law gave him two rolls and some cheese to eat for lunch. He put the lunch and the bag of coins in the saddlebag and rode off through the forest to Canidov. As he rode thru the forest, he looked all about for thieves. He did not see anyone, not a dog, not a fox, not a wolf, nor a bear. He came to the stream and looked all around and again he saw no one. He stopped and ate the rolls and cheese. But he remembered what his father told him and he did not go to sleep. He crossed the stream and early in the afternoon he came to Canidov and rode up to the fine wooden house of the Czar.

The soldier said, "Hello Ivan. What do you want today?" Ivan said, "I have come to pay my father's taxes. Take me to the Czar." The soldier said, "Get down and tie your horse to the rail. I will take you to the Czar. He likes taxes."

Ivan got down, tied his fathers horse to the rail, took the bag of coins and followed the soldier into the Czar's house. There were fires in the fireplaces and the house was warm. The servant dogs were still in the house. They were all dressed alike. Some of them were fetching and some were carrying but most of them were still trying to look like they were doing something.

The soldier led Ivan into the big room. The Czar was setting at the big table and there were still many papers with writing on them on the table. The soldier said, "Czar, here is Ivan. He has come to pay his father's taxes."

The Czar said, "Welcome Ivan. I am glad you came to pay your father's taxes. I like taxes. Put them on the table." Ivan emptied the bag of coins on the table.

The Czar looked at the coins. He looked at Ivan. He looked mad. He said, "The taxes are twelve gold coins. There are only six gold coins here. Where are the rest of the taxes?"

Ivan looked at the coins. "I do not know," he said.

The Czar said, "The last time you did not bring all the taxes I told you that I must punish you if it happened again. So I must." He looked at Ivan. "Soldier," he said, "Ivan did not bring all his father's taxes so he must go to the forest at the edge of Canidov and work feeding my pigs and caring for my cabbages for six months! Take him away!"

The soldier put a leather collar on Ivan and took Ivan away to a very small hut with a very small stove in it. There were pigpens beside it and cabbage fields around it. "Ivan," he said, "you must stay here. I will take your father's horse back to him and tell him what you have done. If you serve the Czar by feeding his pigs and caring for his cabbages you may leave in six months. But if you leave before six months I will come and beat you with birch rods." And then the soldier left.

Ivan was very sad. He was sorry that his father would be told that he was now a serf and cared for pigs and cabbages. He wondered how the gold coins had been taken and he wondered who had done it.

So for the next five months, through winter and spring, Ivan fed the pigs and planted the cabbages. He looked for friends to talk with, but no one came, not a dog or a wolf or a fox or a bear. Each day and each night Ivan fed the pigs and watched the cabbages. Each day he gathered wood for the little stove from the forest.

One morning, after he finished feeding the pigs, he heard a voice. It said, "Young dog, please help me." Ivan looked about. There was a little old ugly ladydog. She was holding on to a tree branch. "I am sick," she said, "the dogs in Canidov beat me when I asked for food."

"I will help you," Ivan said. "It is wrong to beat old ladydogs." He carried her into the little hut, and gave her some pork and cabbage soup. He gave her some of his black bread. He heated water on the little stove so that she could wash her injuries. He gave her a blanket and let her sleep next to the stove.

In the morning, he made more soup for her before he fed the pigs. He gave her more of his black bread. She slept all that day, and after Ivan fed her again, she slept thru the night. Next morning, after eating more pork and cabbage soup she said, "Thank you, young dog. I am feeling better. Tell me how you came to be a pig and cabbage serf. You do not look like a serf." Ivan told her his story. "Hmm," she said, "perhaps I can help you."

While Ivan was feeding the pigs, the little ugly old ladydog went into the forest and she looked about and took an odd wooden whistle from her coat and blew it three times. In a few minutes, a large black forest raven flew up and perched on a branch in front of her.

"Hello, Magda Ionoeva," the old ladydog said. "I want you to help me." She told the raven of Ivan's troubles. "Fly to the home of young Ivan's father. See what you can learn." Magda Ionoeva flew off.

The next day, the little ugly old ladydog was waiting in the forest when the raven returned. "Hello Magda Ionoeva," she said. "What have you learned?"

"I flew to Ivan's fathers's farm," she said. "I talked with Anatoli the sheep. He said he had seen nothing unusual but he told me that I should find Lev, the owl. Anatoli said that Lev knew many things. Then I flew looking for Lev Owl but as it was day and Lev sleeps during the day, I could not find him."

"That evening, I flew through the forest calling and finally Lev Owl answered. I told him what I was looking for, and he scratched his wingfeathers with his beak. Then he told me that the farmer's daughter-in-law was acting strangely, and that when he was flying about at night finding his dinner, he saw her leaving the house at odd times. He did not know what she was doing but that perhaps I should talk to the local ravens. He turned his head and looked at me with his big eyes. Lev said that ravens are very nosey, and may know what is going on.

"I sniffed at him, thanked him for his advice, and next morning I started talking with the local ravens. Most of them knew nothing but one raven, Stefan Alexandrovich, did have a tale to tell.

"Stefan said, 'Often at night, the daughter-in-law creeps out of the house and goes to the old oak next to the broken birch tree. She looks north and south and she looks east and west but she sees no one. But she doesn't look up and see me. Then she reaches into a hollow in the oak and takes out round pieces of metal, holds them in her hand, then puts them back, and returns to the house.' I thanked Stefan and flew back here. Is anything I tell you useful?"

"It is, Magda Ionoeva," the ugly old ladydog said. "Thank you. I have some almost unspoiled apples for you that I got from the pigs feed."

The little ugly old ladydog returned to the little hut and when Ivan returned she said. "I must leave tomorrow but I have some information that may prove that you are not a thief. When you have served your six months, and the soldier has taken off the collar, this is what you must say and this is what you must do." And she told Ivan.

When the six months were over, the soldier came and took off the collar. He gave Ivan a loaf of brown bread and two sausages and told him that he must walk back to his home. Ivan put on his coat, and said goodbye to the pigs, for he was a polite young dog, and started walking home.

When Ivan came to his father's farm, it was almost dark. His father and his sister-in-law greeted him. After getting him settled and fed, they listened while he told them the story. They asked him, "What happened to the gold coins?" He said, "I don't know." Then he said, following the instructions of the little ugly old ladydog, "But I may soon find out who did it."

He said, "When I was walking home through the forest, I came to a bear, whose leg was caught in an iron trap. The bear said, 'Ivan Dimetrivich, I fell into this trap when I was just walking by. Please help me and perhaps I can reward you.' I said, 'I will try to help you. I do not like traps.' So I opened the iron trap and the bear pulled his leg loose.

"The bear licked his leg, because it hurt, and then he sat up and said, 'Ivan, you have helped me. I will try to reward you. Would you like some nice white grubs? I know of a rotten log with many grubs in it.' I said, 'Thank you, but dogs don't like white grubs.'

"Then the bear said, 'Would you like some honey? I know of a hollow tree with honey in it.' I said, 'No thank you, I like honey, but the bees will sting me if I try to take their honey.'

"The bear then said, 'What would you like?' I said, 'I would like to find the gold coins taken from my father's taxes.' The bear said, 'I don't know why dogs like gold coins. They are not like grubs or honey. You cannot eat them but, since you like them, I know where some gold coins are hidden in a oak tree near your father's farm.'

"I said, 'Tell me where the oak tree is.' The bear did and I thanked him and said goodbye and walked to our farm. Tomorrow, we will find these coins." And they all went to bed. Ivan pretended to sleep.

After a few hours, the daughter-in-law got up, she looked at Ivan and she looked at the old farmer. "They are both asleep," she thought. "I must go get the gold coins and hide them before they take them from me." She got up and crept out of the house.

Ivan was only pretending to sleep. When he saw the daughter-in-law leave he got up and awakened his father. "Come," he said, "We must follow the daughter-in-law. But we must be very quiet and not let her see us." They did and they followed the daughter-in-law.

The daughter-in-law crept out to the old oak near the broken birch tree. She looked north and south and she looked east and west, but because Ivan and his father were quiet and hid themselves, she did not see them. She took the gold coins from the oak tree.

The farmer and Ivan came out from hiding. "Where did you get those gold coins?" they asked. She looked at them and answered, "I took them from the bag of coins after you had gone to sleep. I am sorry, but I thought I needed the coins more than the Czar did." The farmer looked sadly at her and said, "We must take you to the Czar. He will decide your punishment."

The next day, Ivan, his father, and the daughter-in-law got into their horse drawn cart and went to Canidov to see the Czar. They came to the tall wooden house with glass in all the windows and many chimneys on the roof. The soldier stopped them. "Why have you come to see the Czar?" he asked.

Ivan said, "We have found the person who took our taxes and the Czar must decide the punishment." "Good," said the soldier, "Follow me."

He led them into the house past the servant dogs all dressed the same. They were trying to look busy. They came to the door of the big room. The Czar looked out. He looked at the servant dogs. All the servant dogs began to be very busy. "Czar," said the soldier, "you must decide the punishment for the person who stole your taxes."

The Czar looked at Ivan, and at the old farmer dog, and at the daughter-in-law. "Very well," he said, "All of you come in. Dimetri, tell me the story."

The old farmer explained how the coins were taken from the bags before Ivan had brought them to Canidov. He then gave the missing twelve gold coins to the Czar.

The Czar looked at the daughter-in-law. "Is this true?" he asked. She nodded her head and cried.

The Czar asked her, "Do they give you enough food to eat?" She said, "Yes." He asked her, "Do they make you work too hard?" She said, "No." "Do they give you enough clothes to wear?" She said, "Yes." The Czar said, "Hmm" and he thought for a while.

The Czar said, "You tried to steal my taxes. You made the old farmer here very sad. You caused me to punish Ivan when he was innocent. You must be punished! Because your desire for money made you dishonest, you made Ivan serve me for six months feeding my pigs and caring for my cabbages. It is only just that you do the same. When you finish, if you are sorry, you can go back to the farm and will be treated as a proper daughter-in-law."

And that is what happened.