Folktales > Simple Ivan

Try It! When the Act!vated Storytellers' perform Simple Ivan on stage they don't use any words, just pantomime. Try it yourself with a group of your friends. See if you can "tell" the story together without using any words, just movement.

Long, long ago in Russia – a hundred years ago, or maybe a thousand, who can say? There lived a boy named Ivan.

This very simple minded boy was sitting around one day. His mother noticed him. "Ivan" she said, "Go out and get some fresh air."

"Nah," he said, "Too boring."

His mother held a coin in front of his nose. Ivan immediately jumped up. His mother pretended to throw the coin out the door, but secretly held it in her hand. "Now,"she said, "Go find the coin."

Reluctantly, Ivan stepped out. Now, he thought, where shall I go first? He decided upon the field. At the field, he saw two workers shoveling. He asked them if they had found money. "No" said one, "but if you do our work for us, we'll pay you." Ivan refused. They told him to quit wasting their time. So Ivan looked for the money around their feet – and got tangled up in one of the workers feet! The second worker kicked him out of the way, while the first one yelled.

Kicking Ivan

Ivan ran back to his house and returned to his seat.

Just then, his mother walked into the room. "Oh, Ivan." she said, "Did you find the coin?"

"No"

"Why not?"

Ivan had to explain what happened.

"Oh Ivan" his mother sighed. "When you see somebody working like that you say 'Good job! Keep it up!'"

So Ivan, set out again to find the workers . . . but he got lost in the forest. Before long, he saw a funeral. So he walked up to it. And he said "Good job, Keep it up!" The people there showed Ivan the casket. He shrugged and told the dead body "Good job, Keep it up!" The people there were so angry, they chased Ivan away.

Back at home, Ivan's mother was dusting and cleaning when who should jump in but Ivan! "Well" she said, "Look what the cat dragged in! How are things?" So, Ivan went over what had happened. "Ivan" she said, "If you're at a funeral, and everybody is crying, then you cry too."

"Oh," said Ivan "Well, why didn't you say so?" And with that, he set out into the forest to find the funeral.

But he never found it. Instead, he wound up on the other side of the forest . . . at a wedding. So Ivan ran through the isle, up to the bride and groom . . . and cried. The bride stuck her roses in his mouth.

Flowers in mouth

So Ivan ran home with roses in his mouth. And, once again, his mother demanded an explanation. So, once again, Ivan told her what happened. "Oh, Ivan" she sighed. She produced his flute. "When you're at a wedding, you play your flute, you don't cry!" So Ivan stepped outside.

And he walked toward the field. And he saw that it was on fire. So what did he do? He played his flute. Two other people were busy trying to put the fire out. They pointed to the fire, trying to communicate with Ivan to help put it out. Ivan, misunderstanding, turned and played his flute for the fire! In a couple of minutes the fire was stopped. The other two people started stomping down the ashes. Ivan thought they were dancing to his music . . . so he started dancing too! The people gave him thanks-a-lot looks. One even shoved a bucket over Ivan's head!

So Ivan wobbled home to his mom. After they got the bucket off he had to explain once more what happened! "Ivan" she sounded frustrated "If there's a fire, you put it out!" "Oh, Gotcha!" said Ivan. Once more, Ivan set out. All of a sudden, he saw two campers roasting a chicken. Well, the thought. There is a fire, so I shall put it out! He did. And an angry camper chased him all the way home.

Ivan's mother was just about to go to market to buy some vegetables . . . when in ran Ivan . . .and a chicken came flying after him! And once more he explained things. This time, his mom just grabbed a pile of books, set them on his lap, and left for the store.

A chicken?

~The End

Simple Ivan is available on CD. Get yours at CD Baby!

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About this Story

There are many versions of Simpleton or "Noodle-Head" stories from around the world, they feature a young person trying to follow an adult's advice, but somehow they get it wrong. But in the end, they often gain wisdom and good fortune. Notice the first sentence, it is the Russian equivalent of "Once upon a time . . ."

@ Your Library

For more Simpleton Stories check out books at your local library. Also in the 398 section (if your library uses the Dewey Decimal System) and you'll find folk tales from all over the world. Look for titles like:

  • Lazy Jack
  • Juan Bobo (audio version available at CD Baby)
  • Noodleheads
  • The Jack Tales ~by Richard Chase

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