Saturday, February 3, 2018

Shuktugan -- A Soviet children's fable about vigilance and responsibility

Published in the USSR in English in 1979, Shuktugan is a beautifully illustrated children's fable that is meant to emphasize the importance of responsibility and vigilance. The story is written by J. Tarjemanov and is accompanied by striking watercolours by A. Keleinikov.

The fable revolves around the young woodpecker Shuktugan and his grandfather Tuk-Tuk-Babai. Shuktugan spends his days playing while his grandfather protects the woods in which they live from beetles and caterpillars.

Tuk-Tuk-Babai tries to teach the young woodpecker the importance of this task and how he has to take it up as well. But Shuktugan finds the labour of vigilance both arduous and boring and instead of helping his grandfather flies off to see if he can discover some shortcuts around the hard work of keeping their home safe.

After failing in this he returns to find the woodlands in a desperate situation. The invading beetles and caterpillars have overwhelmed his grandfather and nearly destroyed all the trees. A forlorn hedgehog asks "Shuktugan, why weren't you helping them?".

The young woodpecker realizes the error of his ways just as his grandfather arrives leading a whole vast flock of various birds who drive out the invaders and restore the forest.

For a society that had endured the ravages of the Nazi invasion during the Second World War the metaphors and points here are very clear.

(Click on images to enlarge)

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