The Chicken Riaba

“There’s this really popular Russian fairytale to tell your kids about the chicken Riaba. So that chicken um…it uh…what do you call it? It had an egg…so it nests an egg? Lay an egg! Ok, so it lays an egg, but that egg is golden. And uh and then again, it’s in the village with the old woman and the old man, so the older married couple. So the older woman is trying to break it and it doesn’t break because it’s golden. And the man is trying to break it and it doesn’t break because it’s golden. And uh…so what happens next, oh my god. See? I remember, I remember it in my heart. So …ok! So here comes the little mouse. So they basically try to break it, it doesn’t work, and then the little mouse runs by and with its tail just whisks the egg from the table. The egg falls and breaks. And then uh, the old woman’s crying, the old man is crying. So what are we gonna do? And then the chicken Riaba tells them, oh don’t cry grandma, don’t cry grandpa. I’m gonna lay another egg for you, which is going to be a regular egg. Which…doesn’t make much sense. So not a golden one, but a normal one. So they’re happy and the chicken Riaba is gonna give them another egg.”

According to my informant, The Chicken Riaba comes from tales her grandparents told her before she could read. She adds that these tales don’t technically have an author, and were typically passed down from generation to generation. While I was listening to this story, I have to admit it made absolutely no sense to me, which I was amused to hear she agreed with at the conclusion of the tale. First, the couple tries to break the egg, but then both man and woman become sad when the mouse breaks the egg. Then, when Riaba offers a much less valuable normal egg in place of the golden one, they are somehow happy. I’m not entirely sure what this märchen is supposed to mean, but my informant seemed to take it all in stride despite her admission that it doesn’t necessarily make logical sense. Perhaps this points to cultural differences; after all, there are many tales, legends, and myths in my repertoire that probably make even less sense than The Chicken Riaba to those outside my culture.