Hedgehog Eats Ploughwoman's Lunch

In an earlier post, we saw rather complicated relationships between hedgehogs and turtles (sometimes mediated by their crustacean mutual friends), as depicted in a few Bulgarian/Macedonian and Greek folk songs. The topic, however, is far from exhausted.

The following song, published in 1896 in Volume XIII, page 38, of the SbNU (the Folklore Collection), was collected in the Samokov area of western Bulgaria by D. Ikimov.

The subtitle “Хороводная” under the song's title means, basically, that you can dance to it.

Желва и ежъ Turtle and Hedgehog
Пошла желькьа на оранье, 
На оранье, на копанье;
Упрегнала два гушчера, 
Остен ѝ е льута змиiа.
Понела е башчи (?) ручoк: 
Пугачица и чорбица, 
Чурбицата од мушица.
На срешча ѝ ежо-кьежо,
Наежил се, накежил се,
Пресресна си суа желькьа,
Пригѫрна ia, цальива ia,
Цальива ia, уапа ia;
Изруча ѝ погачица,
Погачица и чорбица.
Разльути се суа желькьа,
Та си оiде на кадиа,
На кадиу говореше:
-- Е кадио, ефендио!
Iа сам дошла да се судим,
Да се судим с ежо-кьежо.
Iа си поiдох на оранье,
На оранье, на копанье,
Та понесох башчу (?) ручок:
Погачица и чорбица.
На срешча ми ежо-кьежо,
Наежил се, накьежил се,
Пригѫрна ме, цальива ме,
Цальива ме, уапа ме;
Изеде ми погачица,
Искуса ми чорбицата.
 А кадия говореше: 
-- Таком Бога, суа желько,
Ти си мома -- дома седи,
Оно -- момче, така чини.
 Разсѫрди се суа  желькьа,
На кадиу говореше:
-- Е кадио, ефендио!
Криво седи, право суди,
Iали стани, iа да судим.
A turtle went to do ploughing,
To do ploughing, to do digging;
She harnessed two lizards,
And used a venomous snake for a goad.
She's brought a lunch for her father (?):
Pita bread and a chorba stew,
A chorba stew made from flies.
She's run across a hedgehog,
He's bristled at her,
And blocked the prim (?) turtle's path.
He hugged her, kissed her,
Kissed her, bit her,
Ate her pita bread,
Her pita bread and chorba stew.
The prim turtle was angry,
She went to the qadi,
And said to the qadi:
-- "Oh Qadi Effendi!
I have come to sue,
To sue the hedgehog.
I went to do ploughing,
To do ploughing, to do digging,
I brought a lunch for my father (?):
Pita bread and chorba stew.
I met a hedgehog,
He bristled at me,
Hugged me, kissed me,
Kissed me, bit me;
He ate my pita bread,
And devoured my chorba stew".
And the qadi said:
"The Lord be with you, prim turtle!
You are a girl - stay home;
He's a boy, he'll be doing things like that."
The prim turtle was angry,
She said to the qadi:
"Oh Qadi Effendi!
If you aren't sitting straight, at least judge right,
Or get up, and I will judge!"

(In accordance with the usual convention of referring to material published in the SbNU, the location of this song is usually abbreviated to "СбНУ XIII, 38". It can also be found, with a somewhat modernized spelling, as Song No. 39 in the book "КНИГА НА НАРОДНАТА ЛИРИКА, От седенките и хората до семейните радости и неволи", eds. Божан Ангелов и Христо Вакарелски).


  • "суа" may be a dialectal variant of "суха" ("dry"), or at least some editions think so; for the lack of a better guess, I translate that as "prim".
  • A qadi was a judge in an Ottoman (Islamic) court, and Effendi (Sir) was a way to address learned officials like that. At the time the song was recorded, Bulgaria has been liberated from the Ottoman rule for less than 20 years (and Macedonia was still under the Ottomans), so no wonder the folk songs still had Ottoman era terms in them.
  • The Turtle in the song is pretty good at declining her nouns: "кадио, ефендио!" is the Vocative (which is still very much alive and well in Bulgarian and Macedonian), and "кадиу" has to be the Dative (which is on its way out).
  • "Криво седи, право суди" (literally, something like "sit not straight; judge right") is actually a Bulgarian (and Macedonian) proverb, which is still in active use (at least judging by the online media). It is listed in plenty of dictionaries as an examlpe, but none of them quite explains its meaning, which appears to be along the lines, "You ought to make a right judgment in a disinterested way, not affected by your personal position". I am sure at all that I am guessing its sense right (or the meaning of the Turtle's "extension" of it). The most usual Bulgarian form of this prover is "Криво да седим, право да съдим," but there are many variants.

A different version of this song is given in the book "ЦУТ ЦУТИЛА ЧЕРЕШВИЦА. МАКЕДОНСКИ НАРОДНИ ПЕСНИ ОД МАРИОВО" (Macedonian folk songs from Mariovo) by БОЖО СТЕФАНОВСКИ (Božo Stefanovski), published by Bigoss in Skopje, 1995.

Кинисала мома желка The Girl Turtle goes out
Кинисала мома желка
во сабота на работа,
при орачо, при копачо.
Ми кренала зелен зелник,
зелен зелник коприварник.
На пат срете лоша среќа,
лоша среќа момче еже,
што потскокна па ја бакна,
што подрипна и ја штипна.
Ми тргнала на судија,
на судија, при кадија:
-Слушај ваму ти судија,
ти судија, ти кадија,
криво седи, право суди,
си кинисав на работа,
на работа во сабота,
при орачо при копачо,
што ме срете момче еже,
што потскокна та ме бакна,
што подрипна та ме штипна!
-Ај од тука, мома желко,
така прават ергените!
A girl turtle
Went to work on Saturday,
To do ploughing and digging.
She brought a green pie,
A green nettle pie.
On her way, she had an unfortunate meeting:
She met a boy hedgehog,
Who jumped and kissed her,
Who lept and pinched her.
She went to a judge,
To a qadi judge:
"Listen, Your Honor,
You Qadi Judge!
You may not sit straight, but judge right!
I went to work,
Went to work on Saturday,
To do ploughing and digging,
Where I met a boy hedgehog,
Who jumped and kissed me,
Who lept and pinched me."
"Go away, girl turtle!
This is what boys do!"

A somewhat different (bowdlerized?) version of the same song recently appeared in a 5th grade Macedonian language textbook:

Кинисала мома желка The Girl Turtle goes out
Кинисала мома желка
да ми оди на орање
да ми оди на орање
да ми носи сладок ручек.
Ја пресретна еже момче
тој ја бутна, ја подбутна
и истури сладок ручек
сладок ручек топеница.
Се налути желка мома
ми отиде кај судија.
Ој судијо, ти кадија
криво седи, право суди.
Јас си одев на орање
и си носев сладок ручек,
ме пресретна еже момче
тој ме бутна, ме побутна,
ми истури сладок ручек
топеница, маштеница.
Што и вели судијата,
што и вели кадијата:
Тој е момче се задева,
ти си мома, седи дома.
A girl turtle went out,
To go to do ploughing,
To go to do ploughing,
Carrying a tasty lunch with her.
A boy hedgehog blocked her way,
Pushed her, 
And grabbed the tasty lunch,
Tasty lunch of Topenitsa.
The girl turtle was angry
And went to the judge.
"Oh  Qadi Judge,
Whether you are sitting straight or not, make a right judgment!
I was walking to do ploughing,
Carrying a tasty lunch with me;
A boy hedghog blocked my way,
He pushed me,
And took my tasty lunch,
Of Topenitsa and yogurt."
What did the judge tell her,
What did the qadi tell her?
"He's a boy, he'll tease people.
You're a girl, stay home."


  • The name topenitsa (топеница) appears to be applied to various dishes in different places. The Macedonian Wikipedia explains that it's a flour product, a bit like pita chips; but Bulgarian recipes for topenitsa describe some kind of a yogurt, cottage cheese and hot pepper spread.

As reported by a Macedonian blogger, this folk song recently appeared in a 5th grade Macedonian language textbook. Besides "philological" questions (about the meaning of certain rare words) students were asked whether they think the judge's decision was right, and how they would try the case. This all (together with some other texts in the same book) made the blogger suspicious of sexist ("misogynist") inclinations of the textbook authors. I guess the Samokov version of the song, which ends with the Turtle's retort to the Judge's "Boys will be boys" pronouncement would have been less objectionable to that modern readers' sensibilities.

P.S. Here's an audio recording of one version of this song performed by the duet of Jonče Hristovski and Trpe Čerepovski (Јонче Христовски, Трпе Череповски) on Youtube.

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