Special Sub-Topic: "Enchantment"
|Ivan Smetski, called Vanya, is an ordinary ten-year-old boy until his father hits on a plan to escape the Soviet Union. The family braves religious persecution while seeking a visa after converting to what faith?|
Judaism. To flee the Communists, Ivan's parents return to the religion of his father's grandmother and his mother's parents. The family takes the surname Shlomo, changes young Vanya's name to Itzhak, and awaits a coveted visa to Israel (though they plan to go to the United States instead). In the meantime, Vanya's father loses his job and the family's apartment due to anti-Semitism.
|In the final weeks of their wait for a visa, Vanya's family goes to stay on the farm of a relative. Who are their generous hosts?|
Cousin Marek and his wife Sophia. The Smetskis/Shlomos work hard on the farm to repay Marek's and Sophia's hospitality, but Vanya has some spare time to explore the ancient forest on Marek's land. It is there that he first sees the sleeping woman, covered with leaves, on a pedestal in the center of a deep and leaf-filled pit. It is there that he runs at a glimpse of a monster moving through the leaves. But the scene haunts his dreams, and he knows that one day he will return.
|Fifteen years later, the Smetskis are settled into American life in upstate New York. Dr. Smetski is a professor of linguistics at Mohegan University and Ivan is one of his graduate students, competing in track and field in his spare time. Then he falls in love. Who is the young woman he asks to marry him?|
Ruth Meyer. Ruth is also a student at Mohegan University, a feminist Jew who enchants Ivan when they meet at the wedding of a mutual friend. Their courtship quickly progresses to engagement, to the dismay of Ivan's mother Esther. She is persuaded that Ruth is not the woman her son is meant to marry.
|Just after his engagement, Ivan returns to Ukraine in order to work on his doctoral thesis. After some months of research, he visits his relatives' farm before heading home -- and returns to the woman sleeping above the leaf-filled pit. But as he watches her, he is attacked by the monster guarding her, and must fight back against what frightening beast?|
An enormous, stone-throwing bear. We discover later that this creature, sensibly named Bear, is the old god of the long winter and of the Russian people. Ivan cannot defeat him in a contest of strength, but when he runs along the edge of the pit the bear must follow below, and it is a simple (if tedious) matter for this track star to prevail in a contest of endurance. Ivan eventually manages to put out one of Bear's eyes and leap across to the awakening woman.
|The woman on the pedestal awakes and reaches for Ivan; the creature below is making threatening noises and is gearing up to pull Ivan down in order to kill him. She pleads with Ivan in an dead language, and Ivan understands and makes the proper response. The creature leaves. How did Ivan understand the woman he now knows is called Katerina?|
With his father, Ivan has studied a related dead language, Old Church Slavonic.. Katerina hails from the small kingdom of Taina in 9th-century Ukraine. She speaks proto-Slavonic, an ancestor of an ancestor of modern Ukrainian. Luckily, the written language Old Church Slavonic is closely related to Katerina's language, and so Ivan finds himself surprisingly well-prepared for Katerina's world. The content of Katerina's plea, you ask? Well, it seems that if he wanted to call off the Bear and finish breaking the enchantment, Ivan had to declare his intention of marrying her ...
|Katerina guides Ivan back to the medieval kingdom, Taina, where she is a princess. There he learns that her people face a frightening enemy: the witch whom they call the Widow, or the Pretender, to avoid drawing her attention. What is the name of this villainess from Slavic fairy tales, infamous for her cruelty and her house with chicken legs?|
Baba Yaga. Baba Yaga, who rules her kingdom through fear after having slain her first husband, now has her eyes on Taina; she is the reason that Katerina wound up sleeping in modern Ukraine, guarded by Bear (Baba Yaga's new husband). I don't remember any of this from the Baba Yaga stories that haunted my bedtimes as a child, but I do remember the house with chicken legs and the impossible tasks she was fond of setting her "guests." Not someone you want to tangle with!
|Ivan has some trouble adjusting to medieval Taina. For example, the king insists that he convert to Christianity if he is to marry Katerina, and there doesn't seem to be a way out of the engagement. Whom does Father Lukas assign to tutor Ivan in the Gospels?|
Sergei, the crippled novice. Sergei is a crippled young man who has become a reluctant acolyte of the church, primarily because it seems to be the only way he can make himself useful in a 9th-century agrarian society. Father Lukas is initially quite cruel to him, seeing his deformity as a blot on God's perfect creation, but eventually Sergei's intelligence and bravery prove to the people of Taina that God made no mistake creating him.
|Of course, Ivan has other problems in Taina besides religion. There's a respected man there who had long planned to marry Katerina and become king himself, and naturally this man is no friend of the interloper from the future. Who is this dangerous individual, who is later turned traitor by Baba Yaga?|
Dmitri, knight of the kingdom. Dmitri is a violent and hot-tempered man, but his loyalty to King Matvei had been unquestioned. This is because he had expected to become king himself, through Katerina -- and when this plan fails, he is open to treason. Ivan, with his twentieth-century runner's body, appears weak and effeminate to the people of Taina, and Dmitri cannot stand the idea of losing the kingship to such a man.
|Katerina and Ivan learn of this treason on their wedding day, and they flee back to the twentieth century. This time, it's Katerina who is the fish out of water! But she is comforted and welcomed by Ivan's farming relative, who turns out to be what ancient Slavic deity?|
Mikola Mozhaiski, god of the winds and farms. Mikola was a peasant god, closely identified with the people of the soil. The constellation Westerners know as Orion was known as the plow to ancient Slavs, who taught that Mikola had flung it into the heavens. His cult evolved into the cult of St. Nicholas as people converted to Orthodox Christianity. (The incorrect answers are somewhat more famous Slavic gods.)
In Card's fairy tale, Katerina comes from a time when ancient gods walked the earth even as Christianity was spreading; she remembers Mikola Mozhaiski as having bounced her upon his knee. Mikola is immortal (and his wife is, luckily, "immortal by association"), but for the last thousand years he has seen his powers dwindle as the people he protects have forgotten him.
|Ivan and Katerina are distressed to learn that their enemy, the Widow, has followed them to modern times. They fly to America to stay with Ivan's parents, hoping that will throw her off their track while they come up with a plan to defeat her army back in medieval Taina. While in America, they study with what person who -- surprisingly -- turns out to be an accomplished witch?|
Ivan's mother, Esther Smetski. Esther's uncanny talents have been passed down from generation to generation, since before even Katerina's time, although she refined her skills in adulthood by learning in Kiev from an elderly neighbor named Baba Tila. In fact, her mother and sister had cast spells to conceal themselves from the Nazis who would have killed them (although they weren't able to protect Esther's father and brothers). Esther makes charms and amulets to help protect Ivan, Katerina, and their people in battle. She helps them plan out their attack on Baba Yaga, and defends them and the household from their enemy's incursions. But she plans to be the last witch in their family: her spells work because they draw on the old gods, whose powers are fading every year.
I hope you've enjoyed this quiz. Ivan's and Katerina's dramatic showdown with Baba Yaga is well worth reading -- I highly recommend this book!
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