Monday, March 21, 2011

Ёжик в тумане

This is a post about a Russian and Ukrainian celebrity named Yozhik, or Little Hedgehog. Ёжик в тумане - Little Hedgehog in the Fog - is a short animated film from 1975 by the Russian Yuriy Norshteyn, based on a Russian folktale. Some have called the film the greatest animation of all time. That is quite an achievement.

I really like this story. It is beautiful and thought provoking. While western animators were producing violent drivel, the Russians, albeit Communist, were producing this visual poetry. Like any good poem, it is open to interpretation. These are some of the online comments people wrote about it:
"You need to watch closely to understand the meaning of the story. At the beginning, when the hedgehog is talking to himself, he's predicting what will happen when he gets to the bear's house. This means he has made the same journey enough times to know exactly what will happen. This time is different because he went out of his way, and because of that he lived a small adventure. He experienced fear, kindness and even had a near death experience, all of which has changed the way he sees life."

"I feel that the hedgehog represents all of us. She's going on a journey that she's gone on before, however in this instance there is fog. Her path is not completely clear. She experiences new things. She loses something important to her, only to find it again. She makes friends. She experiences the the fear of mortality before she can go one and continue living to meet the bear and eat her raspberry jam. It's a representation of life in story form. Like any good fairy tale."

"I think this is a story of a compassionate answer to absurdity. The hedgehog finds in the 'unfamiliar' (the absurd) the value of compassion, first in wondering if the horse will die, then from the dog who helps for no reason, and the fish who rescues him from despair. When he returns to his daily life he is now so changed that what once energized him to the point of forgetting fear, now holds no meaning and compassion for a horse means more then counting stars."

"Everyday he meets with the Bear. Very daily. It is so customary that he isnt aware of the owl stalking him. He is more worried about what he will do and say with the bear. Once he gets into the fog (the unfamiliar) he becomes more open-minded to his surroundings. He finds scary things and helpful things. Its kind of saying that 'This is the world. There are good things and bad things will happen, but don't be afraid.'"

"We are insignificant, uncomprehending little creatures in a world of inscrutable mysteries and unapproachable ideals. And we are left to others' goodness to get through our darkest hour. So be good."

"I always thought that barely discernible fish was immensely symbolic. That dark water rippling... gives me the chills every time."

"What is the point of life? The point is the amazing journey that anyone can experience in a seemingly normal setting. Just by the introduction of the fog into the hedgehog's environment, his world for him became mysterious, uncertain, even dangerous. Yet it was still the same place he called home, but through his eyes everything was different."

Like Little Hedgehog, I experienced the way that fog makes the familiar unfamiliar. On Jan. 21, 2009, I had flown into Odessa from Kyiv by myself at 9:00 at night, long after dark, in heavy fog (I blogged about that day here). I didn't want to pay the exhorbitant taxi prices at the airport and the buses had stopped coming to the airport for the day, so I thought that I would just walk to a differenct bus stop, about a mile away. It was very foggy and dark. After about 10 min. of walking I chickened out and went back and got a taxi. It was very creepy walking on dimly lit streets in heavy fog. I did not want to get lost.

Anyway, there is a monument to the Little Hedgehog in Kyiv. According to this story in the Kyiv Post, it was unveiled literally the day before my fog adventure in Odessa. If you are in Kyiv, or going there, make it a point to visit and get your picture taken with a celebrity that almost everyone knows from their childhood. It is next door to the St. Sophia monestary. Fly to 50°27'4.92"N, 30°30'50.15"E in Google Earth or your favorite mapping app to see where it is. If you use Google Earth, you can even view a 360° panorama of the square.

Watch the short film and see what you think. For more information you can read this Wikipedia article and the Internet Movie Database.


MoserUpdates said...

Glad you posted this. We were told about this from missionary friends who gave Eli a hedgehog stuffed animal. The story is so cute!

The McEacherns said...

I loved the part when he's floating in the river. Thanks!