Fear has big eyes
A little chipmunk called Senya was wandering through the forest in search of a home.
Of course, he already had somewhere to live – his parents had a small hole under a large pine stump. There they have food, a bedroom, and everything else that they needed.
But every year young chipmunks have to begin to live on their own. Senya knew that if the whole family stayed in the same hole, there wouldn’t be enough room for everyone. After all, every year he had more and more brothers and sisters…
So, Senya went off in search of his own home. Autumn was on its way, so he didn’t have much time to find a burrow, and store some supplies for the long winter ahead.
At first he was very frightened. He was alone in the wild forest, with no brothers and sisters to play with. He saw a burrow under a pretty stump, but when he stepped inside, it turned out that it belonged to a mouse, Shoo, and his sister Masha.
How scared he was! His heart pounded as he came across an unfamiliar beast, looking at him from under the ground. Shoo himself was frightened, because he thought that Senya was a tiger. As they say: fear has big eyes!
They’re friends now. But then something terrible happened…
Senya was walking through the forest and thinking about his friends. He could hear different noises, and could smell different smells. Young chipmunks are defenceless ‒ even an owl could scare him. Not to mention a sly fox, or a huge bear. What if he came across a bear behind that huge upturned root of a giant pine tree? It had fallen during a hurricane, and now its roots stuck out in different directions, like the shaggy hair of a witch. Bears can wait for you behind roots like these!
Senya decided to avoid the tree. He started jumping from stump to stump, from trunk to trunk, looking into old hollows and various holes in the stumps along the way. Maybe there was a suitable burrow for a house close by?
He jumped and jumped, but then he fell into a hole! There was moss on top of it, and under the moss was a pit…
He fell on something slippery ‒ cold, but alive! This creature suddenly hissed and then slid away quickly. Senya’s eyes got used to the darkness, and he saw an evil, angry snake!
The snake hissed at Senya and blew on her tail. Senya guessed that he had landed on the snake’s tail, which had made her so angry.
– I’m very sorry! Senya stammered. – It was an accident! I jumped, and fell through the moss at the top of your home. Please don’t eat me!
– Oh, you silly chipmunk! The snake hissed, waving her squashed tail. – You need to look before you leap. Who are you, anyway?
– Me? My name is Senya, – the chipmunk replied. – And who are you?
– Grass snake. Just Grass snake. That’s my name. And it’s also my surname – she said, and curled up into a ball.
The snake’s body rustled, and Senya froze again with fear. What if she attacked him?
But instead she shook her head and crawled away somewhere. Then she turned around and, grinning, asked:
– Are you coming with me? Or are you going to stay there?
A minute later they were outside together…
Senya shook the earth from his fur and was about to run away. But when he looked at his new acquaintance, he changed his mind. The snake was small and beautiful. She had two yellow eyes, and in her eyes there were two more… eyes!
Senya was amazed! He had never seen forest creatures with four eyes before! But then he realised that the extra eyes weren’t eyes at all. They were just two large yellow spots on the snake’s head, above her real black real eyes that glittered in the sun…
‘Of course!’ thought Senya. ‘Fear has big eyes!’
– Do you live here? – he pointed at the snake’s destroyed nest.
– I used to live here! – muttered the snake, swaying. – Until you fell on my head!
– On your tail… Senya corrected her, embarrassed. – And now you can’t live here?
– No. Now I have to look for a new nest, – the snake replied.
– You know, I’m also looking for a new home…– Senya said. He was happy for some reason.
– Why? Have you been kicked out of your house? – asked the snake, surprised.
– No! Senya cried. – That’s just the way it is with us chipmunks. When we grow up, we leave home…
And he puffed out his chest proudly.
– Well, – grinned Grass snake. – First learn to look where you are walking, and then you can look for a home.
The Grass snake shook for a little while, and then suddenly said:
– Maybe we can look together, you and me? I saw an old empty badger sett nearby. It’s just right for you. And we will find something near it for me.
Senya liked the idea. He wouldn’t didn’t have to look for a home any more. And besides, he was afraid of falling into someone’s nest again. He wasn’t scared of the snake any more. It would be more fun in the forest with her around. He was still a very young chipmunk…
And the friends rushed onwards, in search of new homes!
Senya the Chipmunk and a daily routine
After the snake had helped Senya to move into the old badger sett, he began to feel much calmer.
Senya made a storeroom in the hole, where he would keep his nuts, herbs, mushrooms and berries to last him through the long winter. He built shelves out of dry twigs and leaves.
He liked working. When you work, you have no time to think that you are alone, and will be all alone through the cold winter. Senya liked that the badger who had lived here before him had covered the floor with large dry leaves.
‘What a neat badger’ Senya thought, pulling out the old, slightly rotten leaves, and changing them for new ones.
A magpie saw him doing this.
– Young man, you should be ashamed to climb into someone else’s house!
Senya fell over in surprise when this grumpy voice rang out above his head.
– Well, It’s not someone else’s house any more! – Senya answered angrily. – It’s been empty for a long time. Now I’m going to live here!
– I’m going to tell everyone what an invader you are! – the magpie promised. – You could have consulted with the elders!
– And who is the elder here? Senya asked.
– I am! – the bird said, adjusting the feathers on the wing with its beak. – I look after everything around here.
– Hello then! – Senya laughed. – I didn’t know that you were the elder. Auntie Snake didn’t tell me. She just brought me here and told me to live here.
– Oh, that terrible snake! – the magpie croaked, jumping on a branch. – She is a terrible creature! Crawling everywhere, scaring everyone!
Senya was surprised. He had come to like the snake. But he knew that there was no sense in arguing with the magpie. Instead, he politely asked:
– Pardon me, Aunt Magpie! May I continue my work?
Without saying a word, the magpie rushed away somewhere, croaking indignantly as she flew.
Senya continued his housework. Just as he was just finishing covering the floors with leaves, he heard familiar voices outside:
– So that’s where he has hidden himself!
The voice belonged to a girl. And this girl could only be Masha, the sister of Shoo!
Senya jumped out of his home like a bullet.
Shoo and his sister, the pair of mice, were standing in front of him. They were examining the entrance to Senya’s hole.
– Hello, little chipmunk! – the mouse waved with his paw. – We came to see you in your old hole, we wondered where you had gone! Your family told us that they didn’t know. But then the magpie told us we’d find you here. Did you upset her or something?
– Oh, her! – Senya waved. – I am very glad that you came! Come in and see what a house I have now!
Shoo and Masha admired Senya’s badger sett for a long time. And then Masha offered to help him settle in.
The friends carried dry leaves onto the floor, brought twigs for shelves, and moss on the bed. In less than an hour it was very cosy. And then they heard a familiar voice again:
– Well, well, well! And no one thought to invite us to the housewarming?
Olya and Polya, two squirrel sisters, were standing next to the entrance.
–If it wasn’t for Aunt Magpie we would never have found out about your new house! – Olya said, as Senya and his friends went out to meet them.
– We have some gifts for you, – said Polya, and handed Senya a large cedar cone.
– Come on, come in!
The squirrels also spent a long time examining the house. Then they all sat down at a new table, made by Shoo and Senya, and together they ate the cedar cone.
How glad Senya was to see his friends! He couldn’t admit to himself that he was sad to be alone. But now he was very happy to have some company!
– Is it true that you sleep all winter? Shoo suddenly asked Senya.
– Not really, – Senya smiled. – Mum says that everyone wakes up several times to eat. You know how we love to eat! – he laughed and rubbed his tummy.
As the friends were saying goodbye, Olya and Polya offered to help Senya to gather his winter supplies. Senya felt more comfortable now, realising that he had friends nearby, and he wasn’t alone!
Senya the chipmunk and the scary night
It used to be so comfortable: Senya could bury his nose in his mother’s side and fall asleep. Sometimes he would kick with his paws when he would dream about racing with his brothers and sisters.
And today …
Senya tossed from side to side. The moss was uncomfortable: there were a lot of spruce thorns in it. And it was stuffy in the house.
Senya spent his first ever night alone.
In the evening he cleaned up the hole. He had nuts and mushrooms for dinner and then fell asleep.
The day had been just wonderful! He went to bed as early as he could. Everything seemed so cool that he wanted to dream about it all immediately.
But it didn’t happen like that!
He closed his eyes, plugged his ears, and breathed deeply, to fall asleep. And there was still no sleep…
Of course, there wouldn’t be any sleep! Overhead, something was rumbling on a big stump. Senya felt like his hole was about to collapse! His bed was shaking too.
Senya had never heard or seen anything like it in his little life. He wanted to get outside, so that he wouldn’t be covered with earth. But he was afraid to move. He thought that someone was about to grab him by the collar, and pull him into the darkness. This ‘someone’ was snuffling noisily. It became quite scary!
Senya plugged his ears with his fingers and tightly squeezed his eyes shut.
Nothing helped! Someone was still clinging to him.
Then Senya realised! You can be afraid for a long time and nothing will change. It’s better to go ahead with your eyes open and come what may!
This decision pleased the chipmunk, and he immediately opened his eyes. He began to turn his head. There was no stranger in the house! But one thing he realized right away – he was snuffling himself! Because he was lying with his muzzle against the very wall. And there was also a spine sticking out of this wall, which got hooked on his shoulder and did not allow him to turn around.
And there were no more secret enemies and terrible monsters in the hole!
It turns out he was scaring himself!
Senya was so amused and emboldened that he even ventured to look outside to find out what was rumbling overhead.
He pushed aside the door, which he had woven from twigs and moss, and leaned out into the street.
And at that time, where the sky should have been, there was now huge darkness, it flashed so that Senya squeezed his eyes shut! Following this flash, thunder rang out a few seconds later! The earth trembled.
Senya realised that it was just an ordinary thunderstorm, and that there really wasn’t much to be afraid of. He had been scared because he didn’t know why the ground had been shaking. But now he knew! He had seen thunderstorms many times when he lived with his parents. It wasn’t as scary then as it had been now. After all, back then he had been with his parents.
But now Senya has become an adult himself. And adults are not afraid of what cannot harm them. So Senya was no longer afraid of thunderstorms. He just stood at the entrance to the burrow and admired the beautiful lightning, which flashed in the sky from time to time.
And then he went back to his bed. Two seconds later he was already soundly asleep.
Senya the Chipmunk and Santa Claus
Senya worked hard all autumn. His supplies were replenished. He liked to look at the pantry: he had laid mushrooms, berries, plantain leaves, nuts and lingonberry leaves on the shelves.
Several times Senya went back to his old house, and tried to convince his parents to exchange burrows. After all, they had such a big family!
His mom and dad came to visit, and purred with admiration. But they flatly refused to swap homes.
Then he ran off to visit the snake. He was just bursting with joy that he had such a lovely home. Senya invited the snake to visit, but for some reason she did not come.
Senya got used to living on his own. And then winter came. One morning snow filled up the entrance to the hole so much that Senya could barely open the door.
Then the New Year arrived. Senya was unhappy.
He was lying on his bed, looking at the ceiling and dreaming that someone would come to visit him.
It would be nice if the mice, Shoo and Masha, came. He could have invited the squirrels, the sisters Olya and Polya…
But he did not have time to invite anyone to a party!
All chipmunks sleep in winter, and Senya fell asleep too. He became sleepy so suddenly that he almost forgot to close the entrance to his home. Tired but satisfied, he collapsed on a soft bed of moss and birds’ feathers…
He woke up only for the New Year. Chipmunks usually wake up three times during the winter, to eat, before going back to sleep again. This way the winter always goes fast.
Senya sighed! He needed to set his table and celebrate…
Even if his friends wanted to come to visit him, they would not be able to find his home under so much snow. So Senya would have to celebrate the New Year alone.
He brought several dry cranberry leaves from the pantry. These were plates for the New Year’s table.
A few minutes later, some maroon cranberries appeared on them. In the middle of the table, on a leaf of blueberries, Senya laid out the main delicacy – finely chopped pieces of dry grapes!
The table was set. He was salivating noisily – everything looked so appetising! But there were not enough pine nuts for dessert.
And there were no friends to share it all with!
Senya sat down, closed his eyes, and asked Santa Claus for a miracle to happen. He even imagined how his house would soon be filled with the cheerful voices of his friends. Oh, how Senya wanted them to be sitting at his table, eating the pickles he had prepared. In the big room there was even space to dance. He didn’t want any gifts: friends are the best thing you can have at a party…
But could it be possible?
Senya sighed again, and put a piece of mushroom in his mouth.
And then someone knocked on the door!
Senya was so surprised that he almost choked on his meal. How can someone be knocking at his door? Surely no one could have found his home under all this snow!
Senya thought that perhaps it could be an unwelcome guest – a fox or a cranky bear. When the bears could not sleep in the winter, they wandered through the forest and looked for chipmunk nests, to steal their food! Foxes could also smell chipmunks’ footprints in the snow.
Senya was afraid. For some reason, he asked Santa Claus for help once again. He didn’t know who else he could ask.
There was another thump on the door. Someone outside was snuffling and breathing heavily.
But Senya was a courageous chipmunk. And that’s why he decided to fight! He always kept a small stick at the door for fighting away intruders. And now the time had come to use it…
He grabbed the stick and rushed into the darkness, towards the noises. There was no way that a bear could fit into his hole anyway.
With a swing, he hit someone with the stick…
– Well, how’s that for hospitality? – someone cried out in a familiar voice. – First you don’t open the door to your friends, and then you try to fight them!
Senya was stunned – he couldn’t believe his ears! The voice belonged to Shoo, his best ever friend!
– You’re here! – said Shoo, brushing himself off busily. – We found your home! If it wasn’t for Masha’s nose, we might have walked straight past.
Senya couldn’t stop looking at his friend.
– What are you walking for? – said Shoo. – Open the door, the girls must be frozen!
Senya opened the door, and Shoo, Masha, Olya and Polya tumbled into the hole.
– Here’s a gift! – sang Polya, and shoved a bunch of beautiful leaves into Senya’s arms.
And so the fun began! Everyone told Senya how hard they had been looking for him; that Masha had seen his footprints in the snow, and how they had found his emergency exit just in time for New Year.
Senya was rushing between the pantry and the main room, carrying treats for his guests. He was so happy that he wanted to hug and kiss every one of them! He wanted them to stay in his home and live with him: after all, the badger’s sett had enough room for everyone. Senya was so happy he could have cried.
Just then he stopped dead in his tracks. He realised that Santa Claus must have arranged this whole celebration for him! And so a miracle happened – the kind that only happens in wonderful fairy tales.
Senya smiled and whispered:
– Thank you, Santa Claus!
And rushed off to have more fun with his friends.
Senya the chipmunk and Kolya the squirrel
Senya listened. He thought that someone could be timidly knocking on his door.
He was surprised. A fox wouldn’t knock.
Shoo would just bang on the door with his paw.
Masha would knock with her fingers.
But this noise was like someone scratching. It must be someone quite small or quite weak.
Grumbling to himself, Senya shook himself awake and went to open the door.
At the door stood a small, cold … squirrel!
– Kind chipmunk! – he whispered. – Please let me come inside and warm up!
He was shifting from paw to paw.
Without saying a word Senya invited him inside. He was in shock!
– Where have you come from?! – he said, looking at his unexpected guest. Then, without waiting for an answer, he took him by the paw and led him to the bed:
– Lie down here, and warm up! I’ll get you something to eat. Then we’ll talk.
The squirrel jumped timidly onto a bed made of moss and feathers. He sat down on it and began to look around.
Senya brought a few nuts, some mushrooms, a couple of sprigs of fern, and a sprig of cranberries for dessert. He put them down on his table.
Then he looked at the squirrel, shook his head, and brought all the food to the bed. His guest looked so tired, he couldn’t even sit at the table.
– Please eat, don’t be shy! – Senya said. – You haven’t eaten for a long time, have you?
The squirrel nodded his head and gently pulled a cranberry towards him. A child is a child – they always start with the sweet part of the meal.
The squirrel was clever. Pushing aside the lingonberries, he began to eat the nuts and mushrooms instead, while snacking on the ferns. It was clear that he was already stocking up for the winter. His eyes were drowsy: another minute and he would fall asleep right on top of the plates.
– My name is Senya, – said the little chipmunk. – And who are you? Where have you come from? And where are you going? Tell me everything!
The guest’s name was Kolya. He, his mother and some other relatives lived somewhere nearby. Kolya was two months old; without his mother noticing, had climbed out of their hollow to run after her. But then he fell off a slippery branch and tumbled painfully into the snow. When a big bird with a white belly flew by (Senya immediately knew it was Aunt Magpie), Kolya got scared, and ran through the snow and into the bushes. And there he had got lost.
Kolya the squirrel had spotted someone’s small footprints in the snow, and followed them. He had come to a big snowdrift, with a little door in it. He knocked on it, and here he was, now sitting with a huge plate of lovely food in front of him. But we wanted to find his mother again.
– Will you help me, Uncle Senya? Kolya asked, after he had finished his story.
– Of course, Kolya, let’s do this! – Senya said to the squirrel. – But for now, get some rest. It’s warm here, there’s food, and no one to be afraid of. And I’ll go get my friends and tell them about you. They are squirrels too – I’m sure they’ll figure something out. I’ll close the door from the outside. Understood?
Kolya nodded his head, and then fell onto his side and began to snore!
Senya ran to the pantry and brought some more nuts – what if Kolya wakes up hungry? – and packed his bag for the road. He had to run to Olya and Polya before it got dark. Fortunately, they didn’t live very far away. And they always knew the latest news from the forest. If a mother squirrel was looking for her son, they would have heard about it.
After locking the door from the outside and sprinkling it with snow, Senya rushed to see his friends.
They were at home. As soon as they saw Senya, they told him that a disaster had happened to a squirrel family not far from here – a little boy had disappeared. The mother had searched everywhere, but couldn’t find him. She thought that her Kolya had been eaten by a fox or a marten – there were lots of them in the forest in winter. Olya and Polya were overjoyed when Senya told them his news!
They decided that Olya would run to Kolya’s parents, and Senya would go back to his home with Polya. After all, what if Kolya tried to run away again?
When they got there, Kolya was still asleep. How little a child needs – to eat well in the company of an adult, and to be where it is warm and safe.
They didn’t wake him up. They quietly ate some nuts and waited for Olya.
But it wasn’t just Olya who came. No one even knocked on the door – it suddenly burst open, and in rushed another big squirrel. She immediately rushed to the bed and grabbed Kolya.
Senya thought she was going to strangle him. But the mother only squeezed him tightly, and felt his paws and head. The little baby squirrel was still very sleepy, and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. But he immediately recognised the warm and comforting smell of his mum.
Senya suspected that as soon as Kolya got home, his new friend would be in trouble for leaving his nest. But for now, it didn’t matter.
After saying goodbye to his guests, Senya decided not to wake up again until spring! The holidays were over, and his friends had matters of their own to attend to.
Ten minutes later, Senya the chipmunk was quietly snuffling, enjoying a beautiful dream.
The director of the school, Lyudmila Kolesova, gladly agreed to hold drawing classes with the children.
And that’s what happened!