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Go to Foreigners in Russia / RT projects / Russiapedia / Of Russian origin / Magic tablecloth

Of Russian origin: Magic tablecloth

Mikhail Sukharev Mikhail Sukharev "Magic tablecloth"

Take a look at the picture on the left. Notice anything unusual?

The picnic blanket is filling up with food even though it’s not even been laid down yet! Either someone’s really eager to eat or something special’s going on. 

This is, in fact, no ordinary blanket. It’s called, in Russia skatert-samobranka, or "magic tablecloth". Magic indeed, as is told in the tale "Who is happy in Russia?" by Nikolai Nekrasov.  The tale is about seven Russian peasants who travel the land asking various elements of the rural population if they are happy. In the prologue, a small bird asks the peasants to spare her tiny chick and in return she will show them:

An enchanted white blanket,

And whenever you wish it,

This blanket will serve you,

With food and with vodka:

You need but say softly,

'O blanket enchanted,

Give food to the peasants!'

At once, at your bidding,

Through my intercession

The blanket will serve you.

Сергей Герасимов иллюстрация к поэме Н.А. Некрасова Illustration to the poem of N.A. Nekrasov "Who Lives Well in Russia" by Sergey Gerasimov

All you have to do is spread the blanket on the ground, say the magic words and food and drink aplenty will appear. What’s more, when you’ve finished eating, all you need to do is roll up all the dirty plates, cutlery and crumbs into the blanket and they magically disappear. Really quite useful!

Some commentators have elaborated further on the qualities of various magic blankets. Some may only produce certain dishes or types of food and drink whereas others may produce whatever you want.

But diligence is required. The blankets have feelings too and their magical power is fragile! Here are some useful guidelines for the proper care of your magic tablecloth, should you acquire one:

1. Be grateful - In another Russian folk tale, "Ivan the fool and the pound of salt", Ivan tries to taunt his blanket by pouring salt into the soup the blanket had made for him and then scolding the blanket for being a bad cook. The blanket is so offended that from then on all of the Ivan’s dishes are salty and bitter.

Neglect or ingratitude can result in salty dishes or salt in tea, burnt pancakes, bad cooking of all kinds, misinterpreted orders or foul versions of recipes.

Thanking your tablecloth after a delicious meal is all that’s required!

2. Spillages or stains on the cloth should be cleaned, despite its ability to clear up dirty dishes. If you don’t know the best way to clean the stain, ask the cloth and it will happily tell you!

3. Holes or damage to the cloth should be sewn up or it will gradually lose its magic properties.

Follow these simple rules and treat your magic tablecloth with care and you can travel the whole of Russia without fear of going hungry!

Written by Tom Barton , RT correspondent