Alyosha the Jug

Updated: Dec 4, 2018


Translation / My translation of Leo Tolstoy's short story.


Photograph via Flickr by Markus Schoepke

Alyoshka was the younger brother. They nicknamed him “Jug” because his mother sent him with a jug of milk to the deacon’s wife, and he tripped and shattered it. His mother beat him, and the kids started teasing him with the name “Jug.” Alyoshka the Jug—that’s how he got the nickname.


Alyoshka was small, gaunt, and lop-eared (they stuck out like wings), with a big nose. The kids teased: “Alyoshka’s got a nose like a misshapen potato.” The village had a schoolhouse, but Alyoshka was no good at reading and writing and, anyway, he didn’t have the time to study. His older brother lived with a merchant in town, and from a young age Alyoshka helped his father. Six years old, and already he was at the pasture guarding the cows and the sheep with his older sister, and once he grew a little, he guarded the horses night and day. At twelve, he raked and towed. He wasn’t strong, but he had skill. He was always cheerful. The kids mocked him, but he either laughed or kept mum. If his father scolded him he bit his tongue and listened. As soon as the scolding stopped, he smiled and took to whatever task was in front of him.


Alyosha was nineteen when the army drafted his brother. His father put him in his brother’s place as the merchant’s caretaker. They gave him his brother’s old boots, his father’s hat and coat, and drove him into town. Alyosha was thrilled by his new clothes, but the merchant wasn’t happy with the way he looked.


Read the story in Construction.