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The Northern Mountains

  1. The Northern Mountains

Grusha is optimistic that she would be received warmly by her brother. When she arrives at Lavrenti’s home she is so weak, exhausted and sickly that she almost collapses. Lavrenti is afraid that his wife will not allow Grusha to stay because of her ‘fatherless’ child and so he makes up a story that Grusha is on her way to her husband’s home in the mountains.

Grusha lives in her brother’s home for six months while Lavrenti organizes to find a husband for her. Lavrenti finds a woman whose son is ‘dying’ and they agree to marry Grusha to Jussup. Jussup’s mother discovers that Grusha has a baby and demands to be given more money which Lavrenti does.

The wedding takes place in Jussup’s bedroom and is conducted by a drunken Monk whom Jussup’s mother hires cheaply. The Monk marries Grusha to Jussup but tries to inquire about the child. Jussup’s mother tells him to keep quiet and threatening to tell the neighbours that he had been seen drinking in a tavern.

The visitors are served with cakes while they talk among themselves. There is also entertainment by musicians who are invited by the Monk without the mother-in-law’s knowledge. Some of the visitors inform the rest that the war is over. Grusha drops a cake pan when she hears this news and kneels down to pray with the silver cross in her hands.

Jussup, the ‘dying’ man, surprises everyone by ‘recovering’ from his condition and waking up. He is immediately angered by the amount of food that her mother is giving the visitors. He orders all the visitors to leave and kicks them out. Grusha is shocked on realizing that she has a husband and yet she is waiting for Simon.

When the mother-in-law scrubs Jussup’s back, he claims that this is work for Grusha. Jussup does not appreciate Grusha and reprimands her at every opportunity he gets. He demands that she performs her wifely duties because buying a woman in town is expensive. As Grusha is stuck with Jussup, Michael grows very fast while the face of Simon grows dimmer in Grusha’s memory.

Michael is playing with other children while Grusha washes clothes along the river. The playing children enact the beheading of the Governor. Michael is told to play the role of the Governor but he refuses and insists on being the one to ‘chop the Governor’s head’. Grusha observes the children playing and then turns to see Simon who is standing on the other side of the river. Simon fears that he may have come back too late – especially after seeing a child’s cap on the ground. Grusha admits that there is a child but she denies being its mother.

Simon does not believe Grusha and he demands his silver cross back. Suddenly, the other children come back shouting that the soldiers have taken Michael away. Some soldiers come and inform her that they have been ordered to take the boy back to the city. She tries to beg them to leave him but they refuse. She eventually decides to follow them to the city though she is afraid of meeting Natella – Michael’s real mother.

 

Discussion points

  • Is Simon right to demand his silver cross back?
  • Like father, like son.” Do you agree with this statement in relation to Jussup and his mother?

4. The story of the judge

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