Monday, February 14, 2011

A Russian Enigma: Cheburashka

When in doubt, turn to the folk for an explanation. After all, folk music, as Bob Dylan said, is "weird, man, full of legend, myth, Bible and ghosts." And Cheburashka (Чебурашка). He's an adorable little half-bear-rodent character who lived in a tropical forest until he ended up falling asleep in a crate of oranges bound for Russia. As one woman in a Moscow shop on the Arbat told me, "I don't know what it is - like Russia, it's an enigma."

Whatever Cheburashka is, his appeal has spread far beyond the simple story Eduard Uspensky wrote in 1966. In it, Cheburashka, which translates as "toppled" or "roly-poly", makes friends with Gena, an "awesome alligator" in the song below, but who in actual fact is really a crocodile.

Adoration has spread throughout the motherland and he's been adopted by the Russian Olympic Team...

Chebu has been their mascot since 2004 and is currently vying for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games:

Now he's big in Japan...

...and has even become food for a bentō!

What else to do, but take over as an international revolutionary icon?

Viva Chebu!

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