The Tzar and the Gypsy — 2003

The Tzar is confident that he now looks young — until he sees his face in the mirror

This 23 pound pumpkin illustrates a Russian folk tale I learned as a child from a Classics Illustrated comic book.  In my version, the Tzar has fallen in love with a Gypsy girl, and insists she marry him. She says she’s sorry, but he’s too old for her.  He responds that, though he looks old, his heart is actually very young.  She then tells him that, among her people, it is said that immersing one’s self in hot mare’s milk for five minutes will allow a person’s face to look as young as his heart.  The Tzar, delighted at the chance to show his youth, orders a cauldron to be set up in the square, filled with mare’s milk, and heated.  He leaps in, and holds his breath under the surface until the man at the left (who is secretly the girl’s lover) signals to the Tzar to come up by beating a large spoon against the cauldron.  The Tzar emerges triumphant — but then sees he face (unchanged, of course!) in the mirror the girl is holding, and is crestfallen.  “I had no idea my heart was so old! Go, you may marry whomever you wish!”

The Gypsy girl’s lover, stirring the pot