By Maria Gonchar, Language Table Coordinator 

The Russian language table held on January 25, 2019, was devoted to a cartoon. “Hedgehog in the Fog” (Yozhik v Tumane) is a world-famous Russian cartoon based on the same-name book which has already been published in many languages. The cartoon, as well as the book, is about the adventures of a little Hedgehog on his way to meet his friend Bear. This cartoon lasts only for 10 minutes but it raises so many issues to meditate about…

“Hedgehog in the Fog” was made in a new technique for that time (1975) – the “multilevel” cutout animation. A character is drawn and cut into several pieces, creating something like an articulated paper puppet. Different parts of the paper puppet are placed on several glass layers above the main background image. This technique allows to obtain a lively three-dimensional character as well as to use real-life substances, for example water, fog, light etc., to create special effects in the cartoon.

There were many levels of the glass layers used in the cartoon production. In my opinion, many levels also exist in various hidden meanings of this cartoon.

The first level is the main plot. The little Hedgehog is on his way to his best friend Bear bringing a jar of raspberry jam. Along the way, the Hedgehog enters a mysterious fog in which he encounters a Horse, a Dog, an Owl, and a Fish. It all turns out fine. The little Hedgehog got lost in a fog but was then found. No hidden meaning at all – just a happy ending: in the evening the Little Hedgehog and the Bear drink hot tea from a samovar, eat raspberry jam and count stars above their house.

 Second level – a hidden meaning. Somehow very similar to expat spouse’ life. On our way to accompany our spouses in various postings we could feel ourselves in a fog sometimes, don’t we? We meet a lot of different people, we can face a cultural shock, we can begin to think that we are lost… But if there is someone who loves you and waits for you and looks for you in the fog – you just can’t be lost. Hidden meaning – how important to have a place to come to, a place you can call Home. How important it is to do very simple things together, like drinking tea (or coffee 🙂 or counting stars with your loved one. The time you enjoy is not lost.

Third level – a philosophical hidden meaning. You shouldn’t run away from the things that frighten you because you are taking your fear with you. Referring to Dante Alighieri: “Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself within a forest dark”. This cartoon adds: “and in a fog”. The midlife crisis leads to asking questions like “why I am here?”; “is it the right way for me?”

Should I go with the flow? Should I go against the flow? The solution is neither of them – you should go where you want to be. If you have a goal – go to it; if you can’t to go to it – crawl to it! If you even can’t crawl to it – at least lie down in the direction of it.

“Hedgehog in the Fog” received over 35 international awards. The cartoon captioned in English is available on Youtube.