The tale of Baboushka comes from Russia. Read the story and then answer the questions. Remember that you can look back at the story as often as you like by clicking the Help button.
Long, long ago, in a forest in Russia, there lived an old woman called Baboushka. She was very house proud and used to spend all her time sweeping, dusting, washing and cooking. She also grew vegetables, chopped wood for her fire and fed her chickens.
One cold, icy day, the villagers were all talking about a bright star that they had seen. Everyone was very excited as they had heard that something wonderful was going to happen that would change the world. Baboushka was so busy scrubbing her doorstep and polishing her furniture that she didn't see the star, nor did she hear what the people were saying.
The next day, as Baboushka was knitting socks, she heard a knock at the door. When she opened it, there stood three kings, dressed in long, velvet robes, and wearing crowns on their heads. 'Baboushka, may we come in?' they asked. Their names were Melchior, Caspar and Balthasar. They explained that they were on a special journey, looking for a new-born king who would save the world. 'Everyone says that your house is the finest in the village,' they said. 'May we rest here a while?'
Baboushka was so proud that they had chosen to come to her house, that she made them welcome. She prepared a very special meal. 'Will you come with us, to look for the new-born king?' they asked.
'Alas, I can't go with you as I have so much work to do,' said Baboushka. 'Besides, I don't have any gift that's good enough for a king.' So the three kings left without her, to continue their journey. Baboushka promised to follow them when she was ready.
After they had left, Baboushka decided to finish her housework and follow the three kings. She found the box of toys she had kept since she was a child. She set to work to clean and mend every toy. Then she swept the floors, polished the furniture and cleared the snow from her path. Finally, she loaded the gifts on her small sledge to give to the baby. She wrapped herself warmly and set off, to follow the three kings.
For days and days, Baboushka trudged through the snow, looking for the three kings. She knocked on doors and asked if anyone had seen them, or the new-born king, but nobody could help her. After a long time, she came to a small town called Bethlehem and stopped at an inn. When she told the inn-keeper her story, the inn-keeper said, 'Alas, good woman, you are too late. A baby king was born outside in the stable, but his mother and father have taken him away.'
Babouska was so upset that she had missed her opportunity that she travelled on, still searching for the baby king. Many people say that she never stopped looking. Every Christmas morning she walks from house to house, and if she sees a child asleep, she creeps in and leaves a toy, just in case it is that one, special child.