Zeleidoscope: The Many Lives of a Dvorovoi


Jun 4, 2017
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A series of small stories (six for now; later there may be more) that I started in 2019 and got translated from Russian recently.
Almost every drabble is inspired by posts from various people and various places around the web over the years. Plus a bit of my own fanon about the Muppet anatomy, about where Zeliboba came from before he settled down on Sesame Street, and what wild animal features he has, despite being generally a gentle giant. (Kind of like Miyazaki's Totoro, if you wish.)

Depending of the drabble, Zeli may be a huge living spirit with magical abilities (...well, as far as his age and skill allow him, at least), a cute plush toy, or both at once. But he always remains himself - a nine-foot-tall, shaggy, curious childish giant from the magical world.
*I may not remember EACH AND EVERY post that inspired me word by word, but will explain or quote them briefly where they apply.

*Nota bene: Themes close to PG level get brushed in "The Lesson" and "Not a Gift". It's not Zeliboba's fault that he ended up in each of these situations, but fully the humans'. I am only observing and trying to imagine how the Dvorovoi would possibly act and help himself if he could, is all.


The Guardian of the Playground
Before Sesame Street, he lived in the Blue Mountains – Azuleirángo, or Zelirángoo, as the locals called them.
The name for the color azure, azúli, had long ago been smoothed by their tongues to the smoother zieli, and later to zéli – same way a river pebble gets smoothed by water.

On one side of the Blue Mountains lived the muppet spirits that resembled him – not all of them in appearance, but all in being supernatural. On the other side lived the ordinary muppets: what magic they had in them was only enough for their blood to be sparkly blue and their appearance resemble soft toys, but not for anything else.
He knew and remembered equally well the inhabitants of both sides; and just as well he knew that he could return to them at any time, so they would not be missing him for long.
He got two gifts from his homeland: a lush coat made of pieces of sea, forest and sky, with a lining of forget-me-not blue, and the name “Azure Mischief” that, for both humans and muppets, sounded the same way: Zélibóba. After all, *"eibóaba"* is Sesamese for "mischief-maker”.

The Town started to cozy up to him very soon. Having become a Dvorovoi – a guardian spirit of the Sesame Street Playground – he accepted the Town’s own gifts: sneakers (formerly halves of a split-in-half white stone) and countless ties, ties, ties from his neighbors who were only happy to know that their Dvorovoi liked such a trifle: to wear a bright tie around his neck, new every day.

The thing he could never fully understand, however,
were humans.

The Shelter
(A piece of his origins story that somehow became a separate drabble.)
For some, he was a warm summer night that could come and hide them within itself. For some, he was a quiet lake where they could fall asleep easily and don't notice their own transformation. Berries and nuts lay into him like in the soft earth to sprout as blue and golden fur later. Neither of them had a reason to be afraid of it – just to wait for it to come, like for a new day, so no one – be it a creature of forest, lake or sky – had any fear of the young spirit.

And he was growing, shooting up, strong with their strength and life, and only his fur that was the color of the bright summer sky was a sign of his actual young age – and even so, only the fellow guardian spirits of his tribe could know it. To everyone else, Zeliboba would have seemed a grown-up giant, with a booming voice and menacing black eyebrows.

If only they knew how much this giant himself would like to snuggle up to someone – like he used to snuggle up to his father. But in the meantime, it always turned out...

...that the big one, the shelter, the asylum, had to be him. Food was found whenever his body asked for it – sooner or later; sometimes becoming food already inside of him, and before that, looking hopefully into his eyes, hoping each time for the same thing: an embracing blueness and peace.

The Mama
(Inspired by a post from a family-themed forum: a woman learning how to properly carry a baby in a sling. The big Zeli plushie acted as a "training dummy" because he is about the same size and almost as anthropomorphic).
...She should have nectaries like those on my Dad's muzzle, Zeliboba thought. Once again, he seemed to see himself as a little cub clinging to his father's furry back: free to climb forward, free to hold onto his blue mane or long ears; long whiskers hang off Dad's muzzle over the very shoulders – thin, light, cat-like whiskers, each one with a white blossom at the end, and each blossom hiding nectar in it. (They grew before I even magicked you up, Dad used to tell him. They opened when I picked you up in my arms and called you my son. And they will bloom forever since.)

The Mama wasn't his. She was a human lady with two kids, Big Brother and Junior. For Junior, she had a wide scarf-cradle, in which – to get used to carrying the baby in it – used to carry the lightweight Dvorovoi at first. To both him and the Big Brother it seemed funny: a big Zeliboba carried around like a little baby.

When Junior finally took his rightful place in his Mama's scarf, Zeliboba got worried: it must be heavier for her. He didn’t remember his own Dad ever getting tired of carrying him on his back – he could even climb up a steep cliff, let alone a trunk of some sequoia or an ullongo tree. And this Mama, even with the children’s Dad and Big Brother helping her as much as they could, got tired often. No wonder why she did: Junior’s nose couldn’t tell him what different things were; milk in his bottle was not eternal (unlike the nectar in the whiskers of Zeliboba’s Dad); he couldn’t yet tell day from night, or edible from inedible things – in short, he didn’t know half of what a baby spirit usually knows and can do. Besides, the Mama had to help Zeliboba out every time Junior, by mistake, reached out to taste his ear – um, no, a leg – um, no, the hem of his coat – um, no, the tie. He even bit the spirit’s nose softly once. Cubs will be cubs, Zeliboba thought to himself, casting a sleepy spell on Junior and his Mama. At least that’ll let them rest.

But when the baby grew old enough to toddle and crawl, Zeliboba waited till everyone else leaves the room, and – himself – licked him in the forehead.
That’ll teach him.

The Loss
Inspired by a post from 2ch.hk:
"I remember that when I was a kid, about three years old, I was sleeping in my bed late at night. I don't remember what time it was at that moment, but suddenly, through the window, I saw the real Zeliboba. He was staring at me with his big canine face, trying to say something, shaking his head wildly in all directions, as if making certain gestures. Then I... ran straight to my parents' bedroom. I ended up falling asleep between them. Subsequently, Zeliboba began to terrorize my attention through the doorway, gesturing me to come closer to him, waving his hand. At that moment, all I could think about was hiding under the covers. My parents, by the way, did not see him, and said that I was imagining things. In the end, I fell asleep under the blanket. I still remember it with a shiver, brrr..."
As for me, this story got also partly inspired by a soccer ball from the Russian "Sesame" opening - the way it becomes a living, cartoony one. :smile:

...The football was someone else's: Zeliboba smelled the moment he picked it up from the sand. Its little owner must have loved it very much, as it seemed like he didn't let it out of his hands all day long. Only in the evening he got too carried away with playing something else and left the ball in the sandbox.

The football didn’t realize at first it wasn’t its – his – owner holding him: at first he opened his eyes sleepily and reluctantly, and immediately stared at Zeliboba in horror. The latter just snorted with laughter – oh come on, I just want to help! – and turned the football face to the houses: which of them is yours?
The football glanced at a ten-story house, and then at the second floor.
At least I won’t have to walk to the very top, the Dvorovoi thought, stepping – thanks heavens there was nobody to stare at him and probably get scared – right up the wall and to the right window.

From the window came the faint smell of the football’s little Owner, and quiet voices: must have been his Mama, who came to say good night. Soon, the voices were gone. Now all that’s left to do is widen the window a little with magic and get the poor football through...

Thum-p, thmp, thmp.

Awake, the boy did not immediately realize what just fell off the windowsill and rolled on the floor. Ah, there it is, his missing football, next to the toy box. But if it fell from the windowsill, it means someone threw it through the window. And... here’s... the one... who... threw... it...

Zeliboba could not believe his eyes at first: maybe it just seemed to him from behind the window glass? He even waved and nodded, just in case: it's all right, I returned your lost toy! But his nose wasn’t wrong – the smell of sheer horror from the boy was clear, he was looking at the Dvorovoi just like the football did a while ago. Then the kid screamed and ran into the next room.

That’s no good at all, thought an upset Zeliboba. Before he even knew it, he got dragged right into the wall and into the Boy's room. Isn’t that just perfect: he got so upset his own magic let him down. No good at all, the spirit thought again, and decided he'd better go and apologize to the Boy for scaring him without meaning it.
But how could he? It’s hard to explain a thing with the Boy still shouting and hiding under the blankets, and his parents not able to calm him down, no matter how hard they try. Even worse: they couldn’t even see Zeliboba and were only nagging about some imagi... mageena… whatever, his head was already ringing so bad he couldn't even say goodbye to the football – only waved a hand and disappeared from the view.

...Only having calmed down a little, he could send a sleepy spell in the Boy's window. If only he could erase the Boy’s scary memory as well... But that would require a magic much stronger, the one he hadn’t mastered yet. At least he managed to help one toy for today.

The Lesson
Inspired by a post from the now-defunct Orthodox forum. A woman writes about how her youngest son received a toy as a gift - "some freak... ...a guy with a blue face, in a long coat, in a tie and with a big nose" - called him "Friend" out of ignorance, and grew very attached to the gift. The boy's older brother (out of either envy or spite) took this "Friend" away one day and punched him like a punching bag... ...It's too hard for me to even write about it; I feel a lot for the poor Dvorovoi and don't know what happened to him in that family. So may it be something like this.
At least two things Junior guessed correctly – first, that the plush Dvorovoi was about his own age, and second, that he was friendly. Junior didn’t know Zeliboba's name, nor what kind of creature he was, and there was no way of knowing – muppet creatures, let alone muppet spirits, had never been heard of in this family, and the boy’s Mama was suspicious of anything unusual.
On the first day, she only gave Zeliboba a stern look without saying a word (as if he couldn't smell her unspoken, yet displeased “what a freak”). But she didn't expect how much Junior will grew attached to him. Sadly, neither the way her son lovingly called him "Friend", or the way he almost never let him out of his arms for almost all day, even putting him on the pillow at night to guard his dreams, could change her mind – so to the boy, Zeliboba remained “Friend”, and to her, “Freak”.

But not even this was the main trouble. The Mama, even despite all the grumping, never hurt him. Junior being teased and bullied by his Big Brother was much worse. Just like today. All of Junior's toys also got hurt, to say nothing of Zeliboba...

He’s just a child. He just feels down. Just feels down. Forget the claws. Forget the claws. DO NOT THINK about claws. DON'T THINK ABOUT-

"Your Friend?!" Big Brother yelled. "Your Friend?! Get a load of this, Friend! Take this!”

A punch in the ear. In the shoulder. In the chest. On the top of the head. In the muzzle. In the muzzle.

Muzzle doesn't hurt. Muzzle doesn't hurt. Muzzle doesn't..
N O S E ! ! !

...Junior screamed and cried – howled with his howl, pitying him; ripped the Dvorovoi out of his brother’s hands; blew onto his sore nose, snuggling the poor spirit to his own face, wet and red with tears; and Zeliboba's head grew clearer, flashes of bright white stopped dancing before his eyes, and by the time the Mama finished scolding Big Brother, both came to their senses little by little.

...“Did you leave your dog on the balcony?” the Neighbor reprimanded the Mama one day. “Have you even got any pity for the poor animal, leaving it to whine for all day long like that?” To which the Mama fervently argued that yes, she does have pity to animals, but they had never kept any dogs in the house, the Neighbor can come and see for herself anytime; her older son used to want a dog but outgrew that wish soon, and if the Neighbor worries that much, she might as well go and ask a family next door (they in fact were the types who would forget even a crocodile on their balcony, let alone a dog).

It happened just one time. The only time the family weren’t home – they all went to the countryside for the whole day. The only time grief and resentment felt so crowded in Zeliboba that he, human speech forgotten, just sat in the middle of the room, howling, howling, not taking his eyes off the Men on the Icons. These Men were In Charge here, and the Mama always obeyed their advice, lighting small candles in front of their icons. And now there was a child from the other world, a Dvorovoi, a half-beast, sitting in front of them, crying without tears, asking for protection and fearing – not of the Big Brother, but of his own retractable sharp claws, invisible teeth... and the harm he – if forced by the Big Brother’s bullying – could cause with them. Could, but would not. Did not want to.

The answer from the Men felt more like a ray of sunlight on his face than actual words – too subtle and gentle to perceive, yet clear enough to calm the poor Zeliboba. And to give him a hint what to do.

...The key dashingly clicked in the lock, the door swung open, and the Big Brother burst into the hallway.

“A coat?!” He was surprised, not really seeing the big dark and shaggy shape at the coat rack, and shouted into the hallway: “Ma, who left a fur coat in-“

The “...here” stuck in his throat as the “coat” straightened up, its head nearly brushing the hallway ceiling. It lowered its shaggy – familiar – muzzle toward him (the Big Brother would have sworn there was a yellow tie with star pattern dangling from under it). Put a hand on his shoulder.

“Don't- p-p-please, please d-d-d-d-don't...” The Big Brother squeaked out, suddenly realizing who was before him, pressing back against the wall in horror. “I- I-I-… I w-w-won’t do that anymore, don’t beat me…”

The Dvorovoi looked him straight in the eye.
Slapped the former bully on the shoulder – claws hidden, no pain.
Shouted out: “Tag! You’re it!”
And rushed off to Big and Junior's room with a laugh.

...Big Brother didn’t say a word about that to his Mama and Junior – instead, he said that he tripped in the doorway. He couldn’t bring himself to peek into their room until the very evening (what if it happens again?!) and even sat away, just in case, when Junior dragged his plush Friend on the couch to watch an evening children’s show on the TV.
About halfway through the show, however, Big Brother went into their room and rummaged through the toy box. Almost at the very bottom, a plastic fist bumped into his hand. With an effort, Big Brother pulled out its owner – a weighty plastic wrestler action figure. A protector just as reliable – no worse than the shaggy monster at all.

“He’ll too be my Friend,” he explained to Junior. “He's just as strong. And cool.”
“They can be a team then!” beamed Junior, plopping Zeliboba on the couch right next to the Wrestler, and immediately declared as the Dvorovoi: “Look at my magic coat! It helps me fly! Wrrrrroooooom…”

“Wait a sec, buddy! Wait for me!” Big Brother picked up the Wrestler and, “grasping” at Zeliboba's sneaker with his hand, whirled around the living room – wrrrroooooom! – alongside his brother.

And their Mama stood in the kitchen doorway, unable to believe her eyes (at last the boys were not fighting, but playing together!) and not knowing how to put all four to bed – because, come to think of it, it was already late evening.

Not a Gift!
Inspired by a (probably now deleted) Instagram post: someone had the idea to take a pic of the plush Zeli... with a hookah in his mouth. No idea why, or what the spirit had done to deserve that. Either way, whoever did it, will get their comeuppance someday.
Smoke must mean a smokehouse – same one like the old Tarleemba, a muppet fisherman from Zelirángoo Valley, had. And where there’s a smokehouse, there’s smoked fish. Tarleemba and his sister Tirlamba often treated Zeliboba with it since the day they found out the young spirit appeared in the village: a share from their every catch was an offering to him for their future good luck.

Maybe this place was the smokehouse, Zeliboba thought now, sitting at a table in some half-dark place – the place a human Girl and her Boyfriend had brought him to half an hour before. It smelled somewhat sweet in here, not much like regular firewood, but who knows – maybe here the fish was smoked with some special kind of charcoal. Now they would probably bring the Dvorovoi some fish as a treat, and he would magick up something nice for them later.
But they brought what looked like a thin coffee pot – or a strange-looking vase with a tube. (“Ah, so it must be juice.”) The Guy put the metallic mouthpiece of the tube into the Dvorovoi's mouth (“What, you want me to taste it first?”) and turned to the Girl:

“Take a picture, look how silly it turned out! Hashtag #hookahmonster!

She quickly snapped a few pics with her phone. They both leaned over the screen, not even looking in Zeliboba's direction.
They better did.

As the Girl snapped her third picture, the spirit’s keen nose told him it wasn’t juice in that odd-looking vase. It was the bane. A thing that, as far as Zeliboba remembered, people either drink or burn and inhale to have their minds fogged.

“So that’s their gift?!”

Zeliboba’s tongue and throat started to burn, as if sprayed with hot pepper. Not expecting that himself, the plush Dvorovoi coughed, coming to life right in front of the frightened people, and began to grow, revealing his true form instead of a small toy one.

“Aaarrr… HOOO!!!”

The horrified Girl dropped her phone, retreating to the door.

“Aaarrr… RRRHOOOaaaarrrrgh!!!”

The Guy, by some wonder, dodged a hookah (Zeliboba accidentally brushed it off the table with his muzzle), covering himself with a chair.

“Aaaahr- HACK!! Bbbrrrr, what did you… COFF!!! …What did ya give me?!” Zeliboba wanted to shout, but his throat burned and ached so bad that all the poor spirit could do was snort, cough, and shake his head. One particularly strong sneeze even revealed his teeth – they flashed in his mouth for a moment, like blue flames of gas on a stove – and both the Guy and the Girl huddled against the wall, praying that the shaggy giant won't get angry at them and eat them.

But it wasn't them that the giant wanted. He needed fresh air. With great effort, Zeliboba somehow managed to find a way out of this strange place, and outside, he leaned against the wall, panting, not able to open his eyes. The bane! Who in his right mind would give a Dvorovoi a thing like that!

Zeliboba's nose twitched. Fresh water. His head cleared up. A stone’s throw away, there in fact was a drinking fountain. Now just to bend over to the water and lap, slorp and gulp it down – until his mouth no longer burns, the throat is no longer sore, and does it even matter that behind his back, the Girl on the porch of the café reaches for her phone again (“when else will you see this"), and her Boyfriend ("wait, don’t, no need to-") – shakes his head in fear and tries to take her hands aside.
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