(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Little Ivan cheerfully greets his father, Tolya, coming home from work. Father’s new leather cap intrigues him, and he asks whether one can fly with it. The father immediately catches on and stokes the boy’s imagination by telling him that they can fly to the White Sea to see the polar bears and walruses. The boy adds whales and “limpeduzas”—a furry animal he has invented. When the father adds sharks, the boy rejects them as evil beasts.

The cheerful boy, nicknamed Little Whale by his father because he resembles a little whale in the bathtub, is not the only one greeting Tolya. His wife offers a contrasting welcome by asking him repeatedly whether he has called “him”—an influential person on whom their future depends. Tolya is bombarded by the insatiable curiosity of the boy and the persistent nagging of his wife, with the boy taking his father’s side. When the wife tells them to leave the house for a walk, they happily oblige.

On the way to an amusement park, Ivan continues to ask all kinds of questions. The father answers them not only out of duty but also because he is amused by his son’s alertness and curiosity. He realizes that his son lives in a wonderful, strange world unlike that of the grown-ups, and he wishes to enrich it by going along with it rather than destroying it. He also senses that the boy gropes to find an answer to everything and to create order whenever things seem to be out of the ordinary. For example, when his father shows him the moon and the Great and Little Bear constellations (which are feminine nouns in the Russian language), the boy...

(The entire section is 652 words.)