Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 652

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.

Illustration of PDF document

Download Little Whale, Varnisher of Reality Study Guide

Subscribe Now

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 wonders aloud where the papa bear is and concludes that he must have gone out to hunt and provide for his family.

In the Dream World amusement park, they see figures from famous fairy tales, such as the Tom Cat, the Prince, the Swan, and the Little Humpbacked Horse. Ivan wants to take them all home. When his father explains that his wish is impossible to carry out, he touches every figure and tells them and himself that he is taking them home; that is enough to satisfy his wish.

Back at home, when the father reads Ivan a story in which a crocodile grabs a little elephant by its trunk, the boy throws the book away, complaining that it is a bad book that does not tell the truth. When he hears the story in which a wolf eats seven kids, he refuses to...

(The entire section contains 652 words.)

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this Little Whale, Varnisher of Reality study guide. You'll get access to all of the Little Whale, Varnisher of Reality content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

  • Summary
  • Themes
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial