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“Sredni Vashtar” by Saki (Hector Hugh Munro) Essay

“Sredni Vashtar” is a short story written by Saki (Hector Hugh Munro) between 1900 and 1911 and initially published in his book The Chronicles of Clovis. It has been adapted for opera, film, radio and television. The story concerns a ten-year-old boy named Conradin, who lives with his strict cousin and guardian, Mrs. De Ropp. Conradin rebels against her and invents a new religion for himself, which centres on idolising a polecat-ferret he calls Sredni Vashtar; a vengeful, merciless god. Conradin keeps the ferret hidden in a cage in the garden shed, and worships the idol in secret. The story comes to a climax when his cousin sets out to discover his god.

Conradin, an abnormal a sickly ten year old boy who lives with his cousin and guardian, Mrs. De Ropp, secretly takes care of a polecat-ferret whom he calls Sredni Vashtar. He invents a religion of his own with Sredni Vashtar as the god, a merciless and vengeful god. Mrs. De Ropp notices that Conradin has been visiting the shed in the garden (where the ferret and a Houdan hen live) and announces to Conradin that the hen was sold and taken during the night. Distressed, Conradin begs his god to do something for him. His cousin notices that Condradin’s visits to the shed do not cease and decides to clear out whatever Conradin is keeping in the shed. Conradin is ordered to stay in the house, but he defiantly calls out a hymn: “Sredni Vashtar went forth, his thoughts were red thoughts and his teeth were white. His enemies called for peace, but he brought them death. Sredni Vashtar the Beautiful.” Later, he sees a great ferret with dark wet stains around its mouth emerge out of the shed and prowl out of the garden. While people screamed outside, Conradin makes himself a piece of toast.

Conradin, an abnormal a sickly ten year old boy who lives with his cousin and guardian, Mrs. De Ropp, secretly takes care of a polecat-ferret whom he calls Sredni Vashtar. He invents a religion of his own with Sredni Vashtar as the god, a merciless and vengeful god. Mrs. De Ropp notices that Conradin has been visiting the shed in the garden (where the ferret and a Houdan hen live) and announces to Conradin that the hen was sold and taken during the night. Distressed, Conradin begs his god to do something for him. His cousin notices that Condradin’s visits to the shed do not cease and decides to clear out whatever Conradin is keeping in the shed. Conradin is ordered to┬ástay in the house, but he defiantly calls out a hymn: “Sredni Vashtar went forth, his thoughts were red thoughts and his teeth were white. His enemies called for peace, but he brought them death. Sredni Vashtar the Beautiful.” Later, he sees a great ferret with dark wet stains around its mouth emerge out of the shed and prowl out of the garden. While people screamed outside, Conradin makes himself a piece of toast.

“Sredni Vashtar” has been adapted as a chamber opera three times. In 1988 the composer Robert Steadman and the author Richard Adams wrote the 75-minute Sredni Vashtar.[1] In 1996 Cuban-born composer Jorge Martin and librettist Andrew Joffe with the American Chamber Orchestra produced Beast and Superbeast, a group of four chamber operas based on stories by Saki, including “Sredni Vashtar”.[2] Martin also composed a Piano Fantasy on Sredni Vashtar [3] In 2010 the story was again adapted by Nicholas Pavkovic and Jim Coughenour and performed at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.


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