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Literature / Loskutik And The Cloud

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Loskutik and the Cloud (Лоскутик и облако, Loskutik i oblako) is a 1972 fairy tale by Sofia Prokofieva, with a 1977 animated adaptation.

Loskutik (from Russian loskut, rag) is an orphaned girl living as a servant to abusive shopkeepers. Moreover, it's only half of her problems: the entire country is suffering from an eternal drought, thanks to the fact that the king has somehow stolen all the water for himself and only hands it out in limited quantities for a good deal of money.

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However, Loskutik's life changes when one day she finds a weakened, exhausted Cloud on her windowsill. What starts as her plan to help the Cloud get to their friend, a toad from the royal palace, and the Cloud's idea to find her a better place after the shopkeepers kick her out, eventually spirals into a mission to return water to the land. They get help from Barbatsutsa, the intimidating royal cook, Vermilyon, an impoverished painter, and Soot (Sazha), a chimney-sweep boy.

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Loskutik and the Cloud contains examples of:

  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: At one point, the Cloud gets drunk and blurts out about the only way to defeat them right in front of the king's chief advisor.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Uncle Glug is established as cruel towards his old horse on the very first page. It doesn't get better.
  • Batman Gambit: Slysh organizes a huge water-drinking competition, correctly predicting that the Cloud won't be able to resist it. However, he believes they will arrive disguised as some other person, and he doesn't foresee them teaming up with Vermilyon and pretending to be his moustache and beard.
  • Bribe Backfire: When the king's men demand the Cloud's surrender from (chronologically) Barbatsutsa, Loskutik, Vermilyon and Soot. The promises to Barbatsutsa, Vermilyon and Soot (Loskutik was offered to get her parents resurrected) are actually realistic and might have even been fulfilled.
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  • But Now I Must Go: The Cloud can't stay in the same place forever and has to fly away in the end, bringing a bittersweet tinge to an otherwise happy ending.
  • Chef of Iron: Barbatsutsa, so very much. Even though she doesn't do fighting per se, her personality is enough to frighten an army (literally).
    • Inverted completely with the chief cook, who is the most nervous man on earth.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Barbatsutsa's pigeons end up getting sent to call the Thundercloud for help.
  • Cinderella Circumstances: By the beginning of the book, Loskutik has had several abusive guardians, who only wanted a Butt-Monkey servant.
  • Cool Old Lady: Barbatsutsa, Rositta the toad, and Granny Thundercloud. They are very impressed by each other, too.
  • Didn't See That Coming: The king keeps all the water of the realm hidden under his palace. Nobody would ever want to rebel against him, right? Slysh calls him out for only thinking of the present day, and the king hand-waves it.
  • Doesn't Know Their Own Birthday: Loskutik, a poor orphan who has lived her entire life as a servant to abusive masters, doesn't know when her birthday is.
  • The Dreaded: The king's chief advisor Slysh (from slyshat, "to hear"). It's rumored he hears everything that goes on in the kingdom (an exaggeration, but not an extreme one).
  • Drowning My Sorrows: The Cloud, briefly.
  • Establishing Character Moment: At first, Barbatsutsa looks and behaves like a villainous character (complete with a sharp, gleaming, piercing eye, usually the Author Catchphrase in villains' descriptions), but her first chapter culminates in her taking Loskutik in and giving her a proper dinner for the first time in the girl's life.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Barbatsutsa wears one. It makes her look like someone in-between a pirate and a witch.
  • Everything's Better with Rainbows: Granny Thundercloud's parting gift.
  • Fat and Skinny: The king Fontanius (Fat) and Slysh (Skinny).
  • Faux Affably Evil: Slysh never or almost never raises his voice and is very calm and polite. He is also the most dangerous villain around with no redeeming qualities.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: A non-romantic example with the Cloud, who is so jealous of Loskutik gaining a new friend in Soot that they drink an entire barrel of wine. Loskutik quite reasonably calls them out, since why can't she have other friends besides the Cloud when the Cloud spends hours talking to Rositta?
  • Happily Adopted: Loskutik by Barbatsutsa, eventually.
  • Honorary Uncle: Subverted with Uncle Glug, the king's water-seller. Everyone calls him Uncle, but it's not for any virtues of his, for he is nothing but a lonely, miserly jerk.
  • Interspecies Friendship:
    • The Cloud's best friends are Rositta the toad and the human girl Loskutik. Barbatsutsa suggests finding a centipede to complete the group.
    • Uncle Glug's old horse is friendly with Nightly Philosopher the eagle-owl.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Several examples.
    • The Cloud is very easily offended, but in the end, always kind and loyal to their friends (even when they're drunk as a fiddler).
    • Even more so with Barbatsutsa. She has such a temper that the royal guards are afraid of her, and a very loving heart beneath it. Her reaction to finding Loskutik at her door says it all: she roaringly accuses the girl of being a thief, then drags her into the house and gives her a whole roast goose to eat.
  • The Owl-Knowing One: Nightly Philosopher, the elderly eagle-owl who still remembers the way the country used to be before the drought.
  • Lemony Narrator: Often comments on the character's actions and sometimes outright breaks the fourth wall.
    If you, dear reader, ever come to that city, make sure to visit the museum and look at the portrait of old Grandmother Thundercloud. You won't regret it!
  • Never Had a Birthday Party: Loskutik doesn't even know when she was born. When Barbatsutsa employs her, she throws her a birthday party, complete with a plate of pies and a huge cake, telling her that a person without a birthday hasn't been born and she won't be tricked into paying wages to a nonexistent servant.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Very much justified, since the Cloud's grandmother is the Thundercloud.
  • No Biological Sex: The Cloud apparently doesn't have one, and is referred to in the neutral gender (the noun cloud is neutral in Russian, while thundercloud is feminine). It's not explained how they manage to have a grandmother (and whether it's a grandmother in the way humans define the term).
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Melchior, the shopkeeper who employs Loskutik in the beginning, seems to be, and usually is, nothing more than a cowardly bully. However, it’s him who first tracks down the Cloud and reports to the king.
  • Nothing but Skin and Bones: Loskutik in the beginning. After two weeks of having huge meals and resting at Barbatsutsa's house, she is still too thin for work, in Barbatsutsa's opinion.
  • Pauper Patches: Embodied by Loskutik so much that she gets her name from that.
  • Riches to Rags: Vermilyon used to be an extremely popular painter, however, as his paintings have become too insightful for the customers' liking, he is now a Starving Artist.
  • Spanner in the Works: Barbatsutsa squeezing lemon juice into milk gets accidentally noticed by Peppersalt, the smallest and shiest kitchen boy. Even so, he wouldn't have told anyone had it not been for the chief cook accidentally slipping on a lemon peel and demanding explanations.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Wheat cream for the king.
  • Tricking the Shapeshifter: Slysh catches the Cloud by convincing them to turn into a small clock.
  • Vague Age:
    • Loskutik doesn't know when she was born. Barbatsutsa estimates she's around ten.
    • The Cloud is 1700063 rains old. That's all we get to know.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: The Cloud can take any possible form. It doesn't always help with disguise, since whatever they look like, they are white and near-transparent. However, it can be mended by painting them.

The animated adaptation contains examples of:

  • Abled in the Adaptation: Downplayed. Barbatsutsa has both her eyes, but she is extremely shortsighted and needs glasses constantly. Most probably, the creators felt an Eyepatch of Power (like in the book) will make her look too frightening (as it actually does, again, in the book).
  • Adaptational Badass: Loskutik is more strong and resourceful than in the book. She single-handedly helps the Cloud to get inside the palace disguised as her apron.
  • Adaptational Job Change: Downplayed. Vermilyon is a landscape painter instead of a portrait painter. Which serves as Adaptational Angst Upgrade as we see him painting the same gloomy landscape over and over again.
  • Adaptational Name Change: Soot is called Chumazik ("the dirty one"). In the book, it's the name of his Adapted Out pigeon.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Barbatsutsa's appearance is much less scary and she is much kinder from the start.
  • Character Exaggeration: In the book, Barbatsutsa once says "I swear by the last cow in the world". The film has her saying it all the time. She even gets a song that ends with "I swear by the cow".
  • Expository Theme Tune: "Everything’s Groaning With Thirst" ("Vsyo ot zhazhdy iznyvayet"), sung by Uncle Glug’s old horse.
  • Heel–Face Mole: Instead of Tricking the Shapeshifter as in the book, Slysh tells the Cloud he'll help them leave the palace if they only become a little smaller (they're currently in the form of a fog). The moment the Cloud does it, he catches them.
  • Honorary Aunt: Loskutik eventually starts calling Barbatsutsa "Aunt" (in the book, it’s not specified how she calls her).
  • List Song: The lyrics of Barbatsutsa's song are mostly this, listing the qualities of properly cooked wheat cream.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Most notably, the film adapts out the water-drinking competition (involving a crowd of people and a complicated setting), instead making the Cloud sneak into the palace with Loskutik's help.
  • Supreme Chef: Loskutik manages to make wheat cream even better than Barbatsutsa. At her first try.
  • While Rome Burns: Melchior and the head guard, who claim they don't even need water if only they have enough beer and wine.
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