Once upon a time in a Russian village lived an old peasant. He had three sons. The two elder sons were clever, but the youngest was a fool named Ivanushka. The family had a wheat field. One day they noticed that at night something had come into the field and trampled the wheat. The old peasant sent his sons to guard the field.
On the first night the eldest son went to the field, but did not try hard enough to stay awake and fell asleep. On the second night the middle son went to the field, but he too fell asleep and did not see anything.
On the third night Ivanushka went there. At midnight he saw a great chestnut-gray stallion wearing a gold saddle and a silver bridle. The stallion started to eat and trampled the wheat. Ivanushka managed to catch the wonderful horse. The stallion said, “Let me go free, I will be your friend. If you need something, go to the field, whistle and say, “Sivka-Burka, appear here!” I will come and help you.”
Ivanushka agreed and let him go free. It happened about that time that the tsar, who had no son, organized a contest to determine who would succeed him as tsar. He placed his beautiful daughter on the top floor of a very tall tower and announced that the man who could reach the princess jumping on a horse and could take the ring from her finger would win her hand in marriage and rule the land. The older brothers decided to go to the competition, but Ivanushka stayed home.
When his brothers left, he whistled and called Sivka-Burka, who rose thundering out of the ground. Ivanushka climbed in his right ear and climbed out of the left ear a very handsome, well-dressed young man. Then he rode to the competition to try his luck. Sivka jumped trying to reach the princess. Ivan was very close to her, but couldn’t quite reach the ring. He quickly turned the horse and galloped home. There he turned back into his previous self. When his brothers came from the tsar’s courtyard they told Ivanushka about the handsome man who almost reached the princess. Ivanushka only laughed at them.
The next day the same thing happened. On the third day, Ivanushka and Sivka-Burka reached the princess and took the ring from her finger. Then they galloped away so quickly that nobody could even see Ivanushka’s face. At home he turned back into his previous self but he had one hand in a bandage. His brothers asked him, “What is wrong with your hand?” He laughed and said, “Nothing serious, just a scratch.”
Three days later, the tsar invited everyone to a feast. The old peasant came with his three sons. They sat at the table ate, drank and had fun. At the end of the feast the tsar’s daughter herself served honey to the guests. When she approached Ivanushka, she noticed the bandage on his hand and asked him, “Good young man, why do have a bandage on your hand? Let me look at it!” And there everyone saw the ring on his finger. The princess said, “Dear father, here is my fiance!” Ivanushka called Sivka-Burka, turned into the handsome man and married the princess.
Russian Stories from Russia!