Maria Morevna…

A long time ago in a Russian kingdom closer than you might think lived a Tsar and his Queen, with their son Ivan and three daughters Maria, Olga, and Anna.

The years passed and it was time for the old Tsar to hand over his kingdom to his son on his deathbed. On his deathbed the Tsar instructed young Ivan to see that his sisters be properly married and taken care of while they were still fresh and young.

As the years passed, the now, Tsar Ivan found himself walking in a garden on palace grounds with his three sisters. Out of nowhere a black cloud appeared covering the entire sky. As this happened Ivan instructed his sisters to retreat to the inside of the palace before the storm began. As soon as they all stepped inside the palace lighting flashed across the entire sky, thunder rattled the land, and rain covered the entire kingdom. Next thing they knew a falcon flew through a window and as he landed he turned into a handsome prince. He looked at Maria then Ivan and asked for her hand in marriage. Ivan accepted the proposal as did Maria and they were married shortly thereafter and the falcon carried her back to his kingdom.

One year to the day Ivan found himself walking through a palace garden with the remaining two sisters. Just as did happen the previous year a black cloud appeared and Ivan and his sisters ran back to the palace to escape the storm. When they got back to the palace the storm arrived but this time an eagle flew in turning into a handsome young prince. He looked at Olga then Ivan and asked for her hand in marriage. Ivan approved as did Olga and they were quickly married after which the eagle carried Olga back to his kingdom.

One year to the day of the second meeting of a prince Ivan was once again walking in a palace garden with his youngest and only remaining sister Anna. The same turn of events that occurred in the previous years once again came to pass. As they got back inside the palace a raven appeared immediately after the storm started. As the raven landed he turned into a handsome prince. He looked at Anna then Ivan and asked for Anna’s hand in marriage. Ivan did not hesitate in giving them his blessing and Anna did not hesitate in accepting the proposal. They were married and the raven carried Anna off to his kingdom.

Tsar Ivan now lived alone in his immense palace lonely and without a family to look after. He missed his sisters so much that one day he told his princes and boyars that he was leaving the kingdom in their care and that he was leaving the kingdom for an indefinite period of time.

He mounted his horse and rode off. He rode up to a field of a slain army of soldiers. This army happened to be defeated by the army of Marya Morevna, which happened to be resting in a field of white tents. There he met Marya and made it clear to her that he came in peace. She invited him into her tent for a feast and he ended up staying with her for three days and nights. Both realized that they were madly in love and set a date to marry in Marya’s kingdom. For years they lived happily and in peace.

One day Marya came to Ivan and told him that she was going to have to leave to battle an army in another portion of her kingdom. When she departed she told Ivan that he was in charge of the kingdom until she got back and not to enter the chamber at the tallest turret in the castle under any circumstances.

While she was gone he wandered the castle for days looking into every room wondering when his love was going to come back. He remembered that in the tallest turret there was something inside that he was not supposed to see. Burning with curiosity he ran to the uppermost chamber in the turret and unlocked the door. Inside he found a giant lying sprawled on the floor with his arms and legs chained to the floor with seven iron chains.

The giant pleaded to Ivan that he had food or drink in ten years. Ivan feeling pity brought the giant a pale of water, which the giant drank in one gulp. He asked for two more pails and when he finished the last one he got up and broke through the chains like they were paper-thin. This was no ordinary giant this was the one and only Koschei the Deathless.

He told Ivan that he would never see his wife again and like a whirlwind flew out of the window. Koschei flew across the land and swept up Marya who was returning home from battle and carried her off to his kingdom.

Ivan was depressed and he sat in the castle crying and weeping for his mistake and the loss of his love. Time passed and wounds healed but he still missed his wife so he decided to go rescue her.

He rode on his horse for three days and on the third he saw a beautiful castle in front of him. Next to him perched on an oak tree was a falcon that at the sight of Ivan flew done and turned into his first brother-in-law. They went inside the castle where his sister Maria was there to meet him. Ivan stayed with them for three days and told them that he had to leave. He left his silver spoon with them so they would know how he was doing and rode off on his horse.

He rode for three days and on the third day he came upon another castle that was more beautiful than the first. Looking at the immense structure he sat on his horse next to a large oak. In the oak was perched an eagle who upon seeing Ivan flew down and turned into the second brother-in-law. They went inside the castle and met with Ivan’s sister Olga who was delighted to see him. Ivan stayed in the castle for three days and said that he would have to depart because he was on a quest to find his wife Marya Morevna. To see his progress the two asked Ivan to leave his silver fork. He did as was asked and rode off.

Riding non-stop for three days he came upon another castle that was more beautiful than both of the ones he stayed at before, put together. In a large oak was perched a falcon who swooped down to Ivan and turned into the third brother-in-law. He invited Ivan in and Anna the youngest of the sisters embraced Ivan since she had not seen him in so long. Ivan spent three days with them and rode off leaving them a silver tobacco box so that they could keep track of his progress.

He traveled for three more days before coming up to the kingdom of Koschei the Deathless. Ivan bravely walked into the palace grounds and found Marya Morevna who warned him that Koschei was out on a hunt. Ivan took Marya on his horse and rode off with her hoping to make it home.

Koschei returning from the hunt was informed by a horse of his that Ivan had taken Marya. Hearing this news he mounted the magical horse and caught up to Ivan and Marya in a flash. Koschei swept up Marya and told him that he would not kill him since he took pity on him in the past.

Dejected he sat on his horse and thought about his defeated effort. Driven to have his wife back he rode back Koschei’s palace to once again rescue Marya.

When he found Marya again she warned him that Koschei would be back soon. He ignored her warning and took her and charged off on his horse.

Koschei came back and was informed by his horse that Ivan had taken Marya again. Mounting the magical horse he caught up to the two escapees just as fast as he did previously, took Marya, and told Ivan that if he was ever to do that again that he would be killed.

This time Ivan returned and waited several days until Koschei left the palace to go in and rescue Marya. Ivan found Marya and he told her to get on the horse and ride off with him. She was reluctant and he told him that he would be killed if Koschei found them again. Ivan told her that it was better to be dead than not to be with her and she responded by getting on his horse and riding off with him.

Koschei returned and found that Marya was missing and galloped after them in a fury. He caught up to them, grabbed Marya, sliced Ivan into many small pieces, and put the pieces into a tarred barrel, which he threw into the deep blue sea.

As this was happening the spoon, fork, and tobacco box all turned black. The brothers-in-law all realized that something very terrible had happened to Ivan. The eagle flew to the sea and snared the barrel carrying it to shore. The falcon flew off to obtain the water of the living and the raven flew to obtain the water of the dead. The falcon and the raven flew back to the eagle that was waiting for them. The three of them broke the barrel and put Ivan’s body back together piece by piece. Next the raven poured the water of the dead on the severed pieces and they fused back together. Then the falcon poured the water of the living on the body and Ivan sprung back to life. Ivan thanked his brothers-in-law and walked back to Koschei’s palace.

When Koschei left in the morning Ivan snuck inside and found Marya and told her to find out where Koschei acquired his magical horses. When Koschei returned Marya waited for the opportune time and asked him the question. He answered that he got the horses from Baba Yaga who lived on the other side of the River of Fire, which his magical handkerchief helped him cross.

While Koschei slept Marya took his magic handkerchief and gave it to Ivan and told him to go to Baba Yaga’s house on the other side of the River of Fire.

Ivan started off for Baba Yaga’s house and soon enough he was at the River of Fire. He waved the magic handkerchief and a crystal bridge rose up from a low and decrepit bridge and he was able to cross safely.

Ivan walked and walked and was very hungry. He came upon a mother bird with her young. He thought of having them to eat but the mother bird told him not to eat them because he might need their help later, and Ivan trekked on.

Still famished Ivan came up to a beehive from which he wanted to take some honey. However the queen bee flew to him and said not to eat any honey since he might need her help in the future, and so he walked on.

Not having eaten for a long time he crossed paths with a lioness and her cub. Ivan wanted to kill the cub for a meal but was told not to by the lioness since he might need their help someday, and he walked on.

He walked long exhausted from severe hunger and eventually made it to Baba Yaga’s house. He met with her and told her that he would serve her. She told him that he would tend her stables and if one horse escaped she would cut off his head and put it on a stake next to all of her other heads. She would reward him though if he could manage to keep her horses at bay. She made him a hearty meal, told him to eat, sleep, and that he would be starting his work in the morning.

In the morning before waking Ivan Baba Yaga told all of her horses to run away from Ivan once they got in the meadow.

After Ivan woke he took the horses as instructed to the meadow. As soon as they arrived all the horses ran off in different directions. Ivan could do nothing as he sat in the middle of the meadow. Then the same birds that Ivan spared swooped out of the sky forcing all the horses back to their stables.

Baba Yaga angered at her horses asked them what happened. They told her they had no choice because the birds would have plucked their eyes out. She instructed them next time to scatter into the deepness of the forest.

Ivan woke up the next day and took the horses out and they ran into the depths of the forest as soon as they had the chance. The same lioness her cub and an army of lions ran into the forest and chased the horses back to their stables.

Baba Yaga was once again angry at her horses since they were back in their stables in the morning. This time she told them to hide in the blue sea once Ivan took them out.

Ivan woke up and took the horses out and sure enough they ran off into the blue sea. Then a swarm of bees flew at the horses that were standing in the sea and stung them until they returned home. One of the bees flew to Ivan and told him to go back to Baba Yaga’s house but so that she does not know that he is there and hides in the stables. The bee also told him to find a mangy looking colt and flee at night. Ivan did as he was told and rode off on the ugly colt towards the River of Fire.

He reached the River of Fire, waved the handkerchief, and crossed the crystal bridge that appeared out of nowhere. The next morning Baba Yaga found that Ivan had taken one of her colts and she rode after him. When she came up to the River of Fire she tried to cross it but fell in and was never heard from again.

Once Ivan led his colt out into a pasture it suddenly turned into a strong and beautiful steed. Ivan mounted him and rode to the palace of Koschei the Deathless. Once he reached the palace he found Marya Morevna and put her on his new magical horse and rode off.

Koschei found out from one of his magic horses that Ivan had come back and took Marya. Furious, Koschei mounted the horse and charged after them.

When Koschei caught up to them Ivan’s horse struck Koschei in the head and killed him with that blow. Marya mounted Koschei’s horse and she and Ivan rode back to their kingdom stopping to feast at each of the brothers-in-law castles.

Tsar Ivan and Marya Morevna unified their two kingdoms, which they helped reign over happily ever after.

Soviet Stories!

Magic Wild Geese…

An old man lived with his old wife; they had a daughter and a little son.

“Daughter, Daughter,” said the mother, “we are going to work; we shall bring you back a bun, sew you a dress and buy you a kerchief. Be very careful, watch over your little brother, and do not leave the house”.

The parents went away and the daughter forgot what they had told her; she put her brother on the grass beneath the window, ran out into the street, and became absorbed in games.

Some magic swan geese came and seized the little boy, and carried him off on their wings. The girl came back and found her brother gone. She gasped, and rushed to look in every corner, but could not find him. She called him, wept and lamented that her father and mother would scold her severely; still her little brother did not answer.

She ran into the open field; the swan geese flashed in the distance and vanished into the dark forest. The swan geese had long had a very bad reputation; they had done a great deal of damage and had stolen many little children. The girl had guessed that they had carried off her little brother, and so she rushed after them. She ran and ran and saw a stove.

“Stove, stove, tell me whither have the geese flown?”

“If you eat my cake of rye I will tell you.”

“Oh, in my father’s house we do not eat cakes of wheat!”.

The stove did not tell her. She ran farther and saw an apple tree tree.

“Apple tree, apple tree, whither have the geese flown?”

“If you eat some of my wild apples, I will tell you”.

” Oh, in my father’s house we do not even eat sweet apples.”

She ran farther and farther and saw a river of milk with shores of pudding.

“River of milk, and shores of pudding, whither have the geese flown?”

“If you eat my simple pudding with milk, I will tell you”.

“Oh in my father’s house we do not even eat cream.”

She would have run in the fields and wandered in the woods for a long time, if she had not luckily to meet hedgehog. She wanted to nudge him, but she was afraid that he would prick her, when she asked:

“Hedgehog, hedgehog, have you not seen whither the geese have flown?”

“Thither”, he said and showed her. She ran and saw a little hut that stood on chicken legs and turned round and round. In the little hut lay Baba Yaga with veined snout and clay legs, and the little brother was sitting on a bench, playing with golden apples. His sister saw him, crept near him and seized him, and carried him away. But the geese flew after her: if the robbers overtook her, where would she hide?

There flowed the river of milk and the shores of pudding.

“Little mother river, hide me!” she begged.

“If you eat my pudding.” There was nothing to be done; she ate it and the river hid her beneath the shore, and the geese flew by.

She went out and said:

“Thank you”, and ran on carrying her brother; and the geese turned back and flew toward her. What could she do in this trouble? There was the apple tree.

“Apple tree, apple tree, little mother, hide me!” she begged.

“If you eat my wild apple.” She ate it quickly. The apple tree covered her with branches and leaves; and the geese flew by. She went out again and ran on with her brother. The geese saw her and flew after her. They now came quite close, they began to strike at her with their wings; at any moment they would tear her brother from her hands.

Luckily there was the stove on her path.

“Madam stove, hide me”, she begged.

“If you eat my cake of rye.” The girl quickly stuck the cake in her mouth, went into the the stove, and sat there. The geese whirred and whirred, quacked and quacked, and finally flew away without recovering their prey. The girl ran home, and it was a good thing that she came when she did, for soon afterward her mother and father arrived.

Soviet Stories!

Magic Ring…

In a certain realm, in a certain land, there once lived an old man and woman with their only son Martin. All his life the old man had been a hunter, catching animals and birds and feeding his family on his catch. With time the old man took sick and died, leaving Martin and his mother alone in the world; they grieved and sorrowed, but there was nothing for it: tears won’t bring back the dead. A week passed by and they had eaten all the food in the larder; seeing there was nothing more to eat, the old woman realized she would have to spend some money. The old man had left them two hundred rubles; though she was loath to open the money- box, they had to eat somehow and keep the wolf from the door. So she counted off a hundred rubles and told her son, “Here, Martin, take these hundred notes and borrow the neighbor’s horse so that you can ride to town and buy some food. That will see us through the winter and we will look for work come the spring.”

Martin borrowed his neighbor’s horse and cart and rode off to town; as he was passing butchers’ stalls in the market he saw a noisy crowd gathered there. What had happened? The butchers had caught a hound, tied him to a post and were beating him with sticks, and the dog was cowering, whining and yapping with pain. Martin ran over to the butchers and asked, “Why are you beating the poor dog so mercilessly?” “That devil deserves all he gets,” the butchers said. “He stole a whole side of beef.” “Stop, brothers,” Martin cried. “Don’t beat him, sell him to me instead.” “Buy him if you please, but it will cost you a hundred rubles.” said one butcher in jest. Martin pulled out a hundred rubles, paid the butcher, untied the hound and took him along. The dog wagged his tail and licked his new master’s hand; he knew the young fellow had saved his life.

When Martin got back home, his mother asked him at once, “What have you bought, my boy?” “My first piece of good fortune,” Martin replied. “What are you blathering about? What good fortune?” “Here it is, Blackie,” he said pointing at the dog. “Is that all?” “If I’d had any money left I might have bought more: but the whole hundred went on the dog.” The old woman scolded him: “We’ve nothing to eat; I’ve scraped the last bits of flour to make a roll for today, but tomorrow there will be nothing at all.”

Next day his mother took out the last hundred rubles, gave it to her son and told him: “Go to town and buy some food. son. but don’t fritter the money away.” Martin arrived at the town, began to walk up and down the streets and take a look around, and saw a boy dragging a cat along on a string towards the river. “Stop.” called Martin. “Where are you taking that cat?” “I’m going to drown him: he stole a pie from our table.” “Don’t drown him,” Martin said. “Sell him to me instead.” “Buy him if you please, but it will cost you a hundred rubles.” Martin did not think twice: he pulled out the money and gave it to the boy; then he put the cat in his bag and turned for home. “What have you bought, my boy?” asked his mother. “Stripey the cat.” “Is that all?” “If I’d had any money left, I might have bought more.” “Oh. what a fool you are!” she cried. “Leave this house at once and go begging food at someone Else’s door.”

Off went Martin to the next village in search of work. taking with him Blackie the dog and Stripey the cat. On the way he met a priest. “Where are you going, my son?” he asked. “To look for work,” the lad replied. “Come and work for me; only I take on workmen without fixing a wage: whoever serves me well for three years gets what he deserves.” Martin agreed and toiled away three summers and winters for the priest; when the time came for payment, his master summoned him. “Well. Martin,” he said, “come and get your reward.” He led him into the bam. pointed at two full sacks and said, ‘Take whichever you want.” Martin saw that there was silver in one sack and sand in the other, and thought: “There’s more to this than meets the eye. Come what may, but I will take the sand and see what happens.” So he said: “I will take the sack of fine sand. master.” “Please yourself, my son. Take the sand if you prefer it to silver.”

Martin heaved the sack of sand upon his back and went to look for work again. He walked and walked, until he found himself in a dark. dense forest. In the middle of the forest was a glade, and in the glade a fire burned brightly, and in the fire sat a maiden more fair than tongue can tell or tale can spell. The fair maiden called to him, “Martin, the widow’s son. if you wish to win good fortune, rescue me: put out the flame with the sand for which you labored three years.” “Aha,” thought Martin, “it would be better to help someone than drag this load around. Sand is not worth much anyway, there’s plenty of it about.” He put down his sack, untied it and began to pour out the sand; the fire went out at once, the fair maiden struck the earth with her foot, turned into a snake, leapt upon his chest and wound herself about his neck. Martin took fright. “Do not be afraid,” said the snake. “Go to the Thrice-Ten King- dom beyond the Thrice-Nine Land; my father is king there. When you come to his palace he will offer you gold and silver and precious stones. But do not take any- thing. Just ask for the ring from his little finger. It is no ordinary ring: when you put it on one hand and then on the other twelve strapping youths will appear to do whatever you order, all in a single night.”

Martin went on his way; by and by he reached the Thrice-Ten Kingdom and saw a huge rock. The snake jumped down from his neck, struck the earth and became a fair maiden once more. “Follow me,” she said, leading the way under the rock. For a long time they walked along the underground passage until suddenly a light appeared; it got brighter and brighter, and they came out to a wide plain under a clear blue sky; and on the plain was a magnificent castle where the fair maiden’s father lived—the king of the underground realm.

As the travelers entered the white-stone castle they were greeted warmly by the king. “Welcome, my dear daughter. Where have you been all these years?” “Father. noble Sire, I would have perished had it not been for this man: he saved me from a cruel death and brought me here to my native land.” “Thank you, young man,” said the king, “your good deed deserves reward; take all the gold, silver and precious stones that your heart desires.” But Martin, the widow’s son, answered, “Your Majesty, I want neither gold, nor silver, nor precious stones; all I ask is the ring from the little finger of your royal hand. I am a single fellow: I shall look at the ring, and think of my future bride to drive away my loneliness.” At once the king took off the ring and gave it to Martin. “Here, take it and good luck to you. But tell no one of the ring or you will find yourself in dire trouble.”

Martin, the widow’s son, thanked the king, took the ring and a small sum of money for the road, and set off the way he had come. By and by he returned to his native land, sought out his old mother, and they began to live happily without a care in the world. One day Martin thought to take a wife and sent his mother off as matchmaker. “Go to the king himself,” he said, “and ask for his lovely daughter.” “Oh, my son,” the old woman replied, “don’t bite off more than you can chew. If I go to the king, he will get angry and have us both put to death.” “Do not worry, Mother,” said her son, “since I am sending you, go forth boldly. And bring back the king’s reply whatever it is; don’t come home without it.” The old woman set off sadly for the king’s abode: she walked into the courtyard and made straight for the royal staircase, without as much as by your leave. But the guards seized her. “Halt. old hag! Where do you think you’re going! Even generals don’t dare come here without permission…” “Leave me alone!” cried the old woman. “I’ve come to do the king a favour; I want his daughter to marry my son, and you are trying to stop me!” She caused such a commotion that you’d have -thought the palace was on fire. Hearing the shouts, the king looked out of the window and ordered the woman to be brought to him. She marched straight into the royal chamber, crossed herself before the icons and curtsy to the king. “What have you to say, old woman?” asked the king. “Well, you see, I have come to Your Majesty; now don’t get cross: I have a buyer, you have the wares. The buyer is my son Martin, a very clever fellow; the wares are your daughter, the beautiful princess. Will you let her marry my Martin? They’d make a good pair.” “Have you taken leave of your senses, woman?” cried the king. “Not at all, Your Majesty. Pray, give me your reply.”

Straightaway the king summoned his ministers and they took counsel as to what the reply should be. And it was decided thus: let Martin build the richest of palaces within a single day and link it to the king’s palace by a crystal bridge with gold and silver apple-trees growing on either side. And let him build a church with five domes: so there was a place where the wedding could be held and the marriage celebrated. If the old woman’s son could do all that, he would be really clever and would win the princess’s hand. But if he failed, he and the old woman would lose their heads for their impudence. Home went the old woman with the reply, weeping bitter tears as she trudged along. “Well, my son,” she cried. “I told you not to bite off more than you can chew; but you would have your way. Now our poor heads are for the chop, tomorrow we shall die.” “Who knows, mother, we might stay alive. Pray to God and go to bed: morning is wiser than evening.”

On the stroke of midnight, Martin got up from his bed, went out into the yard, put the ring on his other hand—and right away twelve strapping youths appeared, all exactly alike. “What is it that you require, Martin, the widow’s son?” they asked. “It is this: build me by first light on this very spot a .splendid palace, with a crystal bridge leading from my palace to the king’s and with gold and silver apple-trees growing on either side, and birds of every kind singing in their branches: build me, too, a church with five domes; so there is a place where my wedding can be held, and my marriage celebrated.” “All will be ready by the morrow,” replied the twelve strapping youths. With that they set to busily, brought workmen and carpenters from all sides and got down to work. They worked with a will and soon everything was done. In the morning Martin woke up to find himself not in his simple cottage, but in splendid chambers. He stepped onto the high porch and saw that all was ready:

the palace, the church, the crystal bridge, and the trees with gold and silver apples. The king also walked onto his balcony, looked through his spy-glass and marveled to see that all had been done as he had ordered. He summoned the fair princess and told her to get ready for the wedding. “Well,” he said, “I never thought I would hand my daughter over to a peasant’s son, but there’s nothing for it now.”

While the princess was dressing herself in her finery, Martin, the widow’s son. came into the yard, put the magic ring on his other hand, and saw twelve strapping youths appear as if from out of the ground. “What is it that you require?” they asked. “It is this,” Martin said, “dress me in a nobleman’s caftan and get ready a golden coach with six fine horses.” “Straightway, master.” In the twinkling of an eye Martin was brought the caftan; he put it on and it fitted him perfectly. Then he looked round and saw standing at the portals a carriage harnessed to six splendid horses dappled silver and gold. He got into the carriage and drove to the church; the bells were already ringing for mass, and people were flocking by the score! Behind the groom came the bride with her maids and matrons and the king with his ministers. After mass Martin, the widow’s son, took the fair princess by the hand and, as right and proper, they were wed. The king gave his daughter a rich dowry, bestowed high office upon his new son-in-law and held a wedding feast to which all the world was invited.

The young couple lived together one month, then two and three: all the while Martin had new palaces and gardens built by the day, if not the hour. But it pained the princess to think that she had been wed not to a prince, a royal heir. but to a simple peasant. So she began wondering how to get rid of him. She pretended to be as sweet and loving as any husband could desire. She saw to her husband’s every need, served him in every way she could, trying all the time to wheedle his secret out of him. But Martin was as firm as a rock and would not betray it.

One day, however, after drinking with the king, he came home and lay down to rest; the princess ran to his side, kissing and caressing him, breathing sweet words into his ear; and so oily was her tongue that Martin finally told her about his wonderful ring. “Good,” thought the princess, “now I’ll finish you off.” As soon as he fell asleep, she snatched the ring from his little finger, went into the courtyard and put it on her other hand. At once the twelve strapping youths appeared. “What is it that you require, fair princess?” they asked. “Listen, lads,” she said, “make the palace, the church and the crystal bridge vanish by dawn; and bring back the humble cottage as before. Leave my husband as poor as he always was, and carry me off to the Thrice-Ten Kingdom beyond the Thrice-Nine Land, to the Mice’s Realm. I am ashamed to live here.” “Straightway, Your Highness,” they said. In a flash she was swept up by the wind and borne off to the Thrice-Ten Kingdom, the Mice’s Realm.

Next morning the king awoke and went out onto his balcony to look through his spy-glass—but there was no palace with a crystal bridge and no five-domed church. just a humble cottage. “What does this mean?” he thought. “Where has it all gone?” And without delay he sent his adjutant to find out what had happened. The adjutant galloped off, inspected everything, then returned to report to the king, “Your Majesty, where the grand palace once stood there is now the humble cottage as before:

and inside the cottage lives your son-in-law with his mother; but there is no sign of the fair princess and no one knows where she is.” The king called a grand council to pronounce judgment on his son-in-law: they condemned him for sorcery and the wrong he had done to the fair princess. Martin was to be immured in a high stone pillar with neither food nor drink. Let him starve to death. Stonemasons came and put up a tall stone pillar in which Martin was immured, with one small window for light. And there he sat. poor lad, shut in without food or drink one day. then a second and a third, weeping bitterly.

Martin’s old friend. Blackie the dog. found out what had happened and came running to the cottage. Stripey the cat lay purring on the stove. “You lazy scoundrel, Stripey,” said the dog. “all you can do is lie and stretch on the stove in the warm. while our master is shut up in a stone prison far away. Have you forgotten how he gave his last hundred rubles to save your miserable skin? If it hadn’t been for him the worms would have eaten you away long ago. Get up quickly! We must go and help him.” Stripey hopped down from the stove and. together with the dog. ran off to search for their master. Coming at last to his stone prison, the cat scrambled up to the window. “Hey, master! Are you still alive?” “Only just.” answered Martin. “I’m starving; it must be my fate to die of hunger.” “Don’t despair; we will bring you food and drink.” said Stripey. jumping out of the little window and down to the ground. “Our master’s starving to death, Blackie; what can we do to help him?” “Oh, Stripey. you’re too stupid to think of anything! I know: let’s go to town. and as soon as we meet a pie-man with a tray of pies. I’ll trip him up and make him drop the tray. Then grab some pies and take them to our master.”

So they went to the high street and met a man carrying a tray on his head. The dog darted under his feet, making the man stumble and drop his tray. The pies went flying, and the poor man ran off in a panic, thinking a mad dog was after him. Stripey snatched up a pie and ran off to Martin. He gave him the pie and dashes back for another, then a third. In the same fashion they frightened away a man selling cabbage soup, and thus got many a bowlful for their master. Then Blackie and Stripey decided to set off for the Thrice-Ten Kingdom, the Mice’s Realm, to bring back the wonderful ring; the road was long and it would take them some time. Before setting off they brought Martin a good store of rusks, rolls, pies and provisions to last a whole year. “Eat and drink, master, but make sure your supplies last out until we return.” They bade him farewell and set off on their long journey.

By and by they came to a deep blue sea. “I think I can swim to the other side. what about you’^” said the dog. “I’m no good at swimming.” Stripey said. “I’ll drown in no time.” “Then climb on my back.” So Stripey climbed on the dog’s back. dug his claws into Blackie’s thick fur, and they swam off across the sea. When they reached the other side they came to the Thrice-Ten Kingdom, the Mice’s Realm. There was not a single human being in that land; but there were more mice than you could count—wherever you looked they were scampering about in their thousands. “Now it’s your turn, Stripey,” said the dog. “You break their necks. while I gather up the bodies and put them in a pile.”

Stripey was used to this sort of hunting; off he went to deal with the mice in his way; one pounce and the mouse was finished. The dog could hardly keep up with him and by the end of a week the pile was huge. A terrible grief lay over the entire realm. When the Mouse King found that his subjects were missing, that many had suffered a cruel fate, he crawled out of his hole and begged the dog and the cat: “I bow before you, mighty warriors. Take pity on my poor people, do not kill us all;

tell me, instead, what I can do for you. Whatever you say will be done.” The dog told him this: “You have a palace in your realm, and within that palace dwells a fair princess; she stole our master’s magic ring. Fetch us that ring, or you will die and your kingdom will perish—we will lay it waste!” “Wait,” said the Mouse King, “I will summon my subjects and ask them.”

Immediately he gathered all the mice, large and small, and asked if one of them would creep into the palace to the fair princess and steal her ring. One little mouse answered, “I often go to that palace. By day the princess wears the ring on her little finger, and by night when she goes to bed she puts it into her mouth.” “Go and try to get it,” said the Mouse King. “If you succeed I will reward you handsomely.” The little mouse waited until nightfall, made his way into the palace and crept on tiptoe into the princess’s bed-chamber. She was sleeping soundly. Climbing onto the bed, he poked his tail into the princess’s nose and tickled her nostrils. She sneezed, and the ring flew out of her mouth and dropped onto the carpet. The little mouse hopped down from the bed, seized the ring in his teeth and took it to the Mouse King. The Mouse King handed the ring to the mighty warriors, Blackie and Stripey, and they in turn paid him their compliments. Then they held counsel between themselves: who should look after the ring? “Give it to me, I’ll never lose it, not for anything,” said the cat. “All right,” said Blackie. “But see you guard it with your life.” The cat took the ring in his mouth and they set off on their return journey.

When they arrived at the deep blue sea, Stripey climbed onto the dog’s back, dug his claws into Blackie’s thick fur as tightly as he could, and into the water they went, swimming across to the other side. They swam for an hour or two, then out of nowhere a black raven swooped down and started pecking at Stripey’s head. The poor cat did not know how to protect himself from the enemy. If he used his claws he would slip into the water and end up at the bottom of the sea; if he used his teeth, he might lose the ring. What was he to do?’ He endured it as long as he could, until his head was bloody from the raven’s pecking. Then he lost his temper, opened his mouth to seize the raven and … dropped the ring into the deep blue sea. The black raven flew up and disappeared into a dark forest. As soon as they reached land, Blackie demanded to see the ring. Stnpey hung his head in shame. “Forgive me, Blackie.” he said. “I’m sorry. I dropped it into the sea.” The dog let fly at him. “You stupid oaf! You’re lucky I didn’t find out earlier, or I’d have dropped you into the sea, you dolt. What are we going to tell our master? Crawl into the sea at once and find that ring, or I’ll tear you to pieces!” “What good will that do?” growled the cat. “We must put our heads together: just as we caught mice before, we’ll catch crabs now. Perhaps they will find our ring for us.” The dog agreed. So they began to walk along the seashore catching crabs and piling them up. The pile grew and grew. A huge crab crawled out of the sea to take a walk; in a flash Stripey had him in his claws. “Don’t kill me, mighty warriors, I am the Crab King. I shall do whatever you order.” “We dropped a ring into the sea,” said Stripey, “go and look for it if you desire our pardon; or we will put your whole kingdom to waste.”

The Crab King called his subjects at once and told them about the ring. Then up spoke a tiny crab: “I know where it is. When the ring fell into the deep blue sea, a sturgeon seized it and swallowed it before my very eyes.” All the crabs ran through the sea in search of the sturgeon; when they found it they began pinching and tweaking the poor fish ceaselessly. The fish twisted and turned this way and that. and finally leaps onto the shore. The Crab King again emerged from the water and addressed the cat and the dog: “Here is the sturgeon, mighty warriors. Have no mercy on it, for it has swallowed your ring.” The dog pounced on the sturgeon and started eating it up from the tail. But the cunning cat guessed where the ring would be. He gnawed a hole in the sturgeon’s belly, tore out its insides and there was the ring. Seizing it in his teeth he scampered off as fast as his legs would carry him, thinking, “I’ll run to the master, give him the ring and say I found it all by myself; and the master will love me more than Blackie.”

Meanwhile the dog was finishing his meal of fish and wondering where the cat had gone. He soon guessed what the cat was up to, that he was trying to curry favor with their master. “It’s no good, Stripey, you rascal! I’ll catch you up and tear you to pieces.” And off ran Blackie after the cat. He caught Stripey up and threatened him with a terrible fate. Spying a birch-tree in a field, Stripey scampered up it and sat there right at the top. “Very well,” said the dog, “you can’t sit in a tree forever; you’ll want to come down sometime. And I shan’t budge until you do.” For three days Stripey sat up the tree, and for three days Blackie stood guard, not letting him out of sight for a moment. They both got very hungry and agreed to make it up. then set off together to their master. When they reached the stone prison, Stripey sprang up to the little window and asked, “Are you still alive. Master?” “Hello, dear Stripey! I thought you would never return. I haven’t had a bite to eat for three days.” Thereupon the cat gave him the magic ring. Martin boded his time till dead of night, put the ring on his other hand and the twelve strapping youths appeared.

“What is it that you require?” “Set up my former palace, lads,” said Martin, “and the crystal bridge and the five-domed church; and bring back my unfaithful wife; have it ready by morning.”

No sooner said than done. The king awoke next morning, went onto his balcony, and looked through his spy-glass: where the cottage had stood there was now a lofty palace; from the palace stretched a crystal bridge, and on either side of the bridge grew trees with gold and silver apples. The king ordered his coach to be made ready and rode off to see whether it had all really come back or whether he was dreaming. Martin met him at the gates, took him by his fair hands and led him into his splendid palace. “Well, this is how it was, Sire, and all because of the princess”, and he told the king the whole story. The king ordered the princess to be executed: the unfaithful wife was tied to the tail of a wild stallion which was set loose upon the open plain. The stallion flew like the wind, dashing her snow-white body against the gullies and steep ravines. But Martin still lives and prospers to this day.

Little Straw Bull…

Once upon a time there lived an Old Man and an Old Woman. The Old Man went out to work and made tar for a living, and the Old Woman stayed home spinning tow. But the little they earned all went on food, and they had nothing at all to their name.

Now, the Old Woman began to fret and to worry and she said to the Old Man:

“Do make me a little bull of straw, Old Man, and smear him with tar.”

“What’s come over you, you silly Old Woman, what do you want with a straw bull?”

“I know what I want, just you make me one.”

There was nothing to be done, so the Old Man made a little bull of straw and smeared his back and sides over with tar. Night came, and in the morning the Old Woman led the Little Straw Bull out to pasture and she took her spinning with her.

She sat down on a hillside and she spun her thread and said:

“Graze, graze, Little Bull, while I spin my thread! Graze, graze, Little Bull, while I spin my thread!”

And she spun and she spun till at last she dozed off.

All of a sudden who should come running out of the great dark forest but a Bear! He lumbered straight up to the Bull and said:

“Do tell me who you are!”

“I am the Little Straw Bull with the Tarred Back.”

“Give me a little tar, Straw Bull, for my side is torn and perhaps it will heal faster if I put some tar on it.”

But the Straw Bull just stood there and made no reply.

So then the Bear began clawing at the Straw Bull’s back and side to get some tar off, and there he was stuck fast. He tugged and he pulled, and before he knew it he had pulled the Bull from the spot and out of sight.

The Old Woman woke up, she looked about her, and there was no sign of the Bull anywhere.

“Dear me, what a terrible thing to have happened!” she cried. “Where is my Bull? Perhaps he has gone home.”

She lifted her distaff, put it over her shoulder and went home in great haste. Her way lay through the forest, and she had only walked a short distance when lo and behold! — there was the Bull standing where the Bear had dragged him.

The Old Woman ran home and she cried at the top of her voice:

“Old Man, Old Man, the Straw Bull has caught a Bear. Come quickly and kill him!”

The Old Man came running, he pulled the Bear free and threw him into the cellar.

On the following day, at the first glimpse of dawn, the Old Woman k the Straw Bull out to pasture again and she took her spinning with he She sat down on a hillside and she spun her thread and said:

“Graze, graze, Little Bull, while I spin my thread’ Graze, graze, Litt Bull, while I spin my thread'”

And she spun and she spun till at last she dozed off.

All of a sudden who should come running out of the great dark. fore but a Wolf’ He saw the Bull and said:

‘Do tell me who you are'”

‘I am the Little Straw Bull with the Tarred Back!” the Bull replied-

‘Well, then, let me have some tar, for the dogs have torn my side!”

“Take it!”

The Wolf caught at the Straw Bull’s side with his teeth and beg trying to get some of the tar off. He tried very, very hard, but befc he knew it there he was stuck fast and unable to get his teeth out! he pulled and he pulled till he had pulled the Straw Bull from the spot a out of sight.

The Old Woman woke up, she looked about her, and there was no) sign of the Little Straw Bull anywhere!”

“Perhaps he has gone home,” said she to herself, and off she w< home.

But she had not gone very far before she saw the Bull being drag^ along by the Wolf. So she ran home and told the Old Man about it. c the Old Man came and seized the Wolf and threw him into the cellar.

On the third day the Old Woman took the Little Bull out to past’ again. She sat down on the hillside and dozed off.

By and by a Fox came running up and she saw the Straw Bull and asl him who he was.

‘I am the Little Straw Bull with the Tarred Back,” the Little Bull plied.

“Well, then, do be a dear and let me have some tar to put on my s:

The dogs have nearly taken the hide off me!”

‘Take it!”

The Fox tried to take some of the tar and she too was stuck fasi the Bull’s side and, try as she would, could not get free.

The Old Woman woke, she called the Old Man, and the Old Man th the Fox into the cellar.

And on the next day they caught a Rabbit in the same way and th him into the cellar too.

So now there were four of them there, and the Old Man sat down on the trap door and began sharpening his knife.

“Why do you sharpen your knife, Old Man?” the Bear asked.

“Because I mean to skin you and make coats for myself and my Old Woman.”

“Don’t do that, Old Man! Let me go free, and I will bring you lots and lots of honey.”

All right, then, see that you do!”

And with that the Old Man let the Bear go free.

Then he seated himself on the trap door again and began sharpening his knife.

“Why do you sharpen your knife. Old Man?” the Wolf asked.

‘I am going to skin you and make a warm hat for myself for the winter.”

“Don’t do that, Old Man. Let me go free, and I will bring you a whole herd of sheep.’

“Well, then, see that you do!”

And he let the Wolf go free and began sharpening his knife again.

The Fox heard him and she pushed up the trap door with her head.

“Please, Old Man, do be a dear and tell me why you are sharpening your knife,” she said. ‘I am going to skin you, Fox,’ the Old Man replied. ‘For you have fine fluffy fur that will make a nice collar and trimming for my Old Woman’s coat.”

‘Please don’t kill me, Old Man! Let me go free, and I will bring you some chickens and geese.

“All right, then, see that you do!”

And with that he let the Fox go free.

So now there was only the Rabbit left in the cellar.

The Old Man began sharpening his knife again, and when the Rabbit asked him why he was doing it he said:

“You have soft, warm fur that will go to make a pair of fine mittens for me and a hat as well.”

“Please don’t kill me, Old Man! Let me go free, and I’ll bring you beads and earrings and ribbons.”

So the Old Man let the Rabbit go free too.

Night came and passed, and just before dawn had set in or day broken, there came a rap-tap-tap at the door.

“Someone is knocking at the door, Old Man’, she cried. “Go and see who it is.”

The Old Man opened the door, and there stood the Bear with a whole hive of honey’.

The Old Man took the honey, put it away and had only }ust gone to sleep when suddenly there came a rap-tap-tap at the door again,

The Old Man opened the door, and there stood the Wolf with a whole herd of sheep’. And soon after that the Fox came. bringing chickens and geese and other towl, and after her the Rabbit with a bag full of ribbons and beads and earrings.

The Old Man and the Old Woman were overjoyed. They sold the -sheep and bought themselves a team of oxen, and the Old Man took to carrying other people’s wares to market for them. And they became so -rich and had so much money that no one could have asked for more,

And as for the Straw Bull, there was no longer any use for him, and so he stood out in the sun until he melted away.

Soviet Stories…

Little Snow Girl…

Once upon a time there was an old man and his wife, who had no children, no grandchildren at all. One feast day they went outside and watched other people’s children making snowmen and throwing snowballs at one another. The old man picked up a snowball and said to his wife:

“If only you and I had a little daughter as white and chubby as this, wife!”

The old woman looked at the snowball, shook her head and said: “Well, we haven’t and there’s no getting one now, so there!” But the old man took the snowball into the cottage, lay it in a pot, covered it with a piece of cloth and placed it on the window-sill. When the sun rose, it warmed the pot and the snow inside began to melt. Suddenly the old couple heard a lisping sound in the pot under the piece of cloth. They ran up to take a look, and there in the pot lay a little girl, as white and chubby as a snowball.

“I am Little Snow Girl, rolled from the snow of spring, warmed and browned by the sun of spring,” she said to them.

The man and his wife were beside themselves with joy. They took her out, and the old woman began sewing her some pretty clothes, while the old man wrapped her in a towel, rocked her and sang this lullaby:

Sleep, Little Snow Girl, sleep,
Our tasty bun so sweet,
Rolled from the snow of spring,
Warmed by the sun of spring.
We’ll give you drink a-plenty,
We’ll give you food galore,
And make you such a pretty dress
And teach you four times four.

So Little Snow Girl grew up, a joy to the old couple. She was good and clever, as little girls are in fairy tales, but very rarely in real life.

Everything was going well for the old couple and their livestock. The cattle got through the winter safely, and in spring they put the chickens back into the yard. But no sooner had the moved them from the house to the hen-coop, than the trouble started. A fox came up to the old man’s dog Zhuchka, pretending to be ill, and begged her in a whining voice:

“Dear little Zhuchka of the white paws and silky tail, please let me go and warm up in the hen-coop!”

Zhuchka had been with the old man in the forest all day and she didn’t know that the old woman had put the chickens back into the coop. So she took pity on the fox and let her in. The fox killed two chickens and dragged them off home. When the old man found out, he gave Zhuchka a beating and drove her out of the yard.

“Be off with you,” he said. “You’re no good to me as a watchdog!” So Zhuchka left the old couple’s house, whimpering, and only the old woman and Little Snow Girl felt sorry for her.

Summer came, the berries ripened, and Little Snow Girl’s friends asked her to come berry-picking in the forest with them. The old man and his wife would not hear of it. But Little Snow Girl’s friends promised faithfully not to let go of her hand, and Little Snow Girl herself begged the old couple to let her go berry-picking and see what the forest was like. So in the end they gave her a basket and a piece of pie and let her go.

The girls set off holding Little Snow Girl’s hand, but as soon as they got to the forest and saw all the berries, they forgot about everything else and ran off in all directions, picking berries and hallooing to one another.

They filled their baskets with berries, but lost Little Snow Girl in the forest.

Little Snow Girl called out, but no one replied. The poor mite began to cry. She tried to find the path, but got even more lost than before. So she climbed a tree and shouted: “Halloo! Halloo!” Up came Bear, crunching the dry branches and bending the bushes. “What’s the matter, my pretty one?”

“Halloo! I’m Little Snow Girl, rolled from spring snow and browned by the spring sun. My girlfriends asked my grandparents to let me go with them into the forest, but now they’ve left me all alone!” “Come down,” said Bear. “I’ll take you home.” “No, Bear,” Little Snow Girl replied. “I won’t go with you. I’m afraid of you. You’ll eat me!” So Bear went away.

Up ran Grey Wolf.

“Why are you crying, my pretty one?” “Halloo! I’m Little Snow Girl, rolled from spring snow and browned by the spring sun. My girlfriends asked my grandparents to let me go berry-picking with them in the forest, and now they’ve left me all alone!”

“Climb down,” said Wolf. “I’ll take you home!”

“No, Wolf, I won’t go with you. I’m afraid of you. You’ll eat me.” So Wolf went away. Then Fox came up. “Why are you crying, my pretty one?”

“Halloo! I’m Little Snow Girl, rolled from spring snow and browned by the spring sun. My girlfriends asked my grandparents to let me go berry-picking with them in the forest, and now they’ve left me all alone!”

“Never mind, my poor little pretty one! Come down quickly, and I’ll take you home!”

“No, Fox of the honeyed words. I’m afraid of you. You’ll lead me to Wolf or give me to Bear. I’m not going with you!”

Fox began stalking round the tree, looking at Little Snow Girl and trying to lure her down, but the little girl would not go.

“Wuff, wuff, wuff!” barked a dog in the forest.

“Halloo there, Zhuchka!” cried Little Snow Girl. “Halloo, my darling doggy! It’s me, Little Snow Girl, rolled from spring snow and browned by the spring sun. My girlfriends asked my grandparents to let me go berry-picking with them in the forest, and now they’ve left me all alone. Bear wanted to carry me off, but I wouldn’t go. Wolf wanted to take me away, but I refused. And Fox tried to lure me down, but I wouldn’t be tricked by her. But I’ll go with you, Zhuchka!”

At the sound of the dog barking, Fox turned tail and fled for dear life. Little Snow Girl climbed down the tree. Zhuchka rushed up, licked her face all over and set off home with her.

Bear was hiding behind a tree-stump, Wolf was skulking in a glade and Fox was lurking in the bushes.

Zhuchka barked loudly, and they were so frightened that they dared not come close.

They arrived home, and the old couple wept for joy. They fed Little Snow Girl, put her in her nice cosy bed and sang:

Sleep, Little Snow Girl, sleep,
Our tasty bun so sweet,
Rolled from the snow of spring,
Warmed by the sun of spring.
We’ll give you drink a-plenty,
We’ll give you food galore,
And make you such a pretty dress
And teach you four times four.

Zhuchka was forgiven. They gave her a nice saucer of milk and put her back in her old kennel to guard the house again.

Ivanushka the Simpleton…

In a kingdom far away from our country, there was a town over which ruled the Tsar Pea with his Tsaritza Carrot. He had many wise statesmen, wealthy princes, strong, powerful warriors, and also simple soldiers, a hundred thousand, less one man. In that town lived all kinds of people: honest, bearded merchants, keen and open-handed rascals, German tradesmen, lovely maidens, Russian drunkards; and in the suburbs all around, the peasants tilled the soil, sowed the wheat, ground the flour, traded in the markets, and spent the money in drink. In one of the suburbs there was a poor hut where an old man lived with his three sons, Thomas, Pakhom, and Ivan. The old man was not only clever, he was wise. He had happened once to have a chat with the devil. They talked together while the old man treated him to a tumbler of wine and got out of the devil many great secrets. Soon after this the peasant began to perform such marvelous acts that the neighbors called him a sorcerer, a magician, and even supposed that the devil was his kin.

Yes, it is true that the old man performed great marvels. Were you longing for love, go to him, bow to the old man, and he would give you some strange root, and the sweetheart would be yours. If there is a theft, again to him with the tale. The old man conjures over some water, takes an officer along straight to the thief, and your lost is found; only take care that the officer steals it not.

Indeed the old man was very wise; but his children were not his equals. Two of them were almost as clever. They were married and had children, but Ivan, the youngest, was single. No one cared much for him because he was rather a fool, could not count one, two, three, and only drank, or ate, or slept, or lay around. Why care for such a person? Every one knows life for some is brighter than for others. But Ivan was good-hearted and quiet. Ask of him a belt, he will give a kaftan also; take his mittens, he certainly would want to have you take his cap with them. And that is why all liked Ivan, and usually called him Ivanoushka the Simpleton; though the name means fool, at the same time it carries the idea of a kind heart.

Our old man lived on with his sons until finally his hour came to die. He called his three sons and said to them:

“Dear children of mine, my dying hour is at hand and ye must fulfill my will. Every one of you come to my grave and spend one night with me; thou, Tom, the first night; thou, Pakhom, the second night; and thou, Ivanoushka the Simpleton, the third.”

Two of the brothers, as clever people, promised their father to do according to his bidding, but the Simpleton did not even promise; he only scratched his head.

The old man died and was buried. During the celebration the family and guests had plenty of pancakes to eat and plenty of whisky to wash them down.

Now you remember that on the first night Thomas was to go to the grave; but he was too lazy, or possibly afraid, so he said to the Simpleton:

“I must be up very early to-morrow morning; I have to thresh; go thou for me to our father’s grave.”

“All right,” answered Ivanoushka the Simpleton. He took a slice of black rye bread, went to the grave, stretched himself out, and soon began to snore.

The church clock struck midnight; the wind roared, the owl cried in the trees, the grave opened and the old man came out and asked:

“Who is there?”

“I,” answered Ivanoushka.

“Well, my dear son, I will reward thee for thine obedience,” said the father.

Lo! the cocks crowed and the old man dropped into the grave. The Simpleton arrived home and went to the warm stove.

“What happened?” asked the brothers.

“Nothing,” he answered. “I slept the whole night and am hungry now.”

The second night it was Pakhom’s turn to go to his father’s grave. He thought it over and said to the Simpleton:

“To-morrow is a busy day with me. Go in my place to our father’s grave.”

“All right,” answered Ivanoushka. He took along with him a piece of fish pie, went to the grave and slept. Midnight approached, the wind roared, crows came flying, the grave opened and the old man came out.

“Who is there?” he asked.

“I,” answered his son the Simpleton.

“Well, my beloved son, I will not forget thine obedience,” said the old man.

The cocks crowed and the old man dropped into his grave. Ivanoushka the Simpleton came home, went to sleep on the warm stove, and in the morning his brothers asked:

“What happened?”

“Nothing,” answered Ivanoushka.

On the third night the brothers said to Ivan the Simpleton:

“It is thy turn to go to the grave of our father. The father’s will should be done.”

“All right,” answered Ivanoushka. He took some cookies, put on his sheepskin, and arrived at the grave.

At midnight his father came out. “Who is there?” he asked. “I,” answered Ivanoushka. “Well,” said the old father, “my obedient son, thou shalt be rewarded;” and the old man shouted with a mighty voice:

“Arise, bay horse–thou wind-swift steed, Appear before me in my need; Stand tip as in the storm the weed!”

And lo!–Ivanoushka the Simpleton beheld a horse running, the earth trembling under his hoofs, his eyes like stars, and out of his mouth and ears smoke coming in a cloud. The horse approached and stood before the old man.

“What is thy wish?” he asked with a man’s voice.

The old man crawled into his left ear, washed and adorned himself, and jumped out of his right ear as a young, brave fellow never seen before.

“Now listen attentively,” he said. “To thee, my son, I give this horse. And thou, my faithful horse and friend, serve my son as thou hast served me.”

Hardly had the old man pronounced these words when the first cock crew and the sorcerer dropped into his grave. Our Simpleton went quietly back home, stretched himself under the icons, and his snoring was heard far around.

“What happened?” the brothers again asked.

But the Simpleton did not even answer; he only waved his hand.

The three brothers continued to live their usual life, the two with cleverness and the younger with foolishness. They lived a day in and an equal day out. But one morning there came quite a different day from all others. They learned that big men were going all over the country with trumpets and players; that those men announced everywhere the will of the Tsar, and the Tsar’s will was this: The Tsar Pea and the Tsaritza Carrot had an only daughter, the Tsarevna Baktriana, heiress to the throne. She was such a beautiful maiden that the sun blushed when she looked at it, and the moon, altogether too bashful, covered itself from her eyes. Tsar and Tsaritza had a hard time to decide to whom they should give their daughter for a wife. It must be a man who could be a proper ruler over the country, a brave warrior on the battlefield, a wise judge in the council, an adviser to the Tsar, and a suitable heir after his death. They also wanted a bridegroom who was young, brave, and handsome, and they wanted him to be in love with their Tsarevna. That would have been easy enough, but the trouble was that the beautiful Tsarevna loved no one. Sometimes the Tsar mentioned to her this or that one. Always the same answer, “I do not love him.” The Tsaritza tried, too, with no better result; “I do not like him.”

A day came when the Tsar Pea and his Tsaritza Carrot seriously addressed their daughter on the subject of marriage and said:

“Our beloved child, our very beautiful Tsarevna Baktriana, it is time for thee to choose a bridegroom. Envoys of all descriptions, from kings and tzars and princes, have worn our threshold, drunk dry all the cellars, and thou hast not yet found any one according to thy heart’s wish.”

The Tsarevna answered: ”Sovereign, and thou, Tsaritza, my dear mother, I feel sorry for you, and my wish is to obey your desire. So let fate decide who is destined to become my husband. I ask you to build a hall, a high hall with thirty-two circles, and above those circles a window. I will sit at that window and do you order all kinds of people, tsars, kings, tsarovitchi, korolevitchi, brave warriors, and handsome fellows, to come. The one who will jump through the thirty-two circles, reach my window and exchange with me golden rings, he it will be who is destined to become my husband, son and heir to you.”

The Tsar and Tsaritza listened attentively to the words of their bright Tsarevna, and finally they said: “According to thy wish shall it be done.”

In no time the hall was ready, a very high hall adorned with Venetian velvets, with pearls for tassels, with golden designs, and thirty-two circles on both sides of the window high above. Envoys went to the different kings and sovereigns, pigeons flew with orders to the subjects to gather the proud and the humble into the town of the Tsar Pea and his Tsaritza Carrot. It was announced everywhere that the one who could jump through the circles, reach the window and exchange golden rings with the Tsarevna Baktri-ana, that man would be the lucky one, notwithstanding his rank–tsar or free kosack, king or warrior, tsarevitch, koro-levitch, or fellow without any kinfolk or country.

The great day arrived. Crowds pressed to the field where stood the newly built hall, brilliant as a star. Up high at the window the tsarevna was sitting, adorned with precious stones, clad in velvet and pearls. The people below were roaring like an ocean. The Tzar with his Tzaritza was sitting upon a throne. Around them were boyars, warriors, and counselors.

The suitors on horseback, proud, handsome, and brave, whistle and ride round about, but looking at the high window their hearts drop. There were already several fellows who had tried. Each would take a long start, balance himself, spring, and fall back like a stone, a laughing stock for the witnesses.

The brothers of Ivanoushka the Simpleton were preparing themselves to go to the field also.

The Simpleton said to them: “Take me along with you.”

“Thou fool,” laughed the brothers; “stay at home and watch the chickens.”

“All right,” he answered, went to the chicken yard and lay down. But as soon as the brothers were away, our Ivanoushka the Simpleton walked to the wide fields and shouted with a mighty voice:

“Arise, bay horse–them wind-swift steed, Appear before me in my need; Stand up as in the storm the weed!”

The glorious horse came running. Flames shone out of his eyes; out of his nostrils smoke came in clouds, and the horse asked with a man’s voice:

“What is thy wish?”

Ivanoushka the Simpleton crawled into the horse’s left ear, transformed himself and reappeared at the right ear, such a handsome fellow that in no book is there written any description of him; no one has ever seen such a fellow. He jumped onto the horse and touched his iron sides with a silk whip. The horse became impatient, lifted himself above the ground, higher and higher above the dark woods below the traveling clouds. He swam over the large rivers, jumped over the small ones, as well as over hills and mountains. Ivanoushka the Simpleton arrived at the hall of the Tsarevna Baktriana, flew up like a hawk, passed through thirty circles, could not reach the last two, and went away like a whirlwind.

The people were shouting: “Take hold of him! take hold of him!” The Tsar jumped to his feet, the Tsaritza screamed. Every one was roaring in amazement.

The brothers of Ivanoushka came home and there was but one subject of conversation–what a splendid fellow they had seen! What a wonderful start to pass through the thirty circles!

“Brothers, that fellow was I,” said Ivanoushka the Simpleton, who had long since arrived.

“Keep still and do not fool us,” answered the brothers.

The next day the two brothers were going again to the tsarski show and Ivanoushka the Simpleton said again: “Take me along with you.”

“For thee, fool, this is thy place. Be quiet at home and scare sparrows from the pea field instead of the scarecrow.”

“All right,” answered the Simpleton, and he went to the field and began to scare the sparrows. But as soon as the brothers left home, Ivanoushka started to the wide field and shouted out loud with a mighty voice:

“Arise, bay horse–thou wind-swift steed, Appear before me in my need; Stand up as in the storm the weed!”

–and here came the horse, the earth trembling under his hoofs, the sparks flying around, his eyes like flames, and out of his nostrils smoke curling up. “For what dost thou wish me?” Ivanoushka the Simpleton crawled into the left ear of the horse, and when he appeared out of the right ear, oh, my! what a fellow he was! Even in fairy tales there are never such handsome fellows, to say nothing of everyday life.

Ivanoushka lifted himself on the iron back of his horse and touched him with a strong whip. The noble horse grew angry, made a jump, and went higher than the dark woods, a little below the traveling clouds. One jump, one mile is behind; a second jump, a river is behind; and a third jump and they were at the hall. Then the horse, with Ivanoushka on his back, flew like an eagle, high up into the air, passed the thirty-first circle, failed to reach the last one, and swept away like the wind.

The people shouted: “Take hold of him! take hold of him!” The Tsar jumped to his feet, the Tsaritza screamed, the princes and boyars opened their mouths.

The brothers of Ivanoushka the Simpleton came home. They were wondering at the fellow. Yes, an amazing fellow indeed! one circle only was unreached.

“Brothers, that fellow over there was I,” said Ivanoushka to them.

“Keep still in thy own place, thou fool,” was their sneering answer.

The third day the brothers were going again to the strange entertainment of the Tsar, and again Ivanoushka the Simpleton said to them: “Take me along with you.”

“Fool,” they laughed, “there is food to be given to the hogs; better go to them.”

“All right,” the younger brother answered, and quietly went to the back yard and gave food to the hogs. But as soon as his brothers had left home our Ivanoushka the Simpleton hurried to the wide field and shouted out loud:

“Arise, bay horse–thou wind-swift steed, Appear before me in my need; Stand up as in the storm the weed!”

At once the horse came running, the earth trembled; where he stepped there appeared ponds, where his hoofs touched there were lakes, out of his eyes shone flames, out of his ears smoke came like a cloud.

“For what dost thou wish me?” the horse asked with a man’s voice.

Ivanoushka the Simpleton crawled into his right ear and jumped out of his left one, and a handsome fellow he was. A young girl could not even imagine such a one.

Ivanoushka struck his horse, pulled the bridle tight, and lo! he flew high up in the air. The wind was left behind and even the swallow, the sweet, winged passenger, must not aspire to do the same. Our hero flew like a cloud high up into the sky, his silver-chained mail rattling, his fair carls floating in the wind. He arrived at the Tsarevna’s high hall, struck his horse once more, and oh! how the wild horse did jump!

Look there! the fellow reaches all the circles; he is near the window; he presses the beautiful Tsarevna with his strong arms, kisses her on the sugar lips, exchanges golden rings, and like a storm sweeps through the fields. There, there, he is crushing every one on his way! And the Tsarevna? Well, she did not object. She even adorned his forehead with a diamond star.

The people roared: “Take hold of him!” But the fellow had already disappeared and no traces were left behind.

The Tsar Pea lost his royal dignity. The Tsaritza Carrot screamed louder than ever and the wise counselors only shook their wise heads and remained silent.

The brothers came home talking and discussing the wonderful matter.

“Indeed,” they shook their heads; “only think of it! The fellow succeeded and our Tsarevna has a bridegroom. But who is he? Where is he?”

“Brothers, the fellow is I,” said Ivanoushka the Simpleton, smiling.

“Keep still, I and I–,” and the brothers almost slapped him.

The matter proved to be quite serious this time, and the Tsar and Tsaritza issued an order to surround the town with armed men whose duty it was to let every one enter, but not a soul go out. Every one had to appear at the royal palace and show his forehead. From early in the morning the crowds were gathering around the palace. Each forehead was inspected, but there was no star on any. Dinner time was approaching and in the palace they even forgot to cover the oak tables with white spreads. The brothers of Ivanoushka had also to show their foreheads and the Simpleton said to them: “Take me along with you.”

“Thy place is right here,” they answered, jokingly. “But say, what is the matter with thy head that thou hast covered it with cloths? Did somebody strike thee?”

“No, nobody struck me. I, myself, struck the door with my forehead. The door remained all right, but on my forehead there is a knob.”

The brothers laughed and went. Soon after them Ivanoushka left home and went straight to the window of the Tsarevna, where she sat leaning on the window sill and looking for her betrothed.

“There is our man,” shouted the guards, when the Simpleton appeared among them. “Show thy forehead. Hast thou the star?” and they laughed.

Ivanoushka the Simpleton gave no heed to their bidding, but refused. The guards were shouting at him and the Tsarevna heard the noise and ordered the fellow to her presence. There was nothing to be done but to take off the cloths.

Behold! the star was shining in the middle of his forehead. The Tsarevna took Ivanoushka by the hand, brought him before Tsar Pea, and said:

“He it is, my Tsar and father, who is destined to become my groom, thy son-in-law and heir.”

It was too late to object. The Tsar ordered preparations for the bridal festivities, and our Ivanoushka the Simpleton was wedded to the Tsarevna Baktriana. The Tsar, the Tsaritza, the young bride and groom, and their guests, feasted three days. There was fine eating and generous drinking. There were all kinds of amusements also. The brothers of Ivanoushka were created governors and each one received a village and a house.

The story is told in no time, but to live a life requires time and patience. The brothers of Ivanoushka the Simpleton were clever men, we know, and as soon as they became rich every one understood it at once, and they themselves became quite sure about it and began to pride themselves, to boast, and to brag. The humble ones did not dare look toward their homes, and even the boyars had to take off their fur caps on their porches.

Once several boyars came to Tsar Pea and said: “Great Tsar, the brothers of thy son-in-law are bragging around that they know the place where grows an apple tree with silver leaves and golden apples, and they want to bring this apple tree to thee.”

The Tsar immediately called the brothers before him and bade them bring at once the wonderful tree, the apple tree with silver leaves and golden apples. The brothers had ever so many excuses, but the Tsar would have his way. They were given fine horses out of the royal stables and went on their errand. Our friend, Ivanoushka the Simpleton, found somewhere a lame old horse, jumped on his back facing the tail, and also went. He went to the wide field, grasped the lame horse by the tail, threw him off roughly, and shouted:

“You crows and magpies, come, come! There is lunch prepared for you.”

This done he ordered his horse, his spirited courser, to appear, and as usual he crawled into one ear, jumped out the other ear and they went–where? Toward the east where grew the wonderful apple tree with silver leaves and golden apples. It grew near silver waters upon golden sand. When Ivanoushka reached the place he uprooted the tree and turned toward home. His ride was long and he felt tired. Before he arrived at his town Ivanoushka pitched his tent and lay down for a rest. Along the same road came his brothers. The two were proud no more, but rather depressed, not knowing what answer to give the Tsar. They perceived the tent with silver top and near by the wonderful apple tree. They came nearer and–“There is our Simpleton!” exclaimed the brothers. Then they awakened Ivanoushka and wanted to buy the apple tree. They were rich and offered three carts filled with silver.

“Well, brothers, this tree, this wonderful apple tree, is not for sale,” answered Ivanoushka, “but if you wish to obtain it you may. The price will not be too high, a toe from each right foot.”

The brothers thought the matter over and finally decided to give the desired price. Ivanoushka cut the toes off, gave them the apple tree, and the happy brothers brought it to the Tsar and there was no end to their bragging.

“Here, all-powerful Tsar,” they said. “We went far, and had many a trouble on our way, but thy wish is fulfilled.”

The Tsar Pea seemed pleased, ordered a feast, commanded tunes to be played and drums beaten, rewarded the two brothers of Ivanoushka the Simpleton, each one with a town, and praised them.

The boyars and warriors became furious.

“Why,” they said to the Tsar, “there is nothing wonderful in such an apple tree with golden apples and silver leaves. The brothers of thy son-in-law are bragging around that they will get thee a pig with golden bristles and silver tusks, and not alone the pig, but also her twelve little ones!”

The Tsar called the brothers before him and ordered them to bring the very pig with her golden bristles and silver tusks and her twelve little ones. The brothers’ excuses were not listened to and so they went. Once more the brothers were traveling on a difficult errand, looking for a golden-bristled pig with silver tusks and twelve little pigs.

At that time Ivanoushka the Simpleton made up his mind to take a trip somewhere. He put a saddle on a cow, jumped up on her back facing the tail, and left the town. He came ‘to a field, grasped the cow by the horns, threw her far on the prairie and shouted:

“Come, come, you gray wolves and red foxes! there is a dinner for you!”

Then he ordered his faithful horse, crawled into one ear, and jumped out of the other. Master and courser went on an errand, this time toward the south. One, two, three, and they were in dark woods. In these woods the wished-for pig was walking around, a golden-bristled pig with silver tusks. She was eating roots, and after her followed twelve little pigs.

Ivanoushka the Simpleton threw over the pig a silk rope with a running noose, gathered the little pigs into a basket and went home, but before he reached the town of the Tsar Pea he pitched a tent with a golden top and lay down for a rest. On the same road the brothers came along with gloomy faces, not knowing what to say to the Tsar. They saw the tent, and near by the very pig they were searching for, with golden bristles and silver tusks, was fastened with a silk rope; and in a basket were the twelve little pigs. The brothers looked into the tent. Ivanoushka again! They awakened him and wanted to trade for the pig; they were ready to give in exchange three carts loaded with precious stones.

“Brothers, “my pig is not for trade,” said Ivanoushka, ”but if you want her so much, well, one finger from each right hand will pay for her.”

The brothers thought over the case for a long while; they reasoned thus: “People live happily without brains, why not without fingers?”

So they allowed Ivanoushka to cut off their fingers, then took the pig to the Tsar, and their bragging had no end.

“Tsar Sovereign,” they said, “we went everywhere, beyond the blue sea, beyond the dark woods; we passed through deep sands, we suffered hunger and thirst; but thy wish is accomplished.”

The Tsar was glad to have such faithful servants. He gave a feast great among feasts, rewarded the brothers of Ivanoushka the Simpleton, created them big boyars and praised them.

The other boyars and different court people said to the Tsar:

“There is nothing wonderful in such a pig. Golden bristles, silver tusks,–yes, it is fine. But a pig remains a pig forever. The brothers of thy son-in-law are bragging now that they will steal for thee out of the stables of the fiery dragon a mare with golden mane and diamond hoofs.”

The Tsar at once called the brothers of Ivanoushka the Simpleton, and ordered the golden-maned mare with the diamond hoofs. The brothers swore that they never said such words, but the Tsar did not listen to their protests.

“Take as much gold as you want, take warriors as many as you wish, but bring me the beautiful mare with golden mane and diamond hoofs. If you do it my reward will be great; if not, your fate is to become peasants as before.”

The brothers went, two sad heroes. Their march was slow; where to go they did not know. Ivanoushka also jumped upon a stick and went leaping toward the field. Once in the wide, open field, he ordered his horse, crawled into one ear, came out of the other, and both started for a far-away country, for an island, a big island. On that island in an iron stable the fiery dragon was watchfully guarding his glory–the golden-maned mare with diamond hoofs, which was locked under seven locks behind seven heavy doors.

Our Ivanoushka journeyed and journeyed, how long we do not know, until at last he arrived at that island, struggled three days with the dragon and killed him on the fourth day. Then he began to tear down the locks. That took three days more. When he had done this he brought out the wonderful mare by the golden mane and turned homeward.

The road was long, and before he reached his town Ivanoushka, according to his habit, pitched his tent with a diamond top, and laid him down for rest. The brothers came along–gloomy they were, fearing the Tsar’s anger. Lo! they heard neighing; the earth trembled–it was the golden-maned mare! Though in the dusk of evening the brothers saw her golden mane shining like fire. They stopped, awakened Ivanoushka the Simpleton, and wanted to trade for the wonderful mare. They were willing to give him a bushel of precious stones each and promised even more.

Ivanoushka said: “Though my mare is not for trade, yet if you want her I’ll give her to you. And you, do you each give me your right ears.”

The brothers did not even argue, but let Ivanoushka cut off their ears, took hold of the bridle and went directly to the Tsar. They presented to him the golden-maned mare with diamond hoofs, and there was no end of bragging.

“We went beyond seas, beyond mountains,” the brothers said to the Tsar; “we fought the fiery dragon who bit off our ears and fingers; we had no fear, but one desire to serve thee faithfully; we shed our blood and lost our wealth.”

The Tsar Pea poured gold over them, created them the very highest men after himself, and planned such a feast that the royal cooks were tired out with cooking to feed all the people, and the cellars were fairly emptied.

The Tsar Pea was sitting on his throne, one brother on his right hand, the other brother on his left hand. The feast was going on; all seemed jolly, all were drinking, all were noisy as bees in a beehive. In the midst of it a young, brave fellow, Ivanoushka the Simpleton, entered the hall–the very fellow who had passed the thirty-two circles and reached the window of the beautiful Tsarevna Baktriana.

When the brothers noticed him, one almost choked himself with wine, the other was suffocating over a piece of swan. They looked at him, opened wide their eyes, and remained silent.

Ivanoushka the Simpleton bowed to his father-in-law and told the story as the story was. He told about the apple tree, the wonderful apple tree with silver leaves and golden apples; he told about the pig, the golden-bristled pig with silver tusks and her twelve little ones; and finally he told about the marvelous mare with a golden mane and diamond hoofs. He finished and laid out ears, fingers, and toes.

“It is the exchange I got,” said Ivanoushka.

Tsar Pea became furious, stamped his feet, ordered the two brothers to be driven away with brooms. One was sent to feed the pigs, another to watch the turkeys. The Tsar seated Ivanoushka beside himself, creating him the highest among the very high.

The feast lasted a very long time until all were tired of feasting.

Ivanoushka took control of the tsarstvo, ruling wisely and severely. After his father-in-law’s death he occupied his place. His subjects liked him; he had many children, and his beautiful Tsaritza Baktriana remained beautiful forever.

Ivan Tsarevitch and the Grey Wolf…

Creator - Ivan Bilibin
Firebird and Ivan…

Once upon a time there lived a Tsar who had three sons. The youngest was called Ivan. The Tsar had a wonderous garden. In it grew a tree with golden apples. Someone began coming to the Tsar’s garden to steal the apples. The Tsar became upset about it. He sent some guards there.

None of the guards were able to track the culprit. The Tsar stopped eating and drinking, he became listless. His sons tried to comfort him: “Dear Father, don’t grieve, we ourselves will guard the garden.” The oldest son said: “Today is my turn, I will go to watch over the garden.” The oldest son set out for the garden.

A little while before evening, there wasn’t a trace of anyone, and he lay down on the soft grass and fell asleep. In the morning the Tsar asked him: “Well, enlighten me, did you see the culprit?” “No, Father, all night I didn’t sleep, my eyes never closed, but I didn’t see anything.”

On the next night the middle son went to stand guard and also slept the whole night, but in the morning said that he hadn’t seen the culprit. At last it was time for the youngest son to stand watch. Ivan went to guard his father’s garden, and even though he was sitting there afraid, he didn’t lie down. When he started to dream, he took dew from the grass and wiped the dream from his eyes.

Midnight came, and to him it appeared there was light in the garden. It got brighter and brighter. All the garden was lit up. He saw the Firebird sitting in the apple tree, pecking at the golden apples. Ivan Tsarevich crawled toward the apple tree and grabbed the bird by the tail. The Firebird flapped it’s wings and flew away, leaving in Ivan’s hand, one feather.

Ivan TsarevichIn the morning Ivan Tsarevich went to his father. “Well, my dear Vanya, you didn’t see the culprit either?” “Dear Father, I remember but don’t remember, who destroys our garden. Here is a memento from the culprit for you to take. It is, Dear Father, the Firebird.”

The Tsar took the feather, and from that time began to eat and to drink, and knew no more sorrow. It was a beautiful time to him and he pondered about the Firebird. He called his sons and said to them: “My dear children, saddle would you good steeds, go would you about the wide world, to places unknown, where you might catch the Firebird.

The children bowed to their father, saddled good horses and set out on their way. The oldest in one direction, the middle in another, and Ivan Tsarevich in the third direction. Ivan went a long time, or a short time. The day was summery. Ivan Tsarevich grew tired, got down from his horse, fettered him, and tumbled down to sleep.

A long time or a short time passed, Ivan Tsarevich woke up and saw, no horse. He went to look for him, he walked and walked and hoped to find his horse nibbling on a bush. Thought Ivan Tsarevich: where without a horse to go in such remoteness? “Well, what of it, he thought, set out, nothing else to do.” And he went on foot. He walked and walked, grew tired to death. Sat on the soft grass and grew more sad. From out of nowhere ran toward him the Grey Wolf. “What, Ivan Tsarevich, sitting there grieving, your head hanging?” “How can I not grieve, Grey Wolf?” I am left alone without a good steed.” “It is I, Ivan Tsarevich, who ate your horse…I’m sorry! Tell me, why are you traveling in this remote place, where are you going?” “My father sent us to go about the wide world to find the Firebird.” “Pooh, pooh, you on your own good horse could not in three years go to the Firebird. I alone know where he lives.

So, and it will be, I ate your horse, and I will serve you, it’s only right. Sit on me and hold on tight.” Ivan Tsarevich sat on his back and the Grey Wolf leapt flying through the blue forest faster than the eye could see, past rivers and lakes. For a long time, or a short time, they flew to a high fortress. The Grey Wolf said: “Listen to me, Ivan Tsarevich, and remember: crawl over the wall, don’t be afraid, it’s a lucky hour, all the guards are asleep. You will see in the terem window, on the window sill stands a golden cage, and in the cage sits the Firebird. Take the bird, lay him by your breast, and look but don’t touch the cage!”

Ivan Tsarevich crawled over the wall, saw the terem, on the window sill sat the golden cage, and in the cage sat the Firebird. He took the bird, laid him by his breast, and looked at the cage. His heart caught fire: “Ah, such golden decoration! How can I not take it!” And he remembered what the Grey Wolf had said to him. He only touched the cage, throughout the fortress sounds: pipes piped, the guards woke up, grabbed Ivan Tsarevich and carried him to Tsar Afron.

Tsar Afron was enraged and said: “Who are you, where are you from?” “I am the son of Tsar Ferapont. Ivan Tsarevich.” “Ah, what a disgrace! A tsar’s son goes out and steals.” “But what about when your bird flew into our garden and destroyed it?” “But if you had come to me to ask for advice, I would have given him to you, out of respect for your father Tsar Ferapont. But now, about all the city, the most uncomplimentary glory upon you…

Well and all right, render to me a service, I ask you. In some-such principality Tsar Kusman has a horse with a golden mane. Bring him to me, then I will give you the Firebird with the cage. Ivan Tsarevich grew very excited, went to the Grey Wolf. But the wolf said to him: “I told you, don’t disturb the cage! Why didn’t you listen to my instructions?” “Well, I beg you, I beg you, Grey Wolf.” “Well, well, I beg….Alright, sit on me. Take the rope, don’t say that it is not strong.” Again set off the Grey Wolf with Ivan Tsarevich.

For a long time, or a short time, they flew to the other fortress, where stood the horse with the golden mane. “Crawl, Ivan Tsarevich, over the wall, the guards are asleep, go to the stable, take the horse, and look, but don’t touch the bridle.” Ivan Tsarevich crawled into the fortress, all the guards were asleep.

He went to the stables, took the horse with the golden mane, and looked at the bridle. It was gold with precious stones. Ivan Tsarevich touched the bridle, and a loud noise went all through the fortress: pipes piped, the guards awoke, grabbed Ivan and carried him to Tsar Kusman. “Who are you, where are you from?” “I am Ivan Tsarevich.” “Eeh, such stupidity to undertake, to steal a horse! On this even a simple peasant would agree.” “Well, all right, I beg you, Ivan Tsarevich, render me a service.

Tsar Dalmat has a daughter, Elena Prekracnaya. (the beautiful) Go and get her, bring her to me, and I will give you the horse with the golden mane and his bridle.” Ivan Tsarevich became more dejected than ever, he went toward the Grey Wolf. “I told you, Ivan Tsarevich: Don’t touch the bridle! You didn’t listen to my advice.” “Well, I beg you, I beg you, Grey Wolf”.

“Well well, you beg…yes, all right, sit on my back.” Again sped off the grey wolf with Ivan Tsarevich. They rushed to Tsar Dalmat. He had a garden in his fortress where Elena Prekrasnaya walked with her mother and her nurse. Grey Wolf said: “This time I myself will go. You go back the way we came. I will soon catch up with you.” Ivan Tsarevich went back the way they had come, and the Grey Wolf jumped over the wall and into the garden. He sat in hiding behind a bush and watched.

Ivan TsarevichElena Prekrasnaya came out with her mother and nurse. They walked and walked and her mother and nurse stopped for a bit. Grey Wolf grabbed Elena Prekrasnaya, leapt over the wall, and took flight. Ivan Tsarevich was going along the way, when suddenly the Grey Wolf caught up with him. On the wolf sat Elena Prekrasnaya. Ivan Tsarevich rejoiced, but the Grey Wolf said to him: “Sit on me quickly, for they will not be far behind.” The Grey Wolf sped away with Ivan Tsarevich and Elena Prekrasnaya the way they had come, through the blue forest, faster than the eye could see, past rivers and lakes. For a long time, or for a short time, they hurried to Tsar Kusman.

The Grey Wolf asked: “Why, Ivan Tsarevich have you become even more sad?” “But, how can I not be sad, Grey Wolf? How can I be parted with such beauty? How can I exchange Elena Prekrasnaya for a horse?” The Grey Wolf answered: “I won’t part you with such beauty, we will hide her somewhere, I will turn myself into Elena Prekrasnaya, and you will bring me to the Tsar.” They hid Elena Prekrasnaya in a forest isba.

The Grey Wolf turned his head and became exactly like Elena Prekrasnaya. Ivan Tsarevich took him to Tsar Kusman. The Tsar rejoiced and began thanking him: “Thankyou, Ivan Tsarevich, for you have brought to me a bride. Take the horse with the golden mane and bridle.” Ivan Tsarevich sat on the horse and went for Elena Prekracnaya.

He picked her up and sat her on the horse and they set out on their way. Tsar Kusman had the wedding, and feasted all day until evening. Then he needed to lie down to sleep. But when he and his young wife went up the stairs, he looked, and in place of Elena Prekrasnaya was a wolf! The tsar turned angrily toward him, but the wolf ran off. The Grey Wolf caught up with Ivan Tsarevich and asked: “Why are you so sad, Ivan Tsarevich?” “How can I not be sad? It would be a pity to part with such a bridle, and to trade the horse with the golden mane for the Firebird.” “Don’t grieve, I will help you.” And they traveled to Tsar Afron.

The wolf said: “Hide the horse and Elena Prekrasnaya. I will turn myself into the horse with the golden mane, and you will bring me to Tsar Afron.” They hid Elena Prekrasnaya and the horse with the golden mane in the forest. The Grey Wolf looked over his back and turned himself into the horse with the golden mane. Ivan Tsarevich took him to Tsar Afron.

The tsar was overjoyed and gave him the Firebird with the golden cage. Ivan Tsarevich returned on foot to the forest, sat Elena Prekrasnaya on the horse with the golden mane picked up the golden cage with the Firebird, and they traveled in the direction of his homeland. Tsar Afron commanded his servants to bring his horse to him. He wanted to sit on him, but the horse turned into the Grey Wolf.

The tsar was so surprised that he fell down right where he was standing, and the Grey Wolf took flight, quickly catching up with Ivan Tsarevich. “Now, farewell, I am not allowed to go any further.” Ivan Tsarevich got down from his horse, and three times bowed down to the ground, with respect he thanked the Grey Wolf. Then he said: “You won’t be parted with me forever, I again will call you into service.” Ivan Tsarevich thought: “Aren’t you already in my service, all of my wishes you have fufilled.”

He sat on the horse with the golden mane, and again set out with Elena Prekrasnaya and the Firebird. They traveled into his region. They had only a little bread left. They traveled to a little spring and drank the water, and ate the bread, and lay down on the grass to rest. Ivan Tsarevich fell asleep. His brothers suddenly came upon him. They had traveled to other lands, seeking the firebird, and returned empty-handed. They came upon Ivan and saw all that he had acquired.

Then they said: “Let us kill our brother, all that he has gained will be ours.” This decided, they killed Ivan Tsarevich. They saddled the horse with the golden mane, picked up the Firebird, sat Elena Prekrasnaya on the horse, and threatened her: “At home, don’t say anything>” Ivan Tsarevich lay dead, two crows were already flying over him. From out of no where ran the Grey Wolf, and grabbed the crow and his wife. “You fly, crow, for the water of life and death.

Bring to me the water of life and the water of death, and then I will let go of your wife. The crow flew for a long time or a short time, bringing the water of life and the water of death. The Grey Wolf sprinkled the water of death on Ivan’s wounds, the wounds healed.

He sprinkled him with the water of life, and Ivan got up. “Oh, how soundly I slept!” “You would have slept even sounder”, said the Grey Wolf, “if I hadn’t sprinkled you with the water of life and the water of death! Your own brothers killed you and took all that you have gained. Even now one of your brothers is to marry Elena Prekrasnaya. Sit on me quickly!”

They rushed home, where, indeed, Ivan’s brother was preparing to marry Elena Prekrasnaya. No sooner had Ivan Tsarevich entered the castle, than Elena Prekrasnaya jumped up and threw her arms around him. “This is my true bridegroom, Ivan!” she cried, “Not the evil brother sitting there!” And she told the Tsar everything the brothers had done, and how they had threatened to kill her if she told anyone what had happened.

The Tsar was very angry and threw the two oldest brothers into the dungeon. Then Ivan Tsarevich married Elena Prekrasnaya, and they lived happily ever after.

Ilya the Murom…

Illya of Murom was born near the town of Murom into a family of poor peasants. His father and mother chopped wood in the forest for a living and farmed a small plot of land and they fed Illya who had weak legs and could not walk. For thirty years he lay on the stove without getting up and did no work.

One day, when he was thirty years of age and lying on the stove as usual and his father and mother were away at work, three old men came up to their house.
“Open the door, Illya!” they called.

“I cannot!” Illya called back. “My legs are weak and I dare not get up.

“You can do it if you try, Illya. Come, get up!”

Illya tried hard. He pulled and strained, and, swinging his legs over the side of the stove, leapt down onto the floor. Then, walking easily across the room, he opened the door and let in the old men.

“You have been very ill, Illya, but you are well now,” the old man said. “Rejoice and let your father and mother rejoice with you, for you will always be healthy and strong like a true bohatyr brave warrior! They held out a jug of water to him and said again:

“Here, drink this water and a change will come over you. There.. How strong do you feel?”

“Very strong.”

“That is good. Drink some more!”

Illya lifted the jug to his lips and took a long drink.

“Well, do you feel any stronger now?”

“Yes! I feel so strong that if a ring were to be driven into the earth and I were to take hold of it, I could turn the earth upside down!”

“Good! Very good! And now listen, Illya. You must not boast of your strength or tell anyone about it but do only that which will please your father and mother. Harm none but do good to all.”

Now, this was a time when Russia was overrun by the Tatars, and Illya of Murom decided to come to his country’s defense. Kazan had been besieged, with three tsars, bohatyrs all three, leading the enemy host, and it was thither he hastened. He approached the town, and, pulling an oak tree up by the roots, began smiting the Tatars with it, and he struck down all but a few of them. Of the whole enemy host only the three tsars were still on their feet, and Illya came up to them and said:

“Go back whence you came and tell your people never to cross our borders again. I only left you alive in order that you might do so. Russia has Illya of Murom defending her, and he is a great bohatyr whom none can vanquish.”

The Tatar tsars went back to their own land, and Illya of Murom rode into Kazan. The streets were empty, for the townsfolk had sought shelter in their homes and in the churches. Illya entered a church and found it full of people who were praying and weeping.

“What are you doing here, good folk?” he asked.

“Cannot you see for yourself!” said they. “The Tatars are at our gates and there is not a man or a woman among us who is not in danger of being slain.”

“Speak you of Tatars? But there are none anywhere near. Go and see for yourselves!”

They went outside, and lo! — the Tatars were indeed gone and it was as though they had never been.

After that there was much rejoicing and merrymaking, and the towns- folk thanked Illya of Murom and begged him to stay with them.

But Illya said:

“Nay, that I cannot do! I delivered Kazan from the Tatars, and now I must haste to other towns and free them too. Fear nothing, for no foe will come to bother you again. Live as you lived before and be at peace!”

And Illya of Murom got on his horse and made for Kiev.

Now, all who went there took a roundabout way as the regular road was blocked by Solovei the Whistler-Robber who slew all who came near: not a bird could fly, not a beast could run, not a bohatyr could ride past him. But Illya of Murom took the road that led straight to Kiev
and so had to pass the forest where Solovei lay in wait. On three oaks he sat and nine branches in a nest he had built for himself and from which he could see over the whole of the forest. And the moment he spied anyone he would whistle like a bird and roar like a beast, and the leaves would rain from the trees, the trees crash to the ground, and all who happened to be passing by drop dead.

Illya of Murom came riding past the forest, and Solovei the Whistler- Robber saw him and whistled like a bird, and the leaves rained down from the trees; he roared like a beast, and Illya’s horse stumbled and fell onto its knees. But Illya of Murom drove his knee into the horse’s flank and cried:

“A horse of mine to fear Solovei the Whistler-Robber? Up now or I’ll give you to the dogs!”

The horse stood up, and Illya rode on. He was close now to where Solovei the Whistler-Robber was waiting, and, seeing him, Solovei leapt down to the ground and made for him. But Illya of Murom took aim and sent an arrow straight into Solovei’s right eye. The arrow pierced Solovei’s head and came out from the back of it, and Solovei fell to the ground. Illya sprang up to him, and, seizing him, held him in his grip, and Solovei knew Illya for one stronger than he and told himself that his end had come.

Illya untied the stirrups from his saddle, and, binding the Whistler- Robber’s arms and legs with strong leather thongs, tied him to it, sprang on the horse’s back and made for Solovei’s house.
Now, Solovei the Whistler-Robber had a daughter who was as strong as any bohatyr, and when this daughter saw Illya of Murom come riding up, with her father hanging from his saddle, she seized an iron bar weighing all of ninety pods and hurled it at him. But Illya of Murom
stopped the bar with his shoulder and sent it flying back and it struck Solovei’s daughter and killed her on the spot. Solovei’s wife came out, and, seeing that her husband’s life was in danger, began to plead with Illya, begging him to spare Solovei and promising to pay him as large a ransom in either gold or silver as he wanted. But Illya of Murom would have none of it.

“Nay, Solovei has lived long enough!” he said. “Never would I spare one who killed and orphaned so many! And I want none of your gold. It is not riches I covet — I seek to defend the wronged and helpless!-” And turning round his horse, he headed for Kiev.

Now, it was Prince Volodimir who reigned in Kiev at the time, and when Illya of Murom arrived the Prince was holding a feast at which all his bohatyrs had gathered. Illya told the Prince who he was, and the Prince asked him by what road he had traveled.

“By the road that runs straight to Kiev, Prince,” Illya said.

At this all the bohatyrs sprang up from their seats, and one who was more famed than any, Alyosha, Son of a Priest, said:

“He lies, Prince, it cannot be! For who can travel by the road that runs straight to Kiev, with Solovei the Whistler-Robber lying in wait there and not a bird being able to fly nor a beast to run past him!

“Do you then call yourself a true bohatyr, you who fear Solovei the Whistler-Robber?” said Illya of Murom. “Let me show you where Solovei is!”

He led the Prince, his wife and the bohatyrs into the courtyard and pointed at the Whistler-Robber.

“There he is?” he said.

They looked, and, seeing Solovei dangling from the saddle, knew Illya of Murom to be a true bohatyr, for who but a true bohatyr could have vanquished such a one!

Prince Volodimir said not a word to Illya, but addressed Solovei.

“Come, Solovei, whistle like a bird and roar like a beast!” he said.

But Solovei the Whistler-Robber only sneered.

“It was not you who took me captive and it is not for you to tell me what to do!” he said.

The Prince turned to Illya of Murom.

“Bid him do as I said?” said he.

Said Illya of Murom:

“Come, Prince, and you, Princess, stand beside me, and I will throw my cape over you that your eardrums might not burst when Solovei whistles.”

He threw his cape over them and turned to Solovei.

“Hark now, Solovei, do as I bid and whistle like a bird!” he cried.

Solovei whistled like a bird, and lo! — the leaves rained from the trees, and Prince Volodimir’s bohatyrs fell to the ground and began crawling across the courtyard on all fours in their fright.

Then Solovei roared like a beast, and they stumbled and fell and were so dazed that they knew not where to go. But Prince Volodimir and his Princess were safe under Illya of Murom’s cape.

“And is this how brave you are, my gallants!” said Illya of Murom to the Prince’s bohatyrs. “Why did I not fly from Solovei as you do!”

He led Solovei the Whistler-Robber out into the field and cut off his head. And now that Solovei was dead, he stayed with the Prince and lived in his palace.

One day the bohatyrs again came to visit the Prince. They spent the time in revelry, and they quarreled with Illya and so set the Prince against him that he threw him into a dungeon. He had an earthen wall put up around it, and, thinking to starve Illya to death, sent him no food for three years. But the Prince’s daughter brought him food and drink in secret from her father, and though the Prince thought him dead, Illya was alive and well.

Three years passed, and a Tatar tsar, Kalin by name, who was famed for his prowess in battle, sent a messenger to Prince Volodimir with a letter for him in which he wrote as follows:

“Kalin, Tsar of the Tatars, writes you this. Of my own lands I have not enough and wish to add your Kiev lands to them. Should you refuse to surrender Kiev I shall lead my host against you and seize it, and you and the Princess shall work in my kitchens.”

Prince Volodimir read the letter and turned white with fear. He spoke to his wife, but as they could not think what to do they called their daughter and asked her counsel.

“Send for Illya of Murom. Perhaps he is still alive,” the daughter said.

“You must be out of your senses, daughter!’ said the Prince. “Illya has been kept in a dungeon without food for three years. So not only is he long dead by now but his bones have long turned to dust.

“Send for him all the same, Father!”

The Prince was vexed by this and said so, but the daughter said again:

“But, Father, what if he is still alive?”

Seeing her so insistent, the Prince argued no more.

“Very well, I’ll send someone there to see.”

He sent his men to the dungeon, and they dug a passage in the earthen wall and made their way into it. And lo! — there sat Illya of Murom, alive and well, singing songs to pass the time. The men came back to the Prince.

“Illya of Murom is alive, Prince, and as well as he ever was,” said they.

“Speak you truly?” the Prince demanded.

“Aye, Prince.”

“Then let us go there at once!”

And the Prince hastened to the dungeon.

He unlocked all the doors, let out Illya of Murom and said to him in pleading tones:

“Be not wroth with me, Illya, for letting my anger get the better of me, help me out in my trouble.”

“Nay, Prince, ask not for my help. You kept me here in order to starve me to death!” said Illya.

The Prince went away and sent the Princess, his wife, to talk to Illya, but he would have none of her and all her pleas availed her nothing. Then the Prince’s daughter offered to speak to him and went to the dungeon, and when he saw her Illya said:

“You brought me food, maid, and did not let me die, and I will fight for you and defend Russia. Lucky are your father and mother to have such a daughter!”

Out he stepped from the dungeon and went forth to war against Tsar Kalin. He routed Tsar Kalin’s host, but Tsar Kalin was a strong man and a true bohatyr and he said that now that his men had fallen in battle he would himself fight Illya of Murom. For three long days they fought, and Tsar Kalin got the better of Illya He threw him to the ground and held him in an iron grip.”

But Tsar Kalin, who had three beautiful daughters, did not mean to kill Illya of Murom but only to frighten him. So he pulled out his dagger and cried: “Beware, for I will cut you to ribbons, Illya of Murom!- And in the next breath: “Nay, live, bohatyr! Take one of my daughters to wife and join forces with me! Leave your princes! Why should you fight for them when they do nothing for you?”

Now, Illya of Murom knew, for so the old men who had cured him of his long illness had told him, that he drew his strength from his native soil and that the longer he lay on the bare earth the stronger
he would become. So when Tsar Kalin threw him down and held him pinned to the ground, he was glad, for he felt himself growing stronger. He lay there and waited, and Tsar Kalin, seeing him so calm, was enraged and said:

“Refuse to do as I say, and you will die!”

But Illya made no reply, and it was only when he felt himself to have become strong again, stronger than ever he was, that he caught Tsar Kalin with his legs and hurled him high. Up into the air a full ten meters flew Tsar Kalin and then he fell to the ground and there was little life left in him. And Illya of Murom seized him by the legs and began swinging him round and round, using his body to smite those men of his who were still alive. And in this way he slew them all.

After that he came back to Kiev, married Prince Volodimir’s daughter and lived out his life in peace.

Soviet Stories!

The Golden Mountain…

Once upon a time a merchant’s son had too much fun spending money, and the day came when he saw himself ruined; he had nothing to eat, nothing to drink. He took a shovel and went to the market place to see if perchance somebody would hire him as a worker.

A rich, proud merchant, worth many, many thousands, came along in a gilded carriage. All the fellows at the market place, as soon as they perceived him, rushed away and hid themselves in the corners. Only one remained, and this one was our merchant’s son.

“Dost thou look for work, good fellow? Let me hire thee,” the very rich merchant said to him.

“So be it; that’s what I came here for.”

“And thy price?”

“A hundred rubles a day will be sufficient for me.”

“Why so much?”

“If too much, go and look for some one else; plenty of people were around and when they saw thee coming, all of them rushed away.”

“All right. To-morrow come to the landing place.”

The next day, early in the morning, our merchant’s son arrived at the landing; the very rich merchant was already there waiting.

They boarded a ship and went to sea. For quite a long time they journeyed, and finally they perceived an island. Upon that island there were high mountains, and near the shore something seemed to be in flames.

“Yonder is something like fire,” said the merchant’s son.

“No, it is my golden palace.”

They landed, came ashore, and–look there! the rich merchant’s wife is hastening to meet him, and along with her their young daughter, a lovely girl, prettier than you could think or even dream of.

The family met; they greeted one another and went to the palace. And along with them went their new work-man. They sat around the oak table and ate and drank and were cheerful.

“One day does not count,” the rich merchant said; “let us have a good time and leave work for to-morrow.”

The young workman was a fine, brave fellow, handsome and stately, and the merchant’s lovely daughter liked him well.

She left the room and made him a sign to follow her. Then she gave him a touchstone and a flint.

“Take it,” she said; “when thou art in need, it will be useful.”

The next day the very rich merchant with his hired workman went to the high golden mountain. The young fellow saw at once that there was no use trying to climb or even to crawl up.

“Well,” said the merchant, “let us have a drink for courage.”

And he gave the fellow some drowsy drink. The fellow drank and fell asleep.

The rich merchant took out a sharp knife, killed a wretched horse, cut it open, put the fellow inside, pushed in the shovel, and sewed the horse’s skin together, and himself sat down in the bushes.

All at once crows came flying, black crows with iron beaks. They took hold of the carcass, lifted it up to the top of the high mountain, and began to pick at it.

The crows soon ate up the horse and were about to begin on the merchant’s son, when he awoke, pushed away the crows, looked around and asked out loud:

“Where am I?”

The rich merchant below answered:

“On a golden mountain; take the shovel and dig for gold.”

And the young man dug and dug, and all the gold he dug he threw down, and the rich merchant loaded it upon the carts.

“Enough!” finally shouted the master. “Thanks for thy help. Farewell!”

“And I–how shall I get down?”

“As thou pleasest; there have already perished nine and ninety of such fellows as thou. With thee the count will be rounded and thou wilt be the hundredth.”

The proud, rich merchant was off.

“What shall I do?” thought the poor merchant’s son. ”Impossible to go down! But to stay here means death, a cruel death from hunger.”

And our fellow stood upon the mountain, while above the black crows were circling, the black crows with iron beaks, as if feeling already the prey.

The fellow tried to think how it all happened, and he remembered the lovely girl and what she said to him in giving him the touchstone and the flint. He remembered how she said:

“Take it. When thou art in need it will prove useful.”

“I fancy she had something in mind; let us try.”

The poor merchant’s son took out stone and flint, struck it once and lo! two brave fellows were standing before him.

“What is thy wish? What are thy commands?” said they.

“Take me from this mountain down to the seashore.”

And at once the two took hold of him and carefully brought him down.

Our hero walks along the shore. See

there! a vessel comes sailing near the island.

“Ahoy! good people! take me along!”

“No time to stop!” And they went sailing by. But the winds arose and the tempest was heavy.

“It seems as if this fellow over there is not an ordinary man; we had better go back and take him along,” decided the sailors.

They turned the prow toward the island, landed, took the merchant’s son along with them and brought him to his native town.

It was a long time, or perhaps only a short time after–who could tell?–that one day the merchant’s son took again his shovel and went to the market place in search of work.

The same very rich merchant came along in his gilded carriage; and, as of old, all the fellows who saw him coming rushed away.

The merchant’s son remained alone.

“Will you be my workman?”

“I will at two hundred rubles a day. If so, let us to work.”

“A rather expensive fellow.”

“If too expensive go to others; get a cheap man. There were plenty of people, but when thou didst appear–thou seest thyself–not one is left.”

“Well, all right. Come to-morrow to the landing place.”

They met at the landing place, boarded a ship and sailed toward the island.

The first day they spent rather gayly, and on the second, master and workman went to work.

When they reached the golden mountain the rich, proud merchant treated his hired man to a tumbler.

“Before all, have a drink.”

“Wait, master! thou art the head; thou must drink the first. Let me treat thee this time.”

The young man had already prepared some of the drowsy stuff and he quickly mixed it with the wine and presented it to the master.

The proud merchant drank and fell sound asleep.

Our merchant’s son killed a miserable old horse, cut it open, pushed his master

and the shovel inside, sewed it all up and hid himself in the bushes.

All at once black crows came flying, –black crows with iron beaks; they promptly lifted up the horse with the sleeping merchant inside, bore it to the top of the mountain, and began to pick the bones of their prey.

When the merchant awoke he looked here and looked there and looked everywhere.

“Where am I?”

“Upon the golden mountain. Now if thou art strong after thy rest, do not lose time; take the shovel and dig. Dig quickly and I’ll teach thee how to come down.”

The proud, rich merchant had to obey and dug and dug. Twelve big carts were loaded.

“Enough!” shouted the merchant’s son. “Thank thee, and farewell!”

“And I?”

“And thou mayst do as thou wishest! There are already ninety and nine fellows perished before thee; with thyself there will be a hundred.”

The merchant’s son took along with him the twelve heavy carts with gold, arrived at the golden palace and married the lovely girl; the rich merchant’s daughter became mistress of all her father’s wealth, and the merchant’s son with his family moved to a large town to live.

And the rich merchant, the proud, rich merchant?

He himself, like his many victims, became the prey of the black crows, black crows with iron beaks.

Well, sometimes it happens just so.

Soviet Stories!

The Fox, the Rabbit and the Rooster…

rabbit shape
Rabbit…

There was once a fox and a rabbit. The fox had a house of ice, the rabbit a house of wood. Fair spring came and melted the fox’s house, while the rabbit’s stood firm and strong. So the fox asked the rabbit if she could come in to warm herself, then drove him out. The rabbit went down the road crying, and met two dogs, who asked, “Ruff, ruff, ruff! Why are you crying?” “Leave me alone, dogs! Who wouldn’t cry? I had a wooden house, while the fox had one of ice. She invited herself into mine and drove me out.” “Don’t cry, rabbit,” barked the dogs. “We’ll chase her out.” “No, you won’t.” “Oh, yes we will.” Off they went to the rabbit’s house. “Ruff, ruff, ruff! Come out of there, fox!” “Go away, before I come and tear you to pieces,” she shouted back from the stove. The dogs took fright and fled.

Once more the rabbit went on his way crying. This time he met a bear who asked, “Why are you crying?” “Leave me alone, bear,” said the rabbit. “Who wouldn’t cry? I had a wooden house, while the fox had one of ice. She invited herself into mine and drove me out.” “Don’t cry, rabbit,” said the bear. “I’ll chase her out.” “No, you won’t. The dogs tried and failed; you’ll fare no better.” “Oh, yes I will.” Off they went to chase her out. “Come on out, fox!” roared the bear. But she shouted from the stove: “Go away, before I come and tear you to pieces.” The bear took fright and fled.

Once more the rabbit went on his way crying and met an ox who asked, “Why are you crying?” “Leave me alone, ox! Who wouldn’t cry? I had a wooden house, while the fox had one of ice. She invited herself into mine and drove me out.” “Come with me, I’ll chase her out.” “No, you won’t,” said the rabbit. “The dogs tried and failed, the bear tried and failed; you’ll fare no better.” “Oh, yes I will.” Off they went together to the rabbit’s house. “Come on out, fox!” But she shouted from the stove: “Go away, before I come and tear you to pieces.” The ox took fright and fled.

Once more the rabbit went on his way crying and met a rooster with a scythe. “Cock-a-doodle-do! Why are you crying, rabbit?” “Leave me alone, rooster! Who wouldn’t cry? I had a house of wood, while the fox had one of ice. She invited herself into mine and drove me out.” “Come along with me, I’ll chase her out.” “No, you won’t,” said the rabbit. “The dogs tried and failed; the bear tried and failed; the ox tried and failed. You’ll fare no better.” “Oh, yes I-will.” So they went up to the house. “Cock-a-doodle-do! I’ll cut that fox in two with my scythe so sharp and true!” When the fox heard that, she took fright and called, “I’m getting dressed.” Again the rooster crowed: “Cock-a-doodle-do! I’ll cut that fox in two with my scythe so sharp and true!” And the fox cried: “I’m putting on my fur coat.” A third time the rooster crowed: “Cock-a-doodle-do! I’ll cut that fox in two with my scythe so sharp and true!” The fox got so scared the she rushed out of the door and ran to the hills. So after that, the rabbit and the rooster lived together happily ever after…

Soviet Stories!

The Flying Ship…

Slices of French Bread
Bread…

Once upon a time, there lived an old peasant and his wife. They had three sons. The two eldest were clever. The old woman loved them. She cooked them tasty dishes and laundered their clothes. The youngest, whose name was Ivan, was dirty and was considered a fool.

One day the Tsar had sent heralds to announce that he wanted a Flying ship to be built and whoever would built it would have the hand of his daughter in marriage, as well as half his Kingdom.

The two eldest brothers decided to try their luck and build such a ship. Their mother baked them tarts, roasted chicken and goose to have on their journey and gave them her blessing.

The brothers went to the forest and began to chop trees. They chopped many branches and didn’t know what to do afterwords. They started to abuse each other and suddenly noticed an old man standing nearby.

– Why are you scolding? – he asked.

– Go away, beggary! – replied the brothers.

Some time later the brothers came back home. A few days after, Ivan begged his parents for permission to try his luck too.

– You will never be able to make such a journey and will probably be eaten by wild animals on the way, – said the mother.

The youngest insistent on his decision and started his journey. The mother gave him a thick slice of stale bread and sent him on his way.
Ivan went to the forest, fall a high pine-tree and began to build the flying ship. The old man came to him and asked:

– What are you doing here?

– I’m building the flying ship, – replied Ivan.

– It’s difficult to build such a ship.

– Old people are wise, please, give me a piece of good advice, – asked Ivan.

The old man instructed Ivan how he should build the flying ship and Ivan built it with great ease. The old man praised Ivan for a good work and offered him to have a snack.

– I can offer you only stale bread. It’s distrustful, – said Ivan sadly.

– No matter, give me your bread, – replied the old man.

Ivan gave him bread and it turned into fresh-bake wheat bread as soon as the old man touched it. After the meal they set sail and the old man instructed Ivan:

– You should take on board every wayfarer whom you pass!

Ivan thanked the old man profusely. No sooner did he sit down in the ship than it rose up into the air, soaring high above the treetops, the rivers and the wide fields. As he flew along, he spied a man below, kneeling on the ground, his ear pressed to the earth. Ivan was very surprised and asked the man:

– What are you doing with your ear pressed to the ground?

– I am listening how birds are singing in distant South lands. I can hear all that is happening, no matter where in the world it is, – answered the man.

– Come and join me in my flying ship! – exclaimed Ivan.

The man agreed, climbed on board and they flew into the blue sky.

They had not flown far when they saw a man hopping on one leg with the other tied to his ear. Ivan demanded him:

– Why are you hopping on one foot with the other tied to your ear?

– If I don’t do it, I will step across the world in no time at all, – replied the man.

– Then come and join us in my flying ship! – offered Ivan, bringing the ship down to land.

The man on one foot hopped into the ship and off and they flew again over forest and meadow until they noticed a man shooting his gun at nothing at all in the sky. Ivan brought his ship down and asked the man why he was aiming his gun at the sky when there was not a bird in sight.

– I am aiming my gun at the greyhen, which is sitting on the tree situated at a distance of a thousand kilometers from here, – answered the man.

– Come and join as! – said Ivan.

When he was on board, Ivan cast off. On and on they sailed through the endless sky until they saw a man below carrying a sackful of loaves on his back. Ivan steered the ship until it was level with the man and asked:

– Where are you going with such a load?

– I am going to town to get bread for my dinner, – answered the man.
Ivan was puzzled and exclaimed:

– But you have a whole sackful of loaves on your back!

The man replied:

– That’s nothing. I could swallow that in one gulp and still be hungry, – replied the man.

– Come and join us! – called Ivan, landing the ship beside the Hungry Man, who accepted the offer.

As soon as he climbed aboard they soared off. They had not gone far when they saw a man walking round and round a lake. Ivan asked him:
– Why are you walking round the lake?

– I feel thirsty, but I can find no water, – answered the man.

– But there is a whole lake of water in front of you! – said Ivan.

– I would swallow this lake in one gulp and still go thirsty, – replied the man.

Ivan invited him to join his voyage and the Thirsty Man climbed on board. One they flew until they saw a man walking into a forest with a bundle of brushwood on his back.

– Why are you taking brushwood into the forest? – asked Ivan.

– This is not just ordinary brushwood. I only have to scatter it over the plain and a whole army will spring up.

This man also joined the ship and shortly afterwords they met a man carrying a bale of hay. But this was no ordinary hay. No matter how hot the sun, he only had to spread the hay upon the ground and a cool breeze would spring up and snow and frost would follow.

He was the last wayfarer to join the band in the ship. They continued their journey and soon they reached the royal courtyard. At that time the Tsar was having his breakfast. Seeing the flying ship landing not far from the palace, he immediately ordered his servants to discover who the visitors were. The servants told him that common peasants arrived and there wasn’t a single one of noble blood. The Tsar was extremely displeased. How could he possible allow his daughter to marry a simple peasant? He asked boyars to help him and they gave him the following advice:

– You should set impossible tasks for these peasants and you will be able to get rid of them without going back on your word.

So the Tsar ordered Ivan to bring him two jugs: a jug of the Water of Life and a jug of the Water of Death – and to bring them to him before he finished eating his breakfast! Ivan was shocked because he couldn’t fulfill this order. Giantsteps said:

– Don’t worry, I will bring the jugs in a minute!

Giantsteps unhitched his leg from his ear, ran to the remote kingdom and collected the jugs. Then he thought to himself: “I have plenty of time and it is possible to have a rest.” He sat under a big oak and dozed off. Back at the palace, the Tsar was just finishing his breakfast and the men in the flying ship were becoming uneasy. The first wayfarer (the one who could hear the slightest sound near and far) put his ear to the ground and heard the mighty snores of Giantsteps beneath the big oak. The Marksman took his gun and fired at the oak. Acorns fell on the head of Giantsteps and woke up him. Giantsteps jumped up and brought the water in several seconds. The Tsar looked at the jugs of the Water of Life and the Water of Death and decided to test the magic water. Servants caught a cock and splashed the Water of Death on it. The cock died at once. Then servant splashed the Water of Life on it and the cock returned to life.

Foiled on the first task, the Tsar set a second. This time it was even more impossible: to eat a dozen roast oxen and a dozen freshly baked loaves at a single sitting. Ivan groaned:

– I could not eat a single ox in a week!

The Hungry man calmed Ivan and said:

– Don’t worry, that is only enough to whet my appetite!

And so the Hungry Man devoured the twelve roast oxen and twelve freshly baked loaves in one gulp – and then called for more! The Tsar was furious. He called for forty pails of beer to be poured into each of forty barrels and commanded that all this was to be consumed in a single drought.

Again Ivan was crestfallen. But the Thirsty Man cheered him up:

– I can drain them all in one drought, and still have room for more!

And so it was. This time the Tsar was desperate. He gave orders for an iron bath-house to be heated until it was white hot. Ivan had to spend the night steaming himself in it. That would surely put an end to him, the Tsar thought to himself.

Ivan entered the bath-house in the company of the Straw Man, who scattered his hay across the iron floor. This made the temperature drop so slow that Ivan had barely washed himself before the water turned to ice. When the Tsar unlocked the bath-house the next morning, Ivan stepped out, washed and clean and as fresh as a daisy!
The Tsar was beside himself with rage. He commanded Ivan to assemble an entire regiment of troops by the next morning. At last he had found the best solution to the entire problem, for where could a simple peasant raise an army? He would be rid of Ivan once and for all!
Ivan was distressed because he couldn’t complete this order. The Brushwood suddenly exclaimed:

– You have forgotten me! I can raise a whole host of fighting men in the twinkle of an eye. And if the Tsar refuses to give up his daughter after that, our army will conquer his kingdom!

In the morning Ivan and his friend went in the field and spread brushwood over the grass and in a twinkling a vast army of cavalry, infantry and artillery appeared.

When the Tsar awoke the next morning and saw the army before his palace, with banners and pennants fluttering in the morning breeze, he took fright and ordered his generals to withdraw the royal army. The Tsar’s army lost a battle and Ivan burst into the palace. The Tsar was very frightened, he groveled at Ivan’s feet asking him to marry his daughter. Ivan said:

– I won’t obey you any more!

Ivan turned the Tsar out of the kingdom and married the princess. No one ever referred to Ivan as “The Fool” after that. He became a clever ruler who was fair to common people. Everybody loved and respected him especially the princess with whom he lived happily for the rest of his days.

Fenist the Bright Falcon

Baba Jaga, by Viktor Vasnetsov.
Baba-Yaga…

Once upon a time there lived a peasant. His wife died and left him three daughters. The old man wanted to hire a servant-girl to help about the house, but his youngest daughter Maryushka said:
“Don’t hire a servant, Father, I shall keep house alone.”

And so his daughter Maryushka began keeping house, and a fine housekeeper she made. There was nothing she could not do, and all she did she did splendidly. Her father loved Maryushka dearly and was glad to have such a clever and hard-working daughter. And how lovely she was! But her two sisters were ugly creatures, full of envy and greed, always paint-ed and powdered and dressed in their best. They spent all day putting on new gowns and trying to look better than they really were. But nothing ever pleased them long — neither gowns, nor shawls, nor high-heeled boots.Now, one day the old man set out to market and he asked his daughters:

“What shall I buy you, dear daughters, what shall I please you with?”

“Buy us each a kerchief,” said the two elder daughters. “And mind it has big flowers on it done in gold.”

But his youngest daughter Maryushka stood silent, so the father asked her:

“And what would you like, Maryushka?”

“Dear Father, buy me a feather of Fenist the Bright Falcon.”

By and by the father came back with the kerchiefs, but the feather he had not found.

After a while the man went to market again.

“Well, daughters, make your orders,” said he.

And the two elder daughters replied eagerly: “Buy each of us a pair of silver-studded boots.”

But Maryushka said again: “Dear Father, buy me a feather of Fenist the Bright Falcon.”

All that day the father walked about the market and bought the boots, but the feather he could not find. And so he came back without it. Very well, then. He set out on his way to the market for the third time and his elder daughters asked him:
“Buy us each a new gown.”
But Maryushka said again:
“Dear Father, buy me a feather of Fenist the Bright Falcon.”

All that day the father walked about the market, but still no feather. So he drove out of town, and who should he meet on the way but a little old man.
“Good day, Grandfather!”
“Good day to you, my dear man. Where are you bound for?”
“Back to my village, Grandfather. And I don’t know what to do. My youngest daughter asked me to buy her a feather of Fenist the Bright Falcon, but I haven’t found it.”
“I have the feather you need; it is a charmed one, but I see you are a good man, so you shall have it, come what may.”

The little old man took out the feather and gave it to the girl’s father, but it looked quite ordinary, so the peasant rode home and he thought:
“What good can it be to my Maryushka?”
In a while the old man came home and gave the presents to his daughters. And the two elder ones tried on their new gowns and kept laughing at Maryushka:
“Silly you were, and silly you are! Stick it in your hair now — won’t you look fine with it!”
But Maryushka made no answer, she just kept away from them. And when the whole house was asleep, she cast the feather on the floor and said softly:
“Come to me, dear Fenist, Bright Falcon, my cherished bridegroom!”

And there came to her a youth of wondrous beauty. Towards morning he struck the floor and became a falcon. And Maryushka opened the window and the falcon soared up into the blue sky.And so for three nights she made him welcome. By day he flew about in the blue heavens as a falcon; at nightfall he came back to Maryushka and turned into a handsome youth.
But on the fourth day the wicked sisters caught sight of them and went and told their father.
“Dear daughters,” said he, “better mind your own business.”
“All right,” thought the sisters, “we shall see what comes next.”
And they stuck a row of sharp knives into the window-sill and hid by watching.
And after a while the Bright Falcon appeared. He flew up to the window, but could not get into Maryushka’s room. So he fluttered and fluttered there, beating against the pane, till all his breast was cut by the blades. But Maryushka slept fast and heard nothing. So at last the falcon said:
“Who needs me, will find me, but not without pains. You shall not find me till you wear out three pairs of iron shoes, and break three iron staffs, and tear three iron caps.”

Maryushka heard this and she sprang from her bed to the window. But the falcon was gone, and all he left on the window was a trace of red blood. Maryushka burst into bitter tears, and the little tear-drops washed off the trace of red blood and made her still prettier.And then she went to her father and said to him:
“Do not chide me, Father, but let me go on my weary way. If I live to see you, I shall, but if I do not, then so must it be.”

The man was sorry to part with his sweet daughter, but at last he let her go.So Maryushka went and ordered three pairs of iron shoes, three iron staffs, and three iron caps. And off she set on her long weary way to seek her heart’s desire Fenist the Bright Falcon. She walked through open fields, she went through dark forests and she climbed tall mountains. The little birds cheered her heart with merry songs, the brooks washed her white face, and the dark woods made her welcome. And no one could do harm to Maryushka, for all the wild beasts — grey wolves, brown bears and red foxes — would come running out towards her. At last one pair of iron shoes wore out, one iron staff broke and one iron cap was torn. And Maryushka came to a glade in the woods and she saw a little hut on hen’s feet spinning round and round.
“Little hut, little hut,” said Maryushka, “turn your back to the trees and your face to me, please. Let me in to eat bread within.”

The little hut turned its back to the trees and its face to Maryushka, and in she went. And there she saw Baba-Yaga, the witch with a broom and a switch, a bony hag with a nose like a snag. Baba-Yaga caught sight of Maryushka and growled:
“Ugh, ugh, Russian blood, never met by me before, now I smell it at my door. Who comes here? Where from? Where to?”
“Granny dear, I am looking for Fenist the Bright Falcon.”
“It’s a long way off, pretty maid! You will have to pass through the Thrice-Nine Lands to the Thrice-Ten Kingdom to find him. A wicked sorceress, the queen there, has charmed him with a magic drink and made him marry her. But I shall help you. Here, take this silver saucer and golden egg. When you come to the Thrice-Ten Kingdom get hired as a servant to the Queen. After the day’s work is done, take the silver saucer and put the golden egg on it. It will start to roll about all by itself. Should they want to buy it, do not sell it — ask them to let you see Fenist the Bright Falcon.”

Maryushka thanked Baba-Yaga and went off. The woods became darker, and she got too frightened to move, when all of a sudden there came a Cat. It jumped up to Maryushka and it purred:
“Have no fear, Maryushka, it will be still worse farther on, but go on and on and do not look back.”

And the Cat rubbed against her feet and was gone, while Maryushka went farther. And the deeper she went into the woods the darker it grew. She walked and she walked, till her second pair of iron shoes wore out, her second iron staff broke and her second iron cap got torn. And soon she came to a little hut on hen’s feet with a strong fence all round and terrible glowing skulls on the pales.Maryushka said:
“Little hut, little hut, turn your back to the trees and your face to me, please. Let me in to eat bread within.”

The little hut turned its back to the trees and its face to Maryushka, and Maryushka went in. And there she saw Baba-Yaga, the witch with a broom and a switch, a bony hag with a nose like a snag.Baba-Yaga caught sight of Maryushka and she growled:
“Ugh, ugh, Russian blood, never met by me before, now I smell it at my door. Who comes here? Where from? Where to?”
“I want to find Fenist the Bright Falcon.”
“And have you been to my sister?”
“Yes, Granny dear, I have.”
“All right, then, my beauty, I shall help you. Take this gold needle and silver frame. The needle works all by itself and embroiders red velvet with silver and gold. Should they want to buy it, do not sell it — ask them to let you see Fenist the Bright Falcon.”

Maryushka thanked Baba-Yaga and went on her way. It crashed and it banged and it whistled in the forest, and a weird light shone from the skull, hanging round. How terrible it was! But suddenly up ran a Dog:
“Bow-wow, Maryushka, have no fear, darling, it will be still worse, but you go on and never look back.”

So it spoke and was gone. Maryushka went on and on, and the woods got darker, scratching her knees and catching at her sleeves. But Maryushka walked and walked and never looked back.How long she walked is hard to say, but the third pair of iron shoes wore out, the third iron staff broke and the third iron cap was torn. And she came to a glade in the forest and saw a little hut on hen’s feet with a tall paling all round and glowing horse skulls on the pales.Then said Maryushka:
“Little hut, little hut, turn your back to the trees and your face to me, please.”
The hut turned its back to the trees and its face to Maryushka, and in she stepped. And there she saw Baba-Yaga, the witch with a broom and a switch, a bony hag with a nose like a snag.Baba-Yaga saw Maryushka and she growled:
“Ugh, ugh, Russian blood, never met by me before, now I smell it at my door. Who comes here? Where from? Where to?”
“I’m looking for Fenist the Bright Falcon, Granny!”
“It is no easy task to find him, my beauty, but I shall help you. Here, take this silver distaff and this gold spindle. Hold the spindle in your hands and it will spin all by itself and the thread will come out all gold.”
“Thank you, Granny.”
“All right, save your thanks until afterwards, and now listen to me. Should they want to buy the gold spindle, don’t sell it, but ask them to let you see Fenist the Bright Falcon.”

Maryushka thanked Baba-Yaga and went on her way. And it roared and rumbled and whistled in the forest. The owls wheeled round, the mice crawled out of their holes and rushed straight to Maryushka. Then all of a sudden a Grey Wolf ran up to her and said:
“Have no fear, Maryushka. Get on my back and never look behind.”

So she sat on the Wolf’s back and off they flashed out of sight. They passed wide steppes and velvet meadows, they crossed honey rivers with custard banks and they climbed tall mountains that touched the clouds. On and on raced Maryushka till she reached a crystal palace with a carved porch and fancy windows. And there was the Queen herself looking out of a window.
“Well,” said the Wolf, “we’ve come, Maryushka. Climb down from my back and get hired as a servant at the palace.”

Maryushka climbed off, took her bundle and thanked the Wolf. Then she went up to the Queen and bowed.
“I beg your pardon,” she said, “I don’t know your name; aren’t you in need of a servant-girl?”
“Yes,” said the Queen, “it is long I have looked for a servant, but the one I need must be able to spin, weave and embroider.”
“All that I can do,” said Maryushka.
“Then come in and set to work.”

And so Maryushka became a servant-girl. She worked all the day until night-time, and then she took out her golden egg and silver saucer and said:
“Roll about, golden egg, on your silver saucer, show me my Fenist dear.”

And the golden egg rolled about till Fenist the Bright Falcon appeared before her. Maryushka gazed and gazed at him and her tears ran fast.
“Fenist, my Fenist, why have you left poor me to shed tears without you?”
And the Queen overheard her and said:
“Maryushka, sell me your silver saucer and golden egg.”
“No,” replied Maryushka, “they are not to be sold, but you may have them free if you let me see Fenist the Bright Falcon.”
The Queen thought for a while and then she said:
“All right, let it be so. To-night, when he falls asleep, I will let you see him.”

So when night came, Maryushka went to his bedroom and saw Fenist the Bright Falcon. Her darling lay fast asleep and could not be awakened. She looked and she looked and she could not look enough, and she kissed him on his sweet mouth, and she pressed him to her white bosom, but her darling slept on and did not awaken. Morning set in, but still Maryushka could not rouse her beloved.All that day she worked and in the evening took her silver frame and gold needle. And as it sewed, Maryushka kept saying:
“Get embroidered, little towel, get embroidered, little towel, let my Fenist the Bright Falcon wipe his face.”

The Queen overheard her and asked:
“Maryushka, sell me your silver frame and gold needle.”
“Sell I will not,” replied Maryushka, “but you may have them free if you let me see Fenist the Bright Falcon.”

The Queen thought hard, but at last she said:
“All right, let it be so. Come and see him to-night.”

Night came on, and Maryushka entered the bedroom and she saw her Fenist the Bright Falcon lying fast asleep.
“O my Fenist, Bright Falcon, arise, wake up!”

But her Fenist slept on as fast as ever, and Maryushka could not wake him up, try as she might.At daybreak Maryushka set to work and took out her silver distaff and golden spindle. And the Queen saw her and began asking her to sell them. But Maryushka replied:
“Sell them I will not, but you may have them for nothing if only you let me see Fenist the Bright Falcon.”
“All right,” said the other and she thought to herself: “She won’t wake him up anyhow.”

Night drew on and Maryushka entered the bedroom, but Fenist lay as fast asleep as ever.
“O my Fenist, Bright Falcon, arise, wake up!”

But Fenist slept on and would not awaken.Maryushka tried and tried again to wake him, but she could not. And soon it would be morning. So Maryushka burst out weeping and she said:
“Dearest Fenist, arise and open your eyes, look at your Maryushka, press her close!”

And a hot tear fell from Maryushka’s eyes on the bare shoulder of Fenist and burnt it. Fenist the Bright Falcon stirred and he opened his eyes and saw Maryushka. And then he took her in his arms and kissed her.
“Can it be you, my Maryushka? So you have worn out three pairs of iron shoes and broken three iron staffs and torn three iron caps? Cry no more. Let us go home, now.”

And they started getting ready for the homeward journey. But the Queen noticed it and she bade her trumpeters spread the news of her husband’s betrayal through all the towns of the land.And the princes and merchants of her land came together to hold council and decide how to punish Fenist the Bright Falcon.
And then Fenist the Bright Falcon stood up and said:
“Who do you think is the real wife, the one who loves me truly or the one that sells and betrays me?”

Everyone had to agree that only Maryushka was fit to be his wife.

After that they went back to their own land. And they had a grand feast there, and all the guns fired and all the trumpets blew at their wedding. And the feast they had was so grand, it is still remembered. And they both lived happily ever afterwards.

Father Frost…

In a far-away country, somewhere in Russia, there lived a stepmother who had a stepdaughter and also a daughter of her own. Her own daughter was dear to her, and always whatever she did the mother was the first to praise her, to pet her; but there was but little praise for the stepdaughter; although good and kind, she had no other reward than reproach. What on earth could have been done? The wind blows, but stops blowing at times; the wicked woman never knows how to stop her wickedness. One bright cold day the stepmother said to her husband:

“Now, old man, I want thee to take thy daughter away from my eyes, away from my ears. Thou shalt not take her to thy people into a warm izba. Thou shalt take her into the wide, wide fields to the crackling frost.”

The old father grew sad, began even to weep, but nevertheless helped the young girl into the sleigh. He wished to cover her with a sheepskin in order to protect her from the cold; however, he did not do it. He was afraid; his wife was watching them out of the window. And so he went with his lovely daughter into the wide, wide fields; drove her nearly to the woods, left her there alone, and speedily drove away—he was a good man and did not care to see his daughter’s death.

Alone, quite alone, remained the sweet girl. Broken-hearted and terror-stricken she repeated fervently all the prayers she knew.

Father Frost, the almighty sovereign at that place, clad in furs, with a long, long, white beard and a shining crown on his white head, approached nearer and nearer, looked at this beautiful guest of his and asked:

“Dost thou know me?—me, the red-nosed Frost?”

“Be welcome, Father Frost,” answered gently the young girl. “I hope our heavenly Lord sent thee for my sinful soul.”

“Art thou comfortable, sweet child?” again asked the Frost. He was exceedingly pleased with her looks and mild manners.

“Indeed I am,” answered the girl, almost out of breath from cold.

And the Frost, cheerful and bright, kept crackling in the branches until the air became icy, but the good-natured girl kept repeating:

“I am very comfortable, dear Father Frost.”

But the Frost, however, knew all about the weakness of human beings; he knew very well that few of them are really good and kind; but he knew no one of them even could struggle too long against the power of Frost, the king of winter. The kindness of the gentle girl charmed old Frost so much that he made the decision to treat her differently from others, and gave her a large heavy trunk filled with many beautiful, beautiful things. He gave her a rich “schouba” lined with precious furs; he gave her silk quilts— light like feathers and warm as a mother’s lap. What a rich girl she became and how many magnificent garments she received! And besides all, old Frost gave her a blue “sarafan” ornamented with silver and pearls.

When the young girl put it on she became such a beautiful maiden that even the sun smiled at her.

The stepmother was in the kitchen busy baking pancakes for the meal which it is the custom to give to the priests and friends after the usual service for the dead.

“Now, old man,” said the wife to the husband, ” go down to the wide fields and bring the body of thy daughter; we will bury her.”

The old man went off. And the little dog in the corner wagged his tail and said:

“Bow-wow! bow-wow! the old man’s daughter is on her way home, beautiful and happy as never before, and the old woman’s daughter is wicked as ever before.”

“Keep still, stupid beast!” shouted the stepmother, and struck the little dog.

“Here, take this pancake, eat it and say, ‘The old woman’s daughter will be married soon and the old man’s daughter shall be buried soon.'” The dog ate the pancake and began anew:

“Bow-wow! bow-wow! the old man’s daughter is coming home wealthy and happy as never before, and the old woman’s daughter is somewhere around as homely and wicked as ever before.”

The old woman was furious at the dog, but in spite of pancakes and whipping, the dog repeated the same words over and over again.

Somebody opened the gate, voices were heard laughing and talking outside. The old woman looked out and sat down in amazement. The stepdaughter was there like a princess, bright and happy in the most beautiful garments, and behind her the old father had hardly strength enough to carry the heavy, heavy trunk with the rich outfit.

“Old man!” called the stepmother, impatiently; “hitch our best horses to our best sleigh, and drive my daughter to the very same place in the wide, wide fields.”

The old man obeyed as usual and took his stepdaughter to the same place and left her alone.

Old Frost was there; he looked at his new guest.

“Art thou comfortable, fair maiden?” asked the red-nosed sovereign.

“Let me alone,” harshly answered the girl; “canst thou not see that my feet and my hands are about stiff from the cold?”

The Frost kept crackling and asking questions for quite a while, but obtaining no polite answer became angry and froze the girl to death.

“Old man, go for my daughter; take the best horses; be careful; do not upset the sleigh; do not lose the trunk.”

And the little dog in the corner said:

“Bow-wow! bow-wow! the old man’s daughter will marry soon; the old woman’s daughter shall be buried soon.”

“Do not lie. Here is a cake; eat it and say, ‘The old woman’s daughter is clad in silver and gold.'”

The gate opened, the old woman ran out and kissed the stiff frozen lips of her daughter. She wept and wept, but there was no help, and she understood at last that through her own wickedness and envy her child had perished.

Emelya and the Pike

Once upon a time there lived an old man who had three sons, two of them clever young men and the third, Emelya, a fool. The two elder brothers were always at work, while Emelya lay on the stove ledge all day long with not a care in the world.One day the two brothers rode away to market, and their wives said:

“Go and fetch some water, Emelya.”

And Emelya, lying on the stove ledge, replied:

“Not 1. I don’t want to.”

“Go, Emelya, or your brothers will bring no presents for you from the market.”

“Oh, all right then.”

Down climbed Emelya from the stove, put on his boots and caftan and, taking along two pails and an axe, went to the river.

He cut a hole in the ice with his axe, scooped up two pailfuls of water, put down the pails and himself bent down to look into the ice-hole. He looked and he looked and what did he see but a Pike swimming in the water. Out shot his arm, and there was the Pike in his hands.

“We will have some fine pike soup for dinner today!” he exclaimed, delighted.

But the Pike suddenly spoke up in a human voice and said:

“Let me go,’ Emelya, and I’ll do you a good turn, too, some day “

Emelya only laughed.

“What good turn could you do me? No, I think I’ll take you home and tell my sisters-in-law to make some soup. I do so love pike soup.”

But the Pike fell to begging him again and said:

“Do let me go, Emelya, and I’ll do anything you wish.”

“All right,” Emelya replied, “only first you must prove you aren’t trying to fool me.”

Said the Pike: “Tell me what you want, Emelya.”

“I want my pails to go home all by themselves without spilling adrop of water.”

“Very well, Emelya,” the Pike said. “Whenever you wish some-thing, you have only to say:

“By will of the Pike, do as I like’, and it will all be done at once.”

And Emelya, nothing loath, said:

“By will of the Pike, do as I like! Off you go home, pails, by yourselves!”

And, lo and behold! the pails turned and marched up the hill. Emelya put the Pike back into the ice-hole and himself walked after his pails.

On went the pails along the village street, and the villagers stood round and marveled while Emelya followed the pails, chuckling. The pails marched straight into Emelya’s hut and jumped up on the bench, and Emelya climbed up on to the stove ledge again.

A long time passed by and a little time, and his sisters-in-law said to Emelya:

“Why are you lying there, Emelya? Go and chop us some wood.”

“Not I. I don’t want to,” Emelya said.

“If you don’t do what we say, your brothers will bring no presents for you from the market.”

Emelya. was loath to leave the stove ledge. He remembered the

Pike and said under his breath:

“By will of the Pike, do as I like! Go and chop some wood, axe, and you, wood, come inside the house and jump into the stove.”

And lo! the axe leaps out from under the bench and into the yard and began to chop the wood, and the logs filed into the hut all by themselves and jumped into the stove.

A long time passed by and a little time, and his sister-in-law said to Emelva:

“We have no more wood, Emelva. Go to the forest and cut some.”

And Emelya, lolling on the stove, replied:

“And what are you here for?”

“What do you mean by that, Emelya?” the women said. “Surely it’s not out business to go to the forest for wood.”

“But I don’t much want to do it,” Emelva said.

“Well, then you won’t get any presents,” they told him.

There was no help for it, so Emelya climbed down from the stove and put on his boots and caftan. He took a length of rope and an axe, came out into the yard and, getting into the sled; cried:

“Open the gates, women!”

And his sisters-in-law said to him:

“What are you doing in the sled, fool? You haven’t harnessed the horse yet.”

“I can do without the horse,” Emelya replied.

His sisters-in-law opened the gate and Emelya said under his breath:

“By will of the Pike; do as I like! Off you go to the forest, sled’” And, lo and behold? the sledge whizzed out through the gate so quickly that one could scarcely have caught up with it even on horseback.

Now the way to the forest lay through a town. and the sledge knocked down many people. The townsfolk cried: “Hold him! Catch him’” But Emelya paid no heed and only urged the sledge on to go the faster.

He came to the forest, stopped the sledge and said:

“By will of the Pike, do as I like! Cut some dry wood, axe, and you chunks climb into the sledge and bind yourselves together.”

And, lo and behold, the axe began to hack and split the dry wood, and the chunks dropped into the sledge one by one and bound themselves together. Emelya then ordered the axe to cut him a cudgel, so heavy that one could scarcely lift it. He got up on top of his load and said:

“By will of the Pike, do as I like! Off you go home, sled!”

And the sled drove off very fast indeed. Emelya again passed through the town where he had knocked down so many people, and there they were all ready and waiting for him. They seized him, pulled him out of the sledge and began to curse and to beat him.

Seeing that he was in a bad plight, Emelya said under his breath:

“By will of the Pike, do as I like! Come, cudgel, give them a good thrashing!”

And the cudgel sprang up and laid to, right and left. The townsfolk took to their heels and Emelya went home and climbed up on the stove again.

A long time passed by and a little time, and the Tsar heard of Emelya’s doings and sent one of his officers to find him and bring him to the palace.

The officer came to Emelya’s village, entered his hut and asked him:

“Are you Emelya the Fool?”

And Emelya replied from the stove ledge:

“What if I am?”

“Dress quickly and I shall take you to the Tsar’s palace.”

“Oh, no. I don’t want to go,” Emelya said.

The officer flew into a temper and struck Emelya in the face. And Emelya said under his breath:

“By will of the Pike, do as I like! Come, cudgel, give him a good thrashing.”

And out the cudgel jumped and beat the officer so that it was all he could do to drag himself back to the palace.

The Tsar was much surprised to learn that his officer had not been able to get the better ofEmelya and he sent for the greatest of his nobles.

“Find Emelya and bring him to my palace or I’ll have your head chopped off,” he said.

The great noble bought a store of raisins and prunes and honey cakes, and then he came to the selfsame village and into the selfsame hut and he asked Emelya’s sisters-in-law what it was Emelya liked best.

“Emelya likes to be spoken to kindly,” they said. “He will do anything you want if only you are gentle with him and promise him a red caftan for a present.”

The great noble then gave Emelya the raisins, prunes and honey cakes he had brought, and said:

“Please, Emelya, why do you lie on the stove ledge? Come with me to the Tsar’s palace.”

“I’m well enough where I am,” Emelya replied.

“Ah, Emelya, the Tsar will feast you on sweetmeats and wines. Do let us go to the palace.”

“Not I. I don’t want to,” Emelya replied.

“But, Emelya, the Tsar will give you a fine red caftan for a present and a pair of boots.”

Emelya thought for a while and then he said:

“Very well, then, I shall come. Only you must go on alone and I shall by follow by and by.”

The noble rode away and Emelya lay on the stove a while longer said:

“By will of the Pike, do as I like! Off you go to the Tsar’s palace, stove!”

And lo! the corners of the hut began to crack, the roof swayed, a wall crashed down and the stove whipped off all by itself into the street and down the road and made straight for the Tsar’s palace.
The Tsar looked out of the window and marveled.

“What is that?” he asked.

And the great noble replied:

“That is Emelya riding on his stove to your palace.”

The Tsar stepped out on his porch and said:

“I have had many complaints about you, Emelya. It seems you have knocked down many people.”

“Why did they get in the way of my sled?” said Emelya.

Now, the Tsar’s daughter Tsarevna Marya was longing out of the palace window just then, and when Emelya saw her, he said under his breath:

“By will of the Pike, do as I like! Let the Tsar’s daughter fall in love with me.”

And he added:

“Go home, stove!”

The stove turned and made straight for Emelya’s village. It whisked into the hut and went back to its place, and Emelya lay on the stove ledge as before.

Meanwhile, there were tears and wails in the palace. Tsarevna Marya was crying her eyes out for Emelya. She told her father she could not live without him and begged him to let her marry Emelya. The Tsar was much troubled and grieved and he said to the great noble:

“Go and bring Emelya here, dead or alive. Do not fail, or I’ll have your head chopped off.”

The great noble bought many kinds of dainties and sweet wines and set off for Emelya’s village again. He entered the selfsame hut and he began to feast Emelya royally.

Emelya had his fill of the good food and the wine, and his head swimming, lay down and fell asleep. And the noble put the sleeping Emelya into his carriage and rode off with him to the Tsar’s palace.

The Tsar at once ordered a large barrel bound with iron hoops to be brought in. Emelya and Tsarevna Marya were placed into it and the barrel was tarred and cast into the sea.

A long time passed by and a little time, and Emelya awoke. Finding himself in darkness and closely confined, he said:

“Where am I?”

And Tsarevna Marya replied:

“Sad and dreary is our lot, Emelya my love! They have put us in a tarred barrel and cast us into the blue sea.”

“And who are you?” Emelya asked.

“I am Tsarevna Marya.”

Said Emelya:

“By will of the Pike, do as I like! Come, o wild winds, cast the barrel on to the dry shore and let it rest on the yellow sand!”

And, lo and behold! the wild winds began to blow, the sea became troubled and the barrel was cast on to the dry shore and it came to rest on the yellow sand. Out stepped Emelya and Tsarevna Marya, and Tsarevna Marya said:

“Where are we going to live, Emelya my love? Do build us a hut of some kind.”

“Not I. I don’t want to,” Emelya replied.

But she begged and begged and at last he said:

“By will of the Pike, do as I like! Let a palace of stone with a roof of gold be built!”

And no sooner were the words out of his mouth than a stone palace with a roof of gold rose up before them. Round it there spread a green garden, where flowers bloomed and birds sang. Tsarevna Marya and Emelya came into the palace and sat down by the window. Said Tsarevna Marya:

“Oh, Emelya, couldn’t you become a little more handsome?”

And-Emelya did not think long before he said:

“By will of the Pike, do as I like! Change me into a tall and handsome man.”

And lo! Emelya turned into a youth as fair as the sky at dawn, the handsomest youth that ever was born.

Now about that time the Tsar went hunting and he saw a palace where one had never been seen before.

“What dolt has dared to build a palace on my ground?” he asked, and he sent his messengers to learn who the culprit was.

The Tsar’s messengers ran to the palace, stood under the window and called to Emelya, asking him to tell them who he was.

“Tell the Tsar to come and visit me, and he shall hear from my lips who I am,” Emelya replied.

The Tsar did as Emelya bade, and Emelya met him at the palace gate, led him into the palace, seated him at his table and feasted him royally. The Tsar ate and drank and marvelled.

“Who are you, my good fellow?” he asked at last.

“Do you remember Emelya the Fool who came to visit you on top of a stove?” Emelya said. “Do you remember how you had him put in a tarred barrel together with your daughter Tsarevna Marya and cast into the sea? Well, I am that same Emelya. If I choose, I can set fire to your whole tsardom and level it with the ground.”

The Tsar was very frightened and he begged Emelya to forgive him.

“You can have my daughter in marriage and you can have my tsardom, too, only spare me, Emelya,” said he.

Then such a grand feast was held as the world had never seen. Emelya married Tsarevna Marya and began to rule the realm and they both lived happily ever after.

And that is my faithful tale’s end, while he who listened is my own true friend.

Daughter and Stepdaughter

Ukrainian folk tale:

A widowed peasant with a daughter married a widow who also had a daughter:

so they each had a stepchild. The stepmother was a wicked woman and constantly nagged the old man, ‘Take your daughter off to the forest, to a hut. She’ll spin more yam there.” What could he do? He did as the woman said, carted his daughter off to the forest hut and gave her steel, flint and tinder, and a bag of millet, saying, “Here is fire; keep the fire burning and the porridge boiling, sit and spin, and let no one in.”

Night fell. The maid heated the stove, cooked the porridge, and suddenly heard a little mouse say, “Maid, Maid, give me a spoonful of porridge.” “Oh, little mouse,” she cried, “stay and talk to me: I’ll give you more than a spoonful of porridge, I’ll feed you to your heart’s content.” So the mouse ate his fill and left. In the night a bear broke in, calling, “Come on, girl, put out the light and let’s play blindman’s buff.”

The mouse came scampering up to the maid’s shoulder and whispered in her ear, “Don’t be afraid. Say yes, then put out the light and crawl under the stove, and I’ll run about ringing a little bell.” And the game began. The bear started to chase the mouse, but could not catch him; he soon began to holler and hurl logs at him; he hurled one after the other, but kept missing, and he grew tired. “You are good at playing blindman’ s buff, little girl,” he said. “I will send you a drove of horses and a cartload of good things in the morning.”

Next morning the old man’s wife said, “Go and see how much yam the girl has spun since yesterday, old man.” So off he set, while his wife sat waiting for him to bring back his daughter’s bones! By and by the dog began to bark. “Bow-wow- wow! The old man is coming with his daughter driving a drove of horses and bringing a cartload of good things.” “You’re lying, fleabag!” shouted the step- mother. “Those are her bones rattling and clanking in the cart.” The gate creaked, the horses raced into the yard, and there were the old man and his daughter sitting in the cart. With a cartload of good things! The woman’s eyes gleamed with greed. “That’s a pittance!” she cried. “Take my daughter to the forest for the night: she’ll come home driving two droves of horses with two cartloads of good things.”

The peasant drove his wife’s daughter Natasha to the hut and provided her with food and fire. At nightfall she cooked porridge for herself. Out came the little mouse asking for a spoonful of porridge. But Natasha cried. “Be off. you pest!” And she threw the spoon at him. The mouse ran away. Natasha gobbled up the porridge all by herself, put out the light and lay down in a corner.

At midnight the bear broke in. crying. “Hey. where are you, girl? Let’s have a game of blindman’s buff.” The maid was silent, only her teeth chattering from fear. “Ah. there you are.” cried the bear. “Here. take this little bell and run. I’ll try to catch you.” Her hand trembling, she took the little bell and could not stop it ringing. Out of the darkness came the mouse’s voice. ‘The wicked girl will soon be dead!”

Next morning the woman sent her husband to the forest, saying, “Go and help my daughter drive back two droves of horses with two cartloads of good things.” The peasant went off, leaving his wife waiting at the gate. The dog began to bark. “Bow-wow-wow! The mistress’s girl is coming: her bones are rattling in the bag, the old man’s sitting on the nag!” “You’re lying, fleabag,” cried the dame. “My daughter’s driving droves and bringing loads.” But when she looked up, there was the old man at the gate, handing her a bundle. When she opened it and saw the bones, she began to rant and rage so much she died next day from grief and fury. The old man lived out his life in peace with his daughter; and with a wealthy son-in-law, too.

Crimson flower

Once upon a time in a far away land a merchant was preparing to set out on a long journey. This merchant had three daughters, and he asked all of them what they would like as gifts for themselves when he returned from his voyage. The first daughter requested a golden crown, and the second one wanted a crystal mirror. The third daughter asked only for “the little scarlet flower.”

The merchant set out on his journey. It did not take him very long to find a beautiful golden crown and a fine crystal mirror. He had difficulty however, finding the third gift, the scarlet flower. He searched everywhere, and eventually his search led him into a magical forest. Deep within these woods there was situated a palace, in whose courtyard grew a beautiful flower. As the merchant drew closer to the flower he realized what it was, the scarlet flower. Cautiously, the merchant picked the flower that his youngest daughter wanted so badly. Upon picking the scarlet flower he was confronted by a hideous beast, who demanded that in return for picking the flower the merchant must send one of his daughters deep into the enchanted forest, to live with the beast forever.

Upon recieving the scarlet flower, the merchant’s youngest daughter agreed to go to the beast. She journeyed alone into the forest and found the castle where she would dwell forever. For a time, she lived there very happily. The beast had not revealed himself to her, and showered her daily with kindness and gifts. She started to grow quite fond of her invisible keeper, and one day asked that he show himself. The beast reluctantly gave into her plea, and just as he had feared, she recoiled in terror at the site of him.

That night the girl had a haughnting dream about her father falling deathly ill. She begged the beast to release her, so that she could find her dying father. Touched by her concern, the beast released her on one condition – that she return to him in three days time. The girl found her father, and prepared to return to the beast in the alloted time. However, her sisters altered the time on the clocks, making her arrive late. There upon her arrival the girl was horrified at what she encountered. The beast was dead, lying there clutching her scarlet flower. Heartbroken, the girl embraced the dead beast, and declared her love for him. Having done this, she unknowingly broke the evil spell, and her beloved beast awoke, turning into a handsome prince.

They lived happily ever after

Baba Yaga

Once upon a time there was a man and woman who had an only daughter. When his wife died, the man took another. But the wicked stepmother took a dislike to the girl, beat her hard and wondered how to be rid of her forever. One day the father went off somewhere and the stepmother said to the girl, “Go to your aunt, to my sister, and ask her for a needle and thread to sew you a blouse.” The aunt was really Baba Yaga, the bony witch.

Now, the little girl was not stupid and she first went to her own aunt for advice. “Good morrow. Auntie,” she said. “Mother has sent me to her sister for a needle and thread to sew me a blouse. What should I do?” The aunt told her what to do. “My dear niece,” she said. “You will find a birch-tree there that will lash your face; you must tie it with a ribbon. You will find gates that will creak and bang; you must pour oil on the hinges. You will find dogs that will try to rip you apart; you must throw them fresh rolls. You will find a cat that will try to scratch your eyes out; you must give her some ham.” The little girl went off, walked and walked and finally came to the witch’s abode.

There stood a hut, and inside sat Baba Yaga, the bony witch, spinning. “Good day. Auntie,” said the little girl. “Good day, dearie,” the witch replied. “Mother sent me for a needle and thread to sew me a blouse,” said the girl. “Very well,” Baba Yaga said. “Sit down and weave.” The girl sat at the loom. then Baba Yaga went out and told her serving-maid, “Go and heat up the bath-house and give my niece a good wash; I want to eat her for breakfast.” The serving-maid did as she was bid; and the poor little girl sat there half dead with fright, begging, “Oh, please, dear serving-maid, don’t bum the wood, pour water on instead, and carry the water in a sieve.” And she gave the maid a kerchief.

Meanwhile Baba Yaga was waiting; she went to the window and asked, “Are you weaving, dear niece? Are you weaving, my dear?” “I’m weaving, Auntie,” the girl replied, “I’m weaving, my dear.” When Baba Yaga moved away from the window, the little girl gave some ham to the cat and asked her whether there was any escape. At once the cat replied, “Here is a comb and towel. Take them and run away. Baba Yaga will chase you; put your ear to the ground and, when you hear her coming, throw down the towel—and a wide, wide river will appear. And if she crosses the river and starts to catch you up, put your ear to the ground again and, when you hear her coming close, throw down your comb — and a dense forest will appear. She won’t be able to get through that.”

The little girl took the towel and comb and ran. As she ran from the house, the dogs tried to tear her to pieces, but she tossed them the fresh rolls and they let her pass. The gates tried to bang shut, but she poured some oil on the hinges, and they let her through. The birch-tree tried to lash her face, but she tied it with a ribbon, and it let her pass. In the meantime, the cat sat down at the loom to weave—though, truth to tell, she tangled it all up instead. Now and then Baba Yaga would come to the window and call, “Are you weaving, dear niece? Are you weaving, my dear?” And the cat would answer in a low voice, “I’m weaving. Auntie. I’m weaving, my dear.”

The witch rushed into the hut and saw that the girl was gone. She gave the cat a good beating and scolded her for not scratching out the girl’s eyes. But the cat answered her, “I’ve served you for years, yet you’ve never even given me a bone, but she gave me some ham.” Baba Yaga then turned on the dogs, the gates, the birch-tree and the serving-maid, and set to thrashing and scolding them all. But the dogs said to her, “We’ve served you for years, yet you’ve never even thrown us a burnt crust, but she gave us fresh rolls.” And the gates said, “We’ve served you for years, yet you’ve never even poured water on our hinges, but she oiled them for us.” And the birch-tree said, “I’ve served you for years, yet you’ve never even tied me up with thread, but she tied me with a ribbon.” And the serving-maid said, “I’ve served you for years, yet you’ve never even given me a rag, but she gave me a kerchief.”

The Apples of Youth and the Living

In a certain kingdom, in a certain land, there lived a Tsar, and he had three sons. The eldest was named , he second was named , nd the youngest was name .

This Tsar was in his old age, and his eyesight was poor. And he heard that past , in te kingdom, there was an orchard where apples of youth grew, and where a well full of living water could be found. If the old man could eat such an apple, he would find youth, and if he could wash his eyes with that water, his sight would be restored.

Therefore the Tsar ordered a t be prepared, and he called all the and al the , and he told them:

“Who among you, faithful noblemen, would be first among the chosen, first to volunteer, who would ride beyond three-nine lands, into the three-tenth kingdom, and would bring me some apples of youth and a ewer full of living water? I would give half my kingdom to such a man.

But then the bhind the younger, and the younger hid behind the youngest, and the youngest kept his mouth shut.

Prince Fedor came out, and said:

“We do not wish to give the kingdom away to a stranger. I will go on that errand, and I will bring you some apples of youth and a ewer full of living water.

Fedor went to the stables, chose , put on it a bridle, took out a brand-new whip, and secured the saddle with twelve straps, and one more: he did not do it for looks, but for strength. Then prince Fedor took off on his errand: he was seen mounting up, bt .

He rode far, or he rode near, he rode high, or he rode low — he rode from dawn to dusk. He arrived at a crossroads where three roads met. There was flat at that crossroads, and there was an inscription inscribed on it:

“Whoever takes the right road will save himself and lose his horse. Whoever takes the left road will save his horse and lose himself. Whoever rides straight ahead will find a wife.”

Fedor thought to himself: “I shall ride where I will find a wife.”

And he went straight ahead. He rode, and he rode some more, and he arrived to a tall ith golden roofs. A beautiful maiden ran out to greet him:

“O prince, I shall help you dismount, come with me, partake of my hospitality.”

“No, fair maiden, I do not wish to dine, and sleep will not make the road grow shorter. I must ride on.”

“O prince, do not hasten to ride on, hasten to take pleasure in life.”

Then the fair maiden helped him dismount and took him inside the castle. She fed him, and gave him to drink, and led him to bed.

No sooner did prince Fedor lie down by the wall that the maiden turned over the bed, and the prince fell down into the cellar, deep into a dungeon.

fter a time, long or short, the Tsar again ordered a great feast to be prepared and he called all the princes and all the boyars, and he told them:

“Who among you, faithful noblemen, would be first among the chosen, first to volunteer, who would ride beyond three-nine lands, into the three-tenth kingdom, and would bring me some apples of youth and a ewer full of living water? I would give half my kingdom to such a man.

But then the eldest hid behind the younger, and the younger hid behind the youngest, and the youngest kept his mouth shut.

Prince Vasilii came out, and said:

“We do not wish to give the kingdom away to a stranger. I will go on this errand, and I will bring you some apples of youth and a ewer full of living water.”

Vasilii went to the stables, chose a green-broke horse, put on it a brand-new bridle, took out a brand-new whip, and secured the saddle with twelve straps, and one more: he did not do it for looks, but for strength. Then prince Vasilii took off on his errand: he was seen mounting up, but no one saw which way he went.

He rode far, or he rode near, he rode high, or he rode low — he rode from dawn to dusk. He arrived at a crossroads where three roads met. There was a flat stone at that crossroads, and there was an inscription inscribed on it:

“Whoever takes the right road will save himself and lose his horse. Whoever takes the left road will save his horse and lose himself. Whoever rides straight ahead will find a wife.”

Vasilii thought to himself: “I shall ride where I will find a wife.”

And he went straight ahead. He rode, and he rode some more, and he arrived to a tall castle with golden roofs. A beautiful maiden ran out to greet him:

“O prince, I shall help you dismount, come with me, partake of my hospitality.”

“No, fair maiden, I do not wish to dine, and sleep will not make the road grow shorter. I must ride on.”

“O prince, do not hasten to ride on, hasten to take pleasure in life.”

Then the fair maiden helped him dismount and took him inside the castle. She fed him, and gave him to drink, and led him to bed.

No sooner did prince Vasilii lie down by the wall that the maiden turned over the bed, and the prince fell down into the cellar, deep into a dungeo.

As he fell, a voice called out to him:

“Who falls?”

“Prince Vasilii. Who has fallen?”

“Prince Fedor.”

“Well, brother, we certainly fell for it!”

. After a time, long or short, the Tsar ordered for the third time a great feast to be prepared and he called all the princes and all the boyars, and he told them:

“Who among you, faithful noblemen, would be first among the chosen, first to volunteer, who would ride beyond three-nine lands, into the three-tenth kingdom, and would bring me some apples of youth and a ewer full of living water? I would give half my kingdom to such a man.

But then the eldest hid behind the younger, and the younger hid behind the youngest, and the youngest kept his mouth shut.

Prince Ivan came out, and said:

“Father, give me yor to go on this errand, to bring you some apples of youth and some living water, and also to look for my brothers.”

The Tsar gave him his blessing. Prince Ivan went to the stables to look for to suit him. But when he looked at a horse, it shook all over, and when he put his hand on a horse, it fell to its knees.

Ivan could find no horse to suit him. He went out, his brash head bowed low. An old woman came up to him, and asked:

“Good morning, child, prince Ivan! Why are you so glum?”

“How can I not be glum, , wen I cannot find a horse to ride on my errand.”

“You only needed to ask me! There is a good horse that will suit you in the dungeon, tied down with an iron chain. If you can take it, you will find it a good horse.”

Prince Ivan went to the dungeon, he removed an iron plate from the opening. He ran up to the good horse, and the horse put its forelegs on Ivan’s shoulders. Ivan did not flinch. The horse tore off the iron chain, burst out of the dungeon, taking Ivan with it. Ivan put a brand-new bridle, and a brand-new saddle on the horse, and twelve straps, and one more — he did not do it for looks, but for strength.

Then prince Ivan set out on his errand: he was seen mounting up, but he was not seen leaving. He reached the crossroads and stopped to consider the inscription.

“If I go right, I’ll lose my horse. And what would I do without a horse? If I go straight, I’ll be wed. That’s not what I’m after. If I go left, I’ll save my horse. That’s the best way for me.”

. And he turned onto the road where he would save his horse, but lose himself. He rode for a time, long or short, he rode high, or he rode low, over green fields, over rocky mountains, he rode from dawn to dusk, and reached a smal.

The izba stood o . It had only one window.

“Izba, little izba, turn your back on the forest, your front towards me! As I enter, so will I leave.”

The little izba turned its back on the forest, and its front towards prince Ivan. He went in, and saw of the bony leg, her shoulders stretched from corner to corner, her nose had grown into the ceiling.

“Ugh, Ugh,” she said, “I haven’t heard a i a long time, haven’t seen one even longer, and here’s one coming to me! Are you seeking something, or running away from it?”

“How so, baba-yaga, you question me even before you greet me! Won’t you offer me food and drink, and a bed for the night? Then I will tell you all about me and my errand.”

The baba-yaga did just that, gave food and drink to Ivan, and made his bed, sat down by his side, and asked:

“Well now, where are you from, good man, brave youth? What land? Who are your father and your mother?”

“Grandmother, I am from such-and-such a kingdom, such-and-such a land, I am prince Ivan the Tsar’s son. I am riding beyond three-nine lands, beyond three-ten kingdoms, to fetch apples of youth and living water.”

“Oh, my dear child, you have far to travel: the apples of youth and the living water belong to a powerful , t . She is my own niece. I don’t know whether you will be able to obtain those goods…”

“Well, grandmother, would you lend your head to my shoulders, and advise me on what to do?”

“Many a youth went this way, few spoke courteously. Take my horse, child. My horse runs faster, it will take you to my middle sister, she will advise you.”

Prince Ivan arose early in the morning. He thanked the baba-yaga for her hospitality, and rode off on her horse.

Suddenly he said to the horse:

“Stop! I dropped my gauntlet!”

The horse answered:

“While you were speaking, I traveled two hndred !”

. Prince Ivan traveled far, or maybe near, he traveled all day till dark. Then he saw a small izba ahead. It stood on a chicken leg, and had only one window.

“Izba, little izba, turn your back on the forest, your front towards me! As I enter, so will I leave.”

The little izba turned its back on the forest, and its front towards Ivan. Suddenly, a horse neighed and the horse Ivan rode neighed in answer. The horses were herd-mates.

The baba-yaga in the izba (even older than the first one) heard the horses and said:

“Sounds like my sister comes to visit.”

And she came out on the porch.

“Ugh, Ugh,” she said, “I haven’t heard a Russian in a long time, haven’t seen one even longer, and here’s one coming to me! Are you seeking something, or running away from it?”

“How so, baba-yaga, you question me even before you greet me! Won’t you offer me food and drink, and a bed for the night? Then I will tell you all about me and my errand.”

The baba-yaga did just that, gave food and drink to Ivan, and made his bed, sat down by his side, and asked:

“Well now, where are you from, good man, brave youth? What land? Who are your father and your mother?”

“Grandmother, I am from such-and-such a kingdom, such-and-such a land, I am prince Ivan the Tsar’s son. I am riding beyond three-nine lands, beyond three-ten kingdoms, to fetch apples of youth and living water from the mighty warrior-maiden Sineglazka.”

“Oh, child, I don’t know whether you will be able to obtain what you seek. The road is difficult to the abode of the maiden Sineglazka!”

“Well, grandmother, would you lend your head to my shoulders, and advise me on what to do?”

“Many a youth went this way, few spoke courteously. Take my horse, child. My horse runs faster, it will take you to my older sister, she can advise you better than I.”

Prince Ivan arose early in the morning. He thanked the baba-yaga for her hospitality, and rode off on her horse.

Suddenly he said to the horse:

“Stop! I dropped my gauntlet!”

The horse answered:

“While you were speaking, I travele !”

. A tale is soon told, a deed is done slowly. Prince Ivan traveled the whole day from dawn to dusk. He arrived to a small izba. It stood on a chicken leg, and had only one window.

“Izba, little izba, turn your back on the forest, your front towards me! As I enter, so will I leave.”

The little izba turned its back on the forest, and its front towards Ivan. Suddenly, a horse neighed and the horse Ivan rode neighed in answer. Another baba-yaga came out, old, even older than the second. She looked at the horse, recognized it as her sister’s, but the rider was a stranger, a handsome young man.

Then Prince Ivan bowed to her courteously, and asked her for her hospitality. The baba-yaga had to offer him her hospitality: it was due to all, to those who came on horseback and those who came on foot, to rich and poor alike.

The baba-yaga took care of everything in no time at all: she stabled the horse, and gave food and drink to Prince Ivan, and then she questioned him.

“Well now, where are you from, good man, brave youth? What land? Who are your father and your mother?”

“Grandmother, I am from such-and-such a kingdom, such-and-such a land, I am prince Ivan the Tsar’s son. I was at your youngest sister’s, and she sent me to your middle sister, who sent me to you. I am riding beyond three-nine lands, beyond three-ten kingdoms, to fetch apples of youth and living water from the mighty warrior-maiden Sineglazka.”

“Oh, child, I don’t know whether you will be able to obtain what you seek. The road is difficult to the abode of the maiden Sineglazka!”

“Well, grandmother, would you lend your head to my shoulders, and advise me on what to do?”

“Many a youth went this way, few spoke courteously. Oh, well, I will help you. The maiden Sineglazka is my niece, she is a powerful and mighty warrior. Her kingdom is surrounded by a wall hgh, thick. There is a watch f at the gate, they won’t even let you in. You have to go there in the middle of the night, on my own good horse. Once you’re at the foot of the wall, whip the horse with a never-lashed whip: it will jump the wall. Tie down the horse and go into the garden. You will see the apple tree with the apples of youth, and a well under the tree. Take three apples, not one more. And fill a ewer with the water. The maiden Sineglazka will be sleeping, don’t you go into her chambers, get back on the horse and whip him stoutly: he’ll jump the wall again.”

. Ivan did not spend the night at this old woman’s, he mounted her good horse and rode off in the dark. This horse hopped over swamps and bogs, jumped over rivers and lakes.

After a long time or a short, having ridden high, or maybe low, Prince Ivan arrived in the middle of the night to the foot of a towering wall. There was a guard of thirty three warriors at the gates. Ivan squeezed the horse with his legs, whipped him with his never-lashed whip. The horse was angered, and jumped over the wall. Prince Ivan dismounted, went into the garden, and saw: there stood an apple tree with silver leaves and golden apples, and there was a well under the tree. Prince Ivan picked three apples and filled his ewer from the well. And then he desired to see the powerful, mighty warrior-maiden Sineglazka with his own eyes.

Prince Ivan went into the castle, where everybody was sleeping: on one side slept six warrior-maidens, and on the other side slept six warrior maidens, and in the middle the warrior-maiden Sineglazka was sprawled all over her bed in her sleep, roaring like mountain rapids.

Prince Ivan could not resist. He kissed her and left. He mounted his good horse, but the horse said to him in a human voice:

“You did not do as you were told, Prince Ivan, you went into the castle to see the maiden Sineglazka! Now I won’t be able to jump over the wall.”

Prince Ivan whipped the horse with his brand-new whip.

“You old nag, , bg of grass, we won’t just spend the night here, we’ll lose our heads!”

The horse was angered more than ever, and he jumped over the wall, but he caught a shoe on the top of the wall: strings sounded and bells rang.

The maiden Sineglazka awoke and saw that she had been burglarized.

“Awake, awake! We have been robbed of our goods!”

She commanded that her warrior’s horse be saddled, and raced off with the twelve warrior-maidens in pursuit of Prince Ivan.

. Prince Ivan was riding as fast as his horse could go, and the maiden Sineglazka was hard on his heels. Prince Ivan arrived to house of the oldest baba-yaga, and she had a horse all ready for him. Ivan changed horses on the fly and raced off. He was scarcely out the gates when Sineglazka rode in, asking the baba-yaga:

“Grandmother, did an animal pass by here?”

“No, child.”

“Did a man ride by here?”

“No, child. But won’t you have a cup of milk after all this riding?”

“I would, grandmother, but it takes a long time to milk a cow.”

“Oh, no, child, it won’t take but a moment.”

The baba-yaga went to milk the cow, and she took her time. The maiden Sineglazka had a cup of milk and set off again in pursuit of Prince Ivan.

Prince Ivan arrived at the house of the younger baba-yaga, changed horses, and raced on. He was scarcely out the gates when Sineglazka rode in.

“Grandmother, did an animal pass by, did a man ride by here?”

“No, child. But won’t you have some ater all this riding?”

“It will take you so long to fry them!”

“Oh, no, child, it won’t take but a moment.”

The baba-yaga fried a mountain of pancakes, taking her time to prepare them. The maiden Sineglazka ate them and raced off after Prince Ivan.

Prince Ivan arrived at the house of the youngest baba-yaga, dismounted and got on his own good horse, and raced off. He was scarcely out the gates when Sineglazka rode in and asked the baba-yaga whether a man had ridden by.

“No, child. But won’t you take a nice ater all this riding?”

“It will take you so long to heat up the bath house!”

“Oh, no, child, it won’t take but a moment!”

The baba-yaga heated up the bath house, and prepared everything. The maiden Sineglazka had a steam bath, and then raced off after Prince Ivan. Her horse jumped from mountain to mountain, hopped over rivers and lakes. Soon she started catching up after Ivan.

. Ivan saw that he was pursued: twelve warrior maidens, and a thirteenth — the maiden Sineglazka. They were about to catch up with him, and they were ready to behead him. He slowed down his horse, and the maiden Sineglazka rode up to him and yelled:

“You thief, why did you drink from my well and did not replace the cover?”

He answered:

“Let’s ride three horse-jumps apart and measure our strength against each other.”

Then Prince Ivan and the maiden Sineglazka rode three horse-jumps apart, took out their war-, heir long-measured lances, their sharp sabers. They met each other three times, they broke their maces, they split their lances, they dulled their sabers, and yet neither could throw the other to the ground. There was no point in fighting a-horseback: they jumped off, and fought on bare-handed.

They fought from morning till night, thill the bright sun set. Prince Ivan’s leg slipped, he fell to te . The maiden Sineglazka put her knee on his , nd took out her great dagger to stab him in the heart.

Prince Ivan said to her:

“Do not slay me, fair maiden Sineglazka, take me instead by my white hands, help me rise from the ground, kiss me on my sweet lips.”

Then the maiden Sineglazka helped Prince Ivan to stand up, and kissed him on his sweet lips. They set up their pavillion in the wide field, in the open plain, on the green grass. They spent three days and three nights there. There they were nd exchanged rings.

The maiden Sineglazka said to him:

“I will ride home, and you go home as well, but beware: do not turn from your path anywhere… Await me in your kingdom three years hence.”

They mounted up and rode away. After a long time, or maybe a short — events happen slowly, but a tale is quickly told — Prince Ivan arrived at the crossroads where the flat stone lay, and thought:

“This is not good! I am riding home, and my brothers are lost without a trace.”

. He did not follow the orders of the maiden Sineglazka, he turned onto the road that promised marriage. He arrived to the castle with the golden roofs. Suddenly Prince Ivan’s horse neighed, and his brothers’ horses responded, for the horses were herd-mates.

Prince Ivan went up the stairs to the porch and knocked the ring so hard the finials on the rooftops shook and the window frames became crooked. A beautiful maiden ran out.

“Oh, Prince Ivan, I have been waiting for you for so long! Come, partake of m , and spend the night.”

She took him into the castle, and served him a real feast. Prince Ivan did not eat so much as he threw under the table, he did not drink so much as he poured out under the table. The fair maiden took him into the bedroom:

“Lie down, Prince Ivan, rest comfortably.”

But Prince Ivan threw her onto the bed, he turned the bed upside down, and the fell into the ellar, the deep dungeon.

Prince Ivan leaned over the dungeon and called out:

“Who’s alive down there?”

And he was answered:

“Prince Fedor and Prince Vasilii!”

Prince Ivan pulled them out of the dungeon: their faces were black with dirt, moss had begun to grow on them. Prince Ivan washed his brothers off with living water, and they became as before.

They mounted up on their horses and rode off. After a long while, or a short, they arrived at the crossroads. Prince Ivan told his brothers:

“Watch my horse while I rest a little.:

. He lay down on the silky grass and fell into a deep warrior’s sleep. But Prince Fedor said to Prince Vasilii:

“If we return without apples of youth or living water, there will be little fame for us, our father will send s to .”

Prince Vasilii answered:

“Let’s throw Prince Ivan into a deep ravine, and let’s take these things and hand them over to our father.”

So they took the apples of youth and the living water out of Ivan’s pocket, and threw Ivan into a deep ravine. Prince Ivan fell for three days and three nights before he reached the bottom.

Prince Ivan fell onto a sea shore, came to, and saw that there was nothing around him, just the sky and the water, and under an old oak tree, some fledgling birds were calling, for the sea was pummeling them.

Prince Ivan took off his ad covered up the fledglings, and hid under the oak tree.

The weather calmed, and the great bird Nagai came flying.

She arrived, landed under the tree, and asked her fledglings:

“My dear little children, did you suffer from the terrible weather?”

“Do not cry, mother, a Russian saved us, he covered us with his caftan.”

The bird Nagai asked Prince Ivan:

“How did you happen to be here, good man?”

“My own brothers threw me into the ravine for the apples of youth and the living water I had.”

“You protected my little ones, ask anything you want: gold, silver, precious stones,”

“I do not need anything, Nagai: I do not need gold, or silver, or precious stones. But can I return to my native land?”

The bird Nagai answered him:

“Find two barrels, each full of some twelve s of eat.”

So Prince Ivan shot many geese and y the sea shore. He put the meat into two barrels, and put one barrel on the right shoulder of the bird Nagai, the other on the left, and sat on her back. Then he began feeding the bird, and she took off and rose higher and higher.

She flew, and Prince Ivan kept feeding and feeding her. They flew a long time thus, or maybe a short time, and Ivan fed both barrels to the bird. And Nagai turned her beak to him again. Ivan took out his knife, cut a chunk off his thigh, and gave it to the bird Nagai. She flew further, and turned her beak to him again. Ivan cut a chunk off his other leg and fed it to her. They were almost there, and the bird turned to Ivan a third time, and he cut a chunk off his chest and fed it to her.

Then the bird Nagai arrived in Prince Ivan’s native land.

“You fed me well the whole time, but the last piece was the most delicious, I have never eaten the like of it.”

Prince Ivan showed her his wounds. The bird Nagai regurgitated the last three chunks, and said:

“Put them back where they belong.”

Prince Ivan did so, and the chunks adhered to his bones.

“Now dismount, Prince Ivan, I shall fly home.”

The bird Nagai rose in the air, and Prince Ivan went his way home.

. He arrived at the capital, and found out that Prince Fedor and Prince Vasilii had brought their father the apples of youth and the living water, and that the Tsar was healed: he recovered his good health and his sight.

Prince Ivan did not go to his father, or to his mother. He gathered all the drunkards, the barflies, and went from tavern to tavern.

At that time, beyond three-nine lands, in the three-tenth kingdom, the mighty warrior Sineglazka gave birth to two sons. They grew hour by hour, not day by day. A tale is quickly told, a deed is done slowly: three years passed. Sineglazka took her sons, gathered her army, and rode out in search of Prince Ivan.

She arrived in his kingdom, and set up her white pavilion in the wide field, in the open plain, on the green grass. She carpeted the path to the pavilion with bright cloth. And she sent a messenger to the capital to say to the Tsar:

“Tsar, give up your son. If you do not, I will trample your whole kingdom, I will burn it, I will take you prisoner.”

The Tsar was frightened and he sent his oldest son, Prince Fedor. Fedor walked on the bright cloth, and arrived at the white pavilion. Two boys ran out.

“Mother, mother, is this our father coming?”

“No, children, this is your uncle.”

“What should we do with him, mother?”

“Treat him as he deserves, children.”

The two little boys took some switches and began whipping Prince Fedor just below his back. They whipped him stoutly, and he barely managed to get away.

And Sineglazka sent another messenger to the Tsar: “Give up your son!…”

The Tsar was even more frightened, and he sent his middle son, Prince Vasilii . He arrived at the white pavilion. Two boys ran out:

“Mother, mother, is this our father?”

“No, children, this is your uncle. Treat him as he deserves.”

The two little boys took some switches again and began whipping Prince Vasilii just below his back. They whipped him stoutly, and he barely managed to get away.

And Sineglazka sent a third messenger to the Tsar:

“Go find your third son, Prince Ivan. If you do not find him, I will trample and burn your whole kingdom.”

The Tsar was frightened even more than before, and sent for Prince Fedor and Prince Vasilii, and ordered them to find their brother, Prince Ivan. But the brothers fell to their knees and confessed how they took the living water and the apples of youth from the sleeping Prince Ivan and threw him into a deep ravine.

Upon hearing this, the Tsar shed many tears. At that time, Prince Ivan was making his way by himself to Sineglazka’s pavilion, and all the barflies went with him. They tore up the bright cloth underfoot and tossed it to the wind.

Prince Ivan arrived at the white tent. Two boys ran out:

“Mother, mother, some drunkard is coming here with many barflies!”

Sineglazka answered them:

“Take him by his white hands, bring him into the tent. This is your own father. He has been suffering for no reason for three years!”

The boys took Prince Ivan by his white hands and brought him into the tent. Sineglazka washed him and combed his hair, put fresh clothes on him, and put him to bed. Then she gave a drink to each barfly and they went their way.

The following day, Sineglazka and Prince Ivan arrived at the Tsar’s palace. Then there was a great feast, and wedding to follow. Prince Fedor and Prince Vasilii earned little fame: they were thrown out from the palace to spend a night here, a night there, and the third nowhere.

Prince Ivan did not i his kingdom, he went away with Sineglazka to her own kingdom.

And that is the of the story.

Kashtanka by Anton Chekhov

KASHTANKA

(A Story)

by Anton Chekhov

I

Misbehaviour

A YOUNG dog, a reddish mongrel, between a dachshund and a “yard-dog,” very like a fox in face, was running up and down the pavement looking uneasily from side to side. From time to time she stopped and, whining and lifting first one chilled paw and then another, tried to make up her mind how it could have happened that she was lost.

She remembered very well how she had passed the day, and how, in the end, she had found herself on this unfamiliar pavement.

The day had begun by her master Luka Alexandritch’s putting on his hat, taking something wooden under his arm wrapped up in a red handkerchief, and calling: “Kashtanka, come along!”

Hearing her name the mongrel had come out from under the work-table, where she slept on the shavings, stretched herself voluptuously and run after her master. The people Luka Alexandritch worked for lived a very long way off, so that, before he could get to any one of them, the carpenter had several times to step into a tavern to fortify himself. Kashtanka remembered that on the way she had behaved extremely improperly. In her delight that she was being taken for a walk she jumped about, dashed barking after the trains, ran into yards, and chased other dogs. The carpenter was continually losing sight of her, stopping, and angrily shouting at her. Once he had even, with an expression of fury in his face, taken her fox-like ear in his fist, smacked her, and said emphatically: “Pla-a-ague take you, you pest!”

After having left the work where it had been bespoken, Luka Alexandritch went into his sister’s and there had something to eat and drink; from his sister’s he had gone to see a bookbinder he knew; from the bookbinder’s to a tavern, from the tavern to another crony’s, and so on. In short, by the time Kashtanka found herself on the unfamiliar pavement, it was getting dusk, and the carpenter was as drunk as a cobbler. He was waving his arms and, breathing heavily, muttered:

In sin my mother bore me! Ah, sins, sins! Here now we are walking along the street and looking at the street lamps, but when we die, we shall burn in a fiery Gehenna. . . .”

Or he fell into a good-natured tone, called Kashtanka to him, and said to her: “You, Kashtanka, are an insect of a creature, and nothing else. Beside a man, you are much the same as a joiner beside a cabinet-maker. . . .”

While he talked to her in that way, there was suddenly a burst of music. Kashtanka looked round and saw that a regiment of soldiers was coming straight towards her. Unable to endure the music, which unhinged her nerves, she turned round and round and wailed. To her great surprise, the carpenter, instead of being frightened, whining and barking, gave a broad grin, drew himself up to attention, and saluted with all his five fingers. Seeing that her master did not protest, Kashtanka whined louder than ever, and dashed across the road to the opposite pavement.

When she recovered herself, the band was not playing and the regiment was no longer there. She ran across the road to the spot where she had left her master, but alas, the carpenter was no longer there. She dashed forward, then back again and ran across the road once more, but the carpenter seemed to have vanished into the earth. Kashtanka began sniffing the pavement, hoping to find her master by the scent of his tracks, but some wretch had been that way just before in new rubber goloshes, and now all delicate scents were mixed with an acute stench of india-rubber, so that it was impossible to make out anything.

Kashtanka ran up and down and did not find her master, and meanwhile it had got dark. The street lamps were lighted on both sides of the road, and lights appeared in the windows. Big, fluffy snowflakes were falling and painting white the pavement, the horses’ backs and the cabmen’s caps, and the darker the evening grew the whiter were all these objects. Unknown customers kept walking incessantly to and fro, obstructing her field of vision and shoving against her with their feet. (All mankind Kashtanka divided into two uneven parts: masters and customers; between them there was an essential difference: the first had the right to beat her, and the second she had the right to nip by the calves of their legs.) These customers were hurrying off somewhere and paid no attention to her.

When it got quite dark, Kashtanka was overcome by despair and horror. She huddled up in an entrance and began whining piteously. The long day’s journeying with Luka Alexandritch had exhausted her, her ears and her paws were freezing, and, what was more, she was terribly hungry. Only twice in the whole day had she tasted a morsel: she had eaten a little paste at the bookbinder’s, and in one of the taverns she had found a sausage skin on the floor, near the counter — that was all. If she had been a human being she would have certainly thought: “No, it is impossible to live like this! I must shoot myself!”

II

A Mysterious Stranger

But she thought of nothing, she simply whined. When her head and back were entirely plastered over with the soft feathery snow, and she had sunk into a painful doze of exhaustion, all at once the door of the entrance clicked, creaked, and struck her on the side. She jumped up. A man belonging to the class of customers came out. As Kashtanka whined and got under his feet, he could not help noticing her. He bent down to her and asked:

“Doggy, where do you come from? Have I hurt you? O, poor thing, poor thing. . . . Come, don’t be cross, don’t be cross. . . . I am sorry.”

Kashtanka looked at the stranger through the snow-flakes that hung on her eyelashes, and saw before her a short, fat little man, with a plump, shaven face wearing a top hat and a fur coat that swung open.

“What are you whining for?” he went on, knocking the snow off her back with his fingers. “Where is your master? I suppose you are lost? Ah, poor doggy! What are we going to do now?”

Catching in the stranger’s voice a warm, cordial note, Kashtanka licked his hand, and whined still more pitifully.

“Oh, you nice funny thing!” said the stranger. “A regular fox! Well, there’s nothing for it, you must come along with me! Perhaps you will be of use for something. . . . Well!”

He clicked with his lips, and made a sign to Kashtanka with his hand, which could only mean one thing: “Come along!” Kashtanka went.

Not more than half an hour later she was sitting on the floor in a big, light room, and, leaning her head against her side, was looking with tenderness and curiosity at the stranger who was sitting at the table, dining. He ate and threw pieces to her. . . . At first he gave her bread and the green rind of cheese, then a piece of meat, half a pie and chicken bones, while through hunger she ate so quickly that she had not time to distinguish the taste, and the more she ate the more acute was the feeling of hunger.

“Your masters don’t feed you properly,” said the stranger, seeing with what ferocious greediness she swallowed the morsels without munching them. “And how thin you are! Nothing but skin and bones. . . .”

Kashtanka ate a great deal and yet did not satisfy her hunger, but was simply stupefied with eating. After dinner she lay down in the middle of the room, stretched her legs and, conscious of an agreeable weariness all over her body, wagged her tail. While her new master, lounging in an easy-chair, smoked a cigar, she wagged her tail and considered the question, whether it was better at the stranger’s or at the carpenter’s. The stranger’s surroundings were poor and ugly; besides the easy-chairs, the sofa, the lamps and the rugs, there was nothing, and the room seemed empty. At the carpenter’s the whole place was stuffed full of things: he had a table, a bench, a heap of shavings, planes, chisels, saws, a cage with a goldfinch, a basin. . . . The stranger’s room smelt of nothing, while there was always a thick fog in the carpenter s room, and a glorious smell of glue, varnish, and shavings. On the other hand, the stranger had one great superiority — he gave her a great deal to eat and, to do him full justice, when Kashtanka sat facing the table and looking wistfully at him, he did not once hit or kick her, and did not once shout: “Go away, damned brute!”

When he had finished his cigar her new master went out, and a minute later came back holding a little mattress in his hands.

“Hey, you dog, come here!” he said, laying the mattress in the corner near the dog. “Lie down here, go to sleep!”

Then he put out the lamp and went away. Kashtanka lay down on the mattress and shut her eyes; the sound of a bark rose from the street, and she would have liked to answer it, but all at once she was overcome with unexpected melancholy. She thought of Luka Alexandritch, of his son Fedyushka, and her snug little place under the bench. . . . She remembered on the long winter evenings, when the carpenter was planing or reading the paper aloud, Fedyushka usually played with her. . . . He used to pull her from under the bench by her hind legs, and play such tricks with her, that she saw green before her eyes, and ached in every joint. He would make her walk on her hind legs, use her as a bell, that is, shake her violently by the tail so that she squealed and barked, and give her tobacco to sniff. . . . The following trick was particularly agonising: Fedyushka would tie a piece of meat to a thread and give it to Kashtanka, and then, when she had swallowed it he would, with a loud laugh, pull it back again from her stomach, and the more lurid were her memories the more loudly and miserably Kashtanka whined.

But soon exhaustion and warmth prevailed over melancholy. She began to fall asleep. Dogs ran by in her imagination: among them a shaggy old poodle, whom she had seen that day in the street with a white patch on his eye and tufts of wool by his nose. Fedyushka ran after the poodle with a chisel in his hand, then all at once he too was covered with shaggy wool, and began merrily barking beside Kashtanka. Kashtanka and he goodnaturedly sniffed each other’s noses and merrily ran down the street. . . .

III

New and Very Agreeable Acquaintances

When Kashtanka woke up it was already light, and a sound rose from the street, such as only comes in the day-time. There was not a soul in the room. Kashtanka stretched, yawned and, cross and ill-humoured, walked about the room. She sniffed the corners and the furniture, looked into the passage and found nothing of interest there. Besides the door that led into the passage there was another door. After thinking a little Kashtanka scratched on it with both paws, opened it, and went into the adjoining room. Here on the bed, covered with a rug, a customer, in whom she recognised the stranger of yesterday, lay asleep.

“Rrrrr . . .” she growled, but recollecting yesterday’s dinner, wagged her tail, and began sniffing.

She sniffed the stranger’s clothes and boots and thought they smelt of horses. In the bedroom was another door, also closed. Kashtanka scratched at the door, leaned her chest against it, opened it, and was instantly aware of a strange and very suspicious smell. Foreseeing an unpleasant encounter, growling and looking about her, Kashtanka walked into a little room with a dirty wall-paper and drew back in alarm. She saw something surprising and terrible. A grey gander came straight towards her, hissing, with its neck bowed down to the floor and its wings outspread. Not far from him, on a little mattress, lay a white tom-cat; seeing Kashtanka, he jumped up, arched his back, wagged his tail with his hair standing on end and he, too, hissed at her. The dog was frightened in earnest, but not caring to betray her alarm, began barking loudly and dashed at the cat. . . . The cat arched his back more than ever, mewed and gave Kashtanka a smack on the head with his paw. Kashtanka jumped back, squatted on all four paws, and craning her nose towards the cat, went off into loud, shrill barks; meanwhile the gander came up behind and gave her a painful peck in the back. Kashtanka leapt up and dashed at the gander.

“What’s this?” They heard a loud angry voice, and the stranger came into the room in his dressing-gown, with a cigar between his teeth. “What’s the meaning of this? To your places!”

He went up to the cat, flicked him on his arched back, and said:

“Fyodor Timofeyitch, what’s the meaning of this? Have you got up a fight? Ah, you old rascal! Lie down!”

And turning to the gander he shouted: “Ivan Ivanitch, go home!”

The cat obediently lay down on his mattress and closed his eyes. Judging from the expression of his face and whiskers, he was displeased with himself for having lost his temper and got into a fight.

Kashtanka began whining resentfully, while the gander craned his neck and began saying something rapidly, excitedly, distinctly, but quite unintelligibly.

“All right, all right,” said his master, yawning. “You must live in peace and friendship.” He stroked Kashtanka and went on: “And you, redhair, don’t be frightened. . . . They are capital company, they won’t annoy you. Stay, what are we to call you? You can’t go on without a name, my dear.”

The stranger thought a moment and said: “I tell you what . . . you shall be Auntie. . . . Do you understand? Auntie!”

And repeating the word “Auntie” several times he went out. Kashtanka sat down and began watching. The cat sat motionless on his little mattress, and pretended to be asleep. The gander, craning his neck and stamping, went on talking rapidly and excitedly about something. Apparently it was a very clever gander; after every long tirade, he always stepped back with an air of wonder and made a show of being highly delighted with his own speech. . . . Listening to him and answering “R-r-r-r,” Kashtanka fell to sniffing the corners. In one of the corners she found a little trough in which she saw some soaked peas and a sop of rye crusts. She tried the peas; they were not nice; she tried the sopped bread and began eating it. The gander was not at all offended that the strange dog was eating his food, but, on the contrary, talked even more excitedly, and to show his confidence went to the trough and ate a few peas himself.

IV

Marvels on a Hurdle

A little while afterwards the stranger came in again, and brought a strange thing with him like a hurdle, or like the figure II. On the crosspiece on the top of this roughly made wooden frame hung a bell, and a pistol was also tied to it; there were strings from the tongue of the bell, and the trigger of the pistol. The stranger put the frame in the middle of the room, spent a long time tying and untying something, then looked at the gander and said: “Ivan Ivanitch, if you please!”

The gander went up to him and stood in an expectant attitude.

“Now then,” said the stranger, “let us begin at the very beginning. First of all, bow and make a curtsey! Look sharp!”

Ivan Ivanitch craned his neck, nodded in all directions, and scraped with his foot.

“Right. Bravo. . . . Now die!”

The gander lay on his back and stuck his legs in the air. After performing a few more similar, unimportant tricks, the stranger suddenly clutched at his head, and assuming an expression of horror, shouted: “Help! Fire! We are burning!”

Ivan Ivanitch ran to the frame, took the string in his beak, and set the bell ringing.

The stranger was very much pleased. He stroked the gander’s neck and said:

“Bravo, Ivan Ivanitch! Now pretend that you are a jeweller selling gold and diamonds. Imagine now that you go to your shop and find thieves there. What would you do in that case?”

The gander took the other string in his beak and pulled it, and at once a deafening report was heard. Kashtanka was highly delighted with the bell ringing, and the shot threw her into so much ecstasy that she ran round the frame barking.

“Auntie, lie down!” cried the stranger; “be quiet!”

Ivan Ivanitch’s task was not ended with the shooting. For a whole hour afterwards the stranger drove the gander round him on a cord, cracking a whip, and the gander had to jump over barriers and through hoops; he had to rear, that is, sit on his tail and wave his legs in the air. Kashtanka could not take her eyes off Ivan Ivanitch, wriggled with delight, and several times fell to running after him with shrill barks. After exhausting the gander and himself, the stranger wiped the sweat from his brow and cried:

“Marya, fetch Havronya Ivanovna here!”

A minute later there was the sound of grunting. Kashtanka growled, assumed a very valiant air, and to be on the safe side, went nearer to the stranger. The door opened, an old woman looked in, and, saying something, led in a black and very ugly sow. Paying no attention to Kashtanka’s growls, the sow lifted up her little hoof and grunted good-humouredly. Apparently it was very agreeable to her to see her master, the cat, and Ivan Ivanitch. When she went up to the cat and gave him a light tap on the stomach with her hoof, and then made some remark to the gander, a great deal of good-nature was expressed in her movements, and the quivering of her tail. Kashtanka realised at once that to growl and bark at such a character was useless.

The master took away the frame and cried. “Fyodor Timofeyitch, if you please!”

The cat stretched lazily, and reluctantly, as though performing a duty, went up to the sow.

“Come, let us begin with the Egyptian pyramid,” began the master.

He spent a long time explaining something, then gave the word of command, “One . . . two . . . three!” At the word “three” Ivan Ivanitch flapped his wings and jumped on to the sow’s back. . . . When, balancing himself with his wings and his neck, he got a firm foothold on the bristly back, Fyodor Timofeyitch listlessly and lazily, with manifest disdain, and with an air of scorning his art and not caring a pin for it, climbed on to the sow’s back, then reluctantly mounted on to the gander, and stood on his hind legs. The result was what the stranger called the Egyptian pyramid. Kashtanka yapped with delight, but at that moment the old cat yawned and, losing his balance, rolled off the gander. Ivan Ivanitch lurched and fell off too. The stranger shouted, waved his hands, and began explaining something again. After spending an hour over the pyramid their indefatigable master proceeded to teach Ivan Ivanitch to ride on the cat, then began to teach the cat to smoke, and so on.

The lesson ended in the stranger’s wiping the sweat off his brow and going away. Fyodor Timofeyitch gave a disdainful sniff, lay down on his mattress, and closed his eyes; Ivan Ivanitch went to the trough, and the pig was taken away by the old woman. Thanks to the number of her new impressions, Kashranka hardly noticed how the day passed, and in the evening she was installed with her mattress in the room with the dirty wall-paper, and spent the night in the society of Fyodor Timofeyitch and the gander.

V

Talent! Talent!

A month passed.

Kashtanka had grown used to having a nice dinner every evening, and being called Auntie. She had grown used to the stranger too, and to her new companions. Life was comfortable and easy.

Every day began in the same way. As a rule, Ivan Ivanitch was the first to wake up, and at once went up to Auntie or to the cat, twisting his neck, and beginning to talk excitedly and persuasively, but, as before, unintelligibly. Sometimes he would crane up his head in the air and utter a long monologue. At first Kashtanka thought he talked so much because he was very clever, but after a little time had passed, she lost all her respect for him; when he went up to her with his long speeches she no longer wagged her tail, but treated him as a tiresome chatterbox, who would not let anyone sleep and, without the slightest ceremony, answered him with “R-r-r-r!”

Fyodor Timofeyitch was a gentleman of a very different sort. When he woke he did not utter a sound, did not stir, and did not even open his eyes. He would have been glad not to wake, for, as was evident, he was not greatly in love with life. Nothing interested him, he showed an apathetic and nonchalant attitude to everything, he disdained everything and, even while eating his delicious dinner, sniffed contemptuously.

When she woke Kashtanka began walking about the room and sniffing the corners. She and the cat were the only ones allowed to go all over the flat; the gander had not the right to cross the threshold of the room with the dirty wall-paper, and Hayronya Ivanovna lived somewhere in a little outhouse in the yard and made her appearance only during the lessons. Their master got up late, and immediately after drinking his tea began teaching them their tricks. Every day the frame, the whip, and the hoop were brought in, and every day almost the same performance took place. The lesson lasted three or four hours, so that sometimes Fyodor Timofeyitch was so tired that he staggered about like a drunken man, and Ivan Ivanitch opened his beak and breathed heavily, while their master became red in the face and could not mop the sweat from his brow fast enough.

The lesson and the dinner made the day very interesting, but the evenings were tedious. As a rule, their master went off somewhere in the evening and took the cat and the gander with him. Left alone, Auntie lay down on her little mattress and began to feel sad.

Melancholy crept on her imperceptibly and took possession of her by degrees, as darkness does of a room. It began with the dog’s losing every inclination to bark, to eat, to run about the rooms, and even to look at things; then vague figures, half dogs, half human beings, with countenances attractive, pleasant, but incomprehensible, would appear in her imagination; when they came Auntie wagged her tail, and it seemed to her that she had somewhere, at some time, seen them and loved them. And as she dropped asleep, she always felt that those figures smelt of glue, shavings, and varnish.

When she had grown quite used to her new life, and from a thin, long mongrel, had changed into a sleek, well-groomed dog, her master looked at her one day before the lesson and said:

“It’s high time, Auntie, to get to business. You have kicked up your heels in idleness long enough. I want to make an artiste of you. . . . Do you want to be an artiste?”

And he began teaching her various accomplishments. At the first lesson he taught her to stand and walk on her hind legs, which she liked extremely. At the second lesson she had to jump on her hind legs and catch some sugar, which her teacher held high above her head. After that, in the following lessons she danced, ran tied to a cord, howled to music, rang the bell, and fired the pistol, and in a month could successfully replace Fyodor Timofeyitch in the “Egyptian Pyramid.” She learned very eagerly and was pleased with her own success; running with her tongue out on the cord, leaping through the hoop, and riding on old Fyodor Timofeyitch, gave her the greatest enjoyment. She accompanied every successful trick with a shrill, delighted bark, while her teacher wondered, was also delighted, and rubbed his hands.

“It’s talent! It’s talent!” he said. “Unquestionable talent! You will certainly be successful!”

And Auntie grew so used to the word talent, that every time her master pronounced it, she jumped up as if it had been her name.

VI

An Uneasy Night

Auntie had a doggy dream that a porter ran after her with a broom, and she woke up in a fright.

It was quite dark and very stuffy in the room. The fleas were biting. Auntie had never been afraid of darkness before, but now, for some reason, she felt frightened and inclined to bark.

Her master heaved a loud sigh in the next room, then soon afterwards the sow grunted in her sty, and then all was still again. When one thinks about eating one’s heart grows lighter, and Auntie began thinking how that day she had stolen the leg of a chicken from Fyodor Timofeyitch, and had hidden it in the drawing-room, between the cupboard and the wall, where there were a great many spiders’ webs and a great deal of dust. Would it not be as well to go now and look whether the chicken leg were still there or not? It was very possible that her master had found it and eaten it. But she must not go out of the room before morning, that was the rule. Auntie shut her eyes to go to sleep as quickly as possible, for she knew by experience that the sooner you go to sleep the sooner the morning comes. But all at once there was a strange scream not far from her which made her start and jump up on all four legs. It was Ivan Ivanitch, and his cry was not babbling and persuasive as usual, but a wild, shrill, unnatural scream like the squeak of a door opening. Unable to distinguish anything in the darkness, and not understanding what was wrong, Auntie felt still more frightened and growled: “R-r-r-r. . . .”

Some time passed, as long as it takes to eat a good bone; the scream was not repeated. Little by little Auntie’s uneasiness passed off and she began to doze. She dreamed of two big black dogs with tufts of last year’s coat left on their haunches and sides; they were eating out of a big basin some swill, from which there came a white steam and a most appetising smell; from time to time they looked round at Auntie, showed their teeth and growled: “We are not going to give you any!” But a peasant in a fur-coat ran out of the house and drove them away with a whip; then Auntie went up to the basin and began eating, but as soon as the peasant went out of the gate, the two black dogs rushed at her growling, and all at once there was again a shrill scream.

“K-gee! K-gee-gee!” cried Ivan Ivanitch.

Auntie woke, jumped up and, without leaving her mattress, went off into a yelping bark. It seemed to her that it was not Ivan Ivanitch that was screaming but someone else, and for some reason the sow again grunted in her sty.

Then there was the sound of shuffling slippers, and the master came into the room in his dressing-gown with a candle in his hand. The flickering light danced over the dirty wall-paper and the ceiling, and chased away the darkness. Auntie saw that there was no stranger in the room. Ivan Ivanitch was sitting on the floor and was not asleep. His wings were spread out and his beak was open, and altogether he looked as though he were very tired and thirsty. Old Fyodor Timofeyitch was not asleep either. He, too, must have been awakened by the scream.

“Ivan Ivanitch, what’s the matter with you?” the master asked the gander. “Why are you screaming? Are you ill?”

The gander did not answer. The master touched him on the neck, stroked his back, and said: “You are a queer chap. You don’t sleep yourself, and you don’t let other people. . . .”

When the master went out, carrying the candle with him, there was darkness again. Auntie felt frightened. The gander did not scream, but again she fancied that there was some stranger in the room. What was most dreadful was that this stranger could not be bitten, as he was unseen and had no shape. And for some reason she thought that something very bad would certainly happen that night. Fyodor Timofeyitch was uneasy too.

Auntie could hear him shifting on his mattress, yawning and shaking his head.

Somewhere in the street there was a knocking at a gate and the sow grunted in her sty. Auntie began to whine, stretched out her front-paws and laid her head down upon them. She fancied that in the knocking at the gate, in the grunting of the sow, who was for some reason awake, in the darkness and the stillness, there was something as miserable and dreadful as in Ivan Ivanitch’s scream. Everything was in agitation and anxiety, but why? Who was the stranger who could not be seen? Then two dim flashes of green gleamed for a minute near Auntie. It was Fyodor Timofeyitch, for the first time of their whole acquaintance coming up to her. What did he want? Auntie licked his paw, and not asking why he had come, howled softly and on various notes.

“K-gee!” cried Ivan Ivanitch, “K-g-ee!”

The door opened again and the master came in with a candle.

The gander was sitting in the same attitude as before, with his beak open, and his wings spread out, his eyes were closed.

“Ivan Ivanitch!” his master called him.

The gander did not stir. His master sat down before him on the floor, looked at him in silence for a minute, and said:

“Ivan Ivanitch, what is it? Are you dying? Oh, I remember now, I remember!” he cried out, and clutched at his head. “I know why it is! It’s because the horse stepped on you to-day! My God! My God!”

Auntie did not understand what her master was saying, but she saw from his face that he, too, was expecting something dreadful. She stretched out her head towards the dark window, where it seemed to her some stranger was looking in, and howled.

“He is dying, Auntie!” said her master, and wrung his hands. “Yes, yes, he is dying! Death has come into your room. What are we to do?”

Pale and agitated, the master went back into his room, sighing and shaking his head. Auntie was afraid to remain in the darkness, and followed her master into his bedroom. He sat down on the bed and repeated several times: “My God, what’s to be done?”

Auntie walked about round his feet, and not understanding why she was wretched and why they were all so uneasy, and trying to understand, watched every movement he made. Fyodor Timofeyitch, who rarely left his little mattress, came into the master’s bedroom too, and began rubbing himself against his feet. He shook his head as though he wanted to shake painful thoughts out of it, and kept peeping suspiciously under the bed.

The master took a saucer, poured some water from his wash-stand into it, and went to the gander again.

“Drink, Ivan Ivanitch!” he said tenderly, setting the saucer before him; “drink, darling.”

But Ivan Ivanitch did not stir and did not open his eyes. His master bent his head down to the saucer and dipped his beak into the water, but the gander did not drink, he spread his wings wider than ever, and his head remained lying in the saucer.

“No, there’s nothing to be done now,” sighed his master. “It’s all over. Ivan Ivanitch is gone!”

And shining drops, such as one sees on the window-pane when it rains, trickled down his cheeks. Not understanding what was the matter, Auntie and Fyodor Timofeyitch snuggled up to him and looked with horror at the gander.

“Poor Ivan Ivanitch!” said the master, sighing mournfully. “And I was dreaming I would take you in the spring into the country, and would walk with you on the green grass. Dear creature, my good comrade, you are no more! How shall I do without you now?”

It seemed to Auntie that the same thing would happen to her, that is, that she too, there was no knowing why, would close her eyes, stretch out her paws, open her mouth, and everyone would look at her with horror. Apparently the same reflections were passing through the brain of Fyodor Timofeyitch. Never before had the old cat been so morose and gloomy.

It began to get light, and the unseen stranger who had so frightened Auntie was no longer in the room. When it was quite daylight, the porter came in, took the gander, and carried him away. And soon afterwards the old woman came in and took away the trough.

Auntie went into the drawing-room and looked behind the cupboard: her master had not eaten the chicken bone, it was lying in its place among the dust and spiders’ webs. But Auntie felt sad and dreary and wanted to cry. She did not even sniff at the bone, but went under the sofa, sat down there, and began softly whining in a thin voice.

VII

An Unsuccessful Début

One fine evening the master came into the room with the dirty wall-paper, and, rubbing his hands, said:

“Well. . . .”

He meant to say something more, but went away without saying it. Auntie, who during her lessons had thoroughly studied his face and intonations, divined that he was agitated, anxious and, she fancied, angry. Soon afterwards he came back and said:

“To-day I shall take with me Auntie and F’yodor Timofeyitch. To-day, Auntie, you will take the place of poor Ivan Ivanitch in the ‘Egyptian Pyramid.’ Goodness knows how it will be! Nothing is ready, nothing has been thoroughly studied, there have been few rehearsals! We shall be disgraced, we shall come to grief!”

Then he went out again, and a minute later, came back in his fur-coat and top hat. Going up to the cat he took him by the fore-paws and put him inside the front of his coat, while Fyodor Timofeyitch appeared completely unconcerned, and did not even trouble to open his eyes. To him it was apparently a matter of absolute indifference whether he remained lying down, or were lifted up by his paws, whether he rested on his mattress or under his master’s fur-coat.

“Come along, Auntie,” said her master.

Wagging her tail, and understanding nothing, Auntie followed him. A minute later she was sitting in a sledge by her master’s feet and heard him, shrinking with cold and anxiety, mutter to himself:

“We shall be disgraced! We shall come to grief!”

The sledge stopped at a big strange-looking house, like a soup-ladle turned upside down. The long entrance to this house, with its three glass doors, was lighted up with a dozen brilliant lamps. The doors opened with a resounding noise and, like jaws, swallowed up the people who were moving to and fro at the entrance. There were a great many people, horses, too, often ran up to the entrance, but no dogs were to be seen.

The master took Auntie in his arms and thrust her in his coat, where Fyodor Timofeyirch already was. It was dark and stuffy there, but warm. For an instant two green sparks flashed at her; it was the cat, who opened his eyes on being disturbed by his neighbour’s cold rough paws. Auntie licked his ear, and, trying to settle herself as comfortably as possible, moved uneasily, crushed him under her cold paws, and casually poked her head out from under the coat, but at once growled angrily, and tucked it in again. It seemed to her that she had seen a huge, badly lighted room, full of monsters; from behind screens and gratings, which stretched on both sides of the room, horrible faces looked out: faces of horses with horns, with long ears, and one fat, huge countenance with a tail instead of a nose, and two long gnawed bones sticking out of his mouth.

The cat mewed huskily under Auntie’s paws, but at that moment the coat was flung open, the master said, “Hop!” and Fyodor Timofeyitch and Auntie jumped to the floor. They were now in a little room with grey plank walls; there was no other furniture in it but a little table with a looking-glass on it, a stool, and some rags hung about the corners, and instead of a lamp or candles, there was a bright fan-shaped light attached to a little pipe fixed in the wall. Fyodor Timofeyitch licked his coat which had been ruffled by Auntie, went under the stool, and lay down. Their master, still agitated and rubbing his hands, began undressing. . . . He undressed as he usually did at home when he was preparing to get under the rug, that is, took off everything but his underlinen, then he sat down on the stool, and, looking in the looking-glass, began playing the most surprising tricks with himself. . . . First of all he put on his head a wig, with a parting and with two tufts of hair standing up like horns, then he smeared his face thickly with something white, and over the white colour painted his eyebrows, his moustaches, and red on his cheeks. His antics did not end with that. After smearing his face and neck, he began putting himself into an extraordinary and incongruous costume, such as Auntie had never seen before, either in houses or in the street. Imagine very full trousers, made of chintz covered with big flowers, such as is used in working-class houses for curtains and covering furniture, trousers which buttoned up just under his armpits. One trouser leg was made of brown chintz, the other of bright yellow. Almost lost in these, he then put on a short chintz jacket, with a big scalloped collar, and a gold star on the back, stockings of different colours, and green slippers.

Everything seemed going round before Auntie’s eyes and in her soul. The white-faced, sack-like figure smelt like her master, its voice, too, was the familiar master’s voice, but there were moments when Auntie was tortured by doubts, and then she was ready to run away from the parti-coloured figure and to bark. The new place, the fan-shaped light, the smell, the transformation that had taken place in her master — all this aroused in her a vague dread and a foreboding that she would certainly meet with some horror such as the big face with the tail instead of a nose. And then, somewhere through the wall, some hateful band was playing, and from time to time she heard an incomprehensible roar. Only one thing reassured her — that was the imperturbability of Fyodor Timofeyitch. He dozed with the utmost tranquillity under the stool, and did not open his eyes even when it was moved.

A man in a dress coat and a white waistcoat peeped into the little room and said:

“Miss Arabella has just gone on. After her — you.”

Their master made no answer. He drew a small box from under the table, sat down, and waited. From his lips and his hands it could be seen that he was agitated, and Auntie could hear how his breathing came in gasps.

“Monsieur George, come on!” someone shouted behind the door. Their master got up and crossed himself three times, then took the cat from under the stool and put him in the box.

“Come, Auntie,” he said softly.

Auntie, who could make nothing out of it, went up to his hands, he kissed her on the head, and put her beside Fyodor Timofeyitch. Then followed darkness. . . . Auntie trampled on the cat, scratched at the walls of the box, and was so frightened that she could not utter a sound, while the box swayed and quivered, as though it were on the waves. . . .

“Here we are again!” her master shouted aloud: “here we are again!”

Auntie felt that after that shout the box struck against something hard and left off swaying. There was a loud deep roar, someone was being slapped, and that someone, probably the monster with the tail instead of a nose, roared and laughed so loud that the locks of the box trembled. In response to the roar, there came a shrill, squeaky laugh from her master, such as he never laughed at home.

“Ha!” he shouted, trying to shout above the roar. “Honoured friends! I have only just come from the station! My granny’s kicked the bucket and left me a fortune! There is something very heavy in the box, it must be gold, ha! ha! I bet there’s a million here! We’ll open it and look. . . .”

The lock of the box clicked. The bright light dazzled Auntie’s eyes, she jumped out of the box, and, deafened by the roar, ran quickly round her master, and broke into a shrill bark.

“Ha!” exclaimed her master. “Uncle Fyodor Timofeyitch! Beloved Aunt, dear relations! The devil take you!”

He fell on his stomach on the sand, seized the cat and Auntie, and fell to embracing them. While he held Auntie tight in his arms, she glanced round into the world into which fate had brought her and, impressed by its immensity, was for a minute dumbfounded with amazement and delight, then jumped out of her master’s arms, and to express the intensity of her emotions, whirled round and round on one spot like a top. This new world was big and full of bright light; wherever she looked, on all sides, from floor to ceiling there were faces, faces, faces, and nothing else.

“Auntie, I beg you to sit down!” shouted her master. Remembering what that meant, Auntie jumped on to a chair, and sat down. She looked at her master. His eyes looked at her gravely and kindly as always, but his face, especially his mouth and teeth, were made grotesque by a broad immovable grin. He laughed, skipped about, twitched his shoulders, and made a show of being very merry in the presence of the thousands of faces. Auntie believed in his merriment, all at once felt all over her that those thousands of faces were looking at her, lifted up her fox-like head, and howled joyously.

“You sit there, Auntie,” her master said to her., “while Uncle and I will dance the Kamarinsky.”

Fyodor Timofeyitch stood looking about him indifferently, waiting to be made to do something silly. He danced listlessly, carelessly, sullenly, and one could see from his movements, his tail and his ears, that he had a profound contempt for the crowd, the bright light, his master and himself. When he had performed his allotted task, he gave a yawn and sat down.

“Now, Auntie!” said her master, “we’ll have first a song, and then a dance, shall we?”

He took a pipe out of his pocket, and began playing. Auntie, who could not endure music, began moving uneasily in her chair and howled. A roar of applause rose from all sides. Her master bowed, and when all was still again, went on playing. . . . Just as he took one very high note, someone high up among the audience uttered a loud exclamation:

“Auntie!” cried a child’s voice, “why it’s Kashtanka!”

“Kashtanka it is!” declared a cracked drunken tenor. “Kashtanka! Strike me dead, Fedyushka, it is Kashtanka. Kashtanka! here!”

Someone in the gallery gave a whistle, and two voices, one a boy’s and one a man’s, called loudly: “Kashtanka! Kashtanka!”

Auntie started, and looked where the shouting came from. Two faces, one hairy, drunken and grinning, the other chubby, rosy-cheeked and frightened-looking, dazed her eyes as the bright light had dazed them before. . . . She remembered, fell off the chair, struggled on the sand, then jumped up, and with a delighted yap dashed towards those faces. There was a deafening roar, interspersed with whistles and a shrill childish shout: “Kashtanka! Kashtanka!”

Auntie leaped over the barrier, then across someone’s shoulders. She found herself in a box: to get into the next tier she had to leap over a high wall. Auntie jumped, but did not jump high enough, and slipped back down the wall. Then she was passed from hand to hand, licked hands and faces, kept mounting higher and higher, and at last got into the gallery. . . .

—-

Half an hour afterwards, Kashtanka was in the street, following the people who smelt of glue and varnish. Luka Alexandritch staggered and instinctively, taught by experience, tried to keep as far from the gutter as possible.

“In sin my mother bore me,” he muttered. “And you, Kashtanka, are a thing of little understanding. Beside a man, you are like a joiner beside a cabinetmaker.”

Fedyushka walked beside him, wearing his father’s cap. Kashtanka looked at their backs, and it seemed to her that she had been following them for ages, and was glad that there had not been a break for a minute in her life.

She remembered the little room with dirty wall-paper, the gander, Fyodor Timofeyitch, the delicious dinners, the lessons, the circus, but all that seemed to her now like a long, tangled, oppressive dream.

THE END

Tales From a Soviet Childhood…