THERE was once upon a time a Czar called Chotei, who had three sons. The first was called Aspe, the second Adam, and the third, the youngest, Sila. The elder brothers came to their father and asked him to let them go and travel in other countries, so that they might see the world and learn how things were. The Czar gave them his permission, and let them each have a vessel in which they might sail. Then the youngest brother came to the Czar and asked him to let him go with his brothers.
“My dear son,” said the Czar, “you are too young to bear the fatigues of a journey. Stop here then at home, and do not think of going abroad.”
Sila, however, wished very much to see the strange countries, and so wearied his father with his prayers, that at last he gave him his permission to go, and let him have a vessel also. As soon as the three brothers were on board their ships they set sail. When they came to the open sea, however, the eldest brother’s vessel went on first, the second brother’s next, and Sila’s came last.
As they sailed, the third day there came floating past them a coffin with iron bands. The two eldest brothers saw it, but did not pick it up. When Sila, however, saw it, he gave orders to his sailors to secure it, bring it on board, and bury it when they came to a suitable spot. On the following day a great storm came on, and Sila’s ship, being driven out of its proper course, drifted to the steep shores of an unknown land. When they arrived there, Sila ordered the sailors to carry the coffin on shore, and he followed it himself and saw it buried in the earth.
Sila then told the ship’s master to stop where the vessel was for three years, waiting for him. If he did not come back at the end of that time, he told the man he was to sail away. Then Sila took leave of his captain and his men, and went away following his eyes. For a long time he went on and met no one. On the third day, however, he heard a man running after him, clothed in white. When he saw that the man was coming up to him, he drew his sword, fearing that the stranger might intend to do him some hurt. But when the man came up to him, he fell down at his feet, and began to thank him for having rescued him. Sila, not understanding what he meant, asked him why he thanked him, and what good service he had done him. The unknown sprang to his feet, and said—
“Sila Czarovitch, how can I ever repay you? There I lay in my coffin, which you took on board and buried on the land, and so was I rescued from the sea.”
“How came you in the coffin?” asked Sila.
“I will tell you all,” said the man. “I was once a great magician, and my mother, fearing that I did a great deal of harm to folk by my magic, confined me in the coffin, and turned me out upon the sea. I have been floating for over a hundred years, and no one ever picked me up. You I have to thank for my deliverance, and in return for it I will aid you in any way I can. Tell me, do you not wish to marry? If you do, I know the beautiful Queen Truda, who would make you a worthy wife.”
Sila told him that if the queen were beautiful he would be content to marry her. Ivaschka, in the white grave-clothes, assured him that she was the most beautiful woman in all the world, and Sila, when he heard that, asked his companion to go with him to her country. So they went on together.
Now Queen Truda’s kingdom was surrounded by a fence with posts, and on every post, save one, was a man’s head. When Sila saw that he was alarmed, and asked Ivaschka what it meant.
“Those,” said Ivaschka, “are the heads of the warriors who came to ask the Queen Truda to marry them.”
Sila was afraid when he heard that, and wished himself back again in his own kingdom. He did not wish to go on and see the father of the queen, but Ivaschka told him he had nothing to fear if he went on boldly with him. So Sila and he went on together.
When they had entered the kingdom, Ivaschka said to him—
“Listen, Sila Czarovitch, I will live with you as your servant. When you come to the royal apartments, behave humbly to King Salom. He will ask you where you come from, what country you belong to, who your father is, what is your name, and on what errand you have come. Tell him all, and do not try to conceal anything. Tell him that you have come to ask for his daughter’s hand, and he will give her to you with the greatest joy.”
Sila went into the palace, and when King Salom saw him he came to meet him, took him by the white hands, led him into the white marble room, and said to him—
“Young man, who are you? From what kingdom do you come? Who is your father? What is your name? and why are you come?”
“I have come,” replied Sila, “from the kingdom of the Czar Chotei; I am known as Sila Czarovitch, and I have come here to ask for your daughter, the beautiful Queen Truda, for my wife.”
Then King Salom was very pleased when he heard that the son of so famous a Czar desired to wed his daughter, and he at once sent to her, to tell her to get ready for the wedding. When the day came, the king commanded all the princes and nobles to come to the palace. From there they went to the church, and Sila Czarovitch married the beautiful Queen Truda. The company went back to the palace, seated themselves at table, and ate and drank with great joy.
When evening was come Ivaschka came near to Sila, and said to him softly—
“Listen, Sila Czarovitch. When you retire with your wife, take care you do not say a word to her, or you are a dead man, and your head will find a place on the last post. She will do all she can to make you speak, but do not you say a word to her.”
Sila asked him why he gave him this warning.
“She is,” said Ivaschka, “acquainted with a spirit which flies through the air in the shape of a dragon with six heads. Your wife will lay her hand upon your breast. When she does so, spring up and beat her with a stick till she has no strength left in her. I will myself watch at the door of the room.”
The queen did, as Ivaschka foretold, do all she could to make Sila speak, but he would not utter a word. Then Truda put her hand on his breast, and pressed him, so that he could hardly breathe. Sila jumped up, seized a stick, which Ivaschka had put there for the occasion, and commenced to beat her as if he would kill her. Immediately there came on a terrible storm, and there flew into the room a six-headed dragon who commenced to attack Sila. Then Ivaschka came in with a sharp sword in his hand, and he and the dragon fought together for three hours, when Ivaschka managed to cut off two of the dragon’s heads, and the monster flew away. Ivaschka then told Sila he might go to sleep and fear nothing. So Sila laid him down and slept till morning.
King Salom was anxious respecting his son-in-law, and he sent early in the morning to ask if all was well with him. When he heard that it was, he was delighted, for he remembered the fate of the others who had come to marry his daughter. He summoned Sila to him, and they spent the whole day in merriment.
The next night Ivaschka warned Sila that he must not speak to his wife, and he himself took up his station outside the door of the room. Sila’s wife again tried to make him speak, and again put her hand upon his breast, and Sila leaped up and thrashed her. The dragon flew in and attacked him, but Ivaschka sprang in from the door with the sword in his hand, and after he and the dragon had fought for three hours Ivaschka cut off two more of its heads. Then the dragon flew off and Sila lay down to sleep. The king again sent for Sila to come to him, and they spent the day together very pleasantly.
The third night Ivaschka warned Sila as before, and Sila did as he was bid. Ivaschka again fought with the monster, and, cutting off the two last heads, he burnt them and the carcass, and scattered the ashes over the fields.
So Sila Czarovitch stayed with his father-in-law for a whole year, and then Ivaschka, coming to him one day, told him to ask the king to give him permission to return home. Sila went to King Salom and obtained his leave to go, and the king sent two divisions of his army with him as an escort. So Sila parted with his father-in-law, and set off with his wife for his own land.
When they were half-way home Ivaschka told Sila to stop and camp there. Sila did as he advised, and ordered his tent to be put up. On the next day Ivaschka took some pieces of stick and burnt them in front of the Czarovitch’s tent. Then he came to the tent, led Queen Truda outside, and unsheathing his sword he cut her in two. Sila was greatly terrified, and commenced to weep when he saw that.
“Do not weep,” said Ivaschka, “she will come to life again.”
As soon as the Queen was cut in two there came out of her all manner of evil spirits, and all of these Ivaschka threw into the fire. Then said he to Sila—
“Do you see the evil things which possessed your wife? They are all evil spirits which had entered her.”
When all the evil spirits were destroyed in the fire, he placed the two parts of Truda’s body together, sprinkled them with water from a running brook, and the queen became alive again. She was now also as good as she had before been evil.
Then said Ivaschka to Sila—
“Good-bye, Sila Czarovitch, you will see me no more;” and as soon as he had spoken those words he disappeared.
Sila struck his tent and went on homewards, and when he came to the spot where he had left his ship, he dismissed the troops that accompanied him, went on board with his queen, and set sail. He soon came to his own land, and his arrival there was greeted with the sound of cannon. Czar Chotei came to meet him, and taking him and his wife by their white hands he led them into the white marble room. Then there was a feast prepared, and they ate and drank and were merry. Sila lived with his father two years, and then he went back to the country of his father-in-law, King Salom. He succeeded him on the throne, and reigned with his beautiful Queen Truda, during many years, with much love and happiness.