IN A certain kingdom in a certain land lived a Tsar,--Bail Bailyanyin. He had a wife, Nastasya, Golden Tress, and three sons,--Pyotr Tsarevich, Vassili Tsarevich, and Ivan Tsarevich. The Tsaritsa went with her maidens and nurses to walk in the garden. All at once such a mighty Whirlwind rose that, God save us! it caught the Tsaritsa and bore her it was unknown whither.
The Tsar was grieved and distressed, and knew not what to do. His sons grew up, and he said to them: "My dear children, which of you will go to seek your mother?"
The two elder brothers made ready and went. After they had gone, the youngest begged permission of his father. "No," said the Tsar, "go not, my dear son; do not leave me an old man in loneliness."
"Let me go, father; I want awfully to wander over the white world and find my mother."
The Tsar dissuaded and dissuaded, but could not convince him. "Well, there is no help for it, go; God be with thee!"
Ivan saddled his good steed and set out. He rode and rode, whether it was long or short: a tale is soon told, but a deed is not soon done; he came to a forest. In that forest was the richest of castles. Ivan Tsarevich entered a broad court, saw an old man, and said, "Many years' health to thee!"
"We beg the favor of thy presence. Who art thou, gallant youth?"
"I am Ivan Tsarevich, the son of Tsar Bail Bailyanyin and of Tsaritsa Nastasya, Golden Tress."
"Oh, my own nephew! Whither is God bearing thee?"
"For this cause and that," said he, "I am in search of my mother. Canst thou not tell me, uncle, where to find her?"
"No, nephew, I cannot; with what I am able, with that I do service. But here is a ball; throw it ahead, it will roll on before thee and lead thee to steep, rugged mountains. In those mountains is a cave, enter it; take there iron claws, put them on thy hands and thy feet, and climb up the mountains. Perhaps thou wilt find there thy mother, Nastasya, Golden Tress."
That was good aid. Ivan Tsarevich took leave of his uncle, and threw the ball before him; the ball rolled and rolled on, he rode behind it. Whether it was long or short, he saw his brothers, Pyotr Tsarevich and Vassili Tsarevich. They were encamped in the open field with thousands of troops. His brothers were surprised, and asked, "Where art thou going, Ivan Tsarevich?"
"Oh!" said he, "I grew weary at home, and I thought of going to look for my mother. Send your army home, and let us go on together."
They sent home the army, and the three went on together after the ball. While yet at a distance they saw the mountains,--such steep and lofty mountains that, God save us! they touched the heavens with their heads. The ball rolled straight to a cave. Ivan Tsarevich slipped down from his horse and said to his brothers, "Here, brothers, is my good steed; I will go up on the mountains to look for my mother, and ye remain here. Wait for me just three months. If I am not here in three months, there will be no use in waiting longer."
The brothers thought, but how could a man climb these mountains? He would break his head there.
"Well," said they, "go, with God; we will wait for thee here."
Ivan approached the cave; he saw that the door was of iron. He struck it with all his strength. It opened, he entered; iron claws went on to his feet and hands of themselves. He began to climb the mountains,--climb, climb; he toiled a whole month, reaching the top with difficulty. "Well," said he, "glory be to God!" He rested a little, and walked along on the mountain; walked and walked, walked and walked, saw a copper castle, at the gate terrible serpents fastened with copper chains, crowds of them; and right there was a well, and at the well a copper bucket hung by a copper chain. Ivan Tsarevich drew water and gave the serpents to drink. They became quiet, lay down, and he passed into the court.
The Tsaritsa of the Copper Kingdom ran out to meet him. "Who art thou, gallant youth?"
"I am Ivan Tsarevich."
"Well, hast thou come of thy own will, or against thy will?"
"Of my own will; I am in search of my mother, Nastasya, Golden Tress. A certain Whirlwind bore her away out of the garden. Dost thou know where she is?"
"No; but not far from here lives my second sister, the Tsaritsa of the Silver Kingdom,--maybe she will tell thee."
She gave him a copper ball and a copper ring. "The ball," said she, "will lead thee to my second sister, and in this ring is the whole Copper Kingdom. When thou overcomest Whirlwind, who keeps me here and flies to me once in three months, forget me not, poor woman, rescue me from this place, and take me with thee to the free world."
"I will," said Ivan Tsarevich. He threw the copper ball before him; the ball rolled ahead, and he followed after. He came to the Silver Kingdom and saw a castle finer than the first, all silver; at the gate were terrible serpents fastened to silver chains, and at the side of them was a well with a silver bucket. Ivan Tsarevich drew water and gave the serpents to drink. They lay down then, and let him enter the castle. The Tsaritsa of the Silver Kingdom came out.
"It will soon be three years," said she, "since mighty Whirlwind confined me here, and no Russian have I heard with hearing, or seen with sight; but now a Russian I see. Who art thou, good youth?"
"I am Ivan Tsarevich."
"How didst thou happen hither,--with thy own will, or against thy will?"
"With my own will; I am in search of my mother. She went in the green garden to walk, Whirlwind came and bore her away, it is unknown whither. Canst thou not tell me where to find her?"
"No, I cannot; but not far from here lives my eldest sister, the Tsaritsa of the Golden Kingdom, Yelena the Beautiful,--maybe she will tell thee. Here is a silver ball, roll it ahead and follow; it will lead thee to the Golden Kingdom. But see, when thou hast killed Whirlwind, forget me not, poor woman; rescue me from this place, and take me to the free world. Whirlwind holds me captive, and flies hither once in two months." Then she gave him a silver ring, saying, "In this ring is the whole Silver Kingdom."
Ivan rolled the ball; wherever it went he followed. Whether it was long or short, he saw a golden castle gleaming like fire; at the gate was a crowd of terrible serpents fastened to golden chains, and right there a well, at the well a golden bucket on a golden chain. Ivan Tsarevich drew water, and gave the serpents to drink; they lay down and were soothed. He entered the palace; Yelena the Beautiful met him.
"Who art thou, gallant youth?"
"I am Ivan Tsarevich."
"How hast thou come hither,--of thy own will, or against thy will?"
"I came of my own will; I am in search of my mother, Nastasya, Golden Tress. Knowest thou not where to find her?"
"Why shouldn't I know? She lives not far from here, Whirlwind flies to her once a week, and to me once a month. Here is a golden ball for thee: throw it ahead and follow,--it will lead thee to thy mother. And take besides this golden ring; in this ring is the whole Golden Kingdom. And be careful when thou hast conquered Whirlwind. Forget me not, poor woman; take me with thee to the free world."
"I will take thee," said he.
Ivan Tsarevich rolled the ball and followed after; he went and went till he came to such a palace that, Lord save us! it was just blazing with diamonds and precious stones. At the gate six-headed serpents were hissing. Ivan Tsarevich gave them to drink; the serpents were soothed, and let him pass to the castle. He went through the great chambers, and in the most distant found his own mother. She was sitting on a lofty throne arrayed in Tsaritsa's robes and crowned with a costly crown. She looked at the stranger and cried: "Ah! is that thou, my dear son? How hast thou come hither?"
"So and so," said Ivan; "I have come for thee."
"Well, dear son, 'twill be hard for thee. Here in these mountains reigns Whirlwind, the evil and mighty, all spirits obey him; he is the one that bore me away. Thou wilt have to fight him; come quickly to the cellar."
They went to the cellar; there were two tubs of water, one on the right, the other on the left hand. "Drink," said the Tsaritsa, "from the right-hand tub."
"Well, what strength is in thee?"
"I am so strong that I could turn the whole castle over with one hand."
"Then drink more."
Ivan drank again.
"What strength is in thee now?"
"If I wished, I could turn the whole world over."
"That is very great strength. Move these tubs from one place to the other: put that on the right to the left, that on the left take to the right."
Ivan interchanged the tubs.
"Thou seest, my dear son, in one tub is water of strength, in the other water of weakness. Whoso drinks from the first will be a strong, mighty hero; whoso drinks from the second will grow weak altogether. Whirlwind always drinks the water of strength and puts it on the right side; so we must deceive him, or thou canst never overcome him."
They returned to the castle.
"Soon Whirlwind will fly home," said the Tsaritsa to Ivan Tsarevich. "Sit under my purple robe, so that he may not see thee; and when he comes and runs to embrace and kiss me, do thou seize his club. He will rise high, high; he will bear thee over seas, over precipices: but see to it, let not the club go out of thy hand. Whirlwind will grow tired, will want to drink the water of strength, will come down to the cellar and rush to the tub placed on the right hand; but do thou drink from the tub on the left. Then he will grow weak; wrest his sword from him, and with one blow hew off his head. When his head is off, that moment there will be voices behind thee crying, 'Strike again, strike again.' Strike not, my son, but say in answer, 'A hero's hand strikes not twice, but always once.'"
Ivan Tsarevich had barely hidden under the robe when the court grew dark and everything trembled. Whirlwind flew home, struck the earth, became a brave hero, and entered the castle, in his hands a club.
"Tfu, tfu, tfu! somehow it smells of Russia here. Was any one visiting?"
"I don't know why it seems so to thee," said the Tsaritsa.
Whirlwind rushed to embrace her; but Ivan that moment seized the club.
"I'll eat thee!" shouted Whirlwind.
"Well, grandmother spoke double; either thou wilt eat, or thou wilt not."
Whirlwind tore out through the window and up to the sky; he bore Ivan Tsarevich away. Over mountains he said, "I will smash thee;" over seas he said, "I will drown thee." But Ivan did not let the club out of his hands. Whirlwind flew over the whole world, wearied himself out, and began to sink. He came down straight into the cellar, rushed to the tub on the right hand, and fell to drinking the water of weakness; but Ivan ran to the left, drank his fill of the water of strength, and became the first mighty hero in the whole world. He saw that Whirlwind had become utterly weak, wrested the sharp sword from him, and cut off his head with a blow. Voices cried behind, "Strike again, strike again, or he will come to life!" "No," said Ivan; "a hero's hand strikes not twice, but always finishes at a blow." Straightway he made a fire, burned the body and the head, scattered the ashes to the wind.
The mother of Ivan Tsarevich was glad. "Now, my dear son," said she, "let us rejoice. We will eat; and then for home with all speed, for it is wearisome here,--there are no people."
"But who serves thee?"
"Thou wilt see directly."
They had barely thought of eating, when a table set itself, and various meats and wines appeared on the table of themselves. The Tsaritsa and the Tsarevich dined. Meanwhile unseen musicians played wonderful songs for them. They ate and drank, and when they had rested, Ivan said,--
"Let us go, mother, it is time; for under the mountains my brothers are waiting. And on the road I must save three Tsaritsas who are living in Whirlwind's castles."
They took everything needful and set out on the journey. They went first to the Tsaritsa of the Golden Kingdom, then to her sisters of the Silver and Copper Kingdoms. They took them, and brought linen and all kinds of stuffs. In a short time they reached the place where they had to go down the mountain.
Ivan Tsarevich let his mother down first on the linen, then Yelena the Beautiful and her two sisters. The brothers were standing below waiting, and they thought to themselves, "Let us leave Ivan Tsarevich up there; we will take our mother and the three Tsaritsas to our father, and say that we found them." "I'll take Yelena the Beautiful for myself," said Pyotr Tsarevich; "thou, Vassili, wilt have the Tsaritsa of the Silver Kingdom; and we will give the Tsaritsa of the Copper Kingdom to some general."
When it was time for Ivan Tsarevich to come down from the mountain, his elder brothers seized the linen, pulled and tore it away. Ivan remained on the mountain. What could he do? He wept bitterly; then turned back, walked and walked over the Copper Kingdom, over the Silver Kingdom and the Golden Kingdom,--not a soul did he see. He came to the Diamond Kingdom,--no one there either. What was he to do alone,--deathly weariness! He looked around; on the window of the castle a whistle was lying. He took it in his hand. "Let me play from weariness," said he. He had barely blown when out sprang Lame and Crooked.
"What is thy pleasure?"
Said Ivan Tsarevich, "I want to eat." That moment, from wherever it came, a table was set, and on the table the very best food. Ivan Tsarevich ate and thought, "Now it would not be bad to rest." He blew on the whistle. Lame and Crooked appeared.
"What is thy pleasure, Ivan Tsarevich?"
"That a bed be ready." The word wasn't out of his mouth when the bed was ready. He lay down, slept splendidly, then whistled again.
"What is thy pleasure?" asked Lame and Crooked.
"Everything can be done, then?"
"Everything is possible, Ivan Tsarevich. Whoever blows that whistle, we will do everything for him. As we served Whirlwind before, so we are glad to serve thee now; it is only necessary to keep the whistle by thee at all times."
"Well," said Ivan, "let me be in my own kingdom this minute."
He had barely spoken when he appeared in his own kingdom, in the middle of the market square. He was walking along the square, when a shoemaker came toward him,--such a jolly fellow! The Tsarevich asked: "Whither art thou going, good man?"
"I am taking shoes to sell; I am a shoemaker."
"Take me into thy service," said Ivan.
"Dost thou know how to make shoes?"
"Yes, I can do everything. I can make not only shoes, but clothes."
"Well, come on."
They went to his house. The shoemaker said: "Go to work; here is leather for thee,--the best kind; I'll see what skill thou hast."
Ivan Tsarevich went to his own room, and took out the whistle. Lame and Crooked came. "What is thy pleasure, Ivan Tsarevich?"
"To have shoes ready by to-morrow."
"Oh, that is not work, that is play!"
"Here is the leather."
"What sort of leather is that? That's trash, nothing more; that should go out of the window."
Next morning Ivan Tsarevich woke up; on the table were beautiful shoes, the very best.
The shoemaker rose. "Well, young man, hast thou made the shoes?"
"They are finished."
"Well, show them." He looked at the shoes and was astonished. "See what a man I have got for myself,--not a shoemaker, but a wonder!" He took the shoes and carried them to the market to sell.
At that same time three weddings were in preparation at the palace. Pyotr Tsarevich was to marry Yelena the Beautiful, Vassili Tsarevich the Tsaritsa of the Silver Kingdom, and they were giving the Tsaritsa of the Copper Kingdom to a general. They were making dresses for those weddings. Yelena the Beautiful wanted shoes. Our shoemaker's shoes were better than all the others brought to the palace.
When Yelena looked at them she said, "What does this mean? They make shoes like these only in the mountains." She paid the shoemaker a large price and said, "Make me without measure another pair wonderfully sewed, ornamented with precious stones, and studded with diamonds. They must be ready by to-morrow; if not, to the gallows with thee."
The shoemaker took the precious stones and money and went home,--such a gloomy man! "Misery," said he, "what am I to do now? How can I make shoes by to-morrow, and besides without measure? It is clear that they will hang me to-morrow; let me have at least a last frolic with my friends."
He went to the inn. These friends of his were numerous; they asked, "Why art thou so gloomy, brother?"
"Oh, my dear friends," answered he, "they are going to hang me to-morrow!"
The shoemaker told his trouble. "How think of work in such a position? Better I'll frolic to-night for the last time."
So they drank and drank, frolicked and frolicked; the shoemaker was staggering already.
"Well," said he, "I'll take home a keg of spirits, lie down to sleep; and to-morrow when they come to hang me, I'll drink a gallon and a half right away. Let them hang me without my senses."
He came home. "Well, thou reprobate!" said he to Ivan Tsarevich, "see what thy shoes have done ... so and so.... When they come in the morning for me, wake me up."
In the night Ivan Tsarevich took out the whistle and blew. Lame and Crooked appeared. "What is thy pleasure, Ivan Tsarevich?"
"That shoes of such a kind be ready."
Ivan lay down to sleep. Next morning he woke up; the shoes were on the table shining like fire. He went to rouse his master.
"It is time to rise, master."
"What! have they come for me? Bring the keg quickly! Here is a cup, pour the spirits in; let them hang me drunk."
"But the shoes are made."
"How made? Where are they?"
The master ran and saw them. "But when did we make them?"
"In the night. Is it possible that thou dost not remember when we cut and sewed?"
"Oh, I've slept so long, brother! I barely, barely remember."
He took the shoes, wrapped them up, and ran to the palace.
Yelena the Beautiful saw the shoes and knew what had happened. "Surely," she thought, "the spirits made these for Ivan Tsarevich.--How didst thou make these?" asked she of the shoemaker.
"Oh! I know how to do everything."
"If that is the case, make me a wedding robe embroidered with gold, ornamented with diamonds and precious stones; let it be ready to-morrow morning: if not, off with thy head!"
The shoemaker went home again gloomy, and his friends were long waiting for him. "Well, what is it?"
"Nothing but cursedness. The destroyer of Christian people has come; she commanded me to make her a robe with gold and precious stones by to-morrow morning: and what sort of a tailor am I? They will take my head surely to-morrow."
"Ah! brother, the morning is wiser than the evening; let us go and frolic."
They went to the inn, they drank and frolicked; the shoemaker got tipsy again, brought home a whole keg of spirits, and said to Ivan Tsarevich: "Now, young fellow, when thou wilt rouse me in the morning I'll toss off three gallons; let them cut the head off me drunk. I couldn't make such a robe in a lifetime." The shoemaker lay down to sleep and snored.
Ivan Tsarevich blew on the whistle, and Lame and Crooked appeared. "What is thy pleasure, Tsarevich?"
"That a robe be ready by to-morrow morning exactly such as Yelena the Beautiful wore in Whirlwind's house."
"We obey; it will be ready."
Ivan Tsarevich woke at daylight; the robe was on the table, shining like fire, so that the whole chamber was lighted up. Then he roused his master, who rubbed his eyes and asked, "What! have they come to cut my head off? Give the spirits here this minute."
"But the robe is ready."
"Is that true? When did we make it?"
"In the night, of course; dost thou not remember cutting it thyself?"
"Ah, brother, I just remember,--see it as in a dream!"
The shoemaker took the robe and ran to the palace.
Yelena the Beautiful gave him much money and the command, "See that to-morrow by daylight the Golden Kingdom be on the sea, seven versts from shore, and from it to our palace let there be a golden bridge with costly velvet spread upon it, and at the railings on both sides let wonderful trees be growing, and let there be wonderful song-birds singing, with various voices. If thou wilt not have it done by morning, I'll give orders to quarter thee."
The shoemaker went from Yelena the Beautiful with drooping head. His friends met him. "Well, brother?"
"What well! I am lost; to-morrow I shall be quartered. She gave me such a task that no devil could do it."
"Oh, never mind! the morning is wiser than the evening; let us go to the inn."
"Well, let us go; at the last parting we must have a carousal at least."
They drank and drank; and towards evening the shoemaker drank so much they had to lead him home. "Farewell, young fellow," said he to Ivan; "to-morrow they will put me to death."
"But has a new task been given?"
"Yes, so and so, so and so." He lay down and snored; but Ivan Tsarevich went straight to his room, and blew on the whistle. Lame and Crooked appeared.
"What is thy pleasure, Ivan Tsarevich?"
"Can ye do me such a work as this?"
"Ivan Tsarevich, this is a work indeed. But there is no avoiding it; toward morning all will be ready."
When daylight began to come, Ivan woke up, looked out of the window. Fathers! everything was ready as asked for. A golden castle was gleaming like fire. He roused his master, who sprang up. "Well, have they come for me? Give the keg here this minute!"
"But the palace is ready."
"What dost thou say?"
The shoemaker looked through the window and said, "Ah!" in astonishment, "how was that done?"
"Dost thou not remember how thou and I fixed it?"
"Yes, it is clear that I have slept too soundly; I barely, barely remember."
They ran to the golden castle; in it was wealth untold, unseen.
Said Ivan Tsarevich: "Here, master, is a wing, go and dust the railing of the bridge; and if they come and ask who lives in the palace, say thou nothing, but give this letter."
The shoemaker went to dust the railing of the bridge.
In the morning Yelena the Beautiful woke up; she saw the golden castle, and ran straight to the Tsar. "See what is done in our place! There is a golden palace on the sea, and from that palace a golden bridge seven versts long; and on both sides of the bridge wonderful trees are growing, and song-birds are singing in various voices."
The Tsar sent immediately to ask what that meant? Had not some hero come to his kingdom? The messengers came to the shoemaker, asked him. "I know not, but there is a letter to thy Tsar." In that letter Ivan Tsarevich related everything to his father as it was,--how he had liberated his mother, won Yelena the Beautiful, and how his elder brothers had deceived him. With the letter Ivan Tsarevich sent golden carriages, and begged the Tsar and Tsaritsa to come to him. Let Yelena the Beautiful and her sisters and his brothers be brought behind in simple wagons.
All assembled at once and started. Ivan Tsarevich met them with joy. The Tsar wished to put his elder sons to death for their untruths; but Ivan Tsarevich implored his father, and they were forgiven. Then began a mountain of a feast. Ivan Tsarevich married Yelena the Beautiful. They gave the Tsaritsa of the Silver Kingdom to Pyotr Tsarevich, the Tsaritsa of the Copper Kingdom to Vassili Tsarevich, and made the shoemaker a general.