IT HAPPENED that once there lived in a certain land a Tsar and a Tsaritsa. They had a son, Ivan Tsarevich. When an infant the maidens rocked him; but do what they might, they could not rock him to sleep. "Tsar, great Gosudár, come, rock thy own son." The Tsar went to rock the child: "Sleep, little son, sleep my own dear; thou wilt grow up a man. I will get thee Peerless Beauty as bride,--the daughter of three mothers, the granddaughter of three grandmothers, and the sister of nine brothers." The Tsarevich went to sleep and slept for three days and three nights; woke up, and cried more than before.
The maidens rock him, but they cannot rock him to sleep; they call his father: "Tsar, great Gosudár, come, rock thy own son."
The Tsar rocked him, saying, "Sleep, little son, sleep, my own dear; thou wilt grow up a man. I will get thee Peerless Beauty as bride, the daughter of three mothers, the granddaughter of three grandmothers, and the sister of nine brothers." The Tsarevich fell asleep, and again slept three days and three nights. He woke up and cried more than ever.
The maidens rock him, they cannot rock him to sleep. "Come, Tsar, great Gosudár," said they, "rock thy own son."
The Tsar rocked him, saying the while, "Sleep, little son, sleep, my own dear; thou wilt grow up a man. I will get thee Peerless Beauty as bride, the daughter of three mothers, the granddaughter of three grandmothers."
The Tsarevich fell asleep and slept again three days and three nights. He woke up and said, "Give thy blessing, father; I am going to marry."
"What dost thou mean, my dear little child? Whither canst thou go? Thou art but nine days of age in all."
"If thou wilt give me thy blessing, I'll go; if not, I'll go also."
"Well, the Lord guide thee."
Ivan Tsarevich arrayed himself, and went to find a horse. He went a short way from the house, and met an old man. "Where art thou going, young man," asked he,--"of thy own will, or against thy will?"
"I will not talk with thee," answered the Tsarevich. He went on a little, changed his mind. "Why did I not say something to the old man. Old people bring us to sense." Straightway he overtook the old man. "Stop, grandfather. Of what didst thou ask me?"
"I asked where art thou going, young man,--of thy own will, or against thy will?"
"I go so much of my own will, and twice that much against my will. I was in early years; my father rocked me in the cradle; he promised to get me Peerless Beauty as bride."
"Thou art a good youth, thou art well spoken; but thou canst not go on foot. Peerless Beauty dwells far away."
"In the Golden Kingdom, at the end of the white world, where the sun comes up."
"What am I to do? I, young man, have no saddle-horse unridden, and silken whip unused that are fitting for me."
"Why hast thou not? Thy father has thirty horses all alike. Go home, tell the grooms to water them at the blue sea; and whichever horse shall push ahead, enter the water to its neck, and when it drinks, waves rise on the blue sea and roll from shore to shore, that one take."
"God save thee for the good word, grandfather!"
As the old man taught him, so did the Tsarevich do,--he chose for himself an heroic steed, passed the night, rose next morning early, opened the gate, and was preparing to go.
The horse spoke to him in the language of men: "Ivan Tsarevich, drop to the earth; I will push thee three times." He pushed him once, he pushed him twice; but the third time he pushed not. "If thou wert pushed a third time, the earth would not bear thee and me."
Ivan Tsarevich took his horse from the chains, saddled him, sat on him. The Tsar barely sees his son. He rides far, far. The day is growing short, night is coming on. A house stood like a town, each room is a chamber. He came to the house, straight to the porch, tied his horse to the copper ring, went into the first chamber, then into the second, prayed to God, asked to spend the night.
"Stay the night, good youth," said an old woman. "Whither is God bearing thee?"
"Old woman, thou dost ask impolitely. First give me to eat and to drink, put me to rest, and then ask me for news."
She gave him food and drink, put him to bed, and then asked for news.
"I was, grandmother," said he, "in tender years; my father rocked me in the cradle, and promised me Peerless Beauty as bride,--the daughter of three mothers, the granddaughter of three grandmothers, and the sister of nine brothers."
"Thou art a good youth, and fair spoken. I am living to the end of the seventh ten of years, and of that beauty I have not heard. Farther on the road lives my elder sister; maybe she knows. But sleep now; the morning is wiser than the evening."
Ivan Tsarevich passed the night; next morning he rose early, washed himself white, led forth his steed, saddled him, put his foot in the stirrup. The old woman merely saw him. He rode far with distance, high with height; the day was shortening, coming toward night. There stood a house like a town, each room was a chamber. He rode to the porch, tied his horse to a silver ring, went to the entrance, and then to the chamber, prayed to God, asked a night's lodging. An old woman said: "Tfu, tfu! so far a Russian bone was not seen with sight nor heard with hearing; but now a Russian bone has come itself to the house. Where hast thou come from, Ivan Tsarevich?"
"Oh, thou old hag, how angry thou art! Thou dost not ask with politeness; thou shouldst first give me food and drink, put me to rest, then ask for news."
She seated him at the table, gave him food and drink, put him to rest, sat at the head of the bed, and inquired: "Where is God bearing thee?"
"I was in tender years, grandmother; my father rocked me in the cradle and promised me Peerless Beauty as bride,--the daughter of three mothers, the granddaughter of three grandmothers, and the sister of nine brothers."
"Thou art a good youth, of kind speech. I am living toward the end of the eighth ten of years, and of that beauty I have never heard. Before thee on the road lives my elder sister,--mayhap she knows; she has answer-givers. Her first answer-givers are the beasts of the forests, the second are the birds of the air, the third are the fish and creatures of the sea. Whatever is in the white world obeys her. Go to her in the morning, but sleep now; the morning is wiser than the evening."
Ivan Tsarevich passed the night, rose early, washed himself very white, sat on his steed, and vanished. He rode far with distance, high with height. The day was growing short, drawing near to the night; and there stood a house like a town, each room was a chamber. He came to the porch, tied his horse to a golden ring, then went to the entrance, and next to the chamber, prayed to God, and asked a night's lodging. An old woman screamed at him. "Oh, thou, this and that kind of man, thou art not worthy of an iron ring, and thou hast tied thy horse to a gold one!"
"Well, grandmother, scold not; the horse may be loosed and tied to another ring."
"Oh, good hero, have I given thee a fright? Be not afraid; sit on the bench, and I will ask from what stock, from what town, thou dost come."
"Oh, grandmother, thou shouldst first give me food and drink, then ask for the news! Thou seest I'm a wayfaring man; I've not eaten all day."
Straightway the old woman set the table, brought bread and salt, poured out a glass of _vodka_, and began to entertain Ivan Tsarevich. He ate and drank plenty, threw himself on the bed. The old woman made no inquiry; he told her himself: "I was in tender years, my father rocked me in the cradle, promised me Peerless Beauty as bride,--the daughter of three mothers, the granddaughter of three grandmothers, and the sister of nine brothers. Do me a kindness, grandmother; tell me where Peerless Beauty is living, and how I may reach her."
"But, Ivan Tsarevich, I know not myself; I am ending the ninth ten of years, and I have not heard of that beauty. But sleep now with God; in the morning I will summon my answer-givers,--maybe one of them knows."
Next day the old woman rose early, washed herself very white, came out with Ivan Tsarevich on the porch, cried with a champion's voice, whistled with a hero's whistle. She cried to the sea-fish and creatures of the water, "Come hither."
That instant the blue sea boiled up, the fish, great and small, came together, all creatures assembled and went toward the shore; they covered the water.
The old woman asked: "Where lives Peerless Beauty, the daughter of three mothers, the granddaughter of three grandmothers, the sister of nine brothers?"
All the fish and all the creatures answered in one voice: "We have not seen her with sight, nor heard of her with hearing."
The old woman shouted over the land: "Assemble, ye beasts of the forest."
The beasts run; they hide the earth. In one voice they answer: "We have not seen her with sight, nor heard her with hearing."
The old woman cried toward the sky: "Come hither, ye birds of the air!"
The birds fly, they hide the light of day. In one voice they answer: "We have not seen her with sight, we have not heard her with hearing."
"There is no one else to ask," said the old woman. She took Ivan Tsarevich by the hand and led him into the room. They had just come in when the Mogol bird arrived on the wing, fell to the ground. There was no light in the window.
"Oh, thou Mogol bird, where hast thou been flying; why art thou late?"
"I was arraying Peerless Beauty for mass."
"Thou hast the news I need. Now do me a service with faith and truth,--carry Ivan Tsarevich to her."
"Gladly would I serve, but much food is needed."
"Three forties of beef, and a vessel of water."
Ivan Tsarevich filled the vessel with water, brought oxen with beef. He put the kegs on the bird, ran to the forge, and had a long iron lance made for himself; he came back and took farewell of the old woman. "Good-by," said he. "Feed my good steed enough; I will pay thee for everything."
He sat on the Mogol bird, and that moment it rose up and flew; it flew and looked around continually. When it looked, Ivan Tsarevich immediately gave a piece of meat on the end of his lance. Now it was flying and flying no short time. The Tsarevich had already given two kegs of beef, and had begun on the third; and he said, "O Mogol bird, fall to the damp earth; small nourishment is left."
"What art thou saying, Ivan Tsarevich? Below us are sleeping forests and sticky morasses; we could not escape to the end of our lives."
Ivan Tsarevich gave out all the beef and threw down the kegs; but the Mogol bird flies, looks around. What can be done? Ivan Tsarevich thought a while, cut off the calves of his own legs, and gave them to the bird. It swallowed them, and flew out over the green meadow, silken grass, blue flowers, then dropped to the earth. Ivan Tsarevich stood on his feet, walked along the meadow, was lame of both legs.
"What is the matter, Ivan Tsarevich? Art thou lame?"
"I am lame, Mogol bird; a little while ago I cut off my calves to nourish thee."
The Mogol bird coughed up the calves, put them on the legs of Ivan Tsarevich, blew and spat; the calves grew to their places, and the Tsarevich went on in strength and activity. He came to a great town, and stopped to rest with a grandmother living in a backyard.
"Sleep, Ivan Tsarevich; in the morning, when the bell rings, I'll rouse thee."
Ivan Tsarevich lay down and slept that minute; he slept the day, slept the night. The bells rang for early prayers, the backyard grandmother ran to him, fell to beating him with whatever she found at hand, but could not rouse him. The morning prayers were over, they rang for mass; Peerless Beauty went to church. The old grandmother came again, and went to work again at Ivan Tsarevich, beat him with whatever came under her hands; with great effort she woke him. Ivan Tsarevich sprang up very quickly, washed himself very white, dressed, and went to mass. He came to the church, prayed before the images, bowed down on every side, and especially to Peerless Beauty. They stood side by side and prayed. At the end of mass she went first to the cross, then he went out on a platform, looked at the blue sea; ships are approaching, six champions came to offer marriage.
The champions saw Ivan Tsarevich and began to ridicule him: "Oh, thou country clown, is such a beauty as this for thee? Thou art not worth her middle finger!"
They said this once, they said it twice, they said it thrice. Ivan Tsarevich was offended. He swung his arm, there was a street; he swung it a second time, the place was clear and smooth all around. Then he went to the old grandmother.
"Well, Ivan Tsarevich, hast thou seen Peerless Beauty?"
"I have, and I shall not forget her for an age."
"Now lie down to sleep. To-morrow thou wilt go to mass again; I will wake thee the minute the bell rings."
The Tsarevich lay down; he slept the day, he slept the night. The bell rang for early prayers; the grandmother ran to him, began to rouse him; whatever happened under her hand, with that she beat him; but she couldn't wake him. They rang the bell for mass; again she beat him and roused him. Ivan Tsarevich sprang up very quickly, washed very white, dressed, and to church. He entered, prayed to the images, bowed on all four sides, especially to Peerless Beauty. She looked at him and blushed. They stood side by side, prayed to God. At the end of mass she went to the cross first, he second. The Tsarevich went out on a platform, looked on the blue sea; ships were sailing, twelve champions came. They began to ask Peerless Beauty in marriage, and to make sport of Ivan Tsarevich: "Oh, thou country clown, is such a beauty for thee? Thou art not worth her middle finger!"
He was offended at these speeches. He swung his arm, there was a street; he swung the other, the place was clear and smooth around.
He went to the old grandmother. "Hast thou seen Peerless Beauty?" asked she.
"I have, and for an age I shall not forget her."
"Well, sleep now; in the morning I will wake thee."
Ivan Tsarevich slept the day, he slept the night; they rang the bell for morning prayers; the old woman ran in to wake him, beat him with whatever happened under her hand, did not spare, but could not rouse him. They rang the bell for mass, and she was working away all the time at the Tsarevich. At last she roused him. He rose up quickly, washed himself very white, prepared, dressed, and to church. When he came he prayed to the images, bowed on all four sides, and separately to Peerless Beauty. She saluted him, put him at her right hand, and she stood at the left. They stand there, pray to God. At the end of mass he went first to the cross, she after him. The Tsarevich went out on the platform, looked on the blue sea; ships are sailing, and twenty-four champions come to offer marriage to Peerless Beauty.
The champions saw Ivan Tsarevich and straightway began to make sport of him: "Oh, country clown, is such a beauty for thee? Thou art not worth her middle finger!"
They attacked him on every side to take away his bride. Ivan Tsarevich did not endure this. He swung his arm, there was a street; he swung the other, the place was smooth and clear around. He killed all to the last man. Peerless Beauty took him by the hand, led him to her chambers, seated him at the oaken tables, at the spread cloths, entertained him, called him her bridegroom. Soon after they prepared for the road and set out for the land of Ivan Tsarevich. They travelled and travelled, halted in the open field to rest. Peerless Beauty lay down to sleep, and Ivan Tsarevich guarded her slumber. When she had slept enough, and woke up, the Tsarevich said: "Peerless Beauty, guard my white body; I will lie down to sleep."
"But wilt thou sleep long?"
"Nine days and nights; and I shall not turn from one side to the other. If thou tryest to wake me, thou wilt not rouse me. When the time comes I shall wake myself."
"It is long, Ivan Tsarevich; I shall be wearied."
"Wearied or not, there is no help for it."
He lay down to sleep, and slept exactly nine days and nights. Meanwhile Koshchéi Without-Death bore away Peerless Beauty to his own kingdom. Ivan Tsarevich woke up; there was no Peerless Beauty. He began to weep, and went along neither by the road nor the way. Whether it was long or short, he came to the kingdom of Koshchéi Without-Death, and begged lodgings of an old woman.
"Well, Ivan Tsarevich, why art thou so sad looking?"
"Thus and thus, grandmother; I had everything, now I have nothing."
"Thy affair is a bad one, Ivan Tsarevich; thou canst not kill Koshchéi."
"Well, I will look on my bride at least."
"Lie down, sleep till morning; to-morrow Koshchéi will go to war."
Ivan Tsarevich lay down, but sleep did not come to his mind. In the morning Koshchéi went out of the house, and Ivan Tsarevich went in. He stood at the gate and knocked. Peerless Beauty opened it, looked at him, and fell to weeping. They went to the upper chamber, sat at the table, and talked. Ivan Tsarevich instructed her. "Ask Koshchéi where his death is."
He had just left the house when Koshchéi came in. "Oh!" said he, "it smells of the Russian bone; it must be that Ivan Tsarevich was with thee."
"What art thou thinking of, Koshchéi Without-Death? Where could I see Ivan Tsarevich? He has remained in slumbering forests and in sticky quagmires; wild beasts have destroyed him ere now."
They sat down to sup. At supper Peerless Beauty said: "Tell me, Koshchéi Without-Death, where is thy death?"
"Why dost thou wish to know, silly woman? My death is tied up in the broom."
Early next morning Koshchéi went to war. Ivan Tsarevich came to Peerless Beauty. She took the broom, gilded it brightly with pure gold. The Tsarevich had just departed when Koshchéi came in. "Ah!" said he, "it smells of the Russian bone; Ivan Tsarevich has been with thee."
"What dost thou mean, Koshchéi Without-Death? Thou hast been flying through Russia thyself and hast caught up the odor of Russia; it is from thee. Where should I see Ivan Tsarevich?"
At supper Peerless Beauty sat on a small bench and seated Koshchéi on a large one. He looked under the threshold; the broom was lying there gilded. "What does this mean?"
"Oh, Koshchéi Without-Death, thou seest thyself how I honor thee!"
"Oh, simple woman, I was joking! My death is out there, fastened in the oak fence."
Next day Koshchéi went away. Ivan Tsarevich came and gilded the whole fence. Towards evening Koshchéi came home. "Ah!" said he, "it smells of the Russian bone. Ivan Tsarevich has been with thee."
"What dost thou mean, Koshchéi Without-Death? It seems I have told thee times more than one, where am I to see Ivan Tsarevich? He has remained in dark forests, in sticky quagmires; the wild beasts have torn him to pieces ere now."
Supper-time came. Peerless Beauty sat on a bench herself, and seated him on a chair. Koshchéi looked through the window, saw the fence gilded, shining like fire. "What is that?"
"Thou seest thyself, Koshchéi, how I respect thee. If thou art dear to me, of importance is thy death."
This speech pleased Koshchéi Without-Death. "Oh, simple woman, I was joking with thee! My death is in an egg, the egg is in a duck, and the duck is in a stump floating on the sea."
When Koshchéi went off to war, Peerless Beauty baked cakes for Ivan Tsarevich and told him where to look for the death of Koshchéi. Ivan Tsarevich went neither by road nor by way, came to the ocean sea broad, and knew not where to go farther. The cakes had long since given out, and he had nothing to eat. All at once a hawk flew up. Ivan Tsarevich aimed. "Well, hawk, I'll shoot thee and eat thee raw."
"Do not eat me, Ivan Tsarevich; I will serve thee in time of need."
A bear ran along. "Oh, bear, crooked paw, I'll kill thee and eat thee raw!"
"Do not eat me, Ivan Tsarevich; I'll serve in time of need."
Behold, a pike is struggling on the beach. "Oh, big-toothed pike, thou hast come to it! I'll eat thee raw."
"Eat me not, Ivan Tsarevich; better throw me into the sea. I will serve thee in time of need."
Ivan stood there thinking, "The time of need will come, it is unknown when. But now I must go hungry." All at once the blue sea boiled up, waves rose, began to cover the shore. Ivan Tsarevich ran up the hill, ran with all his might, and the water followed at his heels; chasing, he ran to the very highest place and climbed a tree. A little later the water began to fall, the sea grew calm, fell, and a great stump was left on land. The bear ran up, raised the stump, and when he had hurled it to the ground the stump opened; out flew a duck and soared high, high. That minute, from wherever he came, the hawk flew, caught the duck, and in a twinkle tore her in two. An egg fell out; then the pike caught it, swam to the beach, and gave the egg to Ivan Tsarevich, who put it in his bosom and went to Koshchéi Without-Death. He came to the house. Peerless Beauty met him, she kissed him on the lips and fell on his shoulder. Koshchéi Without-Death was sitting at the window cursing.
"Oh, Ivan Tsarevich, thou wishest to take Peerless Beauty from me; and so thou wilt not live."
"Thou didst take her from me thyself," answered Ivan Tsarevich, took the egg from his bosom, and showed it to Koshchéi. "What is this?"
The light grew dim in the eyes of Koshchéi; then he became mild and obedient. Ivan Tsarevich threw the egg from one hand to the other. Koshchéi Without-Death staggered from corner to corner. This seemed pleasant to the Tsarevich. He threw the egg more quickly from hand to hand, and broke it; then Koshchéi fell and died.
Ivan Tsarevich attached the horses to his golden carriage, took whole bags filled with gold and silver, and went to his father. Whether it was long or short, he came to that old woman who had inquired of every creature, fish, bird, and beast. He found his steed. "Glory be to God," said he, "the raven (black steed) is alive;" and he poured forth gold freely for her care of the steed. Though she were to live ninety-nine years longer, she would have enough. Then the Tsarevich sent a swift courier to the Tsar with a letter, in which he wrote: "Father, meet thy son; I am coming with my bride, Peerless Beauty."
His father got the letter, read it, and had not belief. "How could that be? Ivan Tsarevich left home when nine days old!" After the courier came the Tsarevich himself. The Tsar saw that his son had written the real truth; he ran out to the porch, met him, and gave command to beat drums and sound music.
"Father, bless me for the wedding."
Tsars have not to brew beer nor make wine; they have much of all things. That same day there was a joyous feast and a wedding. They crowned Ivan Tsarevich and Peerless Beauty, and put out on all streets great jars of various drinks; every one could come and drink what his soul desired. I was there, drank mead and wine; it flowed on my mustaches, but was not in my mouth.