IN A certain kingdom in a certain land lived Ivan Tsarevich. He had three sisters. The first was Marya Tsarevna; the second, Olga Tsarevna; the third, Anna Tsarevna. Their father and mother were dead. When dying they said to their son: "Whoever woos first a sister of thine, give her to him; keep not thy sisters with thee long."
The Tsarevich buried his parents, and from sorrow went with his sisters to walk in the green garden. Suddenly a black cloud rose in the sky; a fearful storm was coming. "Let us go home, sisters," said Ivan Tsarevich. They had barely entered the castle when thunder roared, the ceiling opened, and a bright falcon flew into the chamber. The falcon struck the floor, became a gallant youth, and said: "Hail, Ivan Tsarevich! Ere now I came as a guest, but now I'm a suitor. I wish to sue for thy sister, Marya Tsarevna."
"If thou art pleasing to my sister, I shall not restrain her. Let her go, with God."
Marya Tsarevna agreed, the Falcon married her, and bore her away to his own kingdom.
Days followed days, hours chased hours, a whole year was as if it had not been. Ivan Tsarevich went with his two sisters to walk in the green garden. Again a cloud rose with whirlwind, with lightning. "Let us go home, my sisters," said the Tsarevich. They had barely entered the castle when a thunderclap came, the roof fell apart, the ceiling opened, and in flew an eagle. The eagle struck the floor and became a gallant youth. "Hail, Ivan Tsarevich! Ere now I came as a guest, but now I'm a suitor." And he asked for Olga Tsarevna in marriage.
Ivan Tsarevich answered: "If thou art pleasing to Olga Tsarevna, then let her marry thee; I take not her will from her." Olga Tsarevna consented, and accepted the Eagle in marriage. The Eagle caught her up and bore her to his own kingdom.
Another year passed. Ivan Tsarevich said to his youngest sister: "Let us go to walk in the green garden." They walked a little; again a cloud rose with whirlwind, with lightning. "Come home, my sister, come!" They returned to the castle, but had not sat down when a thunderclap came, the ceiling opened, and in flew a raven. The raven struck the floor and became a gallant youth. The others were beautiful in person, but he was still better.
"Well, Ivan Tsarevich! Ere now I came as a guest, but now I'm a wooer. Give me Anna Tsarevna."
"I take not her will from my sister. If thou hast pleased her, take her in marriage."
Anna Tsarevna married the Raven, and he bore her away to his own kingdom.
Ivan Tsarevich remained alone. He lived a whole year without sisters, grew wearied. "I will go," said he, "to seek out my sisters."
He made ready for the road, travelled and travelled, saw an army, a power lying slain on the field. Said Ivan Tsarevich: "If there is a living man here, let him speak. Who killed this great army?"
A living man answered: "Marya Morevna, the fair Korolyevna, killed all this great army."
Ivan Tsarevich went farther; he came to white tents. Marya Morevna, the fair Korolyevna, came forth to meet him. "Hail, Tsarevich! Where does God bear thee? Of thy own will, or against thy will?"
Ivan Tsarevich gave answer: "Good heroes travel not against their will."
"Well, if thy work be not hasty be a guest in my tents."
Ivan Tsarevich was glad; he spent two nights in the tents, pleased Marya Morevna, and married her. Marya Morevna, the fair Korolyevna, took him with her to her own kingdom. They lived together a time, and then the Korolyevna had a thought to make war; she left to her husband her household, and said: "Go everywhere, see after all things, but look not in this closet."
Ivan Tsarevich could not endure this, but when Marya Morevna had gone he rushed to the closet, opened the door, looked, and there Koshchéi Without-Death was hanging inside, fastened with twelve chains. Koshchéi implored the Tsarevich: "Take pity on me, give me to drink. Twelve years do I sit here in torment; I have not eaten nor drunk; my throat is parched."
The Tsarevich gave him a whole three-gallon tub of water. He drank it, and begged, "With one tub my thirst cannot be quenched." The Tsarevich gave him another tub. Koshchéi drank that, and begged for a third; and when he had drunk the third tub he regained his former strength, shook his chains, and in one moment broke all twelve.
"God save thee, Ivan Tsarevich!" said Koshchéi Without-Death; "now thou wilt never see Marya Morevna any more than thy own ears;" and he went out a terrific whirlwind, flew through the window, overtook on the road Marya Morevna, the fair Korolyevna, seized her, and bore her away.
But Ivan Tsarevich cried bitterly, bitterly, made ready, and went on his road, on his way. "Whatever may happen, I will find Marya Morevna." He travelled one day, he travelled a second; at the dawn of the third day he saw a wonderful palace, near the palace an oak, on the oak a bright falcon. The falcon flew down from the tree, struck the earth, turned into a gallant youth, and shouted: "Ah! my dear brother-in-law, how does God favor thee?"
Marya Tsarevna ran out, met Ivan Tsarevich joyously, asked about his health, his life, and told about her own life and household.
The Tsarevich stayed three days with them, and said: "I cannot stay longer, I am in search of my wife, Marya Morevna, the fair Korolyevna."
"It is hard to find her," said the Falcon. "In any case leave thy silver spoon here; we will look at it and think of thee."
Ivan Tsarevich left his silver spoon and went his way. He travelled a day, he travelled a second; at the dawn of the third he saw a castle better than the first, at the side of the castle an oak, on the oak sits an eagle. The eagle flew from the tree, struck the ground, turned into a gallant youth, and shouted: "Rise up, Olga Tsarevna; our dear brother is coming." Olga Tsarevna ran out that moment to meet him; she began to kiss, to embrace her brother, to ask about his health, and to tell of her own life and household.
Ivan Tsarevich remained three days with them, and then said: "I have no time to visit longer; I am going to seek my wife, Marya Morevna, the fair Korolyevna."
Said the Eagle: "It is hard for thee to find her. Leave with us thy silver fork; we will look at it and remember thee."
He left the fork and went his way. He travelled a day, he travelled a second; and on the dawn of the third day he saw a castle better than the other two. At the side of the castle was an oak, and on the oak a raven was perched. The raven flew down, struck the earth, turned into a gallant youth, and cried: "Anna Tsarevna, hurry out; our brother is coming."
Anna Tsarevna ran out, met him joyously, began to kiss and embrace her brother, to ask about his health, and to tell about her own life and household.
Ivan Tsarevich stayed with them three short days, and said: "Farewell, I am going to look for my wife, Marya Morevna, the fair Korolyevna."
The Raven said: "It is hard for thee to find her; but leave thy gold ring with us, we will look at it and remember thee. If the ring is bright, it means that thou art alive and well; if dim, then we shall know that evil has come on thee."
Ivan Tsarevich left his gold ring and went his way. He travelled a day, he travelled a second; and on the third he came to Marya Morevna. She saw her dear one, rushed on his neck, covered herself with tears, and said: "Ivan Tsarevich, why didst thou not obey me; why didst thou look in the closet and let out Koshchéi Without-Death?"
"Forgive me, Marya Morevna; remember not the past. Better go with me while Koshchéi is not here; mayhap he will not overtake us."
They made ready and went. Koshchéi was out hunting; toward evening he was coming home, his good steed stumbled under him. "Why stumble, hungry crowbait; or dost feel some misfortune?"
The horse answered: "Ivan Tsarevich came and took Marya Morevna away."
"Can we overtake them?"
"Thou mightest sow wheat, wait till it should ripen, reap it, thresh it, make flour, bake five ovens of bread, eat that bread, go in pursuit, and overtake them."
Koshchéi galloped on, overtook Ivan Tsarevich. "Well," said he, "I forgive thee the first time for thy kindness, because thou didst give me water to drink; and a second time I'll forgive thee: but for the third have a care; I will hew thee to pieces."
He took Marya Morevna and led her away. Ivan Tsarevich sat on a stone and wept; he cried and cried, went back for Marya Morevna. Koshchéi Without-Death did not happen to be at home.
"Let us go, Marya Morevna."
"Ah, Ivan Tsarevich, he will overtake us!"
"Let him overtake us; anyhow, we shall pass a couple of hours together." They made ready and started away.
Koshchéi Without-Death was coming home; his good steed stumbled under him. "Why dost thou stumble, hungry crowbait; or feelest thou evil?"
"Ivan Tsarevich came and carried Marya Morevna away."
"Can they be overtaken?"
"Barley might be sown, waited for till ripe, harvested, threshed, and beer made of it; we might drink the beer, sleep after drinking, then pursue and catch them."
Koshchéi galloped on, rode up, overtook Ivan Tsarevich. "But I have said that thou canst no more see Marya Morevna than look at thy own ears." He took her away and led her home.
Ivan Tsarevich remained alone; he cried and cried, and went back for Marya Morevna. That time Koshchéi was not at home.
"Let us go, Marya Morevna."
"Ah! Ivan Tsarevich, he will come up with us, will hew thee to pieces."
"Let him hew me; I cannot live without thee." They made ready and started.
Koshchéi Without-Death was coming home; his good steed stumbled under him. "Why dost thou stumble, hungry crowbait; or feelest thou evil?"
"Ivan Tsarevich came, and took Marya Morevna away."
Koshchéi galloped on, caught up with Ivan Tsarevich, hewed him into small pieces, put him in a pitched barrel, took that barrel, strengthened it with iron hoops, and cast it into the blue sea. Marya Morevna he took home.
Now the silver grew black at the houses of Ivan Tsarevich's brothers-in-law. "Oh," said they, "it is clear that some evil has happened!"
The Eagle rushed off to the blue sea, caught the barrel, and drew it to shore; the Falcon flew for the living water, and the Raven for the dead water. All flew together to the same place, broke the barrel, took out the pieces of Ivan Tsarevich, washed them, put them together in proper order. The Raven sprinkled them with dead water, the body grew together and united; the Falcon sprinkled the body with living water. Ivan Tsarevich trembled, rose up, and said, "Oh, how long I have been sleeping!"
"Thou wouldst have slept still longer without us," answered the brothers-in-law. "Come now to our houses."
"No, brothers, I shall go to seek Marya Morevna." He came to her and said, "Discover from Koshchéi Without-Death where he found such a steed."
Behold, Marya Morevna seized a favorable moment, inquired of Koshchéi. Koshchéi said: "Beyond the thrice-ninth land, in the thirtieth kingdom, beyond the fiery river, lives Baba-Yaga; and she has a mare on which she flies round the world each day; she has many other glorious mares. I was her herdsman for three days. I let not one mare stray from her, and for that service Baba-Yaga gave me a colt."
"But how didst thou cross the river of fire?"
"I have a kerchief of such sort that when I wave it on the right side three times, a bridge is made, lofty and high; the fire cannot reach it."
Marya Morevna listened, told all to Ivan Tsarevich, carried away the kerchief, and gave it to him. Ivan Tsarevich crossed the fiery river, and went to Baba-Yaga. Long did he go without eating and drinking; a bird from beyond the sea, with her little children, happened in his way. "I'll eat one little chick," said Ivan Tsarevich.
"Eat it not, Ivan Tsarevich," begged the bird from beyond the sea; "in time I will serve thee."
He went farther, saw in the forest a swarm of bees. "I'll take some honey," said he.
The queen-bee called out, "Touch not my honey, Ivan Tsarevich; in time I will serve thee."
He left the honey and went on. Then a lioness and her whelp met him. "At least I'll eat this little lion; I feel such hunger that I am sick."
"Touch him not, Ivan Tsarevich; in time I will serve thee."
"Well, let it be as thou sayest."
He went on hungry; he travelled and travelled. There is the house of Baba-Yaga. Around the house stand twelve stakes; on eleven are heads of men,--only one stake is unoccupied.
"Hail to thee, grandmother!"
"Hail to thee, Ivan Tsarevich! Hast come of thy own good will, or from need?"
"I have come to earn of thee an heroic steed."
"Very well, Tsarevich; no need to serve a year with me, but three days in all. If thou wilt herd my mares, I'll give thee an heroic steed; but if not, be not angry, thy head will be on the last stake."
Ivan Tsarevich consented. Baba-Yaga gave him food with drink, and ordered him to begin the work. As soon as he had driven the mares a-field, they raised their tails and all ran apart through the meadows. The Tsarevich could not cast his eyes round before they had vanished. Then he began to weep and grow sad; he sat on a stone and fell asleep. The sun was going down when the bird from beyond the sea flew up and roused him.
"Rise, Ivan Tsarevich; the mares are now home."
The Tsarevich stood up, came home, but Baba-Yaga was screaming and crying at her mares. "Why did ye come home?"
"How could we help it, when birds from the whole world flew together and almost picked our eyes out?"
"Well, to-morrow don't run in the meadows, but scatter through the sleeping forest."
Ivan Tsarevich slept the night; in the morning Baba-Yaga said: "See to it, Tsarevich. If thou dost not herd the mares, if thou losest even one of them, thy stormy head will be on the stake."
He drove the mares a-field. That moment they raised their tails and ran through the sleeping forest. Again the Tsarevich sat down on a stone, cried and cried, then fell asleep. The sun had gone behind the forest when the lioness ran up. "Rise, Ivan Tsarevich; the mares are driven in."
Ivan Tsarevich stood up and went home. Baba-Yaga was screaming and crying more than before at her mares. "Why did ye come home?"
"How could we help coming? Savage beasts ran at us from the whole world, came near tearing us to pieces."
"Well, run to-morrow into the blue sea."
Ivan Tsarevich slept that night; next morning Baba-Yaga sent him to herd the mares. "If thou dost not guard them, thy stormy head will be on the stake."
He drove the mares to the field; that moment they raised their tails and vanished from the eye, ran into the blue sea, and stood to their necks in the water.
Ivan Tsarevich sat on a stone, cried, and fell asleep. The sun had gone beyond the forest when a bee flew up and said: "Ivan Tsarevich, the mares are driven in. But when thou art home, do not show thyself before the eyes of Baba-Yaga; go to the stable and hide behind the manger. There is a mangy little colt lying on the dung-heap; steal him, and at dark midnight leave the place."
Ivan Tsarevich rose up, made his way to the stable, and lay down behind the manger. Baba-Yaga screamed and cried at her mares: "Why did ye come home?"
"How could we help coming home when bees, seen and unseen, flew from the whole world and began to sting us on every side till the blood came!"
Baba-Yaga went to sleep, and just at midnight Ivan Tsarevich stole from her the mangy colt, saddled him, sat on his back, and galloped to the fiery river; when he came to the river he shook the kerchief three times on the right side, and suddenly, from wherever it came, a high, splendid bridge was hanging over the river. The Tsarevich crossed on the bridge, waved the kerchief on the left side only twice, and there remained above the river a bridge very, very slender.
In the morning Baba-Yaga woke up; the mangy colt is not to be seen with sight. Baba-Yaga, on an iron mortar, rushed off in pursuit with all her breath, urging forward with a pestle, and removing her trail with a broom. She galloped to the fiery river, looked and thought: "The bridge is good." She rode out on it, and the moment she reached the middle the bridge broke. Baba-Yaga went headlong into the river; there a savage death came to her.
Ivan Tsarevich fed his colt in the green meadows, and it became a marvellous steed. The Tsarevich came to Marya Morevna; she ran out to him, threw herself on his neck.
"How has God brought thee to life?"
"In this way and that way," said he; "come with me."
"I am afraid, Ivan Tsarevich. If Koshchéi overtakes us again, thou wilt be cut to pieces."
"No, he will not overtake us. I have a glorious, heroic steed now; he goes like a bird."
They sat on the horse and rode off. Koshchéi Without-Death was coming home; under him stumbled his steed.
"Why stumble, hungry crowbait; or feelest thou evil?"
"Ivan Tsarevich came, took away Marya Morevna."
"Can we overtake him?"
"God knows! Now Ivan Tsarevich has an heroic steed better than I."
"I cannot stand this," said Koshchéi the Deathless, "I'll give chase."
Whether it was long or short, he caught up with Ivan Tsarevich, sprang to the ground, and wanted to cut him with his sharp sword. That moment Ivan's horse struck, with all the sweep of his hoof, Koshchéi Without-Death, and smashed his skull. The Tsarevich finished him with his club. Then he raised a pile of wood, made a fire, burned Koshchéi Without-Death on the fire, and scattered the ashes to the wind.
Marya Morevna mounted Koshchéi's horse, and Ivan Tsarevich his own. They went to visit the Raven, then the Eagle, and last the Falcon; wherever they came they were met with joy.
"Oh, Ivan Tsarevich, we did not think to see thee! It was not for nothing thou didst struggle; another such beauty as Marya Morevna could not be found if sought for in the whole world."
They visited and feasted, and set out for their own kingdom; arrived there, gained wealth, and drank mead.