Russian Fairy Tales - A Choice Collection of Muscovite Folk-lore
by W. R. S. Ralston
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"Writhe away or not as you please," thought the poor man, "but pay me my copeck!"

When he had washed the body, and laid it out properly, he said:

"Now then, mistress, buy a coffin and have it taken into the church; I'll go and read psalms over it."

So Marko the Rich was put in a coffin and taken into the church, and the moujik began reading psalms over him. The darkness of night came on. All of a sudden a window opened, and a party of robbers crept through it into the church. The moujik hid himself behind the altar. As soon as the robbers had come in they began dividing their booty, and after everything else was shared there remained over and above a golden sabre—each one laid hold of it for himself, no one would give up his claim to it. Out jumped the poor man, crying:

"What's the good of disputing that way? Let the sabre belong to him who will cut this corpse's head off!"

Up jumped Marko the Rich like a madman. The robbers were frightened out of their wits, flung away their spoil and scampered off.

"Here, Moujik," says Marko, "let's divide the money."

They divided it equally between them: each of the shares was a large one.

"But how about the copeck?" asks the poor man.

"Ah, brother!" replies Marko, "surely you can see I've got no change!"

And so Marko the Rich never paid the copeck after all.

We may take next the large class of stories about simpletons, so dear to the public in all parts of the world. In the Skazkas a simpleton is known as a durak, a word which admits of a variety of explanations. Sometimes it means an idiot, sometimes a fool in the sense of a jester. In the stories of village life its signification is generally that of a "ninny;" in the "fairy stories" it is frequently applied to the youngest of the well-known "Three Brothers," the "Boots" of the family as Dr. Dasent has called him. In the latter case, of course, the hero's durachestvo, or foolishness, is purely subjective. It exists only in the false conceptions of his character which his family or his neighbors have formed.[61] But the durak of the following tale is represented as being really "daft." The story begins with one of the conventional openings of the Skazka—"In a certain tsarstvo, in a certain gosudarstvo,"—but the two synonyms for "kingdom" or "state" are used only because they rhyme.


In a certain country there once lived an old man who had three sons. Two of them had their wits about them, but the third was a fool. The old man died and his sons divided his property among themselves by lot. The sharp-witted ones got plenty of all sorts of good things, but nothing fell to the share of the Simpleton but one ox—and that such a skinny one!

Well, fair-time came round, and the clever brothers got ready to go and transact business. The Simpleton saw this, and said:

"I'll go, too, brothers, and take my ox for sale."

So he fastened a cord to the horn of the ox and drove it to the town. On his way he happened to pass through a forest, and in the forest there stood an old withered Birch-tree. Whenever the wind blew the Birch-tree creaked.

"What is the Birch creaking about?" thinks the Simpleton. "Surely it must be bargaining for my ox? Well," says he, "if you want to buy it, why buy it. I'm not against selling it. The price of the ox is twenty roubles. I can't take less. Out with the money!"

The Birch made no reply, only went on creaking. But the Simpleton fancied that it was asking for the ox on credit. "Very good," says he, "I'll wait till to-morrow!" He tied the ox to the Birch, took leave of the tree, and went home. Presently in came the clever brothers, and began questioning him:

"Well, Simpleton! sold your ox?"

"I've sold it."

"For how much?"

"For twenty roubles."

"Where's the money?"

"I haven't received the money yet. It was settled I should go for it to-morrow."

"There's simplicity for you!" say they.

Early next morning the Simpleton got up, dressed himself, and went to the Birch-tree for his money. He reached the wood; there stood the Birch, waving in the wind, but the ox was not to be seen. During the night the wolves had eaten it.

"Now, then, neighbor!" he exclaimed, "pay me my money. You promised you'd pay me to-day."

The wind blew, the Birch creaked, and the Simpleton cried:

"What a liar you are! Yesterday you kept saying, 'I'll pay you to-morrow,' and now you make just the same promise. Well, so be it, I'll wait one day more, but not a bit longer. I want the money myself."

When he returned home, his brothers again questioned him closely:

"Have you got your money?"

"No, brothers; I've got to wait for my money again."

"Whom have you sold it to?"

"To the withered Birch-tree in the forest."

"Oh, what an idiot!"

On the third day the Simpleton took his hatchet and went to the forest. Arriving there, he demanded his money; but the Birch-tree only creaked and creaked. "No, no, neighbor!" says he. "If you're always going to treat me to promises,[63] there'll be no getting anything out of you. I don't like such joking; I'll pay you out well for it!"

With that he pitched into it with his hatchet, so that its chips flew about in all directions. Now, in that Birch-tree there was a hollow, and in that hollow some robbers had hidden a pot full of gold. The tree split asunder, and the Simpleton caught sight of the gold. He took as much of it as the skirts of his caftan would hold, and toiled home with it. There he showed his brothers what he had brought.

"Where did you get such a lot, Simpleton?" said they.

"A neighbor gave it me for my ox. But this isn't anything like the whole of it; a good half of it I didn't bring home with me! Come along, brothers, let's get the rest!"

Well, they went into the forest, secured the money, and carried it home.

"Now mind, Simpleton," say the sensible brothers, "don't tell anyone that we've such a lot of gold."

"Never fear, I won't tell a soul!"

All of a sudden they run up against a Diachok,[64] and says he:—

"What's that, brothers, you're bringing from the forest?"

The sharp ones replied, "Mushrooms." But the Simpleton contradicted them, saying:

"They're telling lies! we're carrying money; here, just take a look at it."

The Diachok uttered such an "Oh!"—then he flung himself on the gold, and began seizing handfuls of it and stuffing them into his pocket. The Simpleton grew angry, dealt him a blow with his hatchet, and struck him dead.

"Heigh, Simpleton! what have you been and done!" cried his brothers. "You're a lost man, and you'll be the cause of our destruction, too! Wherever shall we put the dead body?"

They thought and thought, and at last they dragged it to an empty cellar and flung it in there. But later on in the evening the eldest brother said to the second one:—

"This piece of work is sure to turn out badly. When they begin looking for the Diachok, you'll see that Simpleton will tell them everything. Let's kill a goat and bury it in the cellar, and hide the body of the dead man in some other place."

Well, they waited till the dead of night; then they killed a goat and flung it into the cellar, but they carried the Diachok to another place and there hid him in the ground. Several days passed, and then people began looking everywhere for the Diachok, asking everyone about him.

"What do you want him for?" said the Simpleton, when he was asked. "I killed him some time ago with my hatchet, and my brothers carried him into the cellar."

Straightway they laid hands on the Simpleton, crying, "Take us there and show him to us."

The Simpleton went down into the cellar, got hold of the goat's head, and asked:—

"Was your Diachok dark-haired?"

"He was."

"And had he a beard?"

"Yes, he'd a beard."

"And horns?"

"What horns are you talking about, Simpleton?"

"Well, see for yourselves," said he, tossing up the head to them. They looked, saw it was a goat's, spat in the Simpleton's face, and went their ways home.

One of the most popular simpleton-tales in the world is that of the fond parents who harrow their feelings by conjuring up the misfortunes which may possibly await their as yet unborn grandchildren. In Scotland it is told, in a slightly different form, of two old maids who were once found bathed in tears, and who were obliged to confess that they had been day-dreaming and supposing—if they had been married, and one had had a boy and the other a girl; and if the children, when they grew up, had married, and had had a little child; and if it had tumbled out of the window and been killed—what a dreadful thing it would have been. At which terrible idea they both gave way to not unnatural tears. In one of its Russian forms, it is told of the old parents of a boy named Lutonya, who weep over the hypothetical death of an imaginary grandchild, thinking how sad it would have been if a log which the old woman has dropped had killed that as yet merely potential infant. The parent's grief appears to Lutonya so uncalled for that he leaves home, declaring that he will not return until he has found people more foolish than they. He travels long and far, and witnesses several foolish doings, most of which are familiar to us. In one place, a cow is being hoisted on to a roof in order that it may eat the grass growing thereon; in another a horse is being inserted into its collar by sheer force; in a third, a woman is fetching milk from the cellar, a spoonful at a time. But the story comes to an end before its hero has discovered the surpassing stupidity of which he is in quest. In another Russian story of a similar nature Lutonya goes from home in search of some one more foolish than his mother, who has been tricked by a cunning sharper. First he finds carpenters attempting to stretch a beam which is not long enough, and earns their gratitude by showing them how to add a piece to it. Then he comes to a place where sickles are unknown, and harvesters are in the habit of biting off the ears of corn, so he makes a sickle for them, thrusts it into a sheaf and leaves it there. They take it for a monstrous worm, tie a cord to it, and drag it away to the bank of the river. There they fasten one of their number to a log and set him afloat, giving him the end of the cord, in order that he may drag the "worm" after him into the water. The log turns over, and the moujik with it, so that his head is under water while his legs appear above it. "Why, brother!" they call to him from the bank, "why are you so particular about your leggings? If they do get wet, you can dry them at the fire." But he makes no reply, only drowns. Finally Lutonya meets the counterpart of the well-known Irishman who, when counting the party to which he belongs, always forgets to count himself, and so gets into numerical difficulties. After which he returns home.[65]

It would be easy to multiply examples of this style of humor—to find in the folk-tales current all over Russia the equivalents of our own facetious narratives about the wise men of Gotham, the old woman whose petticoats were cut short by the pedlar whose name was Stout, and a number of other inhabitants of Fool-land, to whom the heart of childhood is still closely attached, and also of the exaggeration-stories, the German Luegenmaehrchen, on which was founded the narrative of Baron Munchausen's surprising adventures. But instead of doing this, before passing on to the more important groups of the Skazkas, I will quote, as this chapter's final illustrations of the Russian story-teller's art, an "animal story" and a "legend." Here is the former:—


In the olden years, long long ago, with the spring-tide fair and the summer's heat there came on the world distress and shame. For gnats and flies began to swarm, biting folks and letting their warm blood flow.

Then the Spider[67] appeared, the hero bold, who, with waving arms, weaved webs around the highways and byways in which the gnats and flies were most to be found.

A ghastly Gadfly, coming that way, stumbled straight into the Spider's snare. The Spider, tightly squeezing her throat, prepared to put her out of the world. From the Spider the Gadfly mercy sought.

"Good father Spider! please not to kill me. I've ever so many little ones. Without me they'll be orphans left, and from door to door have to beg their bread and squabble with dogs."

Well, the Spider released her. Away she flew, and everywhere humming and buzzing about, told the flies and gnats of what had occurred.

"Ho, ye gnats and flies! Meet here beneath this ash-tree's roots. A spider has come, and, with waving of arms and weaving of nets, has set his snares in all the ways to which the flies and gnats resort. He'll catch them, every single one!"

They flew to the spot; beneath the ash-tree's roots they hid, and lay there as though they were dead. The Spider came, and there he found a cricket, a beetle, and a bug.

"O Cricket!" he cried, "upon this mound sit and take snuff! Beetle, do thou beat a drum. And do thou crawl, O Bug, the bun-like, beneath the ash, and spread abroad this news of me, the Spider, the wrestler, the hero bold—that the Spider, the wrestler, the hero bold, no longer in the world exists; that they have sent him to Kazan; that in Kazan, upon a block, they've chopped his head off, and the block destroyed."

On the mound sat the Cricket and took snuff. The Beetle smote upon the drum. The Bug crawled in among the ash-tree's roots, and cried:—

"Why have ye fallen? Wherefore as in death do ye lie here? Truly no longer lives the Spider, the wrestler, the hero bold. They've sent him to Kazan and in Kazan they've chopped his head off on a block, and afterwards destroyed the block."

The gnats and flies grew blithe and merry. Thrice they crossed themselves, then out they flew—and straight into the Spider's snares. Said he:—

"But seldom do ye come! I would that ye would far more often come to visit me! to quaff my wine and beer, and pay me tribute!"[68]

This story is specially interesting in the original, inasmuch as it is rhymed throughout, although printed as prose. A kind of lilt is perceptible in many of the Skazkas, and traces of rhyme are often to be detected in them, but "The Mizgir's" mould is different from theirs. Many stories also exist in an artificially versified form, but their movement differs entirely from that of the naturally cadenced periods of the ordinary Skazka, or of such rhymed prose as that of "The Mizgir."

The following legend is not altogether new in "motive," but a certain freshness is lent to it by its simple style, its unstrained humor, and its genial tone.


Once upon a time there was a Smith, and he had one son, a sharp, smart, six-year-old boy. One day the old man went to church, and as he stood before a picture of the Last Judgment he saw a Demon painted there—such a terrible one!—black, with horns and a tail.

"O my!" says he to himself. "Suppose I get just such another painted for the smithy." So he hired an artist, and ordered him to paint on the door of the smithy exactly such another demon as he had seen in the church. The artist painted it. Thenceforward the old man, every time he entered the smithy, always looked at the Demon and said, "Good morning, fellow-countryman!" And then he would lay the fire in the furnace and begin his work.

Well, the Smith lived in good accord with the Demon for some ten years. Then he fell ill and died. His son succeeded to his place as head of the household, and took the smithy into his own hands. But he was not disposed to show attention to the Demon as the old man had done. When he went into the smithy in the morning, he never said "Good morrow" to him; instead of offering him a kindly word, he took the biggest hammer he had handy, and thumped the Demon with it three times right on the forehead, and then he would go to his work. And when one of God's holy days came round, he would go to church and offer each saint a taper; but he would go up to the Demon and spit in his face. Thus three years went by, he all the while favoring the Evil One every morning either with a spitting or with a hammering. The Demon endured it and endured it, and at last found it past all endurance. It was too much for him.

"I've had quite enough of this insolence from him!" thinks he. "Suppose I make use of a little diplomacy, and play him some sort of a trick!"

So the Demon took the form of a youth, and went to the smithy.

"Good day, uncle!" says he.

"Good day!"

"What should you say, uncle, to taking me as an apprentice? At all events, I could carry fuel for you, and blow the bellows."

The Smith liked the idea. "Why shouldn't I?" he replied. "Two are better than one."

The Demon began to learn his trade; at the end of a month he knew more about smith's work than his master did himself, was able to do everything that his master couldn't do. It was a real pleasure to look at him! There's no describing how satisfied his master was with him, how fond he got of him. Sometimes the master didn't go into the smithy at all himself, but trusted entirely to his journeyman, who had complete charge of everything.

Well, it happened one day that the master was not at home, and the journeyman was left all by himself in the smithy. Presently he saw an old lady[70] driving along the street in her carriage, whereupon he popped his head out of doors and began shouting:—

"Heigh, sirs! Be so good as to step in here! We've opened a new business here; we turn old folks into young ones."

Out of her carriage jumped the lady in a trice, and ran into the smithy.

"What's that you're bragging about? Do you mean to say it's true? Can you really do it?" she asked the youth.

"We haven't got to learn our business!" answered the Demon. "If I hadn't been able to do it, I wouldn't have invited people to try."

"And how much does it cost?" asked the lady.

"Five hundred roubles altogether."

"Well, then, there's your money; make a young woman of me."

The Demon took the money; then he sent the lady's coachman into the village.

"Go," says he, "and bring me here two buckets full of milk."

After that he took a pair of tongs, caught hold of the lady by the feet, flung her into the furnace, and burnt her up; nothing was left of her but her bare bones.

When the buckets of milk were brought, he emptied them into a large tub, then he collected all the bones and flung them into the milk. Just fancy! at the end of about three minutes the lady emerged from the milk—alive, and young, and beautiful!

Well, she got into her carriage and drove home. There she went straight to her husband, and he stared hard at her, but didn't know she was his wife.

"What are you staring at?" says the lady. "I'm young and elegant, you see, and I don't want to have an old husband! Be off at once to the smithy, and get them to make you young; if you don't, I won't so much as acknowledge you!"

There was no help for it; off set the seigneur. But by that time the Smith had returned home, and had gone into the smithy. He looked about; the journeyman wasn't to be seen. He searched and searched, he enquired and enquired, never a thing came of it; not even a trace of the youth could be found. He took to his work by himself, and was hammering away, when at that moment up drove the seigneur, and walked straight into the smithy.

"Make a young man of me," says he.

"Are you in your right mind, Barin? How can one make a young man of you?"

"Come, now! you know all about that."

"I know nothing of the kind."

"You lie, you scoundrel! Since you made my old woman young, make me young too; otherwise, there will be no living with her for me."

"Why I haven't so much as seen your good lady."

"Your journeyman saw her, and that's just the same thing. If he knew how to do the job, surely you, an old hand, must have learnt how to do it long ago. Come, now, set to work at once. If you don't, it will be the worse for you. I'll have you rubbed down with a birch-tree towel."

The Smith was compelled to try his hand at transforming the seigneur. He held a private conversation with the coachman as to how his journeyman had set to work with the lady, and what he had done to her, and then he thought:—

"So be it! I'll do the same. If I fall on my feet, good; if I don't, well, I must suffer all the same!"

So he set to work at once, stripped the seigneur naked, laid hold of him by the legs with the tongs, popped him into the furnace, and began blowing the bellows. After he had burnt him to a cinder, he collected his remains, flung them into the milk, and then waited to see how soon a youthful seigneur would jump out of it. He waited one hour, two hours. But nothing came of it. He made a search in the tub. There was nothing in it but bones, and those charred ones.

Just then the lady sent messengers to the smithy, to ask whether the seigneur would soon be ready. The poor Smith had to reply that the seigneur was no more.

When the lady heard that the Smith had only turned her husband into a cinder, instead of making him young, she was tremendously angry, and she called together her trusty servants, and ordered them to drag him to the gallows. No sooner said than done. Her servants ran to the Smith's house, laid hold of him, tied his hands together, and dragged him off to the gallows. All of a sudden there came up with them the youngster who used to live with the Smith as his journeyman, who asked him:—

"Where are they taking you, master?"

"They're going to hang me," replied the Smith, and straightway related all that had happened to him.

"Well, uncle!" said the Demon, "swear that you will never strike me with your hammer, but that you will pay me the same respect your father always paid, and the seigneur shall be alive, and young, too, in a trice."

The Smith began promising and swearing that he would never again lift his hammer against the Demon, but would always pay him every attention. Thereupon the journeyman hastened to the smithy, and shortly afterwards came back again, bringing the seigneur with him, and crying to the servants:

"Hold! hold! Don't hang him! Here's your master!"

Then they immediately untied the cords, and let the Smith go free.

From that time forward the Smith gave up spitting at the Demon and striking him with his hammer. The journeyman disappeared, and was never seen again. But the seigneur and his lady entered upon a prosperous course of life, and if they haven't died, they're living still.[71]


[11] Dasent's "Popular Tales from the Norse," p. xl.

[12] Max Mueller, "Chips," vol. ii. p. 226.

[13] Take as an illustration of these remarks the close of the story of "Helena the Fair" (No. 34, Chap. IV.). See how light and bright it is (or at least was, before it was translated).

[14] I speak only of what I have seen. In some districts of Russia, if one may judge from pictures, the peasants occupy ornamented and ornamental dwellings.

[15] Khudyakof, vol. ii. p. 65.

[16] Khudyakof, vol. ii. p. 115.

[17] For a description of such social gatherings see the "Songs of the Russian People," pp. 32-38.

[18] Afanasief, vi. No. 66.

[19] Cakes of unleavened flour flavored with garlic.

[20] The Nechistol, or unclean. (Chisty = clean, pure, &c.)

[21] Literally, "on thee no face is to be seen."

[22] I do not propose to comment at any length upon the stories quoted in the present chapter. Some of them will be referred to farther on. Marusia's demon lover will be recognized as akin to Arabian Ghouls, or the Rakshasas of Indian mythology. (See the story of Sidi Norman in the "Thousand and One Nights," also Lane's translation, vol. i., p. 32; and the story of Asokadatta and Vijayadatta in the fifth book of the "Kathasaritsagara," Brockhaus's translation, 1843, vol. ii. pp. 142-159.) For transformations of a maiden into a flower or tree, see Grimm, No. 76, "Die Nelke," and the notes to that story in vol. iii., p. 125—Hahn, No. 21, "Das Lorbeerkind," etc. "The Water of Life," will meet with due consideration in the fourth chapter. The Holy Water which destroys the Fiend is merely a Christian form of the "Water of Death," viewed in its negative aspect.

[23] Chudinsky, No. 3.

[24] Afanasief, vi. p. 325. Wolfs "Niederlandische Sagen," No. 326, quoted in Thorpe's "Northern Mythology," i. 292. Note 4.

[25] A number of ghost stories, and some remarks about the ideas of the Russian peasants with respect to the dead, will be found in Chap. V. Scott mentions a story in "The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border," vol. ii. p. 223, of a widower who believed he was haunted by his dead wife. On one occasion the ghost, to prove her identity, gave suck to her surviving infant.

[26] Afanasief, viii. p. 165.

[27] In West-European stories the devil frequently carries off a witch's soul after death. Here the fiend enters the corpse, or rather its skin, probably intending to reappear as a vampire. Compare Bleek's "Reynard the Fox in South Africa," No. 24, in which a lion squeezes itself into the skin of a girl it has killed. I have generally rendered by "demon," instead of "devil," the word chort when it occurs in stories of this class, as the spirits to which they refer are manifestly akin to those of oriental demonology.

[28] For an account of which, see the "Songs of the Russian People," pp. 333-334. The best Russian work on the subject is Barsof's "Prichitaniya Syevernago Kraya," Moscow, 1872.

[29] Afanasief, iv. No. 9.

[30] Professor de Gubernatis justly remarks that this "howling" is more in keeping with the nature of the eastern jackal than with that of its western counterpart, the fox. "Zoological Mythology," ii. 130.

[31] Afanasief, vii. No. 45.

[32] Pope is the ordinary but disrespectful term for a priest (Svyashchennik), as popovich is for a priest's son.

[33] "Father dear," or "reverend father."

[34] A phrase often used by the peasants, when frightened by anything of supernatural appearance.

[35] Afanasief, Skazki, vii. No. 49.

[36] The Russian expression is gol kak sokol, "bare as a hawk."

[37] In another story St. Nicolas's picture is the surety.

[38] Another variant of this story, under the title of "Norka," will be quoted in full in the next chapter.

[39] Afanasief, vii. p. 107.

[40] Afanasief, vii. p. 146.

[41] Or "The Seven-year-old." Khudyakof, No. 6. See Grimm, No. 94, "Die kluge Bauerntochter," and iii. 170-2.

[42] Voevoda, now a general, formerly meant a civil governor, etc.

[43] Afanasief. "Legendui," No. 29.

[44] Diminutive of Peter.

[45] The word employed here is not chort, but diavol.

[46] Some remarks on the stories of this class, will be found in Chap. VI. The Russian peasants still believe that all people who drink themselves to death are used as carriers of wood and water in the infernal regions.

[47] In the sixty-fourth story of Asbjoernsen's "Norske Folke-Eventyr," (Ny Samling, 1871) the dispute between the husband and wife is about a cornfield—as to whether it should be reaped or shorn—and she tumbles into a pool while she is making clipping gestures "under her husband's nose." In the old fabliau of "Le Pre Tondu" (Le Grand d'Aussy, Fabliaux, 1829, iii. 185), the husband cuts out the tongue of his wife, to prevent her from repeating that his meadow has been clipped, whereupon she makes a clipping sign with her fingers. In Poggio's "Facetiae," the wife is doubly aggravating. For copious information with respect to the use made of this story by the romance-writers, see Liebrecht's translations of Basile's "Pentamerone," ii. 264, and of Dunlop's "History of Literature," p. 516.

[48] Afanasief, v. p. 16.

[49] Ibid., iii. p. 87.

[50] Chudinsky, No. 8. The proverb is dear to the Tartars also.

[51] Ibid. No. 23. The liulka, or Russian cradle, is suspended and swung, instead of being placed on the floor and rocked. Russian babies are usually swaddled tightly, like American papooses.

[52] "Panchatantra," 1859, vol. i. Sec. 212, pp. 519-524. I gladly avail myself of this opportunity of gratefully acknowledging my obligations to Dr. Benfey's invaluable work.

[53] Afanasief, i. No. 9. Written down in the Novgorod Government. Its dialect renders it somewhat difficult to read.

[54] This story is known to the Finns, but with them the Russian Demon, (chortenok = a little chort or devil), has become the Plague. In the original Indian story the demon is one which had formerly lived in a Brahman's house, but had been frightened away by his cantankerous wife. In the Servian version (Karajich, No. 37), the opening consists of the "Scissors-story," to which allusion has already been made. The vixen falls into a hole which she does not see, so bent is she on controverting her husband.

[55] Afanasief, ii. No. 12. Written down by a "Crown Serf," in the government of Perm.

[56] Afanasief, viii. No. 20. A copeck is worth about a third of a penny.

[57] The story is continued very little further by Afanasief, its conclusion being the same as that of "The Wise Wife," in Book vii. No. 22, a tale of magic. For a Servian version of the tale see Vuk Karajich, No. 7.

[58] Afanasief, v. No. 3. From the Novgorod Government.

[59] Literally, "has bid to live long," a conventional euphemism for "has died." "Remember what his name was," is sometimes added.

[60] It will be observed that the miser holds out against the pain which the scalded demon was unable to bear. See above, p. 21.

[61] Professor de Gubernatis remarks that he may sometimes be called "the first Brutus of popular tradition." "Zoological Mythology," vol. i. p. 199.

[62] Afanasief, v. No. 53.

[63] Zavtrakami podchivat = to dupe; zavtra = to-morrow; zavtrak = breakfast.

[64] One of the inferior members of the Russian clerical body, though not of the clergy. But in one of the variants of the story it is a "pope" or priest, who appears, and he immediately claims a share in the spoil. Whereupon the Simpleton makes use of his hatchet. Priests are often nicknamed goats by the Russian peasantry, perhaps on account of their long beards.

[65] Afanasief, ii. No. 8, v. No. 5. See also Khudyakof, No. 76. Cf. Grimm, No. 34, "Die kluge Else." Haltrich, No. 66. Asbjoernsen and Moe, No. 10. (Dasent No. 24, "Not a Pin to choose between them.")

[66] Afanasief, ii. No. 5. Written down by a crown-peasant in the government of Perm.

[67] Mizgir, a venomous spider, like the Tarantula, found in the Kirghiz Steppes.

[68] In another story bearing the same title (v. 39) the spider lies on its back awaiting its prey. Up comes "the honorable widow," the wasp, and falls straight into the trap. The spider beheads her. Then the gnats and flies assemble, perform a funeral service over her remains, and carry them off on their shoulders to the village of Komarovo (komar = gnat). For specimens of the Russian "Beast-Epos" the reader is referred (as I have stated in the preface) to Professor de Gubernatis's "Zoological Mythology."

[69] Afanasief, "Legendui," No. 31. Taken from Dahl's collection. Some remarks on the Russian "legends" are given in Chap. VI.

[70] Baruinya, the wife of a barin or seigneur.

[71] The chort of this legend is evidently akin to the devil himself, whom traditions frequently connect with blacksmiths; but his prototype, in the original form of this story, was doubtless a demigod or demon. His part is played by St. Nicholas in the legend of "The Priest with the Greedy Eyes," for which, and for further comment on the story, see Chap. VI.



Principal Incarnations of Evil.

The present chapter is devoted to specimens of those skazkas which most Russian critics assert to be distinctly mythical. The stories of this class are so numerous, that the task of selection has been by no means easy. But I have done my best to choose such examples as are most characteristic of that species of the "mythical" folk-tale which prevails in Russia, and to avoid, as far as possible, the repetition of narratives which have already been made familiar to the English reader by translations of German and Scandinavian stories.

There is a more marked individuality in the Russian tales of this kind, as compared with those of Western Europe, than is to be traced in the stories (especially those of a humorous cast) which relate to the events that chequer an ordinary existence. The actors in the comediettas of European peasant-life vary but little, either in title or in character, wherever the scene may be laid; just as in the European beast-epos the Fox, the Wolf, and the Bear play parts which change but slightly with the regions they inhabit. But the supernatural beings which people the fairy-land peculiar to each race, though closely resembling each other in many respects, differ conspicuously in others. They may, it is true, be nothing more than various developments of the same original type; they may be traceable to germs common to the prehistoric ancestors of the now widely separated Aryan peoples; their peculiarities may simply be due to the accidents to which travellers from distant lands are liable. But at all events each family now has features of its own, typical characteristics by which it may be readily distinguished from its neighbors. My chief aim at present is to give an idea of those characteristics which lend individuality to the "mythical beings" in the Skazkas; in order to effect this, I shall attempt a delineation of those supernatural figures, to some extent peculiar to Slavonic fairy-land, which make their appearance in the Russian folk-tales. I have given a brief sketch of them elsewhere.[72] I now propose to deal with them more fully, quoting at length, instead of merely mentioning, some of the evidence on which the proof of their existence depends.

For the sake of convenience, we may select from the great mass of the mythical skazkas those which are supposed most manifestly to typify the conflict of opposing elements—whether of Good and Evil, or of Light and Darkness, or of Heat and Cold, or of any other pair of antagonistic forces or phenomena. The typical hero of this class of stories, who represents the cause of right, and who is resolved by mythologists into so many different essences, presents almost identically the same appearance in most of the countries wherein he has become naturalized. He is endowed with supernatural powers, but he remains a man, for all that. Whether as prince or peasant, he alters but very little in his wanderings among the Aryan races of Europe.

And a somewhat similar statement may be made about his feminine counterpart—for all the types of Fairy-land life are of an epicene nature, admitting of a feminine as well as a masculine development—the heroine who in the Skazkas, as well as in other folk-tales, braves the wrath of female demons in quest of means whereby to lighten the darkness of her home, or rescues her bewitched brothers from the thraldom of an enchantress, or liberates her captive husband from a dungeon's gloom.

But their antagonists—the dark or evil beings whom the hero attacks and eventually destroys, or whom the heroine overcomes by her virtues, her subtlety, or her skill—vary to a considerable extent with the region they occupy, or rather with the people in whose memories they dwell. The Giants by killing whom our own Jack gained his renown, the Norse Trolls, the Ogres of southern romance, the Drakos and Lamia of modern Greece, the Lithuanian Laume—these and all the other groups of monstrous forms under which the imagination of each race has embodied its ideas about (according to one hypothesis) the Powers of Darkness it feared, or (according to another) the Aborigines it detested, differ from each other to a considerable and easily recognizable extent. An excellent illustration of this statement is offered by the contrast between the Slavonic group of supernatural beings of this class and their equivalents in lands tenanted by non-Slavonic members of the Indo-European family. A family likeness will, of course, be traced between all these conceptions of popular fancy, but the gloomy figures with which the folk-tales of the Slavonians render us familiar may be distinguished at a glance among their kindred monsters of Latin, Hellenic, Teutonic, or Celtic extraction. Of those among the number to which the Russian skazkas relate I will now proceed to give a sketch, allowing the stories, so far as is possible, to speak for themselves.

If the powers of darkness in the "mythical" skazkas are divided into two groups—the one male, the other female—there stand out as the most prominent figures in the former set, the Snake (or some other illustration of "Zoological Mythology"), Koshchei the Deathless, and the Morskoi Tsar or King of the Waters. In the latter group the principal characters are the Baba Yaga, or Hag, her close connection the Witch, and the Female Snake. On the forms and natures of the less conspicuous characters to be found in either class we will not at present dwell. An opportunity for commenting on some of them will be afforded in another chapter.

To begin with the Snake. His outline, like that of the cloud with which he is so frequently associated, and which he is often supposed to typify, is seldom well-defined. Now in one form and now in another, he glides a shifting shape, of which it is difficult to obtain a satisfactory view. Sometimes he retains throughout the story an exclusively reptilian character; sometimes he is of a mixed nature, partly serpent and partly man. In one story we see him riding on horseback, with hawk on wrist (or raven on shoulder) and hound at heel; in another he figures as a composite being with a human body and a serpent's head; in a third he flies as a fiery snake into his mistress's bower, stamps with his foot on the ground, and becomes a youthful gallant. But in most cases he is a serpent which in outward appearance seems to differ from other ophidians only in being winged and polycephalous—the number of his heads generally varying from three to twelve.[73]

He is often known by the name of Zmei [snake] Goruinuich [son of the gora or mountain], and sometimes he is supposed to dwell in the mountain caverns. To his abode, whether in the bowels of the earth, or in the open light of day—whether it be a sumptuous palace or "an izba on fowl's legs," a hut upheld by slender supports on which it turns as on a pivot—he carries off his prey. In one story he appears to have stolen, or in some way concealed, the day-light; in another the bright moon and the many stars come forth from within him after his death. But as a general rule it is some queen or princess whom he tears away from her home, as Pluto carried off Proserpina, and who remains with him reluctantly, and hails as her rescuer the hero who comes to give him battle. Sometimes, however, the snake is represented as having a wife of his own species, and daughters who share their parent's tastes and powers. Such is the case in the (South-Russian) story of


Once upon a time there was an old couple, and they had three sons. Two of these had their wits about them, but the third was a simpleton, Ivan by name, surnamed Popyalof.

For twelve whole years Ivan lay among the ashes from the stove; but then he arose, and shook himself, so that six poods of ashes[75] fell off from him.

Now in the land in which Ivan lived there was never any day, but always night. That was a Snake's doing. Well, Ivan undertook to kill that Snake, so he said to his father, "Father, make me a mace five poods in weight." And when he had got the mace, he went out into the fields, and flung it straight up in the air, and then he went home. The next day he went out into the fields to the spot from which he had flung the mace on high, and stood there with his head thrown back. So when the mace fell down again it hit him on the forehead. And the mace broke in two.

Ivan went home and said to his father, "Father, make me another mace, a ten pood one." And when he had got it he went out into the fields, and flung it aloft. And the mace went flying through the air for three days and three nights. On the fourth day Ivan went out to the same spot, and when the mace came tumbling down, he put his knee in the way, and the mace broke over it into three pieces.

Ivan went home and told his father to make him a third mace, one of fifteen poods weight. And when he had got it, he went out into the fields and flung it aloft. And the mace was up in the air six days. On the seventh Ivan went to the same spot as before. Down fell the mace, and when it struck Ivan's forehead, the forehead bowed under it. Thereupon he said, "This mace will do for the Snake!"

So when he had got everything ready, he went forth with his brothers to fight the Snake. He rode and rode, and presently there stood before him a hut on fowl's legs,[76] and in that hut lived the Snake. There all the party came to a standstill. Then Ivan hung up his gloves, and said to his brothers, "Should blood drop from my gloves, make haste to help me." When he had said this he went into the hut and sat down under the boarding.[77]

Presently there rode up a Snake with three heads. His steed stumbled, his hound howled, his falcon clamored.[78] Then cried the Snake:

"Wherefore hast thou stumbled, O Steed! hast thou howled, O Hound! hast thou clamored, O Falcon?"

"How can I but stumble," replied the Steed, "when under the boarding sits Ivan Popyalof?"

Then said the Snake, "Come forth, Ivanushka! Let us try our strength together." Ivan came forth, and they began to fight. And Ivan killed the Snake, and then sat down again beneath the boarding.

Presently there came another Snake, a six-headed one, and him, too, Ivan killed. And then there came a third, which had twelve heads. Well, Ivan began to fight with him, and lopped off nine of his heads. The Snake had no strength left in him. Just then a raven came flying by, and it croaked:

"Krof? Krof!"[79]

Then the Snake cried to the Raven, "Fly, and tell my wife to come and devour Ivan Popyalof."

But Ivan cried: "Fly, and tell my brothers to come, and then we will kill this Snake, and give his flesh to thee."

And the Raven gave ear to what Ivan said, and flew to his brothers and began to croak above their heads. The brothers awoke, and when they heard the cry of the Raven, they hastened to their brother's aid. And they killed the Snake, and then, having taken his heads, they went into his hut and destroyed them. And immediately there was bright light throughout the whole land.

After killing the Snake, Ivan Popyalof and his brothers set off on their way home. But he had forgotten to take away his gloves, so he went back to fetch them, telling his brothers to wait for him meanwhile. Now when he had reached the hut and was going to take away his gloves, he heard the voices of the Snake's wife and daughters, who were talking with each other. So he turned himself into a cat, and began to mew outside the door. They let him in, and he listened to everything they said. Then he got his gloves and hastened away.

As soon as he came to where his brothers were, he mounted his horse, and they all started afresh. They rode and rode; presently they saw before them a green meadow, and on that meadow lay silken cushions. Then the elder brothers said, "Let's turn out our horses to graze here, while we rest ourselves a little."

But Ivan said, "Wait a minute, brothers!" and he seized his mace, and struck the cushions with it. And out of those cushions there streamed blood.

So they all went on further. They rode and rode; presently there stood before them an apple-tree, and upon it were gold and silver apples. Then the elder brothers said, "Let's eat an apple apiece." But Ivan said, "Wait a minute, brothers; I'll try them first," and he took his mace, and struck the apple-tree with it. And out of the tree streamed blood.

So they went on further. They rode and rode, and by and by they saw a spring in front of them. And the elder brothers cried, "Let's have a drink of water." But Ivan Popyalof cried: "Stop, brothers!" and he raised his mace and struck the spring, and its waters became blood.

For the meadow, the silken cushions, the apple-tree, and the spring, were all of them daughters of the Snake.

After killing the Snake's daughters, Ivan and his brothers went on homewards. Presently came the Snake's Wife flying after them, and she opened her jaws from the sky to the earth, and tried to swallow up Ivan. But Ivan and his brothers threw three poods of salt into her mouth. She swallowed the salt, thinking it was Ivan Popyalof, but afterwards—when she had tasted the salt, and found out it was not Ivan—she flew after him again.

Then he perceived that danger was at hand, and so he let his horse go free, and hid himself behind twelve doors in the forge of Kuzma and Demian. The Snake's Wife came flying up, and said to Kuzma and Demian, "Give me up Ivan Popyalof." But they replied:

"Send your tongue through the twelve doors and take him." So the Snake's Wife began licking the doors. But meanwhile they all heated iron pincers, and as soon as she had sent her tongue through into the smithy, they caught tight hold of her by the tongue, and began thumping her with hammers. And when the Snake's Wife was dead they consumed her with fire, and scattered her ashes to the winds. And then they went home, and there they lived and enjoyed themselves, feasting and revelling, and drinking mead and wine.

I was there, too, and had liquor to drink; it didn't go into my mouth, but only ran down my beard.[80]

The skazka of Ivan Buikovich (Bull's son)[81] contains a variant of part of this story, but the dragon which the Slavonic St. George kills is called, not a snake, but a Chudo-Yudo.[82] Ivan watches one night while his brothers sleep. Presently up rides "a six-headed Chudo-Yudo" which he easily kills. The next night he slays, but with more difficulty, a nine-headed specimen of the same family. On the third night appears "a twelve-headed Chudo-Yudo," mounted on a horse "with twelve wings, its coat of silver, its mane and tail of gold." Ivan lops off three of the monster's heads, but they, like those of the Lernaean Hydra, become re-attached to their necks at the touch of their owner's "fiery finger." Ivan, whom his foe has driven into the ground up to his knees, hurls one of his gloves at the hut in which his brothers are sleeping. It smashes the windows, but the sleepers slumber on and take no heed. Presently Ivan smites off six of his antagonist's heads, but they grow again as before.[83] Half buried in the ground by the monster's strength, Ivan hurls his other glove at the hut, piercing its roof this time. But still his brothers slumber on. At last, after fruitlessly shearing off nine of the Chudo-Yudo's heads, and finding himself embedded in the ground up to his armpits, Ivan flings his cap at the hut. The hut reels under the blow and its beams fall asunder; his brothers awake, and hasten to his aid, and the Chudo-Yudo is destroyed. The "Chudo-Yudo wives" as the widows of the three monsters are called, then proceed to play the parts attributed in "Ivan Popyalof" to the Snake's daughters.

"I will become an apple-tree with golden and silver apples," says the first; "whoever plucks an apple will immediately burst." Says the second, "I will become a spring—on the water will float two cups, the one golden, the other of silver; whoever touches one of the cups, him will I drown." And the third says, "I will become a golden bed; whoever lies down upon that bed will be consumed with fire." Ivan, in a sparrow's form, overhears all this, and acts as in the preceding story. The three widows die, but their mother, "an old witch," determines on revenge. Under the form of a beggar-woman she asks alms from the retreating brothers. Ivan tenders her a ducat. She seizes, not the ducat, but his outstretched hand, and in a moment whisks him off underground to her husband, an Aged One, whose appearance is that of the mythical being whom the Servians call the Vy. He "lies on an iron couch, and sees nothing; his long eyelashes and thick eyebrows completely hide his eyes," but he sends for "twelve mighty heroes," and orders them to take iron forks and lift up the hair about his eyes, and then he gazes at the destroyer of his family. The glance of the Servian Vy is supposed to be as deadly as that of a basilisk, but the patriarch of the Russian story does not injure his captive. He merely sends him on an errand which leads to a fresh set of adventures, of which we need not now take notice.

In a third variant of the story,[84] they are snakes which are killed by the hero, Ivan Koshkin (Cat's son), and it is a Baba Yaga, or Hag, who undertakes to revenge their deaths and those of their wives, her daughters. Accordingly she pursues the three brothers, and succeeds in swallowing two of them. The third, Ivan Koshkin, takes refuge in a smithy, and, as before, the monster's tongue is seized, and she is beaten with hammers until she disgorges her prey, none the worse for their temporary imprisonment.

We have seen, in the story about the Chudo-Yudo, that the place usually occupied by the Snake is at times filled by some other magical being. This frequently occurs in that class of stories which relates how three brothers set out to apprehend a trespasser, or to seek a mother or sister who has been mysteriously spirited away. They usually come either to an opening which leads into the underground world, or to the base of an apparently inaccessible hill. The youngest brother descends or ascends as the case may be, and after a series of adventures which generally lead him through the kingdoms of copper, of silver, and of gold, returns in triumph to where his brothers are awaiting him. And he is almost invariably deserted by them, as soon as they have secured the beautiful princesses who accompany him—as may be read in the following (South-Russian) history of—


Once upon a time there lived a king and queen. They had three sons, two of them with their wits about them, but the third a simpleton. Now the King had a deer-park in which were quantities of wild animals of different kinds. Into that park there used to come a huge beast—Norka was its name—and do fearful mischief, devouring some of the animals every night. The King did all he could, but he was unable to destroy it. So at last he called his sons together and said: "Whoever will destroy the Norka, to him will I give the half of my kingdom."

Well, the eldest son undertook the task. As soon as it was night, he took his weapons and set out. But before he reached the park, he went into a traktir (or tavern), and there he spent the whole night in revelry. When he came to his senses it was too late; the day had already dawned. He felt himself disgraced in the eyes of his father, but there was no help for it. The next day the second son went, and did just the same. Their father scolded them both soundly, and there was an end of it.

Well, on the third day the youngest son undertook the task. They all laughed him to scorn, because he was so stupid, feeling sure he wouldn't do anything. But he took his arms, and went straight into the park, and sat down on the grass in such a position that, the moment he went asleep, his weapons would prick him, and he would awake.

Presently the midnight hour sounded. The earth began to shake, and the Norka came rushing up, and burst right through the fence into the park, so huge was it. The Prince pulled himself together, leapt to his feet, crossed himself, and went straight at the beast. It fled back, and the Prince ran after it. But he soon saw that he couldn't catch it on foot, so he hastened to the stable, laid his hands on the best horse there, and set off in pursuit. Presently he came up with the beast, and they began a fight. They fought and fought; the Prince gave the beast three wounds. At last they were both utterly exhausted, so they lay down to take a short rest. But the moment the Prince closed his eyes, up jumped the Beast and took to flight. The Prince's horse awoke him; up he jumped in a moment, and set off again in pursuit, caught up the Beast, and again began fighting with it. Again the Prince gave the Beast three wounds, and then he and the Beast lay down again to rest. Thereupon away fled the Beast as before. The Prince caught it up, and again gave it three wounds. But all of a sudden, just as the Prince began chasing it for the fourth time, the Beast fled to a great white stone, tilted it up, and escaped into the other world,[86] crying out to the Prince: "Then only will you overcome me, when you enter here."

The Prince went home, told his father all that had happened, and asked him to have a leather rope plaited, long enough to reach to the other world. His father ordered this to be done. When the rope was made, the Prince called for his brothers, and he and they, having taken servants with them, and everything that was needed for a whole year, set out for the place where the Beast had disappeared under the stone. When they got there, they built a palace on the spot, and lived in it for some time. But when everything was ready, the youngest brother said to the others: "Now, brothers, who is going to lift this stone?"

Neither of them could so much as stir it, but as soon as he touched it, away it flew to a distance, though it was ever so big—big as a hill. And when he had flung the stone aside, he spoke a second time to his brothers, saying:

"Who is going into the other world, to overcome the Norka?"

Neither of them offered to do so. Then he laughed at them for being such cowards, and said:

"Well, brothers, farewell! Lower me into the other world, and don't go away from here, but as soon as the cord is jerked, pull it up."

His brothers lowered him accordingly, and when he had reached the other world, underneath the earth, he went on his way. He walked and walked. Presently he espied a horse with rich trappings, and it said to him:

"Hail, Prince Ivan! Long have I awaited thee!"

He mounted the horse and rode on—rode and rode, until he saw standing before him, a palace made of copper. He entered the courtyard, tied up his horse, and went indoors. In one of the rooms a dinner was laid out. He sat down and dined, and then went into a bedroom. There he found a bed, on which he lay down to rest. Presently there came in a lady, more beautiful than can be imagined anywhere but in a skazka, who said:

"Thou who art in my house, name thyself! If thou art an old man, thou shall be my father; if a middle-aged man, my brother; but if a young man, thou shalt be my husband dear. And if thou art a woman, and an old one, thou shalt be my grandmother; if middle-aged, my mother; and if a girl, thou shalt be my own sister."[87]

Thereupon he came forth. And when she saw him, she was delighted with him, and said:

"Wherefore, O Prince Ivan—my husband dear shalt thou be!—wherefore hast thou come hither?"

Then he told her all that had happened, and she said:

"That beast which thou wishest to overcome is my brother. He is staying just now with my second sister, who lives not far from here in a silver palace. I bound up three of the wounds which thou didst give him."

Well, after this they drank, and enjoyed themselves, and held sweet converse together, and then the prince took leave of her, and went on to the second sister, the one who lived in the silver palace, and with her also he stayed awhile. She told him that her brother Norka was then at her youngest sister's. So he went on to the youngest sister, who lived in a golden palace. She told him that her brother was at that time asleep on the blue sea, and she gave him a sword of steel and a draught of the Water of Strength, and she told him to cut off her brother's head at a single stroke. And when he had heard these things, he went his way.

And when the Prince came to the blue sea, he looked—there slept Norka on a stone in the middle of the sea; and when it snored, the water was agitated for seven versts around. The Prince crossed himself, went up to it and smote it on the head with his sword. The head jumped off, saying the while, "Well, I'm done for now!" and rolled far away into the sea.

After killing the Beast, the Prince went back again, picking up all the three sisters by the way, with the intention of taking them out into the upper world: for they all loved him and would not be separated from him. Each of them turned her palace into an egg—for they were all enchantresses—and they taught him how to turn the eggs into palaces, and back again, and they handed over the eggs to him. And then they all went to the place from which they had to be hoisted into the upper world. And when they came to where the rope was, the Prince took hold of it and made the maidens fast to it.[88] Then he jerked away at the rope, and his brothers began to haul it up. And when they had hauled it up, and had set eyes on the wondrous maidens, they went aside and said: "Let's lower the rope, pull our brother part of the way up, and then cut the rope. Perhaps he'll be killed; but then if he isn't, he'll never give us these beauties as wives."

So when they had agreed on this, they lowered the rope. But their brother was no fool; he guessed what they were at, so he fastened the rope to a stone, and then gave it a pull. His brothers hoisted the stone to a great height, and then cut the rope. Down fell the stone and broke in pieces; the Prince poured forth tears and went away. Well, he walked and walked. Presently a storm arose; the lightning flashed, the thunder roared, the rain fell in torrents. He went up to a tree in order to take shelter under it, and on that tree he saw some young birds which were being thoroughly drenched. So he took off his coat and covered them over with it, and he himself sat down under the tree. Presently there came flying a bird—such a big one, that the light was blotted out by it. It had been dark there before, but now it became darker still. Now this was the mother of those small birds which the Prince had covered up. And when the bird had come flying up, she perceived that her little ones were covered over, and she said, "Who has wrapped up my nestlings?" and presently, seeing the Prince, she added: "Didst thou do that? Thanks! In return, ask of me any thing thou desirest. I will do anything for thee."

"Then carry me into the other world," he replied.

"Make me a large zasyek[89] with a partition in the middle," she said; "catch all sorts of game, and put them into one half of it, and into the other half pour water; so that there may be meat and drink for me."

All this the Prince did. Then the bird—having taken the zasyek on her back, with the Prince sitting in the middle of it—began to fly. And after flying some distance she brought him to his journey's end, took leave of him, and flew away back. But he went to the house of a certain tailor, and engaged himself as his servant. So much the worse for wear was he, so thoroughly had he altered in appearance, that nobody would have suspected him of being a Prince.

Having entered into the service of this master, the Prince began to ask what was going on in that country. And his master replied: "Our two princes—for the third one has disappeared—have brought away brides from the other world, and want to marry them, but those brides refuse. For they insist on having all their wedding-clothes made for them first, exactly like those which they used to have in the other world, and that without being measured for them. The King has called all the workmen together, but not one of them will undertake to do it."

The Prince, having heard all this, said, "Go to the King, master, and tell him that you will provide everything that's in your line."

"However can I undertake to make clothes of that sort; I work for quite common folks," says his master.

"Go along, master! I will answer for everything," says the Prince.

So the tailor went. The King was delighted that at least one good workman had been found, and gave him as much money as ever he wanted. When the tailor had settled everything, he went home. And the Prince said to him:

"Now then, pray to God, and lie down to sleep; to-morrow all will be ready." And the tailor followed his lad's advice, and went to bed.

Midnight sounded. The Prince arose, went out of the city into the fields, took out of his pocket the eggs which the maidens had given him, and, as they had taught him, turned them into three palaces. Into each of these he entered, took the maidens' robes, went out again, turned the palaces back into eggs, and went home. And when he got there he hung up the robes on the wall, and lay down to sleep.

Early in the morning his master awoke, and behold! there hung such robes as he had never seen before, all shining with gold and silver and precious stones. He was delighted, and he seized them and carried them off to the King. When the princesses saw that the clothes were those which had been theirs in the other world, they guessed that Prince Ivan was in this world, so they exchanged glances with each other, but they held their peace. And the master, having handed over the clothes, went home, but he no longer found his dear journeyman there. For the Prince had gone to a shoemaker's, and him too he sent to work for the King; and in the same way he went the round of all the artificers, and they all proffered him thanks, inasmuch as through him they were enriched by the King.

By the time the princely workman had gone the round of all the artificers, the princesses had received what they had asked for; all their clothes were just like what they had been in the other world. Then they wept bitterly because the Prince had not come, and it was impossible for them to hold out any longer, it was necessary that they should be married. But when they were ready for the wedding, the youngest bride said to the King:

"Allow me, my father, to go and give alms to the beggars."

He gave her leave, and she went and began bestowing alms upon them, and examining them closely. And when she had come to one of them, and was going to give him some money, she caught sight of the ring which she had given to the Prince in the other world, and her sisters' rings too—for it really was he. So she seized him by the hand, and brought him into the hall, and said to the King:

"Here is he who brought us out of the other world. His brothers forbade us to say that he was alive, threatening to slay us if we did."

Then the King was wroth with those sons, and punished them as he thought best. And afterwards three weddings were celebrated.

[The conclusion of this story is somewhat obscure. Most of the variants represent the Prince as forgiving his brothers, and allowing them to marry two of the three princesses, but the present version appears to keep closer to its original, in which the prince doubtless married all three. With this story may be compared: Grimm, No. 166, "Der starke Hans," and No. 91, "Dat Erdmaenneken." See also vol. iii. p. 165, where a reference is given to the Hungarian story in Gaal, No. 5—Dasent, No. 55, "The Big Bird Dan," and No. 56, "Soria Moria Castle" (Asbjoernsen and Moe, Nos. 3 and 2. A somewhat similar story, only the palaces are in the air, occurs in Asbjoernsen's "Ny Samling," No. 72)—Campbell's "Tales of the West Highlands," No. 58—Schleicher's "Litauische Maerchen," No. 38—The Polish story, Wojcicki, Book iii. No. 6, in which Norka is replaced by a witch who breaks the windows of a church, and is wounded, in falcon-shape, by the youngest brother—Hahn, No. 70, in which a Drakos, as a cloud, steals golden apples, a story closely resembling the Russian skazka. See also No. 26, very similar to which is the Servian Story in "Vuk Karajich," No. 2—and a very interesting Tuscan story printed for the first time by A. de Gubernatis, "Zoological Mythology," vol. ii. p. 187. See also ibid. p. 391.

But still more important than these are the parallels offered by Indian fiction. Take, for instance, the story of Sringabhuja, in chap. xxxix. of book vii. of the "Kathasaritsagara." In it the elder sons of a certain king wish to get rid of their younger half-brother. One day a Rakshasa appears in the form of a gigantic crane. The other princes shoot at it in vain, but the youngest wounds it, and then sets off in pursuit of it, and of the valuable arrow which is fixed in it. After long wandering he comes to a castle in a forest. There he finds a maiden who tells him she is the daughter of the Rakshasa whom, in the form of a crane, he has wounded. She at once takes his part against her demon father, and eventually flies with him to his own country. The perils which the fugitives have to encounter will be mentioned in the remarks on Skazka XIX. See Professor Brockhaus's summary of the story in the "Berichte der phil. hist. Classe der K. Saechs. Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften," 1861, pp. 223-6. Also Professor Wilson's version in his "Essays on Sanskrit Literature," vol. ii. pp. 134-5.

In two other stories in the same collection the hero gives chase to a boar of gigantic size. It takes refuge in a cavern into which he follows it. Presently he finds himself in a different world, wherein he meets a beauteous maiden who explains everything to him. In the first of these two stories the lady is the daughter of a Rakshasa, who is invulnerable except in the palm of the left hand, for which reason, our hero, Chandasena has been unable to wound him when in his boar disguise. She instructs Chandasena how to kill her father, who accordingly falls a victim to a well-aimed shaft. (Brockhaus's "Maehrchensammlung des Somadeva Bhatta," 1843, vol. i. pp. 110-13). In the other story, the lady turns out to be a princess whom "a demon with fiery eyes" had carried off and imprisoned. She tells the hero, Saktideva, that the demon has just died from a wound inflicted upon him, while transformed into a boar, by a bold archer. Saktideva informs her that he is that archer. Whereupon she immediately requests him to marry her (ibid. vol. ii. p. 175). In both stories the boar is described as committing great ravages in the upper world until the hero attacks it.]

The Adventures of a prince, the youngest of three brothers, who has been lowered into the underground world or who has ascended into an enchanted upper realm, form the theme of numerous skazkas, several of which are variants of the story of Norka. The prince's elder brothers almost always attempt to kill him, when he is about to ascend from the gulf or descend from the steeps which separate him from them. In one instance, the following excuse is offered for their conduct. The hero has killed a Snake in the underground world, and is carrying its head on a lance, when his brothers begin to hoist him up. "His brothers were frightened at the sight of that head and thinking the Snake itself was coming, they let Ivan fall back into the pit."[90] But this apology for their behavior seems to be due to the story-teller's imagination. In some instances their unfraternal conduct may be explained in the following manner. In oriental tales the hero is often the son of a king's youngest wife, and he is not unnaturally hated by his half-brothers, the sons of an older queen, whom the hero's mother has supplanted in their royal father's affections. Accordingly they do their best to get rid of him. Thus, in one of the Indian stories which correspond to that of Norka, the hero's success at court "excited the envy and jealousy of his brothers [doubtless half-brothers], and they were not satisfied until they had devised a plan to effect his removal, and, as they hoped, accomplish his destruction."[91] We know also that "Israel loved Joseph more than all his children," because he was the son "of his old age," and the result was that "when his brethren [who were only his half-brothers] saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him."[92] When such tales as these came west in Christian times, their references to polygamy were constantly suppressed, and their distinctions between brothers and half-brothers disappeared. In the same way the elder and jealous wife, who had behaved with cruelty in the original stories to the offspring of her rival, often became turned, under Christian influences, into a stepmother who hated her husband's children by a previous marriage.

There may, however, be a mythological explanation of the behavior of the two elder brothers. Professor de Gubernatis is of opinion that "in the Vedic hymns, Tritas, the third brother, and the ablest as well as best, is persecuted by his brothers," who, "in a fit of jealousy, on account of his wife, the aurora, and the riches she brings with her from the realm of darkness, the cistern or well [into which he has been lowered], detain their brother in the well,"[93] and he compares this form of the myth with that which it assumes in the following Hindoo tradition. "Three brothers, Ekata (i.e. the first), Dwita (i.e. the second) and Trita (i.e. the third) were travelling in a desert, and being distressed with thirst, came to a well, from which the youngest, Trita, drew water and gave it to his brothers; in requital, they drew him into the well, in order to appropriate his property and having covered the top with a cart-wheel, left him in the well. In this extremity he prayed to the gods to extricate him, and by their favor he made his escape."[94] This myth may, perhaps, be the germ from which have sprung the numerous folk-tales about the desertion of a younger brother in some pit or chasm, into which his brothers have lowered him.[95]

It may seem more difficult to account for the willingness of Norka's three sisters to aid in his destruction—unless, indeed, the whole story be considered to be mythological, as its Indian equivalents undoubtedly are. But in many versions of the same tale the difficulty does not arise. The princesses of the copper, silver, and golden realms, are usually represented as united by no ties of consanguinity with the snake or other monster whom the hero comes to kill. In the story of "Usuinya,"[96] for instance, there appears to be no relationship between these fair maidens and the "Usuinya-Bird," which steals the golden apples from a monarch's garden and is killed by his youngest son Ivan. That monster is not so much a bird as a flying dragon. "This Usuinya-bird is a twelve-headed snake," says one of the fair maidens. And presently it arrives—its wings stretching afar, while along the ground trail its moustaches [usui, whence its name]. In a variant of the same story in another collection,[97] the part of Norka is played by a white wolf. In that of Ivan Suchenko[98] it is divided among three snakes who have stolen as many princesses. For the snake is much given to abduction, especially when he appears under the terrible form of "Koshchei, the Deathless."

Koshchei is merely one of the many incarnations of the dark spirit which takes so many monstrous shapes in the folk-tales of the class with which we are now dealing. Sometimes he is described as altogether serpent-like in form; sometimes he seems to be of a mixed nature, partly human and partly ophidian, but in some of the stories he is apparently framed after the fashion of a man. His name is by some mythologists derived from kost', a bone whence comes a verb signifying to become ossified, petrified, or frozen; either because he is bony of limb, or because he produces an effect akin to freezing or petrifaction.[99]

He is called "Immortal" or "The Deathless,"[100] because of his superiority to the ordinary laws of existence. Sometimes, like Baldur, he cannot be killed except by one substance; sometimes his "death"—that is, the object with which his life is indissolubly connected—does not exist within his body. Like the vital centre of "the giant who had no heart in his body" in the well-known Norse tale, it is something extraneous to the being whom it affects, and until it is destroyed he may set all ordinary means of annihilation at defiance. But this is not always the case, as may be learnt from one of the best of the skazkas in which he plays a leading part, the history of—


In a certain kingdom there lived a Prince Ivan. He had three sisters. The first was the Princess Marya, the second the Princess Olga, the third the Princess Anna. When their father and mother lay at the point of death, they had thus enjoined their son:—"Give your sisters in marriage to the very first suitors who come to woo them. Don't go keeping them by you!"

They died and the Prince buried them, and then, to solace his grief, he went with his sisters into the garden green to stroll. Suddenly the sky was covered by a black cloud; a terrible storm arose.

"Let us go home, sisters!" he cried.

Hardly had they got into the palace, when the thunder pealed, the ceiling split open, and into the room where they were, came flying a falcon bright. The Falcon smote upon the ground, became a brave youth, and said:

"Hail, Prince Ivan! Before I came as a guest, but now I have come as a wooer! I wish to propose for your sister, the Princess Marya."

"If you find favor in the eyes of my sister, I will not interfere with her wishes. Let her marry you in God's name!"

The Princess Marya gave her consent; the Falcon married her and bore her away into his own realm.

Days follow days, hours chase hours; a whole year goes by. One day Prince Ivan and his two sisters went out to stroll in the garden green. Again there arose a stormcloud with whirlwind and lightning.

"Let us go home, sisters!" cried the Prince. Scarcely had they entered the palace, when the thunder crashed, the roof burst into a blaze, the ceiling split in twain, and in flew an eagle. The Eagle smote upon the ground and became a brave youth.

"Hail, Prince Ivan! Before I came as a guest, but now I have come as a wooer!"

And he asked for the hand of the Princess Olga. Prince Ivan replied:

"If you find favor in the eyes of the Princess Olga, then let her marry you. I will not interfere with her liberty of choice."

The Princess Olga gave her consent and married the Eagle. The Eagle took her and carried her off to his own kingdom.

Another year went by. Prince Ivan said to his youngest sister:

"Let us go out and stroll in the garden green!"

They strolled about for a time. Again there arose a stormcloud, with whirlwind and lightning.

"Let us return home, sister!" said he.

They returned home, but they hadn't had time to sit down when the thunder[102] crashed, the ceiling split open, and in flew a raven. The Raven smote upon the floor and became a brave youth. The former youths had been handsome, but this one was handsomer still.

"Well, Prince Ivan! Before I came as a guest, but now I have come as a wooer. Give me the Princess Anna to wife."

"I won't interfere with my sister's freedom. If you gain her affections, let her marry you."

So the Princess Anna married the Raven, and he bore her away to his own realm. Prince Ivan was left alone. A whole year he lived without his sisters; then he grew weary, and said:—

"I will set out in search of my sisters."

He got ready for the journey, he rode and rode, and one day he saw a whole army lying dead on the plain. He cried aloud, "If there be a living man there, let him make answer! who has slain this mighty host?"

There replied unto him a living man:

"All this mighty host has been slain by the fair Princess Marya Morevna."

Prince Ivan rode further on, and came to a white tent, and forth came to meet him the fair Princess Marya Morevna.

"Hail Prince!" says she, "whither does God send you? and is it of your free will or against your will?"

Prince Ivan replied, "Not against their will do brave youths ride!"

"Well, if your business be not pressing, tarry awhile in my tent."

Thereat was Prince Ivan glad. He spent two nights in the tent, and he found favor in the eyes of Marya Morevna, and she married him. The fair Princess, Marya Morevna, carried him off into her own realm.

They spent some time together, and then the Princess took it into her head to go a warring. So she handed over all the housekeeping affairs to Prince Ivan, and gave him these instructions:

"Go about everywhere, keep watch over everything, only do not venture to look into that closet there."

He couldn't help doing so. The moment Marya Morevna had gone he rushed to the closet, pulled open the door, and looked in—there hung Koshchei the Deathless, fettered by twelve chains. Then Koshchei entreated Prince Ivan, saying,—

"Have pity upon me and give me to drink! Ten years long have I been here in torment, neither eating or drinking; my throat is utterly dried up."

The Prince gave him a bucketful of water; he drank it up and asked for more, saying:

"A single bucket of water will not quench my thirst; give me more!"

The Prince gave him a second bucketful. Koshchei drank it up and asked for a third, and when he had swallowed the third bucketful, he regained his former strength, gave his chains a shake, and broke all twelve at once.

"Thanks, Prince Ivan!" cried Koshchei the deathless, "now you will sooner see your own ears than Marya Morevna!" and out of the window he flew in the shape of a terrible whirlwind. And he came up with the fair Princess Marya Morevna as she was going her way, laid hold of her, and carried her off home with him. But Prince Ivan wept full sore, and he arrayed himself and set out a wandering, saying to himself: "Whatever happens, I will go and look for Marya Morevna!"

One day passed, another day passed: at the dawn of the third day he saw a wondrous palace, and by the side of the palace stood an oak, and on the oak sat a falcon bright. Down flew the Falcon from the oak, smote upon the ground, turned into a brave youth and cried aloud:

"Ha, dear brother-in-law! how deals the Lord with you?"

Out came running the Princess Marya, joyfully greeted her brother Ivan, and began enquiring after his health, and telling him all about herself. The Prince spent three days with them, then he said:

"I cannot abide with you; I must go in search of my wife the fair Princess Marya Morevna."

"Hard will it be for you to find her," answered the Falcon. "At all events leave with us your silver spoon. We will look at it and remember you." So Prince Ivan left his silver spoon at the Falcon's, and went on his way again.

On he went one day, on he went another day, and by the dawn of the third day he saw a palace still grander than the former one, and hard by the palace stood an oak, and on the oak sat an eagle. Down flew the eagle from the oak, smote upon the ground, turned into a brave youth, and cried aloud:

"Rise up, Princess Olga! Hither comes our brother dear!"

The Princess Olga immediately ran to meet him, and began kissing him and embracing him, asking after his health and telling him all about herself. With them Prince Ivan stopped three days; then he said:

"I cannot stay here any longer. I am going to look for my wife, the fair Princess Marya Morevna."

"Hard will it be for you to find her," replied the Eagle, "Leave with us a silver fork. We will look at it and remember you."

He left a silver fork behind, and went his way. He travelled one day, he travelled two days; at daybreak on the third day he saw a palace grander than the first two, and near the palace stood an oak, and on the oak sat a raven. Down flew the Raven from the oak, smote upon the ground, turned into a brave youth, and cried aloud:

"Princess Anna, come forth quickly! our brother is coming!"

Out ran the Princess Anna, greeted him joyfully, and began kissing and embracing him, asking after his health and telling him all about herself. Prince Ivan stayed with them three days; then he said:

"Farewell! I am going to look for my wife, the fair Princess Marya Morevna."

"Hard will it be for you to find her," replied the Raven, "Anyhow, leave your silver snuff-box with us. We will look at it and remember you."

The Prince handed over his silver snuff-box, took his leave and went his way. One day he went, another day he went, and on the third day he came to where Marya Morevna was. She caught sight of her love, flung her arms around his neck, burst into tears, and exclaimed:

"Oh, Prince Ivan! why did you disobey me, and go looking into the closet and letting out Koshchei the Deathless?"

"Forgive me, Marya Morevna! Remember not the past; much better fly with me while Koshchei the Deathless is out of sight. Perhaps he won't catch us."

So they got ready and fled. Now Koshchei was out hunting. Towards evening he was returning home, when his good steed stumbled beneath him.

"Why stumblest thou, sorry jade? scentest thou some ill?"

The steed replied:

"Prince Ivan has come and carried off Marya Morevna."

"Is it possible to catch them?"

"It is possible to sow wheat, to wait till it grows up, to reap it and thresh it, to grind it to flour, to make five pies of it, to eat those pies, and then to start in pursuit—and even then to be in time."

Koshchei galloped off and caught up Prince Ivan.

"Now," says he, "this time I will forgive you, in return for your kindness in giving me water to drink. And a second time I will forgive you; but the third time beware! I will cut you to bits."

Then he took Marya Morevna from him, and carried her off. But Prince Ivan sat down on a stone and burst into tears. He wept and wept—and then returned back again to Marya Morevna. Now Koshchei the Deathless happened not to be at home.

"Let us fly, Marya Morevna!"

"Ah, Prince Ivan! he will catch us."

"Suppose he does catch us. At all events we shall have spent an hour or two together."

So they got ready and fled. As Koshchei the Deathless was returning home, his good steed stumbled beneath him.

"Why stumblest thou, sorry jade? scentest thou some ill?"

"Prince Ivan has come and carried off Marya Morevna."

"Is it possible to catch them?"

"It is possible to sow barley, to wait till it grows up, to reap it and thresh it, to brew beer, to drink ourselves drunk on it, to sleep our fill, and then to set off in pursuit—and yet to be in time."

Koshchei galloped off, caught up Prince Ivan:

"Didn't I tell you that you should not see Marya Morevna any more than your own ears?"

And he took her away and carried her off home with him.

Prince Ivan was left there alone. He wept and wept; then he went back again after Marya Morevna. Koshchei happened to be away from home at that moment.

"Let us fly, Marya Morevna."

"Ah, Prince Ivan! He is sure to catch us and hew you in pieces."

"Let him hew away! I cannot live without you."

So they got ready and fled.

Koshchei the Deathless was returning home when his good steed stumbled beneath him.

"Why stumblest thou? scentest thou any ill?"

"Prince Ivan has come and has carried off Marya Morevna."

Koshchei galloped off, caught Prince Ivan, chopped him into little pieces, put them in a barrel, smeared it with pitch and bound it with iron hoops, and flung it into the blue sea. But Marya Morevna he carried off home.

At that very time, the silver turned black which Prince Ivan had left with his brothers-in-law.

"Ah!" said they, "the evil is accomplished sure enough!"

Then the Eagle hurried to the blue sea, caught hold of the barrel, and dragged it ashore; the Falcon flew away for the Water of Life, and the Raven for the Water of Death.

Afterwards they all three met, broke open the barrel, took out the remains of Prince Ivan, washed them, and put them together in fitting order. The Raven sprinkled them with the Water of Death—the pieces joined together, the body became whole. The Falcon sprinkled it with the Water of Life—Prince Ivan shuddered, stood up, and said:

"Ah! what a time I've been sleeping!"

"You'd have gone on sleeping a good deal longer, if it hadn't been for us," replied his brothers-in-law. "Now come and pay us a visit."

"Not so, brothers; I shall go and look for Marya Morevna."

And when he had found her, he said to her:

"Find out from Koshchei the Deathless whence he got so good a steed."

So Marya Morevna chose a favorable moment, and began asking Koshchei about it. Koshchei replied:

"Beyond thrice nine lands, in the thirtieth kingdom, on the other side of the fiery river, there lives a Baba Yaga. She has so good a mare that she flies right round the world on it every day. And she has many other splendid mares. I watched her herds for three days without losing a single mare, and in return for that the Baba Yaga gave me a foal."

"But how did you get across the fiery river?"

"Why, I've a handkerchief of this kind—when I wave it thrice on the right hand, there springs up a very lofty bridge and the fire cannot reach it."

Marya Morevna listened to all this, and repeated it to Prince Ivan, and she carried off the handkerchief and gave it to him. So he managed to get across the fiery river, and then went on to the Baba Yaga's. Long went he on without getting anything either to eat or to drink. At last he came across an outlandish[103] bird and its young ones. Says Prince Ivan:

"I'll eat one of these chickens."

"Don't eat it, Prince Ivan!" begs the outlandish bird; "some time or other I'll do you a good turn."

He went on farther and saw a hive of bees in the forest.

"I'll get a bit of honeycomb," says he.

"Don't disturb my honey, Prince Ivan!" exclaims the queen bee; "some time or other I'll do you a good turn."

So he didn't disturb it, but went on. Presently there met him a lioness with her cub.

"Anyhow I'll eat this lion cub," says he; "I'm so hungry, I feel quite unwell!"

"Please let us alone, Prince Ivan," begs the lioness; "some time or other I'll do you a good turn."

"Very well; have it your own way," says he.

Hungry and faint he wandered on, walked farther and farther and at last came to where stood the house of the Baba Yaga. Round the house were set twelve poles in a circle, and on each of eleven of these poles was stuck a human head, the twelfth alone remained unoccupied.

"Hail, granny!"

"Hail, Prince Ivan! wherefore have you come? Is it of your own accord, or on compulsion?"

"I have come to earn from you a heroic steed."

"So be it, Prince, you won't have to serve a year with me, but just three days. If you take good care of my mares, I'll give you a heroic steed. But if you don't—why then you mustn't be annoyed at finding your head stuck on top of the last pole up there."

Prince Ivan agreed to these terms. The Baba Yaga gave him food and drink, and bid him set about his business. But the moment he had driven the mares afield, they cocked up their tails, and away they tore across the meadows in all directions. Before the Prince had time to look round, they were all out of sight. Thereupon he began to weep and to disquiet himself, and then he sat down upon a stone and went to sleep. But when the sun was near its setting, the outlandish bird came flying up to him, and awakened him saying:—

"Arise, Prince Ivan! the mares are at home now."

The Prince arose and returned home. There the Baba Yaga was storming and raging at her mares, and shrieking:—

"Whatever did ye come home for?"

"How could we help coming home?" said they. "There came flying birds from every part of the world, and all but pecked our eyes out."

"Well, well! to-morrow don't go galloping over the meadows, but disperse amid the thick forests."

Prince Ivan slept all night. In the morning the Baba Yaga says to him:—

"Mind, Prince! if you don't take good care of the mares, if you lose merely one of them—your bold head will be stuck on that pole!"

He drove the mares afield. Immediately they cocked up their tails and dispersed among the thick forests. Again did the Prince sit down on the stone, weep and weep, and then go to sleep. The sun went down behind the forest. Up came running the lioness.

"Arise, Prince Ivan! The mares are all collected."

Prince Ivan arose and went home. More than ever did the Baba Yaga storm at her mares and shriek:—

"Whatever did ye come back home for?"

"How could we help coming back? Beasts of prey came running at us from all parts of the world, all but tore us utterly to pieces."

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