Russian Fairy Tales - A Choice Collection of Muscovite Folk-lore
by W. R. S. Ralston
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Well, at last Prince Ivan and his tutor arrived at the lofty palace in which lived the fair Princess. At that moment she happened to be out on the balcony, and when she saw the newcomers, she sent out to know whence they came and what they wanted. Prince Ivan replied—

"I have come from such-and-such a kingdom, and I wish to sue for the hand of the Princess Anna the Fair."

When she was informed of this, the Princess gave orders that the Prince should enter the palace, and there in the presence of all the princes and boyars of her council should propound his riddle.

"I've made this compact," she said. "Anyone whose riddle I cannot guess, him I must marry. But anyone whose riddle I can guess, him I may put to death."

"Listen to my riddle, fair princess!" said Prince Ivan. "As we came along, we saw Good lying on the road, and we took up the Good with Good, and placed it in our own Good."

Princess Anna the Fair took her magic-book, and began turning over its leaves and examining the answers of riddles. She went right through the book, but she didn't get at the meaning she wanted. Thereupon the princes and boyars of her council decided that the Princess must marry Prince Ivan. She wasn't at all pleased, but there was no help for it, and so she began to get ready for the wedding. Meanwhile she considered within herself how she could spin out the time and do away with the bridegroom, and she thought the best way would be to overwhelm him with tremendous tasks.

So she called Prince Ivan and said to him—

"My dear Prince Ivan, my destined husband! It is meet that we should prepare for the wedding; pray do me this small service. On such and such a spot of my kingdom there stands a lofty iron pillar. Carry it into the palace kitchen, and chop it into small chunks by way of fuel for the cook."

"Excuse me, Princess," replied the prince. "Was it to chop fuel that I came here? Is that the proper sort of employment for me? I have a servant for that kind of thing, Katoma dyadka, of the oaken shapka."

The Prince straightway called for his tutor, and ordered him to drag the iron pillar into the kitchen, and to chop it into small chunks by way of fuel for the cook. Katoma went to the spot indicated by the Princess, seized the pillar in his arms, brought it into the palace kitchen, and broke it into little pieces; but four of the iron chips he put into his pocket, saying—

"They'll prove useful by-and-by!"

Next day the princess says to Prince Ivan—

"My dear Prince, my destined husband! to-morrow we have to go to the wedding. I will drive in a carriage, but you should ride on a heroic steed, and it is necessary that you should break him in beforehand."

"I break a horse in myself! I keep a servant for that."

Prince Ivan called Katoma, and said—

"Go into the stable and tell the grooms to bring forth the heroic steed; sit upon him and break him in; to-morrow I've got to ride him to the wedding."

Katoma fathomed the subtle device of the Princess, but, without stopping long to talk, he went into the stable and told the grooms to bring forth the heroic steed. Twelve grooms were mustered, they unlocked twelve locks, opened twelve doors, and brought forth a magic horse bound in twelve chains of iron. Katoma went up to him. No sooner had he managed to seat himself than the magic horse leaped up from the ground and soared higher than the forest—higher than the standing forest, lower than the flitting cloud. Firm sat Katoma, with one hand grasping the mane; with the other he took from his pocket an iron chunk, and began taming the horse with it between the ears. When he had used up one chunk, he betook himself to another; when two were used up, he took to a third; when three were used up, the fourth came into play. And so grievously did he punish the heroic steed that it could not hold out any longer, but cried aloud with a human voice—

"Batyushka Katoma! don't utterly deprive me of life in the white world! Whatever you wish, that do you order: all shall be done according to your will!"

"Listen, O meat for dogs!" answered Katoma; "to-morrow Prince Ivan will ride you to the wedding. Now mind! when the grooms bring you out into the wide courtyard, and the Prince goes up to you and lays his hand on you, do you stand quietly, not moving so much as an ear. And when he is seated on your back, do you sink into the earth right up to your fetlocks, and then move under him with a heavy step, just as if an immeasurable weight had been laid upon your back."

The heroic steed listened to the order and sank to earth scarcely alive. Katoma seized him by the tail, and flung him close to the stable, crying—

"Ho there! coachmen and grooms; carry off this dog's-meat to its stall!"

The next day arrived; the time drew near for going to the wedding. The carriage was brought round for the Princess, and the heroic steed for Prince Ivan. The people were gathered together from all sides—a countless number. The bride and bridegroom came out from the white stone halls. The Princess got into the carriage and waited to see what would become of Prince Ivan; whether the magic horse would fling his curls to the wind, and scatter his bones across the open plain. Prince Ivan approached the horse, laid his hand upon its back, placed his foot in the stirrup—the horse stood just as if petrified, didn't so much as wag an ear! The Prince got on its back, the magic horse sank into the earth up to its fetlocks. The twelve chains were taken off the horse, it began to move with an even heavy pace, while the sweat poured off it just like hail.

"What a hero! What immeasurable strength!" cried the people as they gazed upon the Prince.

So the bride and bridegroom were married, and then they began to move out of the church, holding each other by the hand. The Princess took it into her head to make one more trial of Prince Ivan, so she squeezed his hand so hard that he could not bear the pain. His face became suffused with blood, his eyes disappeared beneath his brows.

"A fine sort of hero you are!" thought the Princess. "Your tutor has tricked me splendidly; but you sha'n't get off for nothing!"

Princess Anna the Fair lived for some time with Prince Ivan as a wife ought to live with a god-given[320] husband, flattered him in every way in words, but in reality never thought of anything except by what means she might get rid of Katoma. With the Prince, without the tutor, there'd be no difficulty in settling matters! she said to herself. But whatever slanders she might invent, Prince Ivan never would allow himself to be influenced by what she said, but always felt sorry for his tutor. At the end of a year he said to his wife one day—

"Beauteous Princess, my beloved spouse! I should like to go with you to my own kingdom."

"By all means," replied she, "let us go. I myself have long been wishing to see your kingdom."

Well they got ready and went off; Katoma was allotted the post of coachman. They drove and drove, and as they drove along Prince Ivan went to sleep. Suddenly the Princess Anna the Fair awoke him, uttering loud complaints—

"Listen, Prince, you're always sleeping, you hear nothing! But your tutor doesn't obey me a bit, drives the horses on purpose over hill and dale, just as if he wanted to put an end to us both. I tried speaking him fair, but he jeered at me. I won't go on living any longer if you don't punish him!"

Prince Ivan, 'twixt sleeping and waking, waxed very wroth with his tutor, and handed him over entirely to the Princess, saying—

"Deal with him as you please!"

The Princess ordered his feet to be cut off. Katoma submitted patiently to the outrage.

"Very good," he thinks; "I shall suffer, it's true; but the Prince also will know what to lead a wretched life is like!"

When both of Katoma's feet had been cut off, the Princess glanced around, and saw that a tall tree-stump stood on one side; so she called her servants and ordered them to set him on that stump. But as for Prince Ivan, she tied him to the carriage by a cord, turned the horses round, and drove back to her own kingdom. Katoma was left sitting on the stump, weeping bitter tears.

"Farewell, Prince Ivan!" he cries; "you won't forget me!"

Meanwhile Prince Ivan was running and bounding behind the carriage. He knew well enough by this time what a blunder he had made, but there was no turning back for him. When the Princess Anna the Fair arrived in her kingdom, she set Prince Ivan to take care of the cows. Every day he went afield with the herd at early morn, and in the evening he drove them back to the royal yard. At that hour the Princess was always sitting on the balcony, and looking out to see that the number of the cows were all right.[321]

Katoma remained sitting on the stump one day, two days, three days, without anything to eat or drink. To get down was utterly impossible, it seemed as if he must die of starvation. But not far away from that place there was a dense forest. In that forest was living a mighty hero who was quite blind. The only way by which he could get himself food was this: whenever he perceived by the sense of smell that any animal was running past him, whether a hare, or a fox, or a bear, he immediately started in chase of it, caught it—and dinner was ready for him. The hero was exceedingly swift-footed, and there was not a single wild beast which could run away from him. Well, one day it fell out thus. A fox slunk past; the hero heard it, and was after it directly. It ran up to the tall stump, and turned sharp off on one-side; but the blind hero hurried on, took a spring, and thumped his forehead against the stump so hard that he knocked the stump out by the roots. Katoma fell to the ground, and asked:

"Who are you?"

"I'm a blind hero. I've been living in the forest for thirty years. The only way I can get my food is this: to catch some game or other, and cook it at a wood fire. If it had not been for that, I should have been starved to death long ago!"

"You haven't been blind all your life?"

"No, not all my life; but Princess Anna the Fair put my eyes out!"

"There now, brother!" says Katoma; "and it's thanks to her, too, that I'm left here without any feet. She cut them both off, the accursed one!"

The two heroes had a talk, and agreed to live together, and join in getting their food. The blind man says to the lame:

"Sit on my back and show me the way; I will serve you with my feet, and you me with your eyes."

So he took the cripple and carried him home, and Katoma sat on his back, kept a look out all round, and cried out from time to time: "Right! Left! Straight on!" and so forth.

Well, they lived some time in the forest in that way, and caught hares, foxes, and bears for their dinner. One day the cripple says—

"Surely we can never go on living all our lives without a soul [to speak to]. I have heard that in such and such a town lives a rich merchant who has a daughter; and that merchant's daughter is exceedingly kind to the poor and crippled. She gives alms to everyone. Suppose we carry her off, brother, and let her live here and keep house for us."

The blind man took a cart, seated the cripple in it, and rattled it into the town, straight into the rich merchant's courtyard. The merchant's daughter saw them out of window, and immediately ran out, and came to give them alms. Approaching the cripple, she said:

"Take this, in Christ's name, poor fellow!"

He [seemed to be going] to take the gift, but he seized her by the hand, pulled her into the cart, and called to the blind man, who ran off with it at such a pace that no one could catch him, even on horseback. The merchant sent people in pursuit—but no, they could not come up with him.

The heroes brought the merchant's daughter into their forest hut, and said to her:

"Be in the place of a sister to us, live here and keep house for us; otherwise we poor sufferers will have no one to cook our meals or wash our shirts. God won't desert you if you do that!"

The merchant's daughter remained with them. The heroes respected her, loved her, acknowledged her as a sister. They used to be out hunting all day, but their adopted sister was always at home. She looked after all the housekeeping, prepared the meals, washed the linen.

But after a time a Baba Yaga took to haunting their hut and sucking the breasts of the merchant's daughter. No sooner have the heroes gone off to the chase, than the Baba Yaga is there in a moment. Before long the fair maiden's face began to fall away, and she grew weak and thin. The blind man could see nothing, but Katoma remarked that things weren't going well. He spoke about it to the blind man, and they went together to their adopted sister, and began questioning her. But the Baba Yaga had strictly forbidden her to tell the truth. For a long time she was afraid to acquaint them with her trouble, for a long time she held out, but at last her brothers talked her over and she told them everything without reserve.

"Every time you go away to the chase," says she, "there immediately appears in the cottage a very old woman with a most evil face, and long grey hair. And she sets me to dress her head, and meanwhile she sucks my breasts."

"Ah!" says the blind man, "that's a Baba Yaga. Wait a bit; we must treat her after her own fashion. To-morrow we won't go to the chase, but we'll try to entice her and lay hands upon her!"

So next morning the heroes didn't go out hunting.

"Now then, Uncle Footless!" says the blind man, "you get under the bench, and lie there ever so still, and I'll go into the yard and stand under the window. And as for you, sister, when the Baba Yaga comes, sit down just here, close by the window; and as you dress her hair, quietly separate the locks and throw them outside through the window. Just let me lay hold of her by those grey hairs of hers!"

What was said was done. The blind man laid hold of the Baba Yaga by her grey hair, and cried—

"Ho there, Uncle Katoma! Come out from under the bench, and lay hold of this viper of a woman, while I go into the hut!"

The Baba Yaga hears the bad news and tries to jump up to get her head free. (Where are you off to? That's no go, sure enough![322]) She tugs and tugs, but cannot do herself any good!

Just then from under the bench crawled Uncle Katoma, fell upon her like a mountain of stone, took to strangling her until the heaven seemed to her to disappear.[323] Then into the cottage bounded the blind man, crying to the cripple—

"Now we must heap up a great pile of wood, and consume this accursed one with fire, and fling her ashes to the wind!"

The Baba Yaga began imploring them:

"My fathers! my darlings! forgive me. I will do all that is right."

"Very good, old witch! Then show us the fountain of healing and life-giving water!" said the heroes.

"Only don't kill me, and I'll show it you directly!"

Well, Katoma sat on the blind man's back. The blind man took the Baba Yaga by her back hair, and she led them into the depths of the forest, brought them to a well,[324] and said—

"That is the water that cures and gives life."

"Look out, Uncle Katoma!" cried the blind man; "don't make a blunder. If she tricks us now we shan't get right all our lives!"

Katoma cut a green branch off a tree, and flung it into the well. The bough hadn't so much as reached the water before it all burst into a flame!

"Ha! so you're still up to your tricks," said the heroes, and began to strangle the Baba Yaga, with the intention of flinging her, the accursed one, into the fiery fount. More than ever did the Baba Yaga implore for mercy, swearing a great oath that she would not deceive them this time.

"On my troth I will bring you to good water," says she.

The heroes consented to give her one more trial, and she took them to another fount.

Uncle Katoma cut a dry spray from a tree, and flung it into the fount. The spray had not yet reached the water when it already turned green, budded, and put forth blossoms.

"Come now, that's good water!" said Katoma.

The blind man wetted his eyes with it, and saw directly. He lowered the cripple into the water, and the lame man's feet grew again. Then they both rejoiced greatly, and said to one another, "Now the time has come for us to get all right! We'll get everything back again we used to have! Only first we must make an end of the Baba Yaga. If we were to pardon her now, we should always be unlucky; she'd be scheming mischief all her life."

Accordingly they went back to the fiery fount, and flung the Baba Yaga into it; didn't it soon make an end of her!

After this Katoma married the merchant's daughter, and the three companions went to the kingdom of Anna the Fair in order to rescue Prince Ivan. When they drew near to the capital, what should they see but Prince Ivan driving a herd of cows!

"Stop, herdsman!" says Katoma; "where are you driving these cows?"

"I'm driving them to the Princess's courtyard," replied the Prince. "The Princess always sees for herself whether all the cows are there."

"Here, herdsman; take my clothes and put them on, and I will put on yours and drive the cows."

"No, brother! that cannot be done. If the Princess found it out, I should suffer harm!"

"Never fear, nothing will happen! Katoma will guarantee you that."

Prince Ivan sighed, and said—

"Ah, good man! If Katoma had been alive, I should not have been feeding these cows afield!"

Then Katoma disclosed to him who he was. Prince Ivan warmly embraced him and burst into tears.

"I never hoped even to see you again," said he.

So they exchanged clothes. The tutor drove the cows to the Princess's courtyard. Anna the Fair went into the balcony, looked to see if all the cows were there, and ordered them to be driven into the sheds. All the cows went into the sheds except the last one, which remained at the gate. Katoma sprang at it, exclaiming—

"What are you waiting for, dog's-meat?"

Then he seized it by the tail, and pulled it so hard that he pulled the cow's hide right off! The Princess saw this, and cried with a loud voice:

"What is that brute of a cowherd doing? Seize him and bring him to me!"

Then the servants seized Katoma and dragged him to the palace. He went with them, making no excuses, relying on himself. They brought him to the Princess. She looked at him and asked—

"Who are you? Where do you come from?"

"I am he whose feet you cut off and whom you set on a stump. My name is Katoma dyadka, oaken shapka."

"Well," thinks the Princess, "now that he's got his feet back again, I must act straight-forwardly with him for the future."

And she began to beseech him and the Prince to pardon her. She confessed all her sins, and swore an oath always to love Prince Ivan, and to obey him in all things. Prince Ivan forgave her, and began to live with her in peace and concord. The hero who had been blind remained with them, but Katoma and his wife went to the house of [her father] the rich merchant, and took up their abode under his roof.

[There is a story in the "Panchatantra" (v. 12) which, in default of other parallels, may be worth comparing with that part of this Skazka which refers to the blind man and the cripple in the forest. Here is an outline of it:—

To a certain king a daughter is born who has three breasts. Deeming her presence unfortunate, he offers a hundred thousand purses of gold to anyone who will marry her and take her away. For a long time no man takes advantage of the offer, but at last a blind man, who goes about led by a hunchback named Mantharaka or Cripple, marries her, receives the gold, and is sent far away with his wife and his friend. All three live together in the same house. After a time the wife falls in love with the hunchback and conspires with him to kill her husband. For this purpose she boils a snake, intending to poison her husband with it. But he stirs the snake-broth as it is cooking, and the steam which rises from it cures his blindness. Seeing the snake in the pot, he guesses what has occurred, so he pretends to be still blind, and watches his wife and his friend. They, not knowing he can see, embrace in his presence, whereupon he catches up the "cripple" by the legs, and dashes him against his wife. So violent is the blow that her third breast is driven out of sight and the hunchback is beaten straight. Benfey (whose version of the story differs at the end from that given by Wilson, "Essays," ii. 74) in his remarks on this story (i. p. 510-15), which he connects with Buddhist legends, observes that it occurs also in the "Tuti-Nameh" (Rosen, ii. 228), but there the hunchback is replaced by a comely youth, and the similarity with the Russian story disappears. For a solar explanation of the Indian story see A. de Gubernatis, "Zool. Mythology," i. 85.]

Of this story there are many variants. In one of them[325] a king promises to reward with vast wealth anyone who will find him "a bride fairer than the sun, brighter than the moon, and whiter than snow." A certain moujik, named Nikita Koltoma, offers to show him where a princess lives who answers to this description, and goes forth with him in search of her. On the way, Nikita enters several forges, desiring to have a war mace cast for him, and in one of them he finds fifty smiths tormenting an old man. Ten of them are holding him by the beard with pincers, the others are thundering away at his ribs with their hammers. Finding that the cause of this punishment is an unpaid debt of fifty roubles, Nikita ransoms the greybeard, who straightway disappears. Nikita obtains the mace he wants, which weighs fifty poods, or nearly a ton, and leaves the forge. Presently the old man whom he has ransomed comes running up to him, thanks him for having rescued him from a punishment which had already lasted thirty years, and bestows on him, as a token of gratitude, a Cap of Invisibility.

Soon after this Nikita, attended by the king and his followers, reaches the palace of the royal heroine, Helena the Fair. She at first sends her warriors to capture or slay the unwelcome visitors, but Nikita attacks them with his mace, and leaves scarce one alive. Then she invites the king and his suite to the palace, having prepared in the mean time a gigantic bow fitted with a fiery arrow, wherewith to annihilate her guests. Guessing this, Nikita puts on his Cap of Invisibility, bends the bow, and shoots the arrow into the queen's terema [the women's chambers], and in a moment the whole upper story is in a blaze. After that the queen submits, and is married to the king.

But Nikita warns him that for three nights running his bride will make trial of his strength by laying her hand on his breast and pressing it hard—so hard that he will not be able to bear the pressure. When that happens, he must slip out of the room, and let Nikita take his place. All this comes to pass; the bride lays her hand on the bridegroom's breast, and says—

"Is my hand heavy?"

"As a feather on water!" replies the king, who can scarcely draw his breath beneath the crushing weight of the hand he has won. Then he leaves the room, under the pretext of giving an order, and Nikita takes his place. The queen renews the experiment, presses with one hand, presses with both, and with all her might. Nikita catches her up, and then flings her down on the floor. The room shakes beneath the blow, the bride "arises, lies down quietly, and goes to sleep," and Nikita is replaced by the king. By the end of the third night the queen gives up all hope of squeezing her husband to death, and makes up her mind to conjugal submission.[326]

But before long, she, like Brynhild, finds out that she has been tricked, and resolves on revenge. Throwing Nikita into a slumber which lasts for twenty-four hours, she has his feet cut off, and sets him adrift in a boat; then she degrades her husband, turning him into a swineherd, and she puts out the eyes of Nikita's brother Timofei. In the course of time the brothers obtain from a Baba Yaga the healing and vivifying waters, and so recover the eyes and feet they had lost. The Witch-Queen is put to death, and Nikita lives happily as the King's Prime Minister. The specific actions of the two waters are described with great precision in this story. When the lame man sprinkles his legs with the Healing Water, they become whole at once; "his legs are quite sound, only they don't move." Then he applies the Vivifying Water, and the use of his legs returns to him. Similarly when the blind man applies the Healing Water to his empty orbits, he obtains new eyes—"perfectly faultless eyes, only he cannot see with them;" he applies the Vivifying Water, "and begins to see even better than before."

In a Ryazan variant of the story,[327] Ivan Dearly-Bought, after his legs have been cut off at the knees, and he has been left in a forest, is found by a giant who has no arms, but who is so fleet that "no post could catch him up." The two maimed heroes form an alliance. After a time, they carry off a princess who is suffering from some mysterious disease, and take her to their forest home. She tells them that her illness is due to a Snake, which comes to her every night, entering by the chimney, and sucks away her strength. The heroes seizes the Snake, which takes them to the healing lake, and they are cured. Then they restore the princess, also cured, to her father. Ivan returns to the palace of the Enchantress Queen who had maimed him, and beats her with red-hot iron bars until he has driven out of her all her magic strength, "leaving her only one woman's strength, and that a very poor one."

In a Tula variant[328] the wicked wife, who has set her confiding husband to tend her pigs, is killed by the hero. She had put out his eyes, and had cut off the feet of another companion of her husband; in this variant also the Healing Waters are found by the aid of a snake.

The supernatural steed which Katoma tamed belongs to an equine race which often figures in the Skazkas. A good account of one of these horses is given in the following story of—


We say that we are wise folks, but our old people dispute the fact, saying: "No, no, we were wiser than you are." But skazkas tell that, before our grandfathers had learnt anything, before their grandfathers[330] were born—[331]

There lived in a certain land an old man of this kind who instructed his three sons in reading and writing[332] and all book learning. Then said he to them:

"Now, my children! When I die, mind you come and read prayers over my grave."

"Very good, father, very good," they replied.

The two elder brothers were such fine strapping fellows! so tall and stout! But as for the youngest one, Ivan, he was like a half-grown lad or a half-fledged duckling, terribly inferior to the others. Well, their old father died. At that very time there came tidings from the King, that his daughter, the Princess Helena the Fair, had ordered a shrine to be built for her with twelve columns, with twelve rows of beams. In that shrine she was sitting upon a high throne, and awaiting her bridegroom, the bold youth who, with a single bound of his swift steed, should reach high enough to kiss her on the lips. A stir ran through the whole youth of the nation. They took to licking their lips, and scratching their heads, and wondering to whose share so great an honor would fall.

"Brothers!" said Vanyusha,[333] "our father is dead; which of us is to read prayers over his grave?"

"Whoever feels inclined, let him go!" answered the brothers.

So Vanya went. But as for his elder brothers they did nothing but exercise their horses, and curl their hair, and dye their mustaches.

The second night came.

"Brothers!" said Vanya, "I've done my share of reading. It's your turn now; which of you will go?"

"Whoever likes can go and read. We've business to look after; don't you meddle."

And they cocked their caps, and shouted, and whooped, and flew this way, and shot that way, and roved about the open country.

So Vanyusha read prayers this time also—and on the third night, too.

Well, his brothers got ready their horses, combed out their mustaches, and prepared to go next morning to test their mettle before the eyes of Helena the Fair.

"Shall we take the youngster?" they thought. "No, no. What would be the good of him? He'd make folks laugh and put us to confusion; let's go by ourselves."

So away they went. But Vanyusha wanted very much to have a look at the Princess Helena the Fair. He cried, cried bitterly; and went out to his father's grave. And his father heard him in his coffin, and came out to him, shook the damp earth off his body, and said:

"Don't grieve, Vanya. I'll help you in your trouble."

And immediately the old man drew himself up and straightened himself, and called aloud and whistled with a ringing voice, with a shrill[334] whistle.

From goodness knows whence appeared a horse, the earth quaking beneath it, a flame rushing from its ears and nostrils. To and fro it flew, and then stood still before the old man, as if rooted in the ground, and cried,

"What are thy commands?"

Vanya crept into one of the horse's ears and out of the other, and turned into such a hero as no skazka can tell of, no pen describe! He mounted the horse, set his arms akimbo, and flew, just like a falcon, straight to the home of the Princess Helena. With a wave of his hand, with a bound aloft, he only failed by the breadth of two rows of beams. Back again he turned, galloped up, leapt aloft, and got within one beam-row's breadth. Once more he turned, once more he wheeled, then shot past the eye like a streak of fire, took an accurate aim, and kissed[335] the fair Helena right on the lips!

"Who is he? Who is he? Stop him! Stop him!" was the cry. Not a trace of him was to be found!

Away he galloped to his father's grave, let the horse go free, prostrated himself on the earth, and besought his father's counsel. And the old man held counsel with him.

When he got home he behaved as if he hadn't been anywhere. His brothers talked away, describing where they had been, what they had seen, and he listened to them as of old.

The next day there was a gathering again. In the princely halls there were more boyars and nobles than a single glance could take in. The elder brothers rode there. Their younger brother went there too, but on foot, meekly and modestly, just as if he hadn't kissed the Princess, and seated himself in a distant corner. The Princess Helena asked for her bridegroom, wanted to show him to the world at large, wanted to give him half her kingdom; but the bridegroom did not put in an appearance! Search was made for him among the boyars, among the generals; everyone was examined in his turn—but with no result! Meanwhile, Vanya looked on, smiling and chuckling, and waiting till the bride should come to him herself.

"I pleased her then," says he, "when I appeared as a gay gallant; now let her fall in love with me in my plain caftan."

Then up she rose, looked around with bright eyes that shed a radiance on all who stood there, and saw and knew her bridegroom, and made him take his seat by her side, and speedily was wedded to him. And he—good heavens! how clever he turned out, and how brave, and what a handsome fellow! Only see him mount his flying steed, give his cap a cock, and stick his elbows akimbo! why, you'd say he was a king, a born king! you'd never suspect he once was only Vanyusha.

The incident of the midnight watch by a father's grave, kept by a son to whom the dead man appears and gives a magic horse, often occurs in the Skazkas. It is thoroughly in accordance with Slavonic ideas about the residence of the dead in their tombs, and their ability to assist their descendants in time of trouble. Appeals for aid to a dead parent are of frequent occurrence in the songs still sung by the Russian peasantry at funerals or over graves; especially in those in which orphans express their grief, calling upon the grave to open, and the dead to appear and listen and help.[336] So in the Indian story of Punchkin, the seven hungry stepmother-persecuted princesses go out every day and sit by their dead mother's tomb, and cry, and say, "Oh, mother, mother, cannot you see your poor children, how unhappy we are," etc., until a tree grows up out of the grave laden with fruits for their relief.[337] So in the German tale,[338] Cinderella is aided by the white bird, which dwells in the hazel tree growing out of her mother's grave.

In one of the Skazkas[339] a stepdaughter is assisted by her cow. The girl, following its instructions, gets in at one ear and out of the other, and finds all her tasks performed, all her difficulties removed. When it is killed, there springs from its bones a tree which befriends the girl, and gains her a lordly husband. In a Servian variant of the story, it is distinctly stated that the protecting cow had been the girl's mother—manifestly in a previous state of existence, a purely Buddhistic idea.[340]

In several of the Skazkas we find an account of a princess who is won in a similar manner to that described in the story of Helena the Fair. In one case,[341] a king promises to give his daughter to anyone "who can pluck her portrait from the house, from the other side of ever so many beams." The youngest brother, Ivan the Simpleton, carries away the portrait and its cover at the third trial. In another, a king offers his daughter and half his kingdom to him "who can kiss the princess through twelve sheets of glass."[342] The usual youngest brother is carried towards her so forcibly by his magic steed that, at the first trial, he breaks through six of the sheets of glass; at the second, says the story, "he smashed all twelve of the sheets of glass, and he kissed the Princess Priceless-Beauty, and she immediately stamped a mark upon his forehead." By this mark, after he has disappeared for some time, he is eventually recognized, and the princess is obliged to marry him.[343] In a third story,[344] the conditions of winning the princely bride are easier, for "he who takes a leap on horseback, and kisses the king's daughter on the balcony, to him will they give her to wife." In a fourth, the princess is to marry the man "who, on horseback, bounds up to her on the third floor." At the first trial, the Durak, or Fool, reaches the first floor, at the next, the second; and the third time, "he bounds right up to the princess, and carries off from her a ring."[345]

In the Norse story of "Dapplegrim,"[346] a younger brother saves a princess who had been stolen by a Troll, and hidden in a cave above a steep wall of rock as smooth as glass. Twice his magic horse tries in vain to surmount it, but the third time it succeeds, and the youth carries off the princess, who ultimately becomes his wife. Another Norse story still more closely resembles the Russian tales. In "The Princess on the Glass Hill"[347] the hero gains a Princess as his wife by riding up a hill of glass, on the top of which she sits with three golden apples in her lap, and by carrying off these precious fruits. He is enabled to perform this feat by a magic horse, which he obtains by watching his father's crops on three successive St. John's Nights.

In a Celtic story,[348] a king promises his daughter, and two-thirds of his kingdom, to anyone who can get her out of a turret which "was aloft, on the top of four carraghan towers." The hero Conall kicks "one of the posts that was keeping the turret aloft," the post breaks, and the turret falls, but Conall catches it in his hands before it reaches the ground, a door opens, and out comes the Princess Sunbeam, and throws her arms about Conall's neck.

In most of these stories the wife-gaining leap is so vaguely described that it is allowable to suppose that the original idea has been greatly obscured in the course of travel. In some Eastern stories it is set in a much plainer light; in one modern collection for instance,[349] it occurs four times. A princess is so fond of her marble bath, which is "like a little sea," with high spiked walls all around it, that she vows she will marry no one who cannot jump across it on horseback. Another princess determines to marry him only who can leap into the glass palace in which she dwells, surrounded by a wide river; and many kings and princes perish miserably in attempting to perform the feat. A third king's daughter lives in a garden "hedged round with seven hedges made of bayonets," by which her suitors are generally transfixed. A fourth "has vowed to marry no man who cannot jump on foot over the seven hedges made of spears, and across the seven great ditches that surround her house;" and "hundreds of thousands of Rajahs have tried to do it, and died in the attempt."

The secluded princess of these stories may have been primarily akin to the heroine of the "Sleeping Beauty" tales, but no special significance appears now to be attributable to her isolation. The original idea seems to have been best preserved in the two legends of the wooing of Brynhild by Sigurd, in the first of which he awakens her from her magic sleep, while in the second he gains her hand (for Gunnar) by a daring and difficult ride—for "him only would she have who should ride through the flaming fire that was drawn about her hall." Gunnar fails to do so, but Sigurd succeeds; his horse leaps into the fire, "and a mighty roar arose as the fire burned ever madder, and the earth trembled, and the flames went up even unto the heavens, nor had any dared to ride as he rode, even as it were through the deep murk."[350]

We will take next a story which is a great favorite in Russia, and which will serve as another illustration of the use made of magical "properties" in the Skazkas.


There were once three brothers, of whom two were sharp-witted, but the third was a fool. The elder brothers set off to sell their goods in the towns down the river,[352] and said to the fool:

"Now mind, fool! obey our wives, and pay them respect as if they were your own mothers. We'll buy you red boots, and a red caftan, and a red shirt."

The fool said to them:

"Very good; I will pay them respect."

They gave the fool their orders and went away to the downstream towns; but the fool stretched himself on top of the stove and remained lying there. His brothers' wives say to him—

"What are you about, fool! your brothers ordered you to pay us respect, and in return for that each of them was going to bring you a present, but there you lie on the stove and don't do a bit of work. Go and fetch some water, at all events."

The fool took a couple of pails and went to fetch the water. As he scooped it up, a pike happened to get into his pail. Says the fool:

"Glory to God! now I will cook this pike, and will eat it all myself; I won't give a bit of it to my sisters-in-law. I'm savage with them!"

The pike says to him with a human voice:

"Don't eat me, fool! if you'll put me back again into the water you shall have good luck!"

Says the fool, "What sort of good luck shall I get from you?"

"Why, this sort of good luck: whatever you say, that shall be done. Say, for instance, 'By the Pike's command, at my request, go home, ye pails, and be set in your places.'"

As soon as the fool had said this, the pails immediately went home of their own accord and became set in their places. The sisters-in-law looked and wondered.

"What sort of a fool is this!" they say. "Why, he's so knowing, you see, that his pails have come home and gone to their places of their own accord!"

The fool came back and lay down on the stove. Again did his brothers' wives begin saying to him—

"What are you lying on the stove for, fool? there's no wood for the fire; go and fetch some."

The fool took two axes and got into a sledge, but without harnessing a horse to it.

"By the Pike's command," he says, "at my request, drive, into the forest, O sledge!"

Away went the sledge at a rattling pace, as if urged on by some one. The fool had to pass by a town, and the people he met were jammed into corners by his horseless sledge in a way that was perfectly awful. They all began crying out:

"Stop him! Catch him!"

But they couldn't lay hands on him. The fool drove into the forest, got out of the sledge, sat down on a log, and said—

"One of you axes fell the trees, while the other cuts them up into billets."

Well, the firewood was cut up and piled on the sledge. Then says the fool:

"Now then, one of you axes! go and cut me a cudgel,[353] as heavy a one as I can lift."

The axe went and cut him a cudgel, and the cudgel came and lay on top of the load.

The fool took his seat and drove off. He drove by the town, but the townspeople had met together and had been looking out for him for ever so long. So they stopped the fool, laid hands upon him, and began pulling him about. Says the fool—

"By the Pike's command, at my request, go, O cudgel, and bestir thyself."

Out jumped the cudgel, and took to thumping and smashing, and knocked over ever such a lot of people. There they lay on the ground, strewed about like so many sheaves of corn. The fool got clear of them and drove home, heaped up the wood, and then lay down on the stove.

Meanwhile, the townspeople got up a petition against him, and denounced him to the King, saying:

"Folks say there's no getting hold of him the way we tried;[354] we must entice him by cunning, and the best way of all will be to promise him a red shirt, and a red caftan, and red boots."

So the King's runners came for the fool.

"Go to the King," they say, "he will give you red boots, a red caftan, and a red shirt."

Well, the fool said:

"By the Pike's command, at my request, do thou, O stove, go to the King!"

He was seated on the stove at the time. The stove went; the fool arrived at the King's.

The King was going to put him to death, but he had a daughter, and she took a tremendous liking to the fool. So she began begging her father to give her in marriage to the fool. Her father flew into a passion. He had them married, and then ordered them both to be placed in a tub, and the tub to be tarred over and thrown into the water; all which was done.

Long did the tub float about on the sea. His wife began to beseech the fool:

"Do something to get us cast on shore!"

"By the Pike's command, at my request," said the fool, "cast this tub ashore and tear it open!"

He and his wife stepped out of the tub. Then she again began imploring him to build some sort of a house. The fool said:

"By the Pike's command, at my request, let a marble palace be built, and let it stand immediately opposite the King's palace!"

This was all done in an instant. In the morning the King saw the new palace, and sent to enquire who it was that lived in it. As soon as he learnt that his daughter lived there, that very minute he summoned her and her husband. They came. The King pardoned them, and they all began living together and flourishing.[355]

"The Pike," observes Afanasief, "is a fish of great repute in northern mythology." One of the old Russian songs still sung at Christmas, tells how a Pike comes from Novgorod, its scales of silver and gold, its back woven with pearls, a costly diamond gleaming in its head instead of eyes. And this song is one which promises wealth, a fact connecting the Russian fish with that Scandinavian pike which was a shape assumed by Andvari—the dwarf-guardian of the famous treasure, from which sprang the woes recounted in the Voelsunga Saga and the Nibelungenlied. According to a Lithuanian tradition,[356] there is a certain lake which is ruled by the monstrous pike Strukis. It sleeps only once a year, and then only for a single hour. It used always to sleep on St. John's Night, but a fisherman once took advantage of its slumber to catch a quantity of its scaly subjects. Strukis awoke in time to upset the fisherman's boat; but fearing a repetition of the attempt, it now changes each year the hour of its annual sleep. A gigantic pike figures also in the Kalevala.

It would be easy to fill with similar stories, not only a section of a chapter, but a whole volume; but instead of quoting any more of them, I will take a few specimens from a different, though a somewhat kindred group of tales—those which relate to the magic powers supposed to be wielded in modern times by dealers in the Black Art. Such narratives as these are to be found in every land, but Russia is specially rich in them, the faith of the peasantry in the existence of Witches and Wizards, Turnskins and Vampires, not having been as yet seriously shaken. Some of the stories relating to the supernatural Witch, who evidently belongs to the demon world, have already been given. In those which I am about to quote, the wizard or witch who is mentioned is a human being, but one who has made a compact with evil spirits, and has thereby become endowed with strange powers. Such monsters as these are, throughout their lives, a terror to the district they inhabit; nor does their evil influence die with them, for after they have been laid in the earth, they assume their direst aspect, and as Vampires bent on blood, night after night, they go forth from their graves to destroy. As I have elsewhere given some account of Slavonic beliefs in witchcraft,[357] I will do little more at present than allow the stories to speak for themselves. They will be recognized as being akin to the tales about sorcery current farther west, but they are of a more savage nature. The rustic warlocks and witches of whom we are accustomed to hear have little, if any, of that thirst for blood which so unfavorably characterizes their Slavonic counterparts. Here is a story, by way of example, of a most gloomy nature.


Late one evening, a Cossack rode into a village, pulled up at its last cottage, and cried—

"Heigh, master! will you let me spend the night here?"

"Come in, if you don't fear death!"

"What sort of a reply is that?" thought the Cossack, as he put his horse up in the stable. After he had given it its food he went into the cottage. There he saw its inmates, men and women and little children, all sobbing and crying and praying to God; and when they had done praying, they began putting on clean shirts.

"What are you crying about?" asked the Cossack.

"Why you see," replied the master of the house, "in our village Death goes about at night. Into whatsoever cottage she looks, there, next morning, one has to put all the people who lived in it into coffins, and carry them off to the graveyard. To-night it's our turn."

"Never fear, master! 'Without God's will, no pig gets its fill!'"

The people of the house lay down to sleep; but the Cossack was on the look-out and never closed an eye. Exactly at midnight the window opened. At the window appeared a witch all in white. She took a sprinkler, passed her arm into the cottage, and was just on the point of sprinkling—when the Cossack suddenly gave his sabre a sweep, and cut her arm off close to the shoulder. The witch howled, squealed, yelped like a dog, and fled away. But the Cossack picked up the severed arm, hid it under his cloak, washed away the stains of blood, and lay down to sleep.

Next morning the master and mistress awoke, and saw that everyone, without a single exception, was alive and well, and they were delighted beyond expression.

"If you like," says the Cossack, "I'll show you Death! Call together all the Sotniks and Desyatniks[359] as quickly as possible, and let's go through the village and look for her."

Straightway all the Sotniks and Desyatniks came together and went from house to house. In this one there's nothing, in that one there's nothing, until at last they come to the Ponomar's[360] cottage.

"Is all your family present?" asks the Cossack.

"No, my own! one of my daughters is ill. She's lying on the stove there."

The Cossack looked towards the stove—one of the girl's arms had evidently been cut off. Thereupon he told the whole story of what had taken place, and he brought out and showed the arm which had been cut off. The commune rewarded the Cossack with a sum of money, and ordered that witch to be drowned.

Stories of this kind are common in all lands, but the witches about whom they are told generally assume the forms of beasts of prey, especially of wolves, or of cats. A long string of similar tales will be found in Dr. Wilhelm Hertz's excellent and exhaustive monograph on werwolves.[361] Very important also is the Polish story told by Wojcicki[362] of the village which is attacked by the Plague, embodied in the form of a woman, who roams from house to house in search of victims. One night, as she goes her rounds, all doors and windows have been barred against her except one casement. This has been left open by a nobleman who is ready to sacrifice himself for the sake of others. The Pest Maiden arrives, and thrusts her arm in at his window. The nobleman cuts it off, and so rids the village of its fatal visitor. In an Indian story,[363] a hero undertakes to watch beside the couch of a haunted princess. When all is still a Rakshasa appears on the threshold, opens the door, and thrusts into the room an arm—which the hero cuts off. The fiend disappears howling, and leaves his arm behind.

The horror of the next story is somewhat mitigated by a slight infusion of the grotesque—but this may arise from a mere accident, and be due to the exceptional cheerfulness of some link in the chain of its narrators.


In a certain country there lived a King; and this King had a daughter who was an enchantress. Near the royal palace there dwelt a priest, and the priest had a boy of ten years old, who went every day to an old woman to learn reading and writing. Now it happened one day that he came away from his lessons late in the evening, and as he passed by the palace he looked in at one of the windows. At that window the Princess happened to be sitting and dressing herself. She took off her head, lathered it with soap, washed it with clean water, combed its hair, plaited its long back braid, and then put it back again in its proper place. The boy was lost in wonder.

"What a clever creature!" thinks he. "A downright witch!"

And when he got home he began telling every one how he had seen the Princess without her head.

All of a sudden the King's daughter fell grievously ill, and she sent for her father, and strictly enjoined him, saying—

"If I die, make the priest's son read the psalter over me three nights running."

The Princess died; they placed her in a coffin, and carried it to church. Then the king summoned the priest, and said—

"Have you got a son?"

"I have, your majesty."

"Well then," said the King, "let him read the psalter over my daughter three nights running."

The priest returned home, and told his son to get ready. In the morning the priest's son went to his lessons, and sat over his book looking ever so gloomy.

"What are you unhappy about?" asked the old woman.

"How can I help being unhappy, when I'm utterly done for?"

"Why what's the matter? Speak out plainly."

"Well then, granny, I've got to read psalms over the princess, and, do you know, she's a witch!"

"I knew that before you did! But don't be frightened, there's a knife for you. When you go into the church, trace a circle round you; then read away from your psalter and don't look behind you. Whatever happens there, whatever horrors may appear, mind your own business and go on reading, reading. But if you look behind you, it will be all over with you!"

In the evening the boy went to the church, traced a circle round him with the knife, and betook himself to the psalter. Twelve o'clock struck. The lid of the coffin flew up; the Princess arose, leapt out, and cried—

"Now I'll teach you to go peeping through my windows, and telling people what you saw!"

She began rushing at the priest's son, but she couldn't anyhow break into the circle. Then she began to conjure up all sorts of horrors. But in spite of all that she did, he went on reading and reading, and never gave a look round. And at daybreak the Princess rushed at her coffin, and tumbled into it at full length, all of a heap.

The next night everything went on just the same. The priest's son wasn't a bit afraid, went on reading without a stop right up to daybreak, and in the morning went to the old woman. She asked him—

"Well! have you seen horrors?"

"Yes, granny!"

"It will be still more horrible this time. Here's a hammer for you and four nails. Knock them into the four corners of the coffin, and when you begin reading the psalter, stick up the hammer in front of you."

In the evening the priest's son went to the church, and did everything just as the old woman had told him. Twelve o'clock struck, the coffin lid fell to the ground, the Princess jumped up and began tearing from side to side, and threatening the youth. Then she conjured up horrors, this time worse than before. It seemed to him as if a fire had broken out in the church; all the walls were wrapped in flames! But he held his ground and went on reading, never once looking behind him. Just before daybreak the Princess rushed to her coffin—then the fire seemed to go out immediately, and all the deviltry vanished!

In the morning the King came to the church, and saw that the coffin was open, and in the coffin lay the princess, face downwards.

"What's the meaning of all this?" says he.

The lad told him everything that had taken place. Then the king gave orders that an aspen stake should be driven into his daughter's breast, and that her body should be thrust into a hole in the ground. But he rewarded the priest's son with a heap of money and various lands.

Perhaps the most remarkable among the stories of this class is the following, which comes from Little Russia. Those readers who are acquainted with the works of Gogol, the great Russian novelist, who was a native of that part of the country, will observe how closely he has kept to popular traditions in his thrilling story of the Vy, which has been translated into English, from the French, under the title of "The King of the Gnomes."[365]


Once upon a time there was a Soldier who served God and the great Gosudar for fifteen years, without ever setting eyes on his parents. At the end of that time there came an order from the Tsar to grant leave to the soldiers—to twenty-five of each company at a time—to go and see their families. Together with the rest our Soldier, too, got leave to go, and set off to pay a visit to his home in the government of Kief. After a time he reached Kief, visited the Lavra, prayed to God, bowed down before the holy relics, and then started again for his birthplace, a provincial town not far off. Well, he walked and walked. Suddenly there happens to meet him a fair maiden who was the daughter of a merchant in that same town; a most remarkable beauty. Now everyone knows that if a soldier catches sight of a pretty girl, nothing will make him pass her by quietly, but he hooks on to her somehow or other. And so this Soldier gets alongside of the merchant's daughter, and says to her jokingly—

"How now, fair damsel! not broken in to harness yet?"

"God knows, soldier, who breaks in whom," replies the girl. "I may do it to you, or you to me."

So saying she laughed and went her way. Well, the Soldier arrived at home, greeted his family, and rejoiced greatly at finding they were all in good health.

Now he had an old grandfather, as white as a lun, who had lived a hundred years and a bit. The Soldier was gossiping with him, and said:

"As I was coming home, grandfather, I happened to meet an uncommonly fine girl, and, sinner that I am, I chaffed her, and she said to me:

"'God knows, soldier, whether you'll break me in to harness, or I'll break you.'"

"Eh, sirs! whatever have you done? Why that's the daughter of our merchant here, an awful witch! She's sent more than one fine young fellow out of the white world."

"Well, well! I'm not one of the timid ones, either! You won't frighten me in a hurry. We'll wait and see what God will send."

"No, no, grandson!" says the grandfather. "If you don't listen to me, you won't be alive to-morrow!"

"Here's a nice fix!" says the Soldier.

"Yes, such a fix that you've never known anything half so awful, even when soldiering."

"What must I do then, grandfather?"

"Why this. Provide yourself with a bridle, and take a thick aspen cudgel, and sit quietly in the izba—don't stir a step anywhere. During the night she will come running in, and if she manages to say before you can 'Stand still, my steed!' you will straightway turn into a horse. Then she will jump upon your back, and will make you gallop about until she has ridden you to death. But if you manage to say before she speaks, 'Tprru! stand still, jade!' she will be turned into a mare. Then you must bridle her and jump on her back. She will run away with you over hill and dale, but do you hold your own; hit her over the head with the aspen cudgel, and go on hitting her until you beat her to death."

The Soldier hadn't expected such a job as this, but there was no help for it. So he followed his grandfather's advice, provided himself with a bridle and an aspen cudgel, took his seat in a corner, and waited to see what would happen. At the midnight hour the passage door creaked and the sound of steps was heard; the witch was coming! The moment the door of the room opened, the Soldier immediately cried out—

"Tprru! stand still, jade!"

The witch turned into a mare, and he bridled her, led her into the yard, and jumped on her back. The mare carried him off over hills and dales and ravines, and did all she could to try and throw her rider. But no! the Soldier stuck on tight, and thumped her over the head like anything with the aspen cudgel, and went on treating her with a taste of the cudgel until he knocked her off her feet, and then pitched into her as she lay on the ground, gave her another half-dozen blows or so, and at last beat her to death.

By daybreak he got home.

"Well, my friend! how have you got on?" asks his grandfather.

"Glory be to God, grandfather! I've beaten her to death!"

"All right! now lie down and go to sleep."

The Soldier lay down and fell into a deep slumber. Towards evening the old man awoke him—

"Get up, grandson."

He got up.

"What's to be done now? As the merchant's daughter is dead, you see, her father will come after you, and will bid you to his house to read psalms over the dead body."

"Well, grandfather, am I to go, or not?"

"If you go, there'll be an end of you; and if you don't go, there'll be an end of you! Still, it's best to go."

"But if anything happens, how shall I get out of it?"

"Listen, grandson! When you go to the merchant's he will offer you brandy; don't you drink much—drink only a moderate allowance. Afterwards the merchant will take you into the room in which his daughter is lying in her coffin, and will lock you in there. You will read out from the psalter all the evening, and up to midnight. Exactly at midnight a strong wind will suddenly begin to blow, the coffin will begin to shake, its lid will fall off. Well, as soon as these horrors begin, jump on to the stove as quick as you can, squeeze yourself into a corner, and silently offer up prayers. She won't find you there."

Half an hour later came the merchant, and besought the Soldier, crying:

"Ah, Soldier! there's a daughter of mine dead; come and read the psalter over her."

The Soldier took a psalter and went off to the merchant's house. The merchant was greatly pleased, seated him at his table, and began offering him brandy to drink. The Soldier drank, but only moderately, and declined to drink any more. The merchant took him by the hand and led him to the room in which the corpse lay.

"Now then," he says, "read away at your psalter."

Then he went out and locked the door. There was no help for it, so the Soldier took to his psalter and read and read. Exactly at midnight there was a great blast of wind, the coffin began to rock, its lid flew off. The Soldier jumped quickly on to the stove, hid himself in a corner, guarded himself by a sign of the cross, and began whispering prayers. Meanwhile the witch had leapt out of the coffin, and was rushing about from side to side—now here, now there. Then there came running up to her countless swarms of evil spirits; the room was full of them!

"What are you looking for?" say they.

"A soldier. He was reading here a moment ago, and now he's vanished!"

The devils eagerly set to work to hunt him up. They searched and searched, they rummaged in all the corners. At last they cast their eyes on the stove; at that moment, luckily for the Soldier, the cocks began to crow. In the twinkling of an eye all the devils had vanished, and the witch lay all of a heap on the floor. The Soldier got down from the stove, laid her body in the coffin, covered it up all right with the lid, and betook himself again to his psalter. At daybreak came the master of the house, opened the door, and said—

"Hail, Soldier!"

"I wish you good health, master merchant."

"Have you spent the night comfortably?"

"Glory be to God! yes."

"There are fifty roubles for you, but come again, friend, and read another night."

"Very good, I'll come."

The Soldier returned home, lay down on the bench, and slept till evening. Then he awoke and said—

"Grandfather, the merchant bid me go and read the psalter another night. Should I go or not?"

"If you go, you won't remain alive, and if you don't go, just the same! But you'd better go. Don't drink much brandy, drink just what is right; and when the wind blows, and the coffin begins to rock, slip straight into the stove. There no one will find you."

The Soldier got ready and went to the merchant's, who seated him at table, and began plying him with brandy. Afterwards he took him to where the corpse was, and locked him into the room.

The Soldier went on reading, reading. Midnight came, the wind blew, the coffin began to rock, the coffin lid fell afar off on the ground. He was into the stove in a moment. Out jumped the witch and began rushing about; round her swarmed devils, the room was full of them!

"What are you looking for?" they cry.

"Why, there he was reading a moment ago, and now he's vanished out of sight. I can't find him."

The devils flung themselves on the stove.

"Here's the place," they cried, "where he was last night!"

There was the place, but he wasn't there! This way and that they rushed. Suddenly the cocks began to crow, the devils vanished, the witch lay stretched on the floor.

The Soldier stayed awhile to recover his breath, crept out of the stove, put the merchant's daughter back in her coffin, and took to reading the psalter again. Presently he looks round, the day has already dawned. His host arrives:

"Hail, Soldier!" says he.

"I wish you good health, master merchant."

"Has the night passed comfortably?"

"Glory be to God! yes."

"Come along here, then."

The merchant led him out of the room, gave him a hundred roubles, and said—

"Come, please, and read here a third night; I sha'n't treat you badly."

"Good, I'll come."

The Soldier returned home.

"Well, grandson, what has God sent you?" says his grandfather.

"Nothing much, grandfather! The merchant told me to come again. Should I go or not?"

"If you go, you won't remain alive, and if you don't go, you won't remain alive! But you'd better go."

"But if anything happens where must I hide?"

"I'll tell you, grandson. Buy yourself a frying-pan, and hide it so that the merchant sha'n't see it. When you go to his house he'll try to force a lot of brandy on you. You look out, don't drink much, drink just what you can stand. At midnight, as soon as the wind begins to roar, and the coffin to rock, do you that very moment climb on to the stove-pipe, and cover yourself over with the frying-pan. There no one will find you out."

The Soldier had a good sleep, bought himself a frying-pan,[367] hid it under his cloak, and towards evening went to the merchant's house. The merchant seated him at table and took to plying him with liquor—tried every possible kind of invitation and cajolery on him.

"No," says the Soldier, "that will do. I've had my whack. I won't have any more."

"Well, then, if you won't drink, come along and read your psalter."

The merchant took him to his dead daughter, left him alone with her, and locked the door.

The Soldier read and read. Midnight came, the wind blew, the coffin began to rock, the cover flew afar off. The Soldier jumped up on the stove-pipe, covered himself with the frying-pan, protected himself with a sign of the cross, and awaited what was going to happen. Out jumped the witch and began rushing about. Round her came swarming countless devils, the izba was full of them! They rushed about in search of the Soldier; they looked into the stove—

"Here's the place," they cried, "where he was last night."

"There's the place, but he's not there."

This way and that they rush,—cannot see him anywhere. Presently there stepped across the threshold a very old devil.

"What are you looking for?"

"The Soldier. He was reading here a moment ago, and now he's disappeared."

"Ah! no eyes! And who's that sitting on the stove-pipe there?"

The Soldier's heart thumped like anything; he all but tumbled down on the ground!

"There he is, sure enough!" cried the devils, "but how are we to settle him. Surely it's impossible to reach him there?"

"Impossible, forsooth! Run and lay your hands on a candle-end which has been lighted without a blessing having been uttered over it."

In an instant the devils brought the candle-end, piled up a lot of wood right under the stove-pipe, and set it alight. The flame leapt high into the air, the Soldier began to roast: first one foot, then the other, he drew up under him.

"Now," thinks he, "my death has come!"

All of a sudden, luckily for him, the cocks began to crow, the devils vanished, the witch fell flat on the floor. The soldier jumped down from the stove-pipe, and began putting out the fire. When he had put it out he set every thing to rights, placed the merchant's daughter in her coffin, covered it up with the lid, and betook himself to reading the psalter. At daybreak came the merchant, and listened at the door to find out whether the Soldier was alive or not. When he heard his voice he opened the door and said—

"Hail, Soldier!"

"I wish you good health, master merchant."

"Have you passed the night comfortably?"

"Glory be to God, I've seen nothing bad."

The merchant gave him a hundred and fifty roubles, and said—

"You've done a deal of work, Soldier! do a little more. Come here to-night and carry my daughter to the graveyard."

"Good, I'll come."

"Well, friend, what has God given?"

"Glory be to God, grandfather, I've got off safe! The merchant has asked me to be at his house to-night, to carry his daughter to the graveyard. Should I go or not?"

"If you go, you won't be alive, and if you don't go, you won't be alive. But you must go; it will be better so."

"But what must I do? tell me."

"Well this. When you get to the merchant's, everything will be ready there. At ten o'clock the relations of the deceased will begin taking leave of her; and afterwards they will fasten three iron hoops round the coffin, and place it on the funeral car; and at eleven o'clock they will tell you to take it to the graveyard. Do you drive off with the coffin, but keep a sharp look-out. One of the hoops will snap. Never fear, keep your seat bravely; a second will snap, keep your seat all the same; but when the third hoop snaps, instantly jump on to the horse's back and through the duga (the wooden arch above its neck), and run away backwards. Do that, and no harm will come to you."

The Soldier lay down to sleep, slept till the evening, and then went to the merchant's. At ten o'clock the relations began taking leave of the deceased; then they set to work to fasten iron hoops round the coffin. They fastened the hoops, set the coffin on the funeral car, and cried—

"Now then, Soldier! drive off, and God speed you!"

The Soldier got into the car and set off: at first he drove slowly, but as soon as he was out of sight he let the horse go full split. Away he galloped, but all the while he kept an eye on the coffin. Snap went one hoop—and then another. The witch began gnashing her teeth.

"Stop!" she cried, "you sha'n't escape! I shall eat you up in another moment."

"No, dovey! Soldiers are crown property; no one is allowed to eat them."

Here the last hoop snapped: on to the horse jumped the Soldier, and through the duga, and then set off running backwards. The witch leapt out of the coffin and tore away in pursuit. Lighting on the Soldier's footsteps she followed them back to the horse, ran right round it, saw the soldier wasn't there, and set off again in pursuit of him. She ran and ran, lighted again on his footsteps, and again came back to the horse. Utterly at her wit's end, she did the same thing some ten times over. Suddenly the cocks began crowing. There lay the witch stretched out flat on the road! The Soldier picked her up, put her in the coffin, slammed the lid down, and drove her to the graveyard. When he got there he lowered the coffin into the grave, shovelled the earth on top of it, and returned to the merchant's house.

"I've done it all," says he; "catch hold of your horse."

When the merchant saw the Soldier he stared at him with wide-open eyes.

"Well, Soldier!" said he, "I know a good deal! and as to my daughter, we needn't speak of her. She was awfully sharp, she was! But, really, you know more than we do!"

"Come now, master merchant! pay me for my work."

So the merchant handed him over two hundred roubles. The soldier took them, thanked him, and then went home, and gave his family a feast.

[The next chapter will contain a number of vampire stories which, in some respects, resemble these tales of homicidal corpses. But most of them belong, I think, to a separate group, due to a different myth or superstition from that which has given rise to such tales as those quoted above. The vampire is actuated by a thirst which can be quenched only by blood, and which impels it to go forth from the grave and destroy. But the enchanted corpses which rise at midnight, and attempt to rend their watchers, appear to owe their ferocity to demoniacal possession. After the death of a witch her body is liable, says popular tradition, to be tenanted by a devil (as may be seen from No. iii.), and to corpses thus possessed have been attributed by the storytellers the terrible deeds which Indian tales relate of Rakshasas and other evil spirits. Thus in the story of Nischayadatta, in the seventh book of the "Kathasaritsagara," the hero and the four pilgrims, his companions, have to pass a night in a deserted temple of Siva. It is haunted by a Yakshini, a female demon, who turns men by spells into brutes, and then eats them; so they sit watching and praying beside a fire round which they have traced a circle of ashes. At midnight the demon-enchantress arrives, dancing and "blowing on a flute made of a dead man's bone." Fixing her eyes on one of the pilgrims, she mutters a spell, accompanied by a wild dance. Out of the head of the doomed man grows a horn; he loses all command over himself, leaps up, and dances into the flames. The Yakshini seizes his half-burnt corpse and devours it. Then she treats the second and the third pilgrim in the same way. But just as she is turning to the fourth, she lays her flute on the ground. In an instant the hero seizes it, and begins to blow it and to dance wildly around the Yakshini, fixing his eyes upon her and applying to her the words of her own spell. Deprived by it of all power, she submits, and from that time forward renders the hero good service.[368]]

In one of the skazkas a malignant witch is destroyed by a benignant female power. It had been predicted that a certain baby princess would begin flying about the world as soon as she was fifteen. So her parents shut her up in a building in which she never saw the light of day, nor the face of a man. For it was illuminated by artificial means, and none but women had access to it. But one day, when her nurses and Mamzeli had gone to a feast at the palace, she found a door unlocked, and made her way into the sunlight. After this her attendants were obliged to allow her to go where she wished, when her parents were away. As she went roaming about the palace she came to a cage "in which a Zhar-Ptitsa,[369] lay [as if] dead." This bird, her guardians told her, slept soundly all day, but at night her papa flew about on it. Farther on she came to a veiled portrait. When the veil was lifted, she cried in astonishment "Can such beauty be?" and determined to fly on the Zhar-Ptitsa to the original of the picture. So at night she sought the Zhar-Ptitsa, which was sitting up and flapping its wings, and asked whether she might fly abroad on its back. The bird consented and bore her far away. Three times it carried her to the room of the prince whose portrait she had so much admired. On the first and second occasion he remained asleep during her visit, having been plunged into a magic slumber by the Zhar-Ptitsa. But during her third visit he awoke, "and he and she wept and wept, and exchanged betrothal rings." So long did they remain talking that, before the Zhar-Ptitsa and his rider could get back, "the day began to dawn—the bird sank lower and lower and fell to the ground." Then the princess, thinking it was really dead, buried it in the earth—having first cut off its wings, and "attached them to herself so as to walk more lightly."

After various adventures she comes to a land of mourning. "Why are you so mournful?" she asks. "Because our king's son has gone out of his mind," is the reply. "He eats a man every night." Thereupon she goes to the king and obtains leave to watch the prince by night. As the clock strikes twelve the prince, who is laden with chains, makes a rush at her; but the wings of the Zhar-Ptitsa rustle around her, and he sits down again. This takes place three times, after which the light goes out. She leaves the room in search of the means of rekindling it, sees a glimmer in the distance, and sets off with a lantern in search of it. Presently she finds an old witch who is sitting before a fire, above which seethes a cauldron. "What have you got there?" she asks. "When this cauldron seethes," replies the witch, "within it does the heart of Prince Ivan rage madly."

Pretending to be merely getting a light, the Princess contrives to splash the seething liquid over the witch, who immediately falls dead. Then she looks into the cauldron, and there, in truth, she sees the Prince's heart. When she returns to his room he has recovered his senses. "Thank you for bringing a light," he says. "Why am I in chains?" "Thus and thus," says she. "You went out of your mind and ate people." Whereat he wonders greatly.[370]

The Zhar-Ptitsa, or Fire-Bird, which plays so important a part in this story, is worthy of special notice. Its name is sufficient to show its close connection with flame or light,[371] and its appearance corresponds with its designation. Its feathers blaze with silvery or golden sheen, its eyes shine like crystal, it dwells in a golden cage. In the depth of the night it flies into a garden, and lights it up as brightly as could a thousand burning fires. A single feather from its tail illuminates a dark room. It feeds upon golden apples which have the power of bestowing youth and beauty, or according to a Croatian version, on magic-grasses. Its song, according to Bohemian legends, heals the sick and restores sight to the blind. We have already seen that, as the Phoenix, of which it seems to be a Slavonic counterpart, dies in the flame from which it springs again into life, so the Zhar-Ptitsa sinks into a death-like slumber when the day dawns, to awake to fresh life after the sunset.

One of the skazkas[372] about the Zhar-Ptitsa closely resembles the well-known German tale of the Golden Bird.[373] But it is a "Chap-book" story, and therefore of doubtful origin. King Vuislaf has an apple-tree which bears golden fruits. These are stolen by a Zhar-Ptitsa which flies every night into the garden, so he orders his sons to keep watch there by turns. The elder brothers cannot keep awake, and see nothing; but the youngest of the three, Prince Ivan, though he fails to capture the bird, secures one of its tail-feathers. After a time he leaves his home and goes forth in search of the bird. Aided by a wolf, he reaches the garden in which the Zhar-Ptitsa lives, and succeeds in taking it out of its golden cage. But trying, in spite of the wolf's warning, to carry off the cage itself, an alarm is sounded, and he is taken prisoner. After various other adventures he is killed by his envious brothers, but of course all comes right in the end. In a version of the story which comes from the Bukovina, one of the incidents is detailed at greater length than in either the German or the Russian tale. When the hero has been killed by his brothers, and they have carried off the Zhar-Ptitsa, and their victim's golden steed, and his betrothed princess—as long as he lies dead, the princess remains mute and mournful, the horse refuses to eat, the bird is silent, and its cage is lustreless. But as soon as he comes back to life, the princess regains her spirits, and the horse its appetite. The Zhar-Ptitsa recommences its magic song, and its cage flashes anew like fire.

In another skazka[374] a sportsman finds in a forest "a golden feather of the Zhar-Ptitsa; like fire does the feather shine!" Against the advice of his "heroic steed," he picks up the feather and takes it to the king, who sends him in search of the bird itself. Then he has wheat scattered on the ground, and at dawn he hides behind a tree near it. "Presently the forest begins to roar, the sea rises in waves, and the Zhar-Ptitsa flies up, lights upon the ground and begins to peck the wheat." Then the "heroic steed" gallops up, sets its hoof upon the bird's wing, and presses it to the ground, so that the shooter is able to bind it with cords, and take it to the king. In a variant of the story the bird is captured by means of a trap—a cage in which "pearls large and small" have been strewed.

* * * * *

I had intended to say something about the various golden haired or golden-horned animals which figure in the Skazkas, but it will be sufficient for the present to refer to the notices of them which occur in Prof. de Gubernatis's "Zoological Mythology." And now I will bring this chapter to a close with the following weird story of


There was once a Moujik, and he had three married sons. He lived a long while, and was looked upon by the village as a Koldun [or wizard]. When he was about to die, he gave orders that his sons' wives should keep watch over him [after his death] for three nights, taking one night apiece; that his body should be placed in the outer chamber,[376] and that his sons' wives should spin wool to make him a caftan. He ordered, moreover, that no cross should be placed upon him, and that none should be worn by his daughters-in-law.

Well, that same night the eldest daughter-in-law took her seat beside him with some grey wool, and began spinning. Midnight arrives. Says the father-in-law from his coffin:

"Daughter-in-law, art thou there?"

She was terribly frightened, but answered, "I am." "Art thou sitting?" "I sit." "Dost thou spin?" "I spin." "Grey wool?" "Grey." "For a caftan?" "For a caftan."

He made a movement towards her. Then a second time he asked again—

"Daughter-in-law, art thou there?"

"I am." "Art thou sitting?" "I sit." "Dost thou spin?" "I spin." "Grey wool?" "Grey." "For a caftan?" "For a caftan."

She shrank into the corner. He moved again, came a couple of yards nearer her.

A third time he made a movement. She offered up no prayer. He strangled her, and then lay down again in his coffin.

His sons removed her body, and next evening, in obedience to his paternal behest, they sent another of his daughters-in-law to keep watch. To her just the same thing happened: he strangled her as he had done the first one.

But the third was sharper than the other two. She declared she had taken off her cross, but in reality she kept it on. She took her seat and spun, but said prayers to herself all the while.

Midnight arrives. Says her father-in-law from his coffin—

"Daughter-in-law, art thou there?"

"I am," she replies. "Art thou sitting?" "I sit." "Dost thou spin?" "I spin." "Grey wool?" "Grey." "For a caftan?" "For a caftan."

Just the same took place a second time. The third time, just as he was going to rush at her, she laid the cross upon him. He fell down and died. She looked into the coffin; there lay ever so much money. The father-in-law wanted to take it away with him, or, at all events, that only some one who could outdo him in cunning should get it.[377]

In one of the least intelligible of the West Highland tales, there is a scene which somewhat resembles the "lykewake" in this skazka. It is called "The Girl and the Dead Man," and relates, among other strange things, how a youngest sister took service in a house where a corpse lay. "She sat to watch the dead man, and she was sewing; in the middle of night he rose up, and screwed up a grin. 'If thou dost not lie down properly, I will give thee the one leathering with a stick.' He lay down. At the end of a while, he rose on one elbow, and screwed up a grin; and the third time he rose and screwed up a grin. When he rose the third time, she struck him a lounder of the stick; the stick stuck to the dead man, and the hand stuck to the stick, and out they were." Eventually "she got a peck of gold and a peck of silver, and the vessel of cordial" and returned home.[378]

The obscurity of the Celtic tale forms a striking contrast to the lucidity of the Slavonic. The Russian peasant likes a clear statement of facts; the Highlander seems, like Coleridge's Scotch admirer, to find a pleasure in seeing "an idea looming out of the mist."


[296] About which, see Professor Wilson's note on Somadeva's story of the "Origin of Pataliputra," "Essays," i. p. 168-9, with Dr. Rost's reference to L. Deslongchamps, "Essai sur les Fables Indiennes," Paris, 1838, p. 35 and Graesse, "Sagenkreise des Mittelalters," Leipsig, 1842, p. 191. See also the numerous references given by Grimm, KM. iii. pp. 168-9.

[297] As well as in all the mythologies. For the magic draught of the fairy-story appears to be closely connected with the Greek ambrosia, the Vedic soma or amrita, the Zend haoma.

[298] A water, "Das Wasser des Lebens," in two German stories (Grimm, Nos. 92 and 97, and iii. p. 178), and in many Greek tales (Hahn, Nos. 32, 37, &c.). An oil or ointment in the Norse tale (Asbjoernsen and Moe, No. 35, Dasent, No. 3). A balsam in Gaelic tales, in which a "Vessel of Balsam" often occurs. According to Mr. Campbell ("West Highland Tales," i. p. 218), "Ballan Iocshlaint, teat, of ichor, of health, seems to be the meaning of the words." The juice squeezed from the leaves of a tree in a modern Indian tale ("Old Deccan Days," p. 139).

[299] The mythical bird Garuda, the Indian original of the Roc of the Arabian Nights, was similarly connected with the Amrita. See the story of Garuda and the Nagas in Brockhaus's translation of the "Kathasaritsagara," ii. pp. 98-105. On the Vedic falcon which brings the Soma down to earth, see Kuhn's "Herabkunft des Feuers," pp. 138-142.

[300] In the Russian periodical, "Otechestvennuiya Zapiski," vol. 43 (for 1830) pp. 252-6.

[301] Schiefners's translation, 1852, pp. 80, 81.

[302] In that attributed to Sivadasa, tale 2 (Lassen's "Anthologia Sanscritica," pp. 16-19), and in the "Kathasaritsagara," chap. lxxvi. See Brockhaus's summary in the "Berichte der phil. hist. Classe der Koen. Saechs. Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften," December 3, 1853, pp. 194-5.

[303] The "Baital-Pachisi," translated by Ghulam Mohammad Munshi, Bombay 1868, pp. 23-24.

[304] B. G. Babington's translation of "The Vedala Cadai," p. 32. contained in the "Miscellaneous Translations" of the Oriental Translation Fund, 1831, vol. i. pt. iv pp. 32 and 67.

[305] Afanasief, P.V.S. ii. 551.

[306] Afanasief, viii. p. 205.

[307] Afanasief, vii. No. 5 b.

[308] Afanasief, vii. No. 5 a. For the Zhar-Ptitsa, see infra, p. 285.

[309] Afanasief, vi. p. 249. For a number of interesting legends, collected from the most distant parts of the world, about grinding mountains and crashing cliffs, &c., see Tylor's "Primitive Culture," pp. 313-16. After quoting three mythic descriptions found among the Karens, the Algonquins, and the Aztecs, Mr. Tylor remarks, "On the suggestion of this group of solar conceptions and that of Maui's death, we may perhaps explain as derived from a broken-down fancy of solar-myth, that famous episode of Greek legend, where the good ship Argo passed between the Symplegades, those two huge cliffs that opened and closed again with swift and violent collision."

Several of the Modern Greek stories are very like the skazka mentioned above. In one of these (Hahn, ii. p. 234), a Lamia guards the water of life (abanato nero) which flows within a rock; in another (ii. p. 280) a mountain opens at midday, and several springs are disclosed, each of which cries "Draw from me!" but the only one which is life-giving is that to which a bee flies.

[310] Wenzig, p. 148.

[311] Afanasief, P.V.S. ii. 353.

[312] See above, p. 233.

[313] Silnaya voda or potent water, and bezsilnaya voda, or impotent water (sila = strength).

[314] Palitsa = a cudgel, etc. In the variant of the story quoted in the preceding section the prince seized Vikhor by the right little finger, mizinets. Palets meant a finger. The similarity of the two words may have led to a confusion of ideas.

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