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Russian folk tale
A long time ago in a Russian kingdom closer than you might think lived
a Tsar and his Queen, with their son Ivan and three daughters Maria, Olga,
The years passed and it was time for the old Tsar to hand over his kingdom
to his son on his deathbed. On his deathbed the Tsar instructed young
Ivan to see that his sisters be properly married and taken care of while
they were still fresh and young.
As the years passed, the now, Tsar Ivan found himself walking in a garden
on palace grounds with his three sisters. Out of nowhere a black cloud
appeared covering the entire sky. As this happened Ivan instructed his
sisters to retreat to the inside of the palace before the storm began.
As soon as they all stepped inside the palace lighting flashed across
the entire sky, thunder rattled the land, and rain covered the entire
kingdom. Next thing they knew a flacon flew through a window and as he
landed he turned into a handsome prince. He looked at Maria then Ivan
and asked for her hand in marriage. Ivan accepted the proposal as did
Maria and they were married shortly thereafter and the falcon carried
her back to his kingdom.
One year to the day Ivan found himself walking through a palace garden
with the remaining two sisters. Just as did happen the previous year a
black cloud appeared and Ivan and his sisters ran back to the palace to
escape the storm. When they got back to the palace the storm arrived but
this time an eagle flew in turning into a handsome young prince. He looked
at Olga then Ivan and asked for her hand in marriage. Ivan approved as
did Olga and they were quickly married after which the eagle carried Olga
back to his kingdom.
One year to the day of the second meeting of a prince Ivan was once again
walking in a palace garden with his youngest and only remaining sister
Anna. The same turn of events that occurred in the previous years once
again came to pass. As they got back inside the palace a raven appeared
immediately after the storm started. As the raven landed he turned into
a handsome prince. He looked at Anna then Ivan and asked for Anna's hand
in marriage. Ivan did not hesitate in giving them his blessing and Anna
did not hesitate in accepting the proposal. They were married and the
raven carried Anna off to his kingdom.
Tsar Ivan now lived alone in his immense palace lonely and without a family
to look after. He missed his sisters so much that one day he told his
princes and boyars that he was leaving the kingdom in their care and that
he was leaving the kingdom for an indefinite period of time.
He mounted his horse and rode off. He rode up to a field of a slain army
of soldiers. This army happened to be defeated by the army of Marya Morevna,
which happened to be resting in a field of white tents. There he met Marya
and made it clear to her that he came in peace. She invited him into her
tent for a feast and he ended up staying with her for three days and nights.
Both realized that they were madly in love and set a date to marry in
Marya's kingdom. For years they lived happily and in peace.
One day Marya came to Ivan and told him that she was going to have to
leave to battle an army in another portion of her kingdom. When she departed
she told Ivan that he was in charge of the kingdom until she got back
and not to enter the chamber at the tallest turret in the castle under
While she was gone he wandered the castle for days looking into every
room wondering when his love was going to come back. He remembered that
in the tallest turret there was something inside that he was not supposed
to see. Burning with curiosity he ran to the uppermost chamber in the
turret and unlocked the door. Inside he found a giant lying sprawled on
the floor with his arms and legs chained to the floor with seven iron
The giant pleaded to Ivan that he had food or drink in ten years. Ivan
feeling pity brought the giant a pale of water, which the giant drank
in one gulp. He asked for two more pails and when he finished the last
one he got up and broke through the chains like they were paper-thin.
This was no ordinary giant this was the one and only Koschei the Deathless.
He told Ivan that he would never see his wife again and like a whirlwind
flew out of the window. Koschei flew across the land and swept up Marya
who was returning home from battle and carried her off to his kingdom.
Ivan was depressed and he sat in the castle crying and weeping for his
mistake and the loss of his love. Time passed and wounds healed but he
still missed his wife so he decided to go rescue her.
He rode on his horse for three days and on the third he saw a beautiful
castle in front of him. Next to him perched on an oak tree was a falcon
that at the sight of Ivan flew done and turned into his first brother-in-law.
They went inside the castle where his sister Maria was there to meet him.
Ivan stayed with them for three days and told them that he had to leave.
He left his silver spoon with them so they would know how he was doing
and rode off on his horse.
He rode for three days and on the third day he came upon another castle
that was more beautiful than the first. Looking at the immense structure
he sat on his horse next to a large oak. In the oak was perched an eagle
who upon seeing Ivan flew down and turned into the second brother-in-law.
They went inside the castle and met with Ivan's sister Olga who was delighted
to see him. Ivan stayed in the castle for three days and said that he
would have to depart because he was on a quest to find his wife Marya
Morevna. To see his progress the two asked Ivan to leave his silver fork.
He did as was asked and rode off.
Riding non-stop for three days he came upon another castle that was more
beautiful than both of the ones he stayed at before, put together. In
a large oak was perched a falcon who swooped down to Ivan and turned into
the third brother-in-law. He invited Ivan in and Anna the youngest of
the sisters embraced Ivan since she had not seen him in so long. Ivan
spent three days with them and rode off leaving them a silver tobacco
box so that they could keep track of his progress.
He traveled for three more days before coming up to the kingdom of Koschei
the Deathless. Ivan bravely walked into the palace grounds and found Marya
Morevna who warned him that Koschei was out on a hunt. Ivan took Marya
on his horse and rode off with her hoping to make it home.
Koschei returning from the hunt was informed by a horse of his that Ivan
had taken Marya. Hearing this news he mounted the magical horse and caught
up to Ivan and Marya in a flash. Koschei swept up Marya and told him that
he would not kill him since he took pity on him in the past.
Dejected he sat on his horse and thought about his defeated effort. Driven
to have his wife back he rode back Koschei's palace to once again rescue
When he found Marya again she warned him that Koschei would be back soon.
He ignored her warning and took her and charged off on his horse.
Koschei came back and was informed by his horse that Ivan had taken Marya
again. Mounting the magical horse he caught up to the two escapees just
as fast as he did previously, took Marya, and told Ivan that if he was
ever to do that again that he would be killed.
This time Ivan returned and waited several days until Koschei left the
palace to go in and rescue Marya. Ivan found Marya and he told her to
get on the horse and ride off with him. She was reluctant and he told
him that he would be killed if Koschei found them again. Ivan told her
that it was better to be dead than not to be with her and she responded
by getting on his horse and riding off with him.
Koschei returned and found that Marya was missing and galloped after them
in a fury. He caught up to them, grabbed Marya, sliced Ivan into many
small pieces, and put the pieces into a tarred barrel, which he threw
into the deep blue sea.
As this was happening the spoon, fork, and tobacco box all turned black.
The brothers-in-law all realized that something very terrible had happened
to Ivan. The eagle flew to the sea and snared the barrel carrying it to
shore. The falcon flew off to obtain the water of the living and the raven
flew to obtain the water of the dead. The falcon and the raven flew back
to the eagle that was waiting for them. The three of them broke the barrel
and put Ivan's body back together piece by piece. Next the raven poured
the water of the dead on the severed pieces and they fused back together.
Then the falcon poured the water of the living on the body and Ivan sprung
back to life. Ivan thanked his brothers-in-law and walked back to Koschei's
When Koschei left in the morning Ivan snuck inside and found Marya and
told her to find out where Koschei acquired his magical horses. When Koschei
returned Marya waited for the opportune time and asked him the question.
He answered that he got the horses from Baba Yaga who lived on the other
side of the River of Fire, which his magical handkerchief helped him cross.
While Koschei slept Marya took his magic handkerchief and gave it to Ivan
and told him to go to Baba Yaga's house on the other side of the River
Ivan started off for Baba Yaga's house and soon enough he was at the River
of Fire. He waved the magic handkerchief and a crystal bridge rose up
from a low and decrepit bridge and he was able to cross safely.
Ivan walked and walked and was very hungry. He came upon a mother bird
with her young. He thought of having them to eat but the mother bird told
him not to eat them because he might need their help later, and Ivan trekked
Still famished Ivan came up to a beehive from which he wanted to take
some honey. However the queen bee flew to him and said not to eat any
honey since he might need her help in the future, and so he walked on.
Not having eaten for a long time he crossed paths with a lioness and her
cub. Ivan wanted to kill the cub for a meal but was told not to by the
lioness since he might need their help someday, and he walked on.
He walked long exhausted from severe hunger and eventually made it to
Baba Yaga's house. He met with her and told her that he would serve her.
She told him that he would tend her stables and if one horse escaped she
would cut off his head and put it on a stake next to all of her other
heads. She would reward him though if he could manage to keep her horses
at bay. She made him a hearty meal, told him to eat, sleep, and that he
would be starting his work in the morning.
In the morning before waking Ivan Baba Yaga told all of her horses to
run away from Ivan once they got in the meadow.
After Ivan woke he took the horses as instructed to the meadow. As soon
as they arrived all the horses ran off in different directions. Ivan could
do nothing as he sat in the middle of the meadow. Then the same birds
that Ivan spared swooped out of the sky forcing all the horses back to
Baba Yaga angered at her horses asked them what happened. They told her
they had no choice because the birds would have plucked their eyes out.
She instructed them next time to scatter into the deepness of the forest.
Ivan woke up the next day and took the horses out and they ran into the
depths of the forest as soon as they had the chance. The same lioness
her cub and an army of lions ran into the forest and chased the horses
back to their stables.
Baba Yaga was once again angry at her horses since they were back in their
stables in the morning. This time she told them to hide in the blue sea
once Ivan took them out.
Ivan woke up and took the horses out and sure enough they ran off into
the blue sea. Then a swarm of bees flew at the horses that were standing
in the sea and stung them until they returned home. One of the bees flew
to Ivan and told him to go back to Baba Yaga's house but so that she does
not know that he is there and hides in the stables. The bee also told
him to find a mangy looking colt and flee at night. Ivan did as he was
told and rode off on the ugly colt towards the River of Fire.
He reached the River of Fire, waved the handkerchief, and crossed the
crystal bridge that appeared out of nowhere. The next morning Baba Yaga
found that Ivan had taken one of her colts and she rode after him. When
she came up to the River of Fire she tried to cross it but fell in and
was never heard from again.
Once Ivan led his colt out into a pasture it suddenly turned into a strong
and beautiful steed. Ivan mounted him and rode to the palace of Koschei
the Deathless. Once he reached the palace he found Marya Morevna and put
her on his new magical horse and rode off.
Koschei found out from one of his magic horses that Ivan had come back
and took Marya. Furious, Koschei mounted the horse and charged after them.
When Koschei caught up to them Ivan's horse struck Koschei in the head
and killed him with that blow. Marya mounted Koschei's horse and she and
Ivan rode back to their kingdom stopping to feast at each of the brothers-in-law
Tsar Ivan and Marya Morevna unified their two kingdoms, which they helped
reign over happily ever after.