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, and Anna.
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 any circumstances.
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 chains.
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 Marya.
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 palace.
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 of Fire.
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 on.
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 their stables.
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 castles.
Tsar Ivan and Marya Morevna unified their two kingdoms, which they helped reign over happily ever after.