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The Tale of Tsarevich Ivan,

Alexander The Great



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  The Firebird and Grey Wolf

Whether a long time passed by or a short time none can say, for a tale is short in the telling but a deed is long in the doing, but one day he reached a spot where the road branched off in three directions and where stood a large stone inscribed with the following works:  "Go straight ahead, and you will suffer hunger and cold; go to the right, and you will lose your horse; go to the left, and you will die."
Tsarevich Ivan read the inscription, and, after thinking it over, made up his mind to go to the right.  He rode for a day, and another, and on the evening of the third day reached a dense forest.  All of a sudden Grey Wolf rushed out of the bushes and pounced on Tsarevich Ivan's horse.  Before Tsarevich Ivan could pull out his sword Grey Wolf had torn the horse in two and vanished.
Tsarevich Ivan at the Crossroads
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Tsarevich Ivan had no choice, so he went on on foot.  A day passed, and another, and a third, and he began to feel so weary that he was ready to drop.  He sat down on a tree stump when lo! - as if out of nowhere Grey Wolf appeared.  "Why so sad, Tsarevich Ivan?" asked he.  "Why do you sit there with hanging head?  "How can I help it, Grey Wolf!  Where can I go without my horse?  "You chose the road yourself, you know.  But I am sorry for you, so tell me whither you are bound."  "My father the Tsar has sent me to fetch him the FireBird that has been stealing his golden apples."  "He has, has he!  Why, you could not have reached the FireBird on that horse of yours in a hundred years.  I alone know where it is.  Get on my back and hold tight.  I killed your horse, so now I shall serve you truly and faithfully."
Tsarevich Ivan got on his back, and off went Grey wolf in a flash.  Blue streams skimmed past ever so fast, green forests swept by in the wink of an eye, and at last they came to a high stone wall.

Tsarevich Ivan on Gray Wolf's back
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 Said Grey Wolf:  "Come Tsarevich Ivan, climb over the wall.  There is a garden behind it and in that garden a golden cage with the  FireBird in it.  The guards are asleep, so take the bird, but mind that you do not touch the golden cage."
Tsarevich Ivan climbed over the wall and down into the garden and saw the FireBird in its cage.  He took out the bird and started for the wall when it came to him that the cage was all studded with gems and very costly and that he had need of it in any case, if only so as not to have to carry the bird in his bosom.  He turned back, and, forgetting what Grey Wolf had told him, picked up the cage.  All of a sudden the air was rent by a great ringing of bells and a rattling of rattles, and the guards woke and came running into the garden.  They seized Tsarevich Ivan, bound his hands and marched him off to Tsar Afron.
"Who are you and from whence do you hail?"  Tsar Afron shouted in great fury.  "I am Tsarevich Ivan, son of Tsar Demyan.  Your FireBird has been visiting my father's garden and stealing his golden apples.  That was why he sent me after it."  "Well, you should have come to me and asked for it openly and perhaps you'd have got it.  But now I will send out messengers to all the lands and realms that you may be known throughout for the thief that you are.  Or no, perhaps I will not, that is, if you will do me a service.  Beyond the Thrice Nine Lands, in the Thrice Ten Tsardom there is a Tsar named Kusman who has a Horse with a Golden Mane.  Bring me that horse, and I will forgive you and you will have the FireBird besides.
- Russian Folk Tale
2018 Damon Hyldreth
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