The Tale of Tsarevich Ivan,
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The Firebird and Grey Wolf|
Grey Wolf stopped before the Tsar's stables of white stone and said: "Climb over the wall, Tsarevich Ivan, take the Horse with the Golden Mane and run for your life! But mind that you do not touch the golden bridle that you see hanging there." Tsarevich Ivan climbed over the wall and crept into the Tsar's stables of white stone. All the watchmen were asleep, so he took the Horse with the Golden Mane and was bout to lead it out when he caught sight of the golden bridle hanging on the wall. "I might as well take the bridle, too" thought he. But no sooner had he touched it than there began a great ringing and clanging throughout the stables, and the watchmen woke and came running. They seized Tsarevich Ivan and marched him off to Tsar Kusman.
"Who are you and from whence do you hail?" Tsar Kusman shouted. "I am Tsarevich Ivan, son of Tsar Demyan." "The son of a tsar to stoop so low! Why did you not come to me and ask for the horse? I'd have given it to you out of respect for your father. But now I will send messengers to all the realms that you may be known throughout for the thief that you are. Or no, perhaps I will not if you do me a service. Beyond the Thrice Nine Realms, in the Thrice Ten Tsardom there is a Tsar named Dalmat whose daughter Yelena the Beautiful I would have for myself. Bring her to me, and I will forgive you and let you have the Horse with the Golden Mane besides."
Tsarevich Ivan went back to Grey Wolf and told him everything. "Why did you not listen to me, Tsarevich Ivan?" said Grey Wolf. "Why did you touch the golden bridle? All you do is make trouble for yourself and for me, too." "I am sorry, Grey Wolf, do please forgive me." "Oh, all right, then. Get on my back and hold tight, and we will go to seek Yelena the Beautiful."
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 tsar Dalmat's realm and stopped before a garden with a golden fence around it. "I shall do everything myself this time," said Grey Wolf. "Get off my back now, go back the way we came and wait for me by the oak tree out in the open field." Tsarevich Ivan did as he was told, and Grey Wolf leapt over the fence and hid behind a bush. He waited all day but it was not till evening that Yelena the Beautiful, escorted by her maids, women and ladies in waiting, came out into the garden for a breath of fresh air. As she stopped to pluck a flower, Grey Wolf rushed out, seized her, threw her across his back, and, leaping over the fence, took to his heals.
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|He ran to the oak tree where Tsarevich Ivan was waiting for him and said: "You get on my back, too, and let's be off before they stop us!" Tsarevich Ivan got on Grey Wolf's back, and away they went! And the huntsmen Tsar Dalmat sent after them could not overtake them and came back empty handed. |
By and by Yelena the Beautiful opened her eyes, which in her fear she had kept shut, and saw that she was resting in the arms of a young and handsome knight who rode behind her on Grey Wolf's back. Neither could tear his gaze from the other, and it was soon clear to both that they had fallen in love. They arrived in Tsar Kusman's tsardom, and Tsarevich Ivan grew very sad and woebegone. "What makes you so sad, Tsarevich Ivan?" Grey Wolf asked. "How can I help it, Grey Wolf! I have fallen in love with Yelena the Beautiful and cannot bring myself to part with such loveliness." Said Grey Wolf: "I have helped you in many ways, Tsarevich Ivan, and I shall help you again. I will take the shape of Yelena the Beautiful and you shall lead me to Tsar Kusman in her stead. Yelena the Beautiful can wait for you under the oak tree. As soon as you come back to her with Golden Mane you two had better get on his back and ride away. I will catch up with you later."
They left Yelena the Beautiful under the tree, and Grey Wolf rolled over on the ground and took her shape. Tsarevich Ivan then led him to Tsar Kusman, and the Tsar was overjoyed and gave him the Horse with the Golden Mane and the golden bridle besides. Tsarevich Ivan got on the horse and went back for Yelena the Beautiful. He put her on the horse's back, and away the rode for Tsar Afron's tsardom!
Tsar Kusman held a wedding and a feast to celebrate it, and the oaken tables in the palace groaned under the weight of jugs of mead and wine and platters of sweets. The guests raised their cups and congratulated the bride and groom, and, according to an age old custom, cried "bitter!" so the two would kiss and thus make the bitter wine sweet. Tsar Kusman bent down to kiss his young bride but instead of the lovely lips of Yelena the Beautiful his lips met a wolf's bristly muzzle. The Tsar sprang back in fear, and Grey wolf jumped out of the window, and, taking to his heals, soon caught up with Tsarevich Ivan and Yelena the Beautiful. "Get on my back, Tsarevich Ivan," said he, "and let Yelena the Beautiful ride on the Horse with the Golden Mane." Tsarevich Ivan got on Grey Wolf's back and away they rode!
- Russian Folk Tale
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