A.Kosterin. "The Frog Princess"
Box. 1967 Kholui
Then the tsar
arranged for the three marriages; his eldest son to
the nobleman's daughter, his second to the merchant's
daughter, and the unhappy Prince Ivan to the frog.
After the weddings the tsar summoned his sons again,
and told them:
"I want to see which of your wives is the finest
needlewoman. Each one is to make me a shirt by tomorrow."
The sons bowed to their father and went to tell their
wives. But when Prince Ivan arrived home he sat down
looking very miserable. The frog was jumping around
on the floor, and it asked him:
"You look very unhappy, Prince Ivan ? Are you in trouble?"
"My father has ordered you to make him a shirt by
tomorrow," the prince answered.
"Do not worry, Prince Ivan," the frog said. "You just
go to bed. You will feel better after a good sleep."
So he went to bed. But the frog jumped out on to the
verandah, threw off its skin and turned into the wise
Princess Vassilisa, a maiden so beautiful that words
could never describe her. She clapped her hands and
"My faithful attendants, gather round and listen to
me. Sew for me by tomorrow morning a shirt like the
one my own father used to wear."
When the prince woke up next morning the frog was
jumping about the floor again, but a shirt wrapped
in linen was already lying on the table. He was overjoyed.
He picked up the shirt and took it to his father.
When he arrived, the tsar was receiving the gifts
from his two elder sons. The eldest son spread out
the shirt his wife had made. As the tsar accepted
it he said:
"This is a shirt for everyday wear."
When the second son spread out his shirt, the tsar
"I could only go to the bath in that."
Then Prince Ivan unfolded his shirt; it was embroidered
with gold and silver threads in intricate patterns.
The tsar took one look at it and declared:
"Now that is a shirt; I can wear it on important occasions."
The two elder brothers went oft home, remarking to
each other as they went:
"It seems we were too quick to laugh at Ivan's wife;
she is no frog, she is a witch."
Now the tsar sent for his sons again, and told them:
"Each of your wives is to bake a loaf of bread for
me by tomorrow. I wish to find out which is the best
When Prince Ivan arrived home after seeing his father
he looked so miserable that the frog asked him:
"What is the matter, Prince Ivan?"
"You have to bake a loaf of bread for the tsar by
tomorrow," Ivan answered.
"Do not worry; just go to bed. You will feel better
after a good sleep."
At first the elder sons wives had made fun of Prince
Ivan's frog wife. But now they had changed their minds,
and they sent an old kitchen woman to spy out how
the frog was going to bake bread. But the frog, being
wise, realised their scheme. After kneading the dough
it made a hole in the top of the brick oven and poured
the dough through the hole. The woman saw what had
been done, and ran to the elder brothers's wives and
told them. So they set to work and did the same.
But after Prince Ivan had gone to bed the frog jumped
out on to the verandah, turned into the wise Princess
Vassilisa, and clapped her hands:
"My faithful attendants, gather round and listen to
me. Bake for me by the morning soft white bread like
the bread I ate at my father's table."
When the prince woke up next morning the loaf of bread
was already lying on the table. It was decorated with
various fancy designs, and on its top was the shape
of a city with walls and gates. He was delighted,
wrapped the bread in clean linen, and took it to his
father. When he arrived the tsar was receiving the
loaves brought by his two elder sons. But their wives
had poured the dough into the ovens just as the old
woman had told them, and all they had to show for
their labour were two burnt cinders. The tsar took
the burnt loaf offered by his eldest son, looked at
it, and sent it straight to the servants's quarters.
Then he took the loaf from his second son, and sent
it after the other. But when Prince Ivan handed him
his loaf the tsar said:
"Now this is such good bread, it should be eaten only
on great occasions."
The tsar had arranged a banquet for the following
day, and he ordered his sons to attend with their
wives. The thought of his frog wife attending a banquet
made Prince Ivan feel far from cheerful, and he returned
home with his head hanging. As usual, the frog was
jumping about the floor. When it saw him it asked:
"Prince Ivan, what are you looking so miserable for?
Has your father said something unpleasant to you?"
"How can I help looking miserable, frog? My father
has ordered me to bring you to a banquet; and how
can I show you to people?"
But the frog answered:
"Do not grieve, Prince Ivan. You go oft to the banquet
by yourself, and I will
follow later. When you hear a knock and a clap of
thunder, do not be afraid. If anyone asks you what
it means, just say: "That is my little frog who
is coming riding in a little box."
So he went off to the banquet alone. His elder brothers
arrived with their wives dressed in their finery,
wearing their jewellery, their faces painted and powdered.
They laughed at Prince Ivan and asked:
"Why did you not bring your wife with you? You could
have carried her in a handkerchief. Wherever did you
find such a beauty? You must have searched all through
the marshes for her."
The tsar, his sons, their wives, and all the guests
sat down at the oaken tables, which were spread with
embroidered tablecloths. But before they started to
feast there was a loud knock and a clap of thunder,
so powerful that the palace shook. The guests were
alarmed, and jumped up from their seats. But Prince
"Do not be afraid. It is only my little frog coming.
She is riding in a little box."
At that moment a gilded carriage drawn by six white
horses drew up at the tsar's front door, and the wise
Princess Vassilisa stepped out. She was wearing an
azure gown studded with stars; on her head was a shining
chaplet; she was so beautiful that the guests sat
and stared. She took Prince Ivan by the hand and he
led her to the oaken table.
The guests began to eat and drink, and to make merry.
But the wise Vassilisa only took one sip from her
glass, pouring the rest into her left sleeve. She
only nibbled at her plate of swan meat, and dropped
the bones into her right sleeve. And when the two
elder brothers's wives noticed what she was doing they
followed her example.
After the eating and drinking it was time for dancing.
The wise Vassilisa took Prince Ivan's hand and they
danced together. And she danced so marvellously, so
beautifully, that all the guests were amazed. Then
she waved her left sleeve, and suddenly a lake was
formed in the hall; she waved her right sleeve, and
white swans floated on the lake. The tsar and his
guests were filled with astonishment.
R.Moisséyev. "The Frog Princess"
Plate. 2000. Palekh
elder brothers's wives also danced. And when they danced
they waved one sleeve, but they only sprinkled the
guests with wine; they waved the other sleeve, but
only bones flew out. One bone hit the tsar in the
eye, and he was so angry that he drove both the wives
out of the palace.
Meanwhile, Prince Ivan quietly slipped out of the
hall, and hurried home. He found the frog skin lying
on the verandah and threw it into the stove, where
it burnt in the fire. When Princess Vassilisa returned
home she saw that the frog skin was gone. She sat
down on a bench and said to her husband sorrowfully:
"Ah, Prince Ivan, what have you done? If you had waited
only another three days I would have been yours for
ever. But now I must say goodbye. You can look for
me in the thirtieth kingdom beyond three times nine
lands. There you will find me with Kashchey the Deathless."
Then she turned into a grey cuckoo and flew out of
the window. And the prince wept bitterly. Bowing to
all the four points of the compass he went off into
the world to seek his wife, the wise Princess Vassilisa.
He walked for so long that he wore out his boots,
his clothes were torn, and the rain soaked through
his cap. One day he happened to meet a very old man,
who asked him:
"Hello, young man! What are you seeking, where are
The prince told him how he had lost his wife, and
was now seeking her. And the old man said:
"Ah, Prince Ivan, what made you burn the frog skin?
You did not have to wear it or take it off. The wise
Vassilisa was born cleverer and wiser than her father,
and he was so annoyed that he ordered her to be a
frog for three years. What is done cannot be undone.
Take this ball; wherever it rolls, you follow boldly
The prince thanked the old man and started to follow
the ball. It rolled along, and he walked behind it.
In the open country he came across a bear, and took
aim, intending to kill it. But the bear spoke to him
in a human voice:
"Do not kill me, Prince Ivan. Some day I shall be
of service to you."
The prince had pity on the bear, and went on his way
without shooting it. As he walked he saw a drake flying
He took aim to shoot it, but the drake spoke to him
in a human voice:
"Do not kill me, Prince Ivan. I shall be of service
So he had pity on the drake and went his way. Next
a hare came running past. Ivan thought he would shoot
the hare; but it said in a human voice:
"Do not kill me, Prince Ivan. I shall be of service
So he let the hare go, and went his way. He came to
the blue sea and saw a pike lying on the sand of the
shore. It was hardly able to breathe, and it said
"Prince Ivan, have pity on me; throw me back into
the blue sea."
So he threw the pike into the sea, and followed the
ball as it rolled along the shore. At last the ball
rolled into a forest. There the prince saw a little
hut standing on a chicken leg, and twisting round
and round. He said to the hut:
"Little hut, little hut, stand just as you
were built, with your back to the forest, your front
Then the little hut turned with its front towards
him, and its back to the forest. He went inside, and
saw an old witch, the Baba Yaga, lying on top of the
stove, her chin resting on the shelf at the top of
the stove, and her nose pressed up against the ceiling.
"Why have you called on me, young fellow?" the old
witch asked him. "Are you seeking your fortune, or
are you running away from it?"
"You old scold," the prince answered, "before you
start asking questions you should give me food and
drink and a hot bath."
So the old witch Baba Yaga gave him a hot bath, gave
him food and drink, and put him to bed. Then the prince
told her he was seeking his wife, the wise Princess
"I know, I know," the old witch said.
"Your wife is with Kashchey the Deathless now. It
will be difficult to get her away from him, Kashchey
is not easy to deal with. His death is right at the
point of a needle, the needle is in an egg, the egg
is in a duck, the duck is in a hare, the hare is sitting
in a stone chest, the stone chest is in the crown
of a lofty oak, and Kashchey the Deathless guards
that oak as he would the apple of his eye."
Prince Ivan spent the night in the old witch's hut,
and next morning she told him how to get to the spot
where the lofty oak was growing. The prince found
the spot, and saw the oak standing, rustling its leaves;
in its crown was a stone chest, so high that it was
very difficult to get at.
Suddenly a bear ran up and tore the oak up by its
roots. The chest fell, and was smashed to pieces.
A hare leapt out of the chest, and fled at top speed.
But a second hare chased after it, overtook it, and
tore it to pieces. But a duck flew out of the pieces,
and sailed right up to the sky. However, as the prince
watched, a drake flew at the duck; as he struck her
she let fall an egg, and the egg dropped into the
At the sight Prince Ivan shed bitter tears: how could
he ever find that egg in the sea? But suddenly a pike
swam up to the shore with the egg in its mouth. The
prince broke the egg, took out the needle, and set
to work to snap its point. As he snapped it Kashchey
the Deathless struggled and writhed. But he could
do nothing: the prince snapped off the point of the
needle, and Kashchey died.
Then the prince went to Kashchey's white stone palace.
The wise Princess Vassilisa ran out to meet him, and
kissed him on his lips. So Prince Ivan and Princess
Vassilisa returned home, and they lived happily to
a ripe old age.