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Maria Morevna



O

nce upon a time there was a certain prince, named Ivan, who had three sisters: Maria, Olga, and Anna. The time came when their father and mother, the tsar and tsaritsa, both died; and just before gave Ivan their last wishes concerning their three daughters. ''Ivan,'' they said, ''if any man comes to you and asks for the hand of one of your sisters in marriage, give her to him. Do not keep any of them with you at home.''
    After the prince had buried his parents, he sadly went for a walk with his sisters in their green garden. Suddenly a black cloud overcast the sky, and there was a terrible clap of thunder. ''We had better go home, sisters,'' Prince Ivan said. They had hardly entered the palace when they heard another clap of thunder, the ceiling split in two, and a white falcon flew down into their chamber. The falcon beat himself against the floor and changed into a handsome young man. ''Greetings, Prince Ivan,'' said the newcomer. ''In former days I came as your guest, but now I have come to ask for the hand of your sister, Princess Maria.''
    ''If you love my sister,'' Prince Ivan answered, ''I have no objection. May God bless her.'' Princess Maria was agreeable to the marriage, so the falcon and she celebrated the wedding and he carried her off to his kingdom.
    Hour followed hour, day followed day, until a whole year had passed. Then one day Prince Ivan went with his two sisters for a walk in their green garden. Again a black cloud overcast the sky, and with it came a whirlwind and lightning. ''We had better go home, sisters,'' said Prince Ivan. They had hardly entered the palace when there was another thunder-clap, the ceiling split in two, and an eagle flew down. He struck himself against the floor and changed into a handsome young man. ''Greetings, Prince Ivan,'' he said. ''In past days I came as a guest, but now I have come as a suitor. I wish to marry Princess Olga.'' Prince Ivan told him: ''If you love my sister Olga, and if it is her will, she may go with you. I shall have no objection.'' Princess Olga agreed and took the eagle for her husband; they were married, and then the eagle caught her up and carried her to his kingdom.
    Another year had passed when one day Prince Ivan said to his youngest sister: ''Let us go for a walk in the green garden.'' They had been walking for only a little while when there was a clap of thunder, with lightning. ''We had better go home, sister,'' said the prince. They returned home, but before they could even sit down there was a thunder-clap, the ceiling parted, and a raven flew down. He beat himself against the floor and changed into a handsome young man: the falcon and the eagle had been good-looking enough, but this raven was even more strikingly handsome. ''Well, Prince Ivan,'' he said, ''in past days I came as a guest, but now I have come as a suitor. Give me Princess Anna for my wife.''
    ''I shall not compel my sister against her will; if you have fallen in love with her, and she with you, she may go with you,'' replied Ivan. Princess Anna agreed to be the raven''s wife, and he carried her off to his home.
    Now Prince Ivan lived alone.; and he spent a whole year without seeing his sisters. ''I will go and see how they are getting on,'' he said to himself one day. He made ready for the journey, and set out. After travelling some distance he came to a field where a host of soldiers were lying dead. And he called: ''If there is any man left alive here, speak up and tell me: who killed all this mighty force?'' Just one man was left alive, and he answered. ''All this mighty force was killed by Maria Morevna, the beautiful queen.'' As the prince journeyed farther he came to white tents pitched in a field. And from one of them the beautiful queen Maria Morevna came to meet him.


S.Teplov. "Maria Morevna"

S.Teplov. "Maria Morevna"
Box. 1990   Kholui

    ''Greetings, Prince,'' she said. ''Where are you going, to freedom or slavery?''
    ''Fine young men do not ride to slavery,'' Prince Ivan replied.
    ''Well, since there is no hurry, be our guest, and enter our tents,'' she invited him. The prince was glad of the invitation, and he spent two nights in the queen''s camp. He fell in love with her and she with him, and they were married.
    The beautiful Queen Maria Morevna took the prince with her to her own country, and they lived happily for some time. But then the queen decided to make war on another country, so she handed over the government of all her lands to Prince Ivan, and told him: ''Ride everywhere, and keep an eye on everything. But one thing you must not do: you must not even look into this boxroom,'' and she showed him the door of the boxroom. Unfortunately, the prince could not restrain his curiosity; as soon as the queen had ridden away he ran to the boxroom, opened the door, looked in, and saw Kashchey the Deathless, fettered with twelve chains. When Kashchey saw the prince he pleaded: ''Have pity on me, give me some water to drink. For ten years I have been suffering torments here, being given neither food nor drink. And my throat is quite dry.'' So the prince brought him a full bucket of water; he drank it all in one gulp and asked: ''Give me some more; my thirst cannot be quenched with a single bucketful.'' So the prince brought him a second bucketful. Kashchey drank that, and asked for a third. But when he had drunk the third bucketful of water all his former strength was restored, he shook his chains, and snapped all twelve at once. ''Thank you, Prince Ivan,'' Kashchey the Deathless said. ''Now you will never see Maria Morevna again any more than you can see your own ears.'' He flew out of the window in a fearful gust of wind, overtook the beautiful Queen Maria Morevna on the road, caught her up and carried her off.
    The prince, left alone in his palace, wept bitterly over the loss of his beautiful Maria Morevna, but then he decided to go and search for her, and made ready for a long journey. ''No matter what happens,'' he declared, ''I shall search till I find Maria Morevna.''
    He rode for one day, then a second, and at dawn of the third day he came to a wonderful palace. An oak was standing outside the palace, and in the oak a white falcon was sitting. The falcon flew down from the oak, beat itself against the ground, and turned into a handsome young man. He cried: ''Why, it is my brother-in-law! How is God treating you, Prince Ivan ?'' Princess Maria, Ivan''s sister, heard the shout and ran out. She welcomed Ivan joyfully, asking about his health, and wanting to know all that had happened to him since she left. The prince stayed with his sister and brother-in-law as their guest for three days. But then he told them: ''I cannot stay with you longer; I am looking for my wife, the beautiful Queen Maria Morevna.''
    ''You will have difficulty in finding her,'' the falcon said. ''But leave your silver spoon with us, just in case we can help. We shall look at it and it will remind us of you.'' So Prince Ivan left his silver spoon with the falcon and went his way.
    He travelled for two days, and at dawn of the third day he saw ahead of him a palace still finer than the falcon's. Outside it was an oak, and in the oak an eagle was sitting.
    When it saw Ivan the eagle flew down from the oak, turned into a handsome young man and cried: ''Get up, Princess Olga. Our dear brother Ivan has arrived.'' Princess Olga ran out and greeted Ivan joyfully, embracing him, asking after his health and all that had happened to him since her marriage. Prince Ivan spent three days with his sister and brother-in-law, then he said: ''I cannot remain as your guest any longer. I am going to look for my wife, Maria Morevna, the beautiful queen.'' The eagle told him, ''You will have difficulty in finding her. But leave your silver fork with us; we shall look at it from time to time to remind ourselves of you.'' So the prince gave them his silver fork, said farewell, and rode off on his way.
    Two more days he spent on the road, and at the dawn of the third he came to a palace even finer than either of the other two. Outside the palace an oak was growing, on the oak a raven was sitting. When it saw Ivan the raven flew down from the oak, beat against the ground, changed into a handsome young man, and cried: ''Princess Anna! Come quickly, our brother has arrived.'' Princess Anna ran out and welcomed her brother joyfully, embracing him and asking after his health and all that had happened to him since she left. Prince Ivan was their guest for three days, then he said: ''Goodbye! I must be on my way to look for my wife, the beautiful Queen Maria Morevna.''
    ''You will have a hard task finding her,'' the raven said. ''But leave your silver snuffbox with us; we will look at it occasionally to remind ourselves of you.'' The prince gave them his silver snuffbox, said goodbye, and went his way.
    Two more days passed, but on the third he found his way to Maria Morevna. She saw her beloved husband coming, threw herself into his arms, and wept bitterly as she said: ''Ah, Prince Ivan, why did not you listen to me? Why did you look into the box-room and release Kashchey the Deathless?''
    ''Forgive me, Maria Morevna.'' he pleaded. ''Do not reproach me with the past, but ride away with me before Kashchey the Deathless sees us. Perhaps we shall get too far for him to overtake us.'' So they made ready and rode away. Kashchey was out hunting; as he returned home late in the afternoon his good horse stumbled under him. ''What is the matter with you, you old nag?'' he demanded. ''What made you stumble? Have you scented some misfortune?'' The horse answered: ''Prince Ivan has come and carried off Maria Morevna.''
    ''But can we overtake them?'' Kashchey asked.
    ''You could sow your wheat, wait for it to grow, you could harvest it and thresh it, grind it into flour, bake bread from it in five ovens, and eat the bread, and only then set out in pursuit. And even so we would overtake them,'' said the horse. So Kashchey galloped after and overtook Prince Ivan. ''Well,'' he said to the prince, ''this first time I forgive you because of your kindness in giving me water to drink. And I will forgive you a second time. But if it happens a third time look out for yourself: I shall cut you into little pieces.'' He took Maria Morevna from the prince and carried her off, while Ivan sat down on a stone and wept.
    He wept until he had no more tears to weep, then he set out again to carry off Maria Morevna. When he arrived Kashchey the Deathless happened to be out hunting. ''Let us go, Maria,'' said the prince. But she answered: ''Ah, dear Ivan, he will overtake us.''
''Let him,'' he said, ''we shall at least spend an hour or two together.'' And as he insisted, they made ready and rode away. In the late afternoon Kashchey the
    Deathless was riding back home when his horse stumbled under him. ''What is the matter with you, old nag?'' he demanded. ''Why did you stumble? Have you perhaps scented some misfortune?''
''Prince Ivan has come and carried Maria Morevna away,'' the horse answered. ''Then can we overtake them?'' he asked. ''You could sow barley, wait for it to grow, you could harvest and thresh it, brew beer from it, drink the beer till you were drunk, sleep it off completely and then ride in pursuit: and still we would catch them.'' So Kashchey galloped after Prince Ivan, caught up with him, and said: ''Do you not remember my telling you would no more see Maria Morevna than you can see your own ears? But I forgive you this second time.'' He took Maria Morevna from him and carried her off.
    Prince Ivan was left alone; he wept and wept, but then he went back a third time for Maria Morevna. Kashchey happened to be out when he arrived. ''Let us go, Maria,'' he pleaded. ''Ah, Ivan'' she answered, ''but he will overtake us, and then he will cut you into pieces.''
    ''Let him!'' said Prince Ivan. ''I cannot live without you.'' So they made ready and rode away. As Kashchey the Deathless was riding home that afternoon his good horse stumbled. ''What made you stumble?'' he asked. The horse answered: ''Prince Ivan has arrived and carried off Maria Morevna yet again.'' Kashchey did not stop to ask whether the horse could overtake them: he galloped after Ivan and Maria, caught up with them, cut Ivan into little pieces with his sword, and put the pieces into a tarred barrel. Then he ringed the barrel with iron hoops and flung it into the blue sea. And he carried Maria Morevna back to his palace.
    At the very moment that Kashchey cut Prince Ivan into pieces the silver articles the prince had left with his sisters were tarnished. ''Ah,'' his brothers-in-law said, ''evidently some misfortune has happened to him.'' The eagle flew up and saw the barrel floating in the sea, and dragged it on to the shore. The falcon flew to fetch spring water, and the raven for still water. Then all three flew to the spot where the barrel was lying, broke it open, took out the pieces of Prince Ivan, washed them, and put them together as they had been. The raven sprinkled the still water over the pieces, and they grew together and became one whole; the falcon sprinkled the spring water over the body, and Prince Ivan shuddered, sat up, and remarked: ''Why, what a long time I have been asleep!''
    ''You would have slept even longer if it had not been for us,'' his brothers-in-law told him. ''Now come and be our guest.''
    ''No, dear brothers,'' he answered. ''I must go and look for Maria Morevna.''
    So he set off once more, reached the palace where she was being held, and asked her: ''Find out from Kashchey the Deathless where he obtained such a splendid horse as he rides.'' Maria Morevna waited for a favourable moment, and then asked Kashchey about the horse. And he told her. ''Beyond twenty-seven lands, in the thirtieth kingdom, the farther side of the River of Fire lives a witch, Baba Yaga. She has a mare on which she flies right round the world every day. She has many other remarkable mares too. I worked for her three days as a shepherd. She would not give me one of her mares in payment for my work, but she did give me one small foal.''
    ''But how did you get across the River of Fire ?'' Maria asked.
    ''I have a magic handkerchief. I waved it three times to the right and a very high bridge arose, which the fire could not reach.'' Maria Morevna listened carefully to what he said, and told Prince Ivan all she had found out. She managed to get hold of the magic handkerchief without Kashchey knowing, and gave it to the prince.




G.Kotchétov "Troika noces"
Baguire. 2000.  Palekh

    So Prince Ivan used the handkerchief to cross the River of Fire, and hurried on to find the witch, Baba Yaga. He walked on and on for a long time without finding anything to eat or drink. At last he happened to see a bird with her little chicks, and he told her: ''I must eat one of your chicks.''
    ''Please do not do that, Prince Ivan,'' she pleaded. ''Do not take any of my chicks, and sooner or later I shall be of service to you.''
So he went on. A little later, in the forest he saw a beehive, and he said: ''I will take some of the honey.'' But the queen bee pleaded: ''Do not take any of my honey, Prince Ivan. Then some day I shall be of service to you." So he did not touch the honey, and walked on. He saw a lioness with her cub coming towards him, and said: ''At any rate I must eat that cub. I am so hungry that I could eat anything.''
    ''Please do not hurt my cub, Prince Ivan,'' the lioness pleaded. ''Some time or other I may be of service to you.''
    ''All right, just as you wish,'' he said.
So he wandered on, feeling terribly hungry, until he came to the house of the witch, Baba Yaga. The house was surrounded by twelve poles; on eleven of the poles human heads were impaled, and only one pole was without a head. He went up to the witch and said:     ''Greetings, Grannie.''
    ''Greetings, Prince Ivan,'' she answered. ''Why have you come to visit me, of your own free will or out of necessity?''
    ''I have come to earn an heroic horse from you,'' he told her.
    ''By all means, Prince. And you will have to serve me for a year, only three altogether. If you graze my mares without losing one of them I will give you a horse fit for any hero. But if you fail, you must not mind if I stick your head on that empty pole.'' The prince agreed to these terms, the witch gave him food and drink, and told him to begin working, but he had hardly driven the mares out into the field when they kicked up their hoofs and scattered all over the meadows; before he had time to look they had all disappeared from sight. He was plunged into despair, sat down on a stone, and began to weep; but he was so tired that he fell asleep. The sun was setting when he was awakened by the bird whose chick he had spared. ''Get up, Prince Ivan,'' she said. ''And do not worry: the mares are already at home.'' So the prince got up and went back to the witch''s house. There he found her shouting and screaming at the mares: ''Why have you come back home?''
    ''But what else were we to do?'' they asked. ''Birds came flying from all over the world and all but pecked out our eyes.''
    ''In that case, tomorrow do not scatter over the meadows, but run into the dense forest,'' she told them.
Prince Ivan had a good sleep that night, and in the morning the witch told him: ''Look to it, Prince! If you do not guard my mares properly, if you lose even one, your fair head will decorate that pole.'' He went to the mares and drove them out into the field. But they immediately flourished their tails and scattered about the dense forest. In his despair the prince sat down on a stone and wept. But he felt tired after chasing the mares, and he fell asleep. As the sun was setting beyond the forest the lioness ran up to him and awakened him. ''Go home, Prince Ivan,'' she told him. ''The mares are all rounded up.'' So the prince went back to the house. There he found the witch raging and storming even more than before at the mares. ''Why have you come back home?'' she demanded.
    ''But what else could we do?'' they asked. ''Savage beasts from all over the world came running after us and all but tore us to pieces.''
    ''Well then,'' she said, ''tomorrow you must run right into the blue sea.''
    The prince had another good sleep that night, and next morning the witch sent him out a third time to guard the mares. ''But if you lose one of them,'' she warned him, ''your head will decorate the pole.'' As soon as he drove the mares into the field they tossed their manes and disappeared from his sight, for they ran right into the blue sea. There they stood up to their necks in the water. Prince Ivan was in despair; he sat down on a stone and wept. And as he wept he fell asleep. The sun was setting when the queen bee flew up and told him: ''Get up, Prince. All the mares are rounded up. But when you go back, do not let the witch see you. Go into the stable and hide behind the mangers. In there you will see a sorry-looking foal rolling in the dung. Steal him, and in the dead of night ride away from the witch''s house.''
    Prince Ivan rose, went to the stable, and hid behind the mangers. As he lay there he heard Baba Yaga shouting and swearing at her mares: ''What have you come back for?'' she demanded.
    ''But what else were we to do ?'' they asked. ''Swarms of bees from all over the world flew up and stung us until they drew blood.''
    The witch went off to bed, and at midnight Prince Ivan took the sorry-looking foal, saddled it, and galloped off to the River of Fire. He rode up to the river, and waved Kashchey's handkerchief three times to the right. Suddenly a magnificent, lofty bridge hung over the river, appearing from nowhere. He rode across the bridge, and waved the handkerchief to the left. But he waved it only twice, and a very slender bridge was left across the river. On the farther side, the prince gave the foal a good feed of grass in a green meadow, and it grew into a magnificent horse.
    Next morning when the witch woke up she could not find the prince, and soon discovered that the foal had gone. So she rushed in pursuit, riding in her iron mortar and urging it on with a pestle, sweeping away her tracks behind her with a besom. She rode up to the River of Fire, looked at the bridge, and thought: ''That is a good bridge!'' But when she rode on to the bridge and reached the middle it collapsed, and she fell headlong into the River of Fire. There she met with a fearful death.
    Meanwhile, Prince Ivan rode once more to rescue Maria Morevna; she saw him coming, ran out, and flung her arms round his neck. ''How have you been restored to life ?'' she asked him. He told her all that had happened to him, and said: ''Now ride home with me.''
    ''But I am afraid, Prince Ivan,'' she answered. ''If Kashchey overtakes us he will cut you into little pieces again.''
    ''He will not overtake us this time,'' he told her. ''Now I have a magnificent horse, good enough for any hero; it flies along like a bird.'' So they mounted the horse and rode away.
    As Kashchey the Deathless was returning home in the afternoon his horse stumbled. ''What is the matter with you, old nag?'' he asked it.
    ''Prince Ivan has come again and carried off Maria Morevna,'' the horse told him.
    ''But can we overtake them?'' he asked.
    ''Goodness knows!'' the horse answered. ''Prince Ivan now has a horse fit for any hero, and it is even better than me.''
    ''No, I cannot endure the thought of his getting away,'' Kashchey said. ''We will go in pursuit.'' He rode long, he rode hard, and he caught up with Prince Ivan, sprang to the ground, and was about to cut him down with his sharp sword. But Ivan's horse let fly with its hind hoofs, kicked Kashchey with all its force and smashed in his head. Ivan finished him off with a club. Then the prince made a pile of wood, set fire to it, burnt Kashchey the Deathless on the pyre, and scattered the ashes to the four winds.
    Maria Morevna seated herself on Kashchey's horse, the prince mounted his, and they rode away to visit first the raven, then the eagle, and then the falcon. At each of the palaces they were welcomed joyfully. ''Ah, Prince Ivan,'' his sisters and brothers-in-law said, ''we had given up all hope of ever seeing you again. But now we can see why you exposed yourself to such great danger. You could search all over the world for another queen as beautiful as Maria Morevna, and you would never find one.'' At each of the three palaces they feasted and banqueted, and then they rode off to their own kingdoms. When they arrived home they once more lived in happiness





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   An eagle struck himself against the floor and changed into a handsome young man.   









   «I shall not compel my sister against her will; if you have fallen in love with her, and she with you, she may go with you...»   



















   As the prince journeyed farther he came to white tents pitched in a field. And from one of them the beautiful queen Maria Morevna came to meet him.   

















   ''You would have slept even longer if it had not been for us,'' his brothers-in-law told him.   



















  The sun was setting when prince Ivan was awakened by the bird whose chick he had spared. ''Get up, Prince Ivan,'' she said. ''And do not worry: the mares are already at home.''   



















''Now I have a magnificent horse, good enough for any hero; it flies along like a bird.'' So they mounted the horse and rode away.


















  

Kashchey rode long, he rode hard, and he caught up with Prince Ivan, sprang to the ground, and was about to cut him down with his sharp sword.