Folk Tales from the Russian online

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"Fool," they laughed, "there is food to be given to the hogs; better
go to them."

"All right," the younger brother answered, and quietly went to the
back yard and gave food to the hogs. But as soon as his brothers had
left home our Ivanoushka the Simpleton hurried to the wide field and
shouted out loud:

"Arise, bay horse - them wind-swift steed,
Appear before me in my need;
Stand up as in the storm the weed!"

At once the horse came running, the earth trembled; where he stepped
there appeared ponds, where his hoofs touched there were lakes, out of
his eyes shone flames, out of his ears smoke came like a cloud.

"For what dost thou wish me?" the horse asked with a man's voice.

Ivanoushka the Simpleton crawled into his right ear and jumped out
of his left one, and a handsome fellow he was. A young girl could not
even imagine such a one.

Ivanoushka struck his horse, pulled the bridle tight, and lo! he flew
high up in the air. The wind was left behind and even the swallow, the
sweet, winged passenger, must not aspire to do the same. Our hero flew
like a cloud high up into the sky, his silver-chained mail rattling,
his fair curls floating in the wind. He arrived at the Tsarevna's high
hall, struck his horse once more, and oh! how the wild horse did jump!

Look there! the fellow reaches all the circles; he is near the window;
he presses the beautiful Tsarevna with his strong arms, kisses her
on the sugar lips, exchanges golden rings, and like a storm sweeps
through the fields. There, there, he is crushing every one on his
way! And the Tsarevna? Well, she did not object. She even adorned his
forehead with a diamond star.

The people roared: "Take hold of him!" But the fellow had already
disappeared and no traces were left behind.

The Tsar Pea lost his royal dignity. The Tsaritza Carrot screamed
louder than ever and the wise counselors only shook their wise heads
and remained silent.

The brothers came home talking and discussing the wonderful matter.

"Indeed," they shook their heads; "only think of it! The fellow
succeeded and our Tsarevna has a bridegroom. But who is he? Where is

"Brothers, the fellow is I," said Ivanoushka the Simpleton, smiling.

"Keep still, I and I - ," and the brothers almost slapped him.

The matter proved to be quite serious this time, and the Tsar and
Tsaritza issued an order to surround the town with armed men whose
duty it was to let every one enter, but not a soul go out. Every one
had to appear at the royal palace and show his forehead. From early in
the morning the crowds were gathering around the palace. Each
forehead was inspected, but there was no star on any. Dinner time was
approaching and in the palace they even forgot to cover the oak tables
with white spreads. The brothers of Ivanoushka had also to show their
foreheads and the Simpleton said to them:

"Take me along with you."

"Thy place is right here," they answered, jokingly. "But say, what is
the matter with thy head that thou hast covered it with cloths? Did
somebody strike thee?"

"No, nobody struck me. I, myself, struck the door with my forehead.
The door remained all right, but on my forehead there is a knob."

The brothers laughed and went. Soon after them Ivanoushka left home
and went straight to the window of the Tsarevna, where she sat leaning
on the window sill and looking for her betrothed.

"There is our man," shouted the guards, when the Simpleton appeared
among them. "Show thy forehead. Hast thou the star?" and they laughed.

Ivanoushka the Simpleton gave no heed to their bidding, but refused.
The guards were shouting at him and the Tsarevna heard the noise and
ordered the fellow to her presence. There was nothing to be done but
to take off the cloths.

Behold! the star was shining in the middle of his forehead. The
Tsarevna took Ivanoushka by the hand, brought him before Tsar Pea, and

"He it is, my Tsar and father, who is destined to become my groom, thy
son-in-law and heir."

It was too late to object. The Tsar ordered preparations for the
bridal festivities, and our Ivanoushka the Simpleton was wedded to the
Tsarevna Baktriana. The Tsar, the Tsaritza, the young bride and
groom, and their guests, feasted three days. There was fine eating
and generous drinking. There were all kinds of amusements also. The
brothers of Ivanoushka were created governors and each one received a
village and a house.

The story is told in no time, but to live a life requires time and
patience. The brothers of Ivanoushka the Simpleton were clever men, we
know, and as soon as they became rich every one understood it at once,
and they themselves became quite sure about it and began to pride
themselves, to boast, and to brag. The humble ones did not dare look
toward their homes, and even the boyars had to take off their fur caps
on their porches.

Once several boyars came to Tsar Pea and said: "Great Tsar, the
brothers of thy son-in-law are bragging around that they know the
place where grows an apple tree with silver leaves and golden apples,
and they want to bring this apple tree to thee."

The Tsar immediately called the brothers before him and bade them
bring at once the wonderful tree, the apple tree with silver leaves
and golden apples. The brothers had ever so many excuses, but the
Tsar would have his way. They were given fine horses out of the
royal stables and went on their errand. Our friend, Ivanoushka the
Simpleton, found somewhere a lame old horse, jumped on his back facing
the tail, and also went. He went to the wide field, grasped the lame
horse by the tail, threw him off roughly, and shouted:

"You crows and magpies, come, come! There is lunch prepared for you."

This done he ordered his horse, his spirited courser, to appear, and
as usual he crawled into one ear, jumped out the other ear and they
went - where? Toward the east where grew the wonderful apple tree
with silver leaves and golden apples. It grew near silver waters upon
golden sand. When Ivanoushka reached the place he uprooted the tree
and turned toward home. His ride was long and he felt tired. Before
he arrived at his town Ivanoushka pitched his tent and lay down for
a rest. Along the same road came his brothers. The two were proud no
more, but rather depressed, not knowing what answer to give the Tsar.
They perceived the tent with silver top and near by the wonderful
apple tree. They came nearer and - "There is our Simpleton!" exclaimed
the brothers. Then they awakened Ivanoushka and wanted to buy the
apple tree. They were rich and offered three carts filled with silver.

"Well, brothers, this tree, this wonderful apple tree, is not for
sale," answered Ivanoushka, "but if you wish to obtain it you may. The
price will not be too high, a toe from each right foot."

The brothers thought the matter over and finally decided to give the
desired price. Ivanoushka cut the toes off, gave them the apple tree,
and the happy brothers brought it to the Tsar and there was no end to
their bragging.

"Here, all-powerful Tsar," they said. "We went far, and had many a
trouble on our way, but thy wish is fulfilled."

The Tsar Pea seemed pleased, ordered a feast, commanded tunes to be
played and drums beaten, rewarded the two brothers of Ivanoushka the
Simpleton, each one with a town, and praised them.

The boyars and warriors became furious.

"Why," they said to the Tsar, "there is nothing wonderful in such an
apple tree with golden apples and silver leaves. The brothers of thy
son-in-law are bragging around that they will get thee a pig with
golden bristles and silver tusks, and not alone the pig, but also her
twelve little ones!"

The Tsar called the brothers before him and ordered them to bring
the very pig with her golden bristles and silver tusks and her twelve
little ones. The brothers' excuses were not listened to and so they
went. Once more the brothers were traveling on a difficult errand,
looking for a golden-bristled pig with silver tusks and twelve little

At that time Ivanoushka the Simpleton made up his mind to take a trip
somewhere. He put a saddle on a cow, jumped up on her back facing the
tail, and left the town. He came to a field, grasped the cow by the
horns, threw her far on the prairie and shouted:

"Come, come, you gray wolves and red foxes! there is a dinner for

Then he ordered his faithful horse, crawled into one ear, and jumped
out of the other. Master and courser went on an errand, this time
toward the south. One, two, three, and they were in dark woods. In
these woods the wished-for pig was walking around, a golden-bristled
pig with silver tusks. She was eating roots, and after her followed
twelve little pigs.

Ivanoushka the Simpleton threw over the pig a silk rope with a running
noose, gathered the little pigs into a basket and went home, but
before he reached the town of the Tsar Pea he pitched a tent with a
golden top and lay down for a rest. On the same road the brothers came
along with gloomy faces, not knowing what to say to the Tsar. They
saw the tent, and near by the very pig they were searching for, with
golden bristles and silver tusks, was fastened with a silk rope; and
in a basket were the twelve little pigs. The brothers looked into the
tent. Ivanoushka again! They awakened him and wanted to trade for
the pig; they were ready to give in exchange three carts loaded with
precious stones.

"Brothers, my pig is not for trade," said Ivanoushka, "but if you want
her so much, well, one finger from each right hand will pay for her."

The brothers thought over the case for a long while; they reasoned
thus: "People live happily without brains, why not without fingers?"

So they allowed Ivanoushka to cut off their fingers, then took the pig
to the Tsar, and their bragging had no end.

"Tsar Sovereign," they said, "we went everywhere, beyond the blue
sea, beyond the dark woods; we passed through deep sands, we suffered
hunger and thirst; but thy wish is accomplished."

The Tsar was glad to have such faithful servants. He gave a feast
great among feasts, rewarded the brothers of Ivanoushka the Simpleton,
created them big boyars and praised them.

The other boyars and different court people said to the Tsar:

"There is nothing wonderful in such a pig. Golden bristles, silver
tusks, - yes, it is fine. But a pig remains a pig forever. The brothers
of thy son-in-law are bragging now that they will steal for thee out
of the stables of the fiery dragon a mare with golden mane and diamond

The Tsar at once called the brothers of Ivanoushka the Simpleton, and
ordered the golden-maned mare with the diamond hoofs. The brothers
swore that they never said such words, but the Tsar did not listen to
their protests.

"Take as much gold as you want, take warriors as many as you wish, but
bring me the beautiful mare with golden mane and diamond hoofs. If you
do it my reward will be great; if not, your fate is to become peasants
as before."

The brothers went, two sad heroes. Their march was slow; where to
go they did not know. Ivanoushka also jumped upon a stick and went
leaping toward the field. Once in the wide, open field, he ordered his
horse, crawled into one ear, came out of the other, and both started
for a far-away country, for an island, a big island. On that island in
an iron stable the fiery dragon was watchfully guarding his glory - the
golden-maned mare with diamond hoofs, which was locked under seven
locks behind seven heavy doors.

Our Ivanoushka journeyed and journeyed, how long we do not know,
until at last he arrived at that island, struggled three days with the
dragon and killed him on the fourth day. Then he began to tear down
the locks. That took three days more. When he had done this he brought
out the wonderful mare by the golden mane and turned homeward.

The road was long, and before he reached his town Ivanoushka,
according to his habit, pitched his tent with a diamond top, and laid
him down for rest. The brothers came along - gloomy they were, fearing
the Tsar's anger. Lo! they heard neighing; the earth trembled - it was
the golden-maned mare! Though in the dusk of evening the brothers saw
her golden mane shining like fire. They stopped, awakened Ivanoushka
the Simpleton, and wanted to trade for the wonderful mare. They were
willing to give him a bushel of precious stones each and promised even

Ivanoushka said: "Though my mare is not for trade, yet if you want her
I'll give her to you. And you, do you each give me your right ears."

The brothers did not even argue, but let Ivanoushka cut off their
ears, took hold of the bridle and went directly to the Tsar. They
presented to him the golden-maned mare with diamond hoofs, and there
was no end of bragging.

"We went beyond seas, beyond mountains," the brothers said to the
Tsar; "we fought the fiery dragon who bit off our ears and fingers;
we had no fear, but one desire to serve thee faithfully; we shed our
blood and lost our wealth."

The Tsar Pea poured gold over them, created them the very highest
men after himself, and planned such a feast that the royal cooks were
tired out with cooking to feed all the people, and the cellars were
fairly emptied.

The Tsar Pea was sitting on his throne, one brother on his right hand,
the other brother on his left hand. The feast was going on; all seemed
jolly, all were drinking, all were noisy as bees in a beehive. In the
midst of it a young, brave fellow, Ivanoushka the Simpleton, entered
the hall - the very fellow who had passed the thirty-two circles and
reached the window of the beautiful Tsarevna Baktriana.

When the brothers noticed him, one almost choked himself with wine,
the other was suffocating over a piece of swan. They looked at him,
opened wide their eyes, and remained silent.

Ivanoushka the Simpleton bowed to his father-in-law and told the story
as the story was. He told about the apple tree, the wonderful apple
tree with silver leaves and golden apples; he told about the pig, the
golden-bristled pig with silver tusks and her twelve little ones;
and finally he told about the marvelous mare with a golden mane and
diamond hoofs. He finished and laid out ears, fingers, and toes.

[Illustration: "_One brother was sent to watch the turkeys_"]

"It is the exchange I got," said Ivanoushka.

Tsar Pea became furious, stamped his feet, ordered the two brothers to
be driven away with brooms. One was sent to feed the pigs, another to
watch the turkeys. The Tsar seated Ivanoushka beside himself, creating
him the highest among the very high.

The feast lasted a very long time until all were tired of feasting.

Ivanoushka took control of the tsarstvo, ruling wisely and severely.
After his father-in-law's death he occupied his place. His subjects
liked him; he had many children, and his beautiful Tsaritza Baktriana
remained beautiful forever.


[Illustration] In a small village - do not ask me where; in Russia,
anyway - there lived two brothers; one of them was rich, the other
poor. The rich brother had good luck in everything he undertook,
was always successful, and had profit out of every venture. The
poor brother, in spite of all his trouble and all his work, had none

The rich brother became still richer, moved into a large town, bought
a big house, and was a merchant among merchants. The poor brother
became very poor, so poor that very often there was no crust even in
the "izba," the peasant's log cabin, and the children - all forlorn,
miserable little things - cried for food.

The poor man lost patience and complained bitterly of his ill luck.
He had no more courage and his head dropped heavily on his breast. One
day he decided to call upon his wealthy brother for aid. He went and
said to him:

"Be good, help me, for I am almost without strength."

"Why not?" answered the rich man. "We can do such things as that.
There is wealth enough; but look here, there is also plenty of work to
be done. Stay around the house for a while and work for me."

"All right," consented the poor fellow, and at once began to work. Now
he was cleaning the big yard, now grooming horses, now bringing water
from the well or splitting wood. One week passed, two weeks passed.
The rich brother gave him twenty and five copecks, which means only
thirteen cents. He also gave him a loaf of black rye bread.

"Many thanks," said the poor brother, humbly, and was ready to leave
for his miserable home. Evidently the conscience of the rich brother
smote him, so he called his brother back.

"Why so prompt?" he said; "to-morrow is my birthday; stay to the
banquet with us."

[Illustration: _The rich brother_]

The poor fellow remained. But even on such a pleasant occasion the
unlucky one had no luck. His rich brother was too busy receiving his
numerous friends and admirers, all of whom came to tell him how they
loved him and what a good man he was. The rich merchant thanked his
guests for their love, and bowing low begged his dear guests to eat,
drink, and enjoy themselves. There was no time left for the poor
brother, and he was overlooked entirely while he sat timidly in a
corner, quite forgotten and unnoticed. He had nothing to eat, nothing
to drink. But when the crowd was ready to say good-by, before going
away, the bright, light-hearted guests bowed to their host and told
him many lovely things, and the poor brother did exactly like them.
He bowed even lower than they did and expressed more thanks than they.
The guests went home singing in their new "telegi," the peasants'
carts. The poor brother, hungry and very sad, walked along in silence,
and the idea came to his mind:

"What if I also tried to sing a cheerful song? The people would
believe that I, too, have had a pleasant time at my brother's house
and that I am going home happy like them."

The good fellow began his song, began - and almost fainted away, for he
heard quite distinctly some one behind his back, keeping tune with him
in a shrill voice. He stopped. The voice stopped, too. He sang, and
the voice continued again.

"Who is there? Come out at once!" shouted the poor man, beside
himself. Ha! the monster appeared, lank and yellow, almost a skeleton,
covered with rags. The poor fellow was afraid, but had the courage to
make the sign of the cross and ask: "Who art thou?"

"I? I am Bitter Woe. I am one of the Russian heroes, Woe Bogotir. I
pity all weak people. I pity thee, too, and want to help thee along."

"All right, Bitter Woe; let us walk together arm in arm. I presume
there are no other friends for me in this world."

"Let us ride, good man," laughed the monster. "I will be thy faithful

"Thanks, but on what shall we ride?"

"I do not know on what thou shalt ride, but I, I shall ride on thee,"
and Woe jumped on the shoulders of the unlucky man. The poor fellow
had no strength to throw him off, so he crawled along his way, the
long, hard way, with Woe on his shoulders. He could hardly walk, yet
Woe was singing, whistling, and switching him all the time.

"Why so sad, master?" Woe would ask, when the poor man sighed. "Listen
to me, I want to teach thee a song, my beloved little song:

"I am Woe, the brave,
I am Woe, the bold;
He who lives with me
Has his griefs controlled,
And when money is lacking
I'll find him gold.

Attention, master, thou hast twenty-five copecks; let us go and buy
some wine; let us have a jolly good time."

The poor man obeyed. They went and spent all in drink. After this the
unlucky fellow, with the faithful Woe on his shoulders, came home. His
wife was sad, his little children were hungry and in tears, but he,
under the influence of Woe and wine, danced and sang.

On the next day Woe began to sigh and said:

"I have a drunken headache. Let us drink more."

"I have no money," answered the poor man.

"Hast thou forgotten my little song? Let us trade the harrow, the
plow, the sledge, the telega for money, and let us have a good time."

"All right."

The poor, weak man had no courage to refuse, and Woe Bogotir became
his master and ruler. They went to a kabak and spent everything;
drank, sang, and had a good time.

On the next day Woe sighed again and said to the peasant:

"Let us drink; let us have a jolly time; let us sell or trade
everything left, even ourselves."

Then the fellow understood that his ruin was near and decided to
deceive the sorrowful Woe, so he said:

"I once heard the old people say that behind the village, near the
dark forest, there is buried a treasure, yes, a great treasure, but it
is buried under a large, heavy stone, too heavy a stone for one man
to move. If we could only remove that stone, thou and I, Woe Bogotir,
could have a good time and plenty to drink."

"Let us hasten!" screamed Woe; "the Bitter Woe is strong enough to do
harder things than to move stones."

They went a roundabout way behind the village and saw the great big
stone, such a heavy stone that five or six strong peasants could never
begin to move it. But our poor fellow with his faithful Woe Bogotir
removed it at once. They looked inside. Under the stone there was
a pit, a dark, deep pit. At the bottom of that pit something was
twinkling. The peasant said to Woe:

"Thou bold Woe, jump in, throw the gold out to me and I will hold the

Woe jumped in and laughed out loud.

"I declare, master," he screamed, "there is no end of gold! There are
twenty and more pots filled with it," and Woe handed one pot to the
poor man, who took the pot, hastily hid it under his blouse, and
slipped the heavy stone into its place. So Bitter Woe remained in the
deep pit and the peasant thought to himself, "Now there is the right
place for my comrade, for with such a friend, even gold would taste

The crafty fellow made the sign of the cross and hurried home. He
became quite a new man, courageous, sober, and industrious; bought a
grove and some cattle; remodeled the izba, and even started a trade.
And very successful he was, too. Within a year he earned much money,
and in place of the old hut built a fine, new log cabin.

One bright day he went into town to ask his rich brother, with his
wife and children, to do him the favor of coming to a feast which was
to be given in the new home.

"That's a joke!" exclaimed the rich brother. "Without a ruble in
thy pockets, stupid fellow! Thou evidently desirest to imitate rich
people," and then the rich brother laughed and laughed at him. But
at the same time he got very anxious to know how it was with his poor
brother, so he went without delay to the new place. When he arrived
there he could not believe his eyes. His poor brother seemed to be
quite rich, perhaps richer than himself. Everything bespoke wealth
and care. The host treated his brother and the brother's family most
kindly and was very hospitable. They had good things to eat and plenty
of honey to drink, and all became talkative. The brother who had been
poor related everything about Woe, how he decided to deceive him and
how, free from such a burden, he was getting to be a very happy man.

The rich man grew eager and thought:

"Is he a fool? Out of so many pots, to take only one! Fool and nothing
but fool! If one has money, even the Bitter Woe is not too bad."

So at once he decided to go in search of the stone, to remove it, to
take the treasure, the whole treasure, and to send Woe Bogotir back to
his brother.

No sooner thought than done. The rich brother said good-by and went
away, but did not go to his wealthy home. No, he hurried to the stone.
He had to toil hard with the heavy stone, but finally moved it just
a little, and had not time to look inside when the hidden Bogotir had
jumped out and onto his shoulders.

The rich man felt a burden, oh, what a heavy burden! looked around and
perceived the hideous monster. He heard this monster whisper in his

"Thou art bright! Thou didst want to let me perish in that pit?
Now, dearest, thou wilt not get rid of me; now we shall always be

"Stupid Woe," began the rich man; "it was not I who hid thee under the
stone; it was my brother; go to him."

But no, Woe would not go. The monster laughed and laughed.

"All the same, all the same," he answered to the rich man. "Let us
remain dear companions."

The rich man went home under the heavy burden of the misery-giving
Woe. His wealth was soon lost, but his brother, who knew how to get
rid of Woe, was prosperous and is prosperous to this day.


[Illustration] Somewhere, I cannot tell you exactly where, but

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