Multilingual Folk Tale Database


Information

Author: Alexander Afanasyev - 1855

Translated into English
  by Irina Zheleznova

Original title (Russian):
Три царства — медное, серебряное и золотое

Country of origin: Russia

Translations

English - aligned


Add a translation

The Three Kingdoms

Alexander Afanasyev / Irina Zheleznova

In a certain kingdom, in a certain realm there lived a king by the name of Bel-Belianin who had a wife named Nastasya the Golden Plait and three sons, Prince Pyotr, Prince Vassily and Prince Ivan. One day the queen and her women and maids went for a walk in the garden. All of a sudden a great whirlwind arose and it caught up the queen, which God forbid should happen to anyone, and carried her off none knew where.
The king was very sad and woebegone and did not know what to do, but when his sons had grown to manhood he said to them: "My dear sons, my beloved sons, will not one of you go to seek your mother?" The two elder sons did not delay but set off at once, and the third and youngest son began pleading with his father to let him go too. "No, my son, you mustn't leave me, an old man, all alone," said the king. "Please let me go, Father! I do so want to travel over the world and find my mother." The king reasoned with him, but, seeing that he could not stop him from going, said: "Oh, all right then, I suppose it can't be helped. Go and God be with you!"
Prince Ivan saddled his trusty steed and set forth from home. Whether he was long on the way or not nobody knows, for a tale is quick in the telling and a deed is slow in the doing, but by and by he came to a forest where stood a most beautiful palace. Prince Ivan rode into the yard, and a large yard it was, and, seeing an old man coming toward him, said: "Good morrow, old man, and many long years of life to you!" "Welcome, welcome, my brave lad! And who may you be?" "I am Prince Ivan, son of King Bel-Belianin and Queen Nastasya the Golden Plait." "Then you are my own nephew! Whither are you bound?" "I am seeking my mother. Do you know where she is to be found, Uncle?" "No, my lad, I don't. But I'll do what I can for you. Here is a little ball. Throw it down before you, and it will start rolling and bring you to a tall, steep mountain with a cave in it. Go into the cave, take the iron claws that you will see there, fit them on to your hands and feet and climb the mountain. You may well find your mother on its top."
Well and good. Prince Ivan bade his uncle farewell and threw the ball before him. On the ball rolled, and he rode after it. Whether a short or a long time passed nobody knows, but by and by he came to a field and whom should he see there but his brothers Prince Pyotr and Prince Vassily surrounded by a host of fighting men. The brothers rode forth to meet him. "Where are you going, Prince Ivan?" they asked. "I got
bored staying at home and thought I would go to seek our mother. Send your men home and come with me." The brothers did as he said. The) sent the men home and joined him, and the three of them followed the ball together.
By and by they saw the mountain, and so tall and steep was it that it touched the sky with its peak! The ball rolled up straight to a cave, and Prince Ivan got off his horse and said to his brothers: "Stay here and look after my horse, brothers, and I will climb the mountain and try to find our mother. Wait for me for three months, and if I am not back by then, you will know that it's no use waiting any longer." "A man can break his neck climbing a mountain like that!" thought the brothers, but they said to him: "Very well, then, go with God and we will wait for you here."
Prince Ivan came up to the cave, gave its door of iron a mighty push and sent it flying open. He came inside, and the iron claws jumped up and fixed themselves to his hands and feet. But it took all of his strength to climb the mountain, and a whole month passed before he at last reached its top. "God be thanked, I'm here at last!" said he. He rested awhile and then went on. He walked and he walked, and, standing before him, saw a palace of copper. Chained to the gate with copper chains were the most fearful of dragons, while close by was a well with a copper dipper dangling at the end of a copper chain. Prince Ivan scooped up some water and gave the dragons a drink, and, thus having quietened them, passed on into the palace where he was met by the Princess of the Copper Kingdom.
"Who are you, brave youth?" she asked. "I am Prince Ivan." "Is it of your own free will that you have come here, Prince Ivan, or at another's bidding?" "Of my own free will. I am seeking my mother, Nastasya the Golden Plait, who was carried off by Whirlwind. Do you happen to know where she is?" "No, I don't. But my middle sister the Princess of the Silver Kingdom, lives nearby, and she may know." And she brought out a copper ball and a copper ring and gave them to him. "This ball," said she, "will lead you to my middle sister, and in this ring is the whole of my Copper Kingdom. When you have vanquished Whirlwind, who keeps me captive here and comes to see me every three months, do not forget me, unhappy soul that I am, but deliver me from captivity and take me with you to where I can be free." "Very well, I'll do that," said Prince Ivan. He cast the copper ball down on the ground, started it rolling and went after it.
He came to the Silver Kingdom and saw before him a palace that was made of silver and was even more beautiful than the copper one. Chained with silver chains to the gate were fearful dragons, and close
by was a well with a silver dipper. Prince Ivan scooped up some water and gave it to the dragons to drink, and they lay down on the ground and let him pass on into the palace where he was met by the Princess of the Silver Kingdom. "It will be three years soon that I have been kept here by Whirlwind, and I have not seen a Russian face or heard Russian speech in all that time," said she. "Who are you, brave youth?" "I am Prince Ivan." "Have you come here of your own free will or at another's bidding?" "Of my own free will. I am seeking my mother whom Whirlwind seized when she was out walking in the garden and carried off none knows where. Do you know where I can find her?" "No, I don't. But my elder sister, Elena the Fair, the Princess of the Golden Kingdom, lives nearby, and she may know. Here is a silver ball for you. Send it rolling and follow it, and it will lead you to the Golden Kingdom. And when you have killed Whirlwind do not forget me, unhappy soul that I am, but deliver me from captivity and take me with you to where I can be free. For Whirlwind keeps me captive here and comes to see me every two months." She gave him a silver ring and said: "My whole Silver Kingdom is in this ring." And Prince Ivan sent the silver ball rolling along and went after it.
Whether a short or a long time passed nobody knows, but by and by he saw before him a palace of gold that flamed like fire. Fearful dragons, chained to the wall with chains of gold, guarded the gate, and close by was a well with a dipper of gold dangling at the end of a gold chain. Prince Ivan scooped up a dipperful of water and gave the dragons a drink, and they quietened and lay down on the ground so that he was able to pass on into the palace. Elena the Fair met him there and asked him who he was. "I am Prince Ivan." "Have you come here of your own free will or at another's bidding?" "Of my own free will. I am seeking my mother, Nastasya the Golden Plait. Do you know where I can find her?" "That I do. She lives nearby, and Whirlwind comes to see her once a week and me, once a month. Here is a gold ball for you. Send it rolling along and go after it, and it will lead you wherever you wish to go. And take this gold ring, too; in it is the whole of the Golden Kingdom. But mind this, Prince Ivan: when you have vanquished Whirlwind, do not forget me, unhappy soul that I am, but take me with you to where I can be free." "I'll not forget you, " said the Prince.
He sent-the ball rolling along and went after it, he walked and he walked, and he came to a palace that flamed like fire so many were the diamonds and other gems studding its walls. By the gate were six- headed dragons that hissed as he came near, but Prince Ivan gave them water to drink and they quietened and let him pass on into the palace.
Many were the chambers he passed through, and in the last one, sitting on a high throne, he found his mother. She was garbed in royal garments and had on a gem-studded crown. She glanced up as he came in, and seeing who it was, cried: "Dear God in Heaven, is it you, my beloved son? How did you get here?" He told her all about everything and then said: "1 have come for you." "It is a hard task you have set yourself, my son," said she. "For .the ruler of this mountain is Whirlwind who is as mighty as he is evil and who holds all the spirits in his sway. It was he who carried me off, and it is him you will have to grapple with! Now come down into the cellar with me."
They went down into the cellar, and there were two tubs of water there, one standing near the right wall and the other, near the left one. "Drink some water out of the tub that is near the right wall," said Nastasya the Golden Plait. Prince Ivan did as she told him. "How strong do you feel?" she asked him. "So strong that I know I could turn this whole palace round with one hand if I chose!" "Take another sip from the same tub." Prince Ivan bent down and took another sip. "And how strong do you feel now?" "So strong that I know I could turn the whole world upside down!" "That makes you very strong indeed! And now move the tub that is near the right wall to the left wall, and the one near the left wall to the right one." Prince Ivan did as she told him. "The tub you drank from is filled with strong water, my dear son," his mother said, "and the other, with strengthless water. He who drinks of the first will become very, very strong, and he who drinks of the second, very weak. Now, Whirlwind always drinks out of the first tub, which he keeps near the right wall, and if we are to get the better of him we must trick him."
They climbed the cellar stairs and were soon back in the self-same chamber, and his mother told Prince Ivan that Whirlwind would soon be coming home. "Hide under my mantle that he might not see you," she said. "And as soon as he flies in and begins embracing and kissing me, grab hold of his cudgel and don't let go of it. He will rise high into the air and carry you over mountains and seas, but you must never loosen your hold. He will tire after a while, and, wanting to drink of the strong water, come down into the cellar and rush to the tub we have put near the right wall. He will drink from it, and you must drink from the other one. When you see that he has lost all of his strength, you must seize his sword and smite off his head with one blow. When you have done that, you will hear voices telling you to smite again. Do not heed them but say in reply: 'A true knight never smites but once!' "
No sooner had Prince Ivan hidden himself under his mother's mantle than it grew dark outside, everything around them began to
shake and to tremble, and Whirlwind came flying up. He struck the ground, turned into a tall and handsome man and came into the palace, a great cudgel in his hand. "Fee-fo-fum! I smell Russian flesh. Has anyone been here?" "No, and I don't know what makes you think so," the queen said. Whirlwind threw his arms around her and began kissing her, and Prince Ivan grabbed hold of his cudgel. "I'll soon do away with you!" Whirlwind cried. "That remains to be seen. You might and then again you might not." At this Whirlwind flew out through the window and soared to the sky, and he bore Prince Ivan away with him. They flew over a mountain, and Whirlwind said, "I'll dash you to the ground and kill you!" They flew over the sea, and he said, "I'll throw you down and drown you!" But he could not make good his threats, for Prince Ivan held on to the cudgel and would not let go of it.
Whirlwind flew all round the world, and at last, feeling weary, he came down to the ground and into the cellar. Not knowing that it was filled with strengthless water, he rushed to the tub that stood near the right wall and began drinking from it, and Prince Ivan let him do it and himself drank from the tub that stood near the left wall and that was filled with strong water. Very soon Whirlwind lost all his strength while Prince Ivan became the strongest man that ever lived. Snatching his sabre from him, he smote off Whirlwind's head, and the moment he had done so he heard voices calling from behind him: "Smite again, smite again or he will come back to life!" "No," said Prince Ivan, "a true knight never smites but once." He made up a fire, burnt Whirlwind's head and his body and cast the ashes into the wind. Nastasya the Golden Plait was overjoyed. "Let us now make merry and eat and drink, my son," said she, "and then make haste and set out for home, for this is a dull place with no one to talk to even." "Who is to serve us, then, if no one lives here?" "That you shall see." And before another word was said the table was covered with a cloth, and all sorts of foods and drinks appeared on it. And as they ate, the sound of music fell on their ears and someone they could not see sang to them. They ate and they drank and had a rest, and Prince Ivan said: "It is time to go, Mother! My two brothers are waiting for us at the foot of the mountain, and I still have to free the three princesses whom Whirlwind has been keeping captive."
They took every thing they needed and set out on their way. They freed the three Princesses and taking away a length of cloth as well as many of the fine and costly things they found in the three palaces, went on and soon came to the place where they could begin their descent from the mountain. Prince Ivan tied his mother to the cloth first and let
her down on it, and then he let down Elena the Fair and her two sisters. His two brothers stood below watching and said: "We'll leave Prince Ivan on the mountain top, and we'll take our mother and the three princesses to our father and tell him that it was we who found and freed them." "I will marry Elena the Fair, and you the Princess of the Silver Kingdom," said Prince Pyotr to Prince Vassily, "and the Princess of the Copper Kingdom will have to be content with a general."
It was now the turn of Prince Ivan to let himself down from the mountain, but his brothers seized the bottom end of the cloth and ripped it off. Prince Ivan was left on the top of the mountain and there was nothing he could do. He burst into tears and went back along the road, but though he walked all over the Copper Kingdom, the Silver Kingdom and the Golden Kingdom, not a soul did he see. He came to the Diamond Kingdom, but there was no one there either, and he felt so lonely he wanted to die. Then, lying on the window sill in one of the palace chambers, he saw a pipe. "I think I'll play a little tune just to keep boredom away," said he picking it up. He put the pipe to his lips and blew, and as if out of nowhere there appeared before him a lame man and a one-eyed man. "What can we do for you, Prince Ivan?" asked they. "I'm hungry. Bring me something to eat." And lo!—quick as lightning the table was set and the best of foods and drinks appeared on it. Prince Ivan ate and then he said to himself: "And now I wouldn't mind having a rest." He put the pipe to his lips and blew, and the lame man and the one-eyed man appeared. "What can we do for you, Prince Ivan?" they asked. "Make a bed for me." No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the bed was made, and it was the softest he had ever slept on.
He had a good sleep and then blew upon his pipe again. "What can we do for you?" asked the lame man and the one-eyed man. "Does that mean that I can ask for anything and it will be done?" asked Prince Ivan. "Yes, anything at all, Prince Ivan. All you have to do is blow upon the pipe. Just as we were ready to serve Whirlwind before, so are we ready to serve you now. Only you must have the pipe with you always." "Good!" said Prince Ivan, and he added: "I wish to be back in my own realm." And no sooner had he said this than he found himself in his own realm, at a market-place. He walked along, and there, coming toward him, he saw a shoemaker, as jolly a fellow as ever lived. "Where are you going, my man?" asked Prince Ivan. "To sell a pair of boots. I'm a shoemaker." "How would you like me to work for you?" "Can you make shoes?" "Yes, and clothes, too. I can do anything." "Good! Come along, then!"
They came to the shoemaker's house, and the shoemaker said: "Now, then, make me a pair of boots out of this piece of leather, and it's fine leather, believe me you. I want to see what you can do." He showed Prince Ivan into the room he was to live in and left him there. Prince Ivan got out his pipe and blew upon it, and the lame man and the one-eyed man appeared before him. "What can we do for you, Prince Ivan?" they asked. "I want you to make me a pair of boots, to be ready by tomorrow." "It shall be done!" "Here, take this piece of leather." "A poor piece, if ever there was one! It ought to be thrown out." Morning came, Prince Ivan rose, and there on the table stood a beautiful pair of boots! The shoemaker too got up from bed. "Are the boots ready?" he asked. "They are," said Prince Ivan. "Well, then, let me see them!" Prince Ivan brought out the boots, and the shoemaker took one look at them and gasped in wonder. "I have found myself a master shoemaker, a man with magic fingers!" he cried. And he took the boots and made for the market-place with them.
Now, at this same time preparations for three weddings were under way in the palace: Prince Pyotr was marrying Elena the Fair, Prince Vassily, the Princess of the Silver Kingdom, and a general the Princess of the Copper Kingdom. Finery of all sorts was being purchased for the brides and grooms, and Elena the Fair said that she needed a pair of boots. Now, as no boots better than the ones the shoemaker was offering could be found, he was at once brought to the palace. And Elena the Fair took one look at them and said: "Such boots can only have been made in Whirlwind's palace!" She paid the shoemaker a large sum of money and bade him make her another pair. "They must be ornamented with diamonds and other precious stones," said she. "And I will not have you measuring my feet. Just remember this. If they are not ready by breakfast-time tomorrow, you shall be hanged!"
The shoemaker took the money and the gems with which the boots were to be ornamented and left the palace with hanging head. "Unhappy man that I am! What am I to do?" he said to himself. "How can I have the boots ready by tomorrow? It's the gallows for me and no mistake! I think I had better have a drink or two with my friends before I die." He stepped into an inn where he found some of his friends, of whom he had many, and, seeing him, they asked why he was so glum. "Ah, my friends, I'm to be hanged tomorrow!" "Hanged? What for?" The shoemaker told them about the boots he had been ordered to make. "It's no use trying to work!" said he. "Let's drink and make merry instead." They drank and made merry, and by the time the day was drawing to a close the shoemaker could hardly stand on his feet he was so drunk. "I think I'll take a keg of wine home and go to bed," said he.
"And when they come for me tomorrow, I'll down a half of it. A man can't feel the rope round his neck when he's dead drunk." He came home and said to Prince Ivan: "See what those boots of yours have done, curse you! I'm to be hanged. Wake me when they come for me tomorrow morning."
Night came, Prince Ivan got out his pipe and blew upon it, and the lame man and the one-eyed man appeared. "What can we do for you, Prince Ivan?" they asked. "You are to make me a pair of boots to be ready by morning," said he, and he told them what kind of boots were wanted. "It shall be done!" Prince Ivan went to bed and to sleep, and in the morning, there were the boots standing on the table, the gems on them sparkling and glittering. "Time to get up, Master!" he called to the shoemaker. "Have they come for me, then? Bring the keg of wine and pour me a cupful, let them hang me drank." "But the boots are ready, Master." "What! Where are they?" He rushed into Prince Ivan's room, and, seeing the boots, said: "When did you and I manage to make them?" "During the night, Master. Don't you remember?" "No, I'm that fuzzy. I don't."
He took the boots, wrapped them up and ran to the palace, and when Elena the Fair saw them she at once knew that it was Whirlwind's two servants who had made them. "How ever did you manage to make these boots?" asked she of the shoemaker. "I can do anything!" "If that is so, then make me a wedding dress sewn with gold and studded with diamonds and other precious stones. And it must be ready by tomorrow or I'll have you put to death!" The shoemaker left the palace with hanging head. His friends, who had been waiting for him, greeted him and asked how he had fared. "It's cursed I am!" he told them. "Elena the Fair will drive all us good Christians to our grave! She's ordered me to make her a dress sewn with gold and studded with precious stones, and what sort of a tailor am I! I'm sure to be put to death." "Let's have a drink or two now, friend, and then you can go to bed. Night is the mother of wisdom, don't forget."
They went to an inn and drank and made merry, and by and by the shoemaker was so drank he could hardly stand. He dragged a keg of wine home with him and said to Prince Ivan: "Wake me tomorrow and I'll down this whole keg of wine. I want to be drank when they chop off my head. For never in my life can I hope to make a dress like the one demanded of me." He went to bed and was soon snoring loudly, and Prince Ivan put his pipe to his lips and blew. The lame man and the one-eyed man appeared and asked him what they could do for him. "I want a dress to be made by tomorrow, and it must be as fine as the ones Elena the Fair wore when she lived in Whirlwind's palace." "It
shall be done!" Prince Ivan woke at dawn, and there was the dress lying on the table and sparkling so brightly that it lit up the whole room. So he went and roused the shoemaker who rubbed his eyes and said: "Have they come for me, then? Hurry and bring the wine!" "But the dress is all ready." "Is it? When did we make it?" "During the night. It was you did the cutting." "Did I? I'm that fuzzy I don't remember." And taking the dress, the shoemaker ran to the palace.
Elena the Fair gave him a large sum of money and said: "You are to build a kingdom of gold in the middle of the sea and also a bridge of gold that will connect this palace with it. The bridge is to be carpeted with the richest of velvets, beautiful trees are to grow on either side of it, and songbirds are to sit in them and sing away for all they are worth. And if it is not ready by breakfast-time tomorrow, I shall have you quartered!" The shoemaker left the palace with hanging head. "Well, how was it?" his friends asked him. "It's the end of me, I am to be quartered tomorrow. She's set me such a task that the devil himself could not cope with it!" "Now, now, let's go and have a drink and then you can go to bed. Night is the mother of wisdom, don't forget." "And why not! A man should have a little pleasure before he dies."
They went to an inn and drank much wine, and so drank was the shoemaker by evening that his friends had to drag him home. "Goodbye, my lad!" said he to Prince Ivan. "I am to be put to death tomorrow." "Have you been set another task?" "Yes." He told Prince Ivan what it was, went to bed and was soon snoring away. And Prince Ivan went to his own room and blew upon his pipe. The lame man and the one-eyed man appeared and asked him what they could do for him. He told them what it was he wanted done, and they said: "That is no easy task, Prince Ivan, but never fear, everything will be done by tomorrow morning." Prince Ivan woke just as day broke, he looked out of the window, and lo and behold!—there stood the palace of gold flaming like fire. Prince Ivan roused the shoemaker who jumped to his feet with a start. "What is it? Have they come for me? Bring the wine, quick! I want to be put to death drunk." "But the palace has been built." "It has?" And the shoemaker glanced out of the window and gasped in wonder. "When was it built?" he asked. "Don't you remember? You and I worked very, very hard." "I must have slept so soundly I forgot all about it."
They hurried to the golden palace and found it to be full of treasures such as no one had seen or heard of before. Said Prince Ivan: "Here is a feather duster for you, Master. Go and dust the railings, and if anyone comes and asks you who lives in the palace, don't say a word but just give them this note." Off went the shoemaker and began
dusting the railings, and Elena the Fair, who had just risen from bed, saw the golden bridge and hurried to tell the king about it. "Just look, Your Majesty!" she cried. "A palace of gold has been built in the middle of the sea, and a bridge too that connects it with your palace. And on either side of the bridge grow the most beautiful trees in which sit songbirds that fill the air with their music."
The king, who feared that some great warrior was about to lay siege to his kingdom, at once sent envoys to ask what it all could mean. And the shoemaker being on the bridge, the envoys addressed all their questions to him. "I know nothing, but here is a note you can take to your king," the shoemaker said. Now, in the note Prince Ivan had told his father all about everything, about how he had freed his mother and Elena the Fair and about how his elder brothers had tricked him. And he sent coaches of gold for the king and queen, asking them to pay him a visit together with Elena the Fair and her sisters. He invited his brothers too, but said that they were to travel in an ordinary peasant sled.
The king and queen and the rest did not delay but set off at once, and Prince Ivan welcomed them with great joy. The king wanted to punish his two elder sons for what they had done, but Prince Ivan pleaded with him not to and he forgave them. A great feast was then held, and Prince Ivan married Elena the Fair. He gave the Princess of the Silver Kingdom in marriage to Prince Pyotr, and the Princess of the Copper Kingdom, to Prince Vassily, and he had the shoemaker made general.
I was at the feast too, and I drank mead and wine, but all of it ran down this beard of mine.