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Author: Alexander Afanasyev - 1855

Translated into English
  by Irina Zheleznova

Original title (Russian):
Марья Моревна

Country of origin: Russia

Translations

English - aligned


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Marya Morevna

Alexander Afanasyev / Irina Zheleznova

In a certain kingdom, in a certain realm there once lived a king and a queen with their son, Prince Ivan, and their three daughters, Princess Marya, Princess Olga and Princess Anna. The time came for the mother and father to die, and as they lay on their death-bed they told their son not to keep his sisters long unwed but to marry them off to whoever came to woo them first. The king and queen died, Prince Ivan laid them to rest, and, his heart filled with sorrow, went for a walk in their green garden with his three sisters. All of a sudden a black cloud came over the sky: a terrible storm was about to break. "Come, sisters, let us go home!" said Prince Ivan. No sooner were they back in the palace than the thunder crashed, the ceiling was rent in two, and a falcon flew into the chamber. He struck the floor, turned into a tall and handsome youth, and said: "Good morrow to you, Prince Ivan. Many a time did I come to your house as a guest, but now I come as a wooer. For I wish to ask for the hand of your sister, Princess Marya." "If my sister likes you, I'll not say nay; she can marry you, and may God bless you both!" said Prince Ivan. And Princess Marya being willing, Falcon married her and carried her off to his kingdom.
Day followed day, and hour followed hour, and a whole year went by before ever they knew it. Prince Ivan went for a walk in the green garden with his two sisters, and again a black cloud covered the sky, the lightning flared, and a fierce wind began to blow. "Come, sisters, let us go home!" said Prince Ivan. No sooner were they back in the palace than the thunder crashed, the ceiling was rent in two, and an eagle came flying in. He struck the floor and turned into a tall and handsome youth. "Good morrow to you, Prince Ivan," said he. "Many a time did I come here as a guest, but now I come as a wooer." And he asked for the hand of Princess Olga. "If Princess Olga likes you, you can have her," said Prince Ivan. "She is free to do as she chooses."
And Princess Olga being willing, Eagle married her and carried her off to his kingdom.
Another year passed, and Prince Ivan said to his youngest sister: "Come, Sister, let us take a walk in the green garden." They had a little walk, and again a black cloud covered the sky, the lightning flared, and a fierce wind began to blow. "Let us go home, Sister!" said Prince Ivan. They came home, and before they had time to sit down, the thunder crashed, the ceiling was rent in two, and a raven came flying in. He struck the floor and turned into a tall and handsome youth, more handsome even than the other two. "Many a time did I come here as a
guest, but now I come as a wooer," said he. "Let me have Princess Anna in marriage." "My sister is free to do as she chooses," said Prince Ivan. "If she likes you, she can marry you." And Princess Anna being willing, Raven married her and carried her off to his kingdom.
Prince Ivan was left all by himself. He lived alone for a whole year, and he missed his sisters very much. "I think I'll go and look up my sisters," said he. Off he set from home, he rode and he rode, and by and by he came to a field where a whole host of warriors lay routed and dead.
"If there is a man left alive among you, let him answer me!" Prince Ivan called out. "For I wish to know who it was that vanquished this whole mighty host." And the only living man there replied: "This whole mighty host was vanquished by Marya Morevna, the fairest of queens." Prince Ivan rode on. He came upon a number of white tents set up in a field, and there, coming out to meet him, was Marya Morevna, the fairest of queens. "Good morrow, Prince," said she. "Whither bound? Do you come of your own free will or at another's bidding?" Said Prince Ivan in reply: "Men who are bold of spirit never go anywhere but of their own free will." "Well, if you are in no great haste, then be my guest and bide in my tent awhile." This Prince Ivan was pleased to do. For two days and two nights he was Marya Morevna's guest, and so well did they like one another that they became man and wife, and Marya Morevna, the fairest of queens, took Prince Ivan with her to her kingdom.
They lived together for a time, but then came a day when Marya Morevna bethought her of setting out again for the wars. She left her palace and everything in it in Prince Ivan's care, and, showing him a room the door to which was locked and bolted, said: "You must look after everything and are free to enter any room in this palace save this one!" But Prince Ivan's curiosity got the better of him, and no sooner had Marya Morevna left than he hurried to the room and unlocked the door. He looked in, and whom should he see hanging there, chained to the wall with twelve chains, but Koshchei the Deathless. Said Koshchei the Deathless in pleading tones: "Take pity on me, Prince Ivan, give me some water to drink. For ten years have I been held here and great have been my torments. I have had no food and nothing to drink, and my throat is all dry and parched." Prince Ivan gave him a whole pailful of water to drink, and Koshchei drank it and began pleading for more. "One pail is not enough, do let me have another," he begged. Prince Ivan gave him a second pail of water, and Koshchei gulped it down and asked for a third. But when he had finished his third pailful he got back all of his strength, and, shaking his chains,
broke all twelve of them. "Thank you, Prince Ivan," said he. "Now you will never see Marya Morevna, no more than you can see your own ears."
He flew out of the window like a whirlwind, caught up Marya Morevna, the fairest of queens, and carried her off with him. Prince Ivan wept long and bitterly, and then he made ready and set off in search of Marya Morevna. "Come what may, I shall find her!" said he.
A day passed, arid another, and at dawn on the third day Prince Ivan saw a beautiful palace before him. Beside the palace there grew an oak and on its bough there sat a falcon. The falcon flew off the oak, struck the ground and turned into a handsome youth. "Ah, my own dear brother-in-law, I am indeed glad to see you!" he cried. "How have you been?" And now Princess Marya came hurrying out of the palace. She welcomed Prince Ivan joyously, asked after his health and told him how she lived and fared. Prince Ivan spent three days with them and then he said: "I cannot stay with you longer. I must go to seek my wife, Marya Morevna, the fairest of queens." "It won't be easy to find her," Falcon told him. 'Leave your silver spoon here just in case. We will look at it and think of you." Prince Ivan left his silver spoon with Falcon and set off on his way.
He rode for a day, and another day, and at dawn on the third day, standing before him, he saw a palace which was even more beautiful than Falcon's. Beside the palace there grew an oak and on its bough there sat an eagle. The eagle flew off the oak, struck the ground and turned into a handsome youth. "Come, Princess Olga, get up, for our own dear brother is here!" he cried. Princess Olga came running out of the palace. She embraced Prince Ivan, asked after his health and told him how she lived and fared. Prince Ivan spent three days with them and then he said: "I cannot stay with you longer. I must go to seek my wife, Marya Morevna, the fairest of queens." "It will not be easy to find her," said Eagle. "Leave your silver fork with us. We will look at it and think of you." So Prince Ivan left his silver fork with them and set off on his way.
He rode for a day, and another day, and at dawn on the third day, standing before him, he saw a palace which far surpassed the first two in beauty and splendour. Beside the palace there grew an oak and on its bough there sat a raven. The raven flew off the oak, struck the ground and turned into a handsome youth. "Come, Princess Anna, make haste and join me, for our own dear brother is here!" he cried. Princess Anna came running out of the palace. She greeted Prince Ivan joyously, embraced and kissed him, asked after his health and told him how she lived and fared. Prince Ivan spent three days with them and
then he said: "Farewell. I must go to seek my wife, Marya Morevna, the fairest of queens." "It will not be easy to find her," said Raven. "Leave your silver snuff-box with us. We will look at it and think of you." Prince Ivan gave Raven his silver snuff-box, and, taking leave of him and Princess Anna, set off on his way.
A day passed, and another day, but it was only on the third day that he found Marya Morevna. Seeing him, Marya Morevna threw her arms around Prince Ivan, burst into tears and said: "Ah, Prince Ivan, why did you not listen to me? Why did you let out Koshchei the Deathless?" "Forgive me, Marya Morevna, and hold no grudge against me," said Prince Ivan. "Come away with me while Koshchei the Deathless is nowhere to be seen and perhaps he will not overtake us." And the two of them made ready for the journey and rode away together. Now, Koshchei the Deathless was out hunting. It was evening by the time he turned his way homewards, and as he rode along his horse stumbled under him. "Why do you stumble, you old bag of bones?" he asked. "Is it that you sense some misfortune?" Said the horse in reply: "Prince Ivan has been in your house and he has carried off Marya Morevna." "Can we catch them up?" "If we were to sow some wheat, wait till it ripened, reap and thresh it and grind it into flour, bake five ovenfuls of bread and not go after them till we had eaten it all up, we should still catch them up." So Koshchei the Deathless sent his horse into a gallop, and he caught up Prince Ivan. "I forgive you this first time," said he, "for you were kind to me and gave me water to drink, and perhaps I'll forgive you a second time. But if you dare to go against me a third time, beware, for I will hack you to pieces!" He took Marya Morevna away from him and rode away with her, and Prince Ivan sat down on a stone by the wayside and wept and sorrowed. Then, drying his tears, he went back again for Marya Morevna.
Koshchei the Deathless was away from home. "Come with me, Marya Morevna," said Prince Ivan. "Ah, Prince Ivan, Koshchei will overtake us again!" "Let him! We shall at least have spent an hour or two together." So the two of them made ready for the journey and away they rode. By and by Koshchei the Deathless turned his way homewards. He rode along, and his horse stumbled under him. "You old bag of bones you, why do you stumble? Is it that you sense some misfortune?" he asked. "Prince Ivan has been in your house and has carried off Marya Morevna." "Can we catch them up?" "If we were to sow some barley, wait till it ripened, reap and thresh it, brew beer out of it, drink till we were drunk and not go after them till we had slept it off, we should still catch them up." So Koshchei the Deathless put his
horse into a gallop, and he caught up Prince Ivan. "I told you you would no more see Marya Morevna than your own ears," he said. And he took her away from Prince Ivan and carried her off with him.
Prince Ivan was left alone, he wept and sorrowed, and then he went back again for Marya Morevna. And Koshchei the Deathless happened to be away from home as before. "Come with me, Marya Morevna!" said Prince Ivan. "Ah, Prince Ivan, Koshchei will overtake us and hack you to pieces!" "Let him! I cannot live without you." So the two of them made ready for the journey and away they rode. By and by Koshchei the Deathless turned his way homewards. He rode along, and his horse stumbled under him. "Why do you stumble? Is it that you sense some misfortune?" he asked. "Prince Ivan has been in your house and has carried off Marya Morevna." Off Koshchei galloped after Prince Ivan, he caught him up, hacked him to pieces, put the pieces in a tarred barrel, bound the barrel with iron hoops and cast it in the blue sea. And he carried Marya Morevna off with him again.
Now, at this selfsame time the silver things Prince Ivan had left with his brothers-in-law lost their lustre and turned dark. "Prince Ivan must have met with some misfortune," said the brothers-in-law. So down Eagle dropped to the blue sea, seized the barrel and carried it out on to the shore. Falcon flew for some living water, and Raven for some dead water, and the two of them came flying back to where Eagle was waiting for them. They broke the barrel, took out the pieces into which Prince Ivan's body had been hacked, washed them and put them all together again properly. Raven sprinkled the pieces with dead water, and they grew fast to one another, and then Falcon sprayed them with living water, and Prince Ivan started and rose to his feet. "Ah, what a long sleep I have had!" he said. "You would have slept longer if it were not for us," his brothers-in-law told him. "And now come and be our guest." "No, my brothers, I must go and seek Marya Morevna."
Back he went again to Koshchei's palace, and it was there he found her. "Ask Koshchei where it was he got himself such a fine horse," he said to her. Marya Morevna bided her time and then she asked Koshchei the Deathless about his horse. Said Koshchei the Deathless: "Beyond the thrice-nine lands, in the thrice-ten kingdom there lives Baba-Yaga the Witch. Her house stands in a forest beyond the Flaming River, and she has many fine mares, among them one on which she flies round the world every day. I tended them for three days, and she gave me a foal in reward." "How did you manage to cross the Flaming River?" "With the help of my magic kerchief. I have only to wave it three times with my right hand, and a bridge so tall will rise before me that no flames can reach it." Marya Morevna heard him out and passed
on every word to Prince Ivan. And she carried off Koshchei's magic kerchief and gave it to him.
Prince Ivan crossed the Flaming River and made for Baba-Yaga's house. On and on he walked for a long time, and he had to do without food or drink. By and by he came upon a strange bird and her brood of chicks. "I think I shall eat one of the chicks," said he. "Please, Prince Ivan, do not touch my chicks," said the bird in pleading tones. "Who knows but you may have need of me some day!" Prince Ivan walked on, and he came upon a bee-hive. "I think I shall take some honey," said he. "Do not touch my honey, Prince Ivan," said the bee queen. "Who knows but you have need of me some day!" Prince Ivan walked on, and whom should he see coming toward him but a lioness and her cub. "I think I'll eat the cub," said Prince Ivan. "I'm weak with hunger." "Please, Prince Ivan, do not touch my cub," said the lioness in pleading tones. "Who knows but you may have need of me some day!" "Very well, then, let it be as you ask."
He walked on, as hungry as ever, and he came to Baba-Yaga's house. Stuck into the ground all around it were twelve poles, all save one of them crowned with human heads. "Good morrow, Grandma!" said Prince Ivan to Baba-Yaga. "Good morrow to you, Prince Ivan! What brings you here?" "I have come to serve you, and I hope to get one of your fine steeds in reward." "So be it, Prince Ivan! It is not for a year but for only three days that you must serve me. If you keep my mares safe you shall have a fine steed in reward. If you don't, then your head will crown the last pole of the twelve, and you'll have no one but yourself to blame." To this Prince Ivan agreed, and Baba-Yaga gave him food and drink and told him to set to work. Prince Ivan drove the mares to pasture, but no sooner had he done so than they lifted their tails and galloped off across the meadows. And before he had had time to bat an eye they were out of sight. Prince Ivan wept and sorrowed, and then he sat down on a stone and fell asleep. The sun had already set beyond the forest when the bird whose chick he had spared came flying up to him. "Wake up, Prince Ivan!" she called. "The mares are all back in their stalls." Prince Ivan went home, and there was Baba- Yaga making a great to-do and shouting at her mares. "Why did you come back home?" she demanded of them. "What else could we do! Birds from all over the world came flying at us and nearly pecked out our eyes." "Well, don't run over the meadows tomorrow but hide in the forests."
Prince Ivan slept the night through and woke to see Baba-Yaga standing over him. "It is morning and time for you to pasture the mares," said she. "And if you should lose even one of them your head
shall crown the last pole of the twelve." Prince Ivan drove the mares to pasture, and they at once lifted their tails and ran away deep into the forests. He wept and he sorrowed and then he sat down on a stone and fell asleep. The sun had already sunk when the lioness came running up to him. "Wake up, Prince Ivan," she cried. "The mares are all back in the stalls." Prince Ivan went home, and there was Baba-Yaga making a great to-do and shouting at the mares. "Why did you come back home!" she demanded of them. "What else could we do! The fiercest beasts from all over the world set upon us and nearly tore us to pieces." "Well, then, you had better hide in the blue sea tomorrow."
Prince Ivan slept the night through, and in the morning Baba-Yaga sent him off to pasture her mares again. "If you lose even one of them your head shall crown the last pole of the twelve," said she. Prince Ivan drove the mares to pasture, and they at once lifted their tails and vanished from sight. Into the blue sea they ran and they stood up to their necks in the water. Prince Ivan sat down on a stone. He wept and sorrowed and then fell asleep. The sun had already sunk beyond the forest when the bee queen came flying up to him. "Get up, Prince Ivan!" she cried. "The mares are all back in their stalls. Only mind, when you get back to the house, do not let Baba-Yaga see you but go to the stable and hide behind the crib. There is a mangy colt there wallowing in the dung. Lead him out in the deep of night and ride away."
Prince Ivan made his way to Baba-Yaga's house. He stole into the stable and lay down behind the crib, and there was Baba-Yaga making a great to-do and shouting at her mares. "Why did you come back home?" she demanded of them. "What else could we do! Swarms of bees came flying at us and they stung us all over."
Baba-Yaga went to bed and to sleep, and on the stroke of midnight Prince Ivan saddled the mangiest of her colts, sprang on his back and rode to the Flaming River. And no sooner was he there than he waved his magic kerchief thrice with his right hand, and lo!—there before him, spanning the river, rose a fine, tall bridge. Prince Ivan rode across, he waved his kerchief twice with his left hand, and the fine tall bridge turned into a narrow, low one. Morning came, Baba-Yaga woke, and, seeing that her colt was gone, rushed off in pursuit. Like the wind she flew in her iron mortar, using her pestle for a whip and sweeping the tracks away with her broom.
She flew up to the Flaming River, and, seeing the bridge, started off across it. But just as she got to the middle of it, the bridge broke down under her, and she fell into the water and drowned.
Prince Ivan pastured his colt in the lush green meadows, and when the colt grew up to be a strong and handsome steed, he saddled him and made for the house of Koshchei the Deathless. Seeing him, Marya Morevna came running out of the house and threw her arms round him. "How did you come back to life?" she asked him. "God must have been watching over you." Prince Ivan told her of all that had passed. "And now you must come away with me," he said. "I'm afraid, Prince Ivan! If Koshchei overtakes us he'll hack you to pieces again." "He'll not overtake us this time, for my horse flies like the wind." And they mounted the horse and rode away. By and by, Koshchei the Deathless, who had been out hunting, turned his way homewards. On he rode, and his horse stumbled under him. "Why do you stumble, you old bag of bones?" he asked him. "Is it that you sense some misfortune?" "Prince Ivan has been in your house and has carried off Marya Morevna." "Can we catch them up?" "God knows! For now Prince Ivan has a horse as fine as I am or finer." "That isn't going to stop me," said Koshchei the Deathless. "I'll go after them!" Whether a short or a long time passed, nobody knows, but he caught up Prince Ivan, and, jumping to the ground, was about to pierce him with his sword. But before he could do it, Prince Ivan's horse struck him with his hoof with all his might and smashed his head, and Prince Ivan finished him off with his cudgel. After that Prince Ivan brought a heap of firewood and made a fire. He burnt the body of Koshchei the Deathless and cast his ashes into the wind.
Marya Morevna got on Koshchei's horse and Prince Ivan on his own, and away they rode. First they went to see Raven, then Falcon and then Eagle, and they were welcomed with joy by all three. "Ah, Prince Ivan, we had lost all hope of ever seeing you!" they said. "But greatly as you have suffered, it was worth it. For if you searched the world over you would never find a bride as lovely as Marya Morevna!" Prince Ivan and Marya Morevna feasted and made merry, and then they went back to their own kingdom. And there they lived in good health and good cheer for many a long and prosperous year; they never knew hunger, they never knew need, and they drank their fill of ale and of mead.