Russian Folk-Tales/Márya Moryévna

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For other English-language translations of this work, see Marya Morevna.
 

MÁRYA MORYÉVNA


In a certain kingdom, in a certain state, there once lived Iván Tsarévich, who had three sisters: one was called Márya Tsarévna, the second Ólga Tsarévna, and the third Ánna Tsarévna. Their mother and father had died: when they were dying they bade the son, "Whoever come first as a suitor for your sisters' hands, let them take them; do not keep them long with you." The Tsarévich buried his parents; and, in his grief, went with his sisters to walk in a green garden. Then a dark cloud appeared in the sky, and a fearful clap of thunder was heard. "Let us go home, sisters," said Iván Tsarévich.

Soon they reached the palace: the thunder rattled and the ceiling fell down, and the ceiling divided into two. And a clear-eyed Hawk came into the room, struck the ground, and turned himself into a fair, doughty youth: "Hail, Iván Tsarévich! before, I came to you as a guest, now I am coming to ask for your sister's hand: I wish to marry Márya Tsarévna."

"If you wish my sister, I will not say you nay: take her with God's blessing."

Márya Tsarévna agreed, and the Hawk married her and took her away to his own kingdom.

Then day followed day and hour followed hour. One whole year went by unheeded. Iván Tsarévich stayed with his sisters in the green garden. Then there came a cloud and there was thunder and lightning. "Let us go home, sisters," said the Tsarévich.

When they came to the palace there was a thunderclap, and the roof fell in and the ceiling was cleft in two, and an Eagle flew in, struck the ground and turned himself into a doughty youth, and said, "Hail, Iván Tsarévich! formerly I came to you as a guest, now I come to you as a suitor." And he asked for the hand of Ólga.

And Iván Tsarévich answered, "If Ólga Tsarévna pleases you, she may go to you—I will not withstand your will."

Ólga Tsarévna was willing, and married the Eagle: the Eagle laid hold of her and took her to his own kingdom.

One year further went by, and Iván Tsarévich said to his youngest sister, "Let us go and have a walk in the green garden," and they went for a little walk. And a cloud came over the sky with thunder and lightning. "Let us turn back, sister, home!"

So they turned back home, and they had hardly sat down when the thunder clapped and the ceiling was divided into two, and a Crow flew in. And the Crow struck the ground and turned himself into a doughty youth. The former suitors were fair enough in themselves, but he was fairer still. "Formerly I came to you as a guest, but now I come to you as a suitor: give me your sister Ánna."

"I will not withstand my sister's will; if you are in love with her she may have you."

And Ánna Tsarévna went with the Crow, and he took her to his own kingdom.

So Iván Tsarévich was there alone, and for one whole year he lived there without any sisters, and began to feel melancholy. "I will go," he said, "and seek my sisters." So he started out on the road. He went on and on and on. And there lay on the field an army of a great host conquered. And Iván asked them: "If there be any man alive here, let him call! Who slew this mighty host?"

And one man who was still alive replied: "All this mighty host was conquered by Márya Moryévna, the fair princess."

And Iván Tsarévich went on yet further, and he came upon white tents, and Márya Moryévna came to meet him, the fair queen.

"Hail," she said, "Tsarévich! where is God taking you? Is it at your will or perforce?"

And Iván Tsarévich answered her: "Doughty youths do not go perforce."

"Well, if you have no quest to accomplish, come and stay in my tents."

And Iván Tsarévich was glad of this, and he stayed two nights in the tents, fell in love with Márya Moryévna, and married her.

Márya Moryévna took him with her to her own kingdom, and they lived together for some time; and they thought of making ready for war; and so she handed all of her possessions over to Iván, and said: "Go everywhere, look at everything, only into this lumber-room you must not look."

But he was impatient: as soon as Márya Moryévna's back was turned, he at once opened the lumber-room, opened the door and looked in, and there Koshchéy the Deathless was hanging.

Koshchéy asked Iván Tsarévich, "Have pity on me: give me something to eat. I have been tortured here for ten years. I have eaten nothing, I have drunken nothing, and my throat is all dried up." Iván Tsarévich gave him a whole gallon of water: he drank it at a single gulp, and he still asked, "I am still thirsty: give me a gallon," and Iván gave him a second gallon, and yet a third. And when he had drunk the third, he recovered all his former strength, broke all his chains, shattered them all, all the twelve chains. "Thank you, Iván Tsarévich," Koshchéy the Deathless said. "Now you will never again see Márya Moryévna any more!" and with a fearful flash of lightning he flew into the country, gathered up Márya Moryévna on the road, the fair Queen, snatched her up and took her to himself.

Iván Tsarévich wept bitterly, got ready and started on his road: "Come what may, I will seek out Márya Moryévna." And he went one day, and he went another day, and on the dawning of the third day he saw a wonderful palace, and in front of the palace there was an oak, and on the oak there sat a clear-eyed hawk.

And the Hawk flew down from the oak, struck the ground, turned into a doughty youth, and cried out, "O my beloved brother: how is the Lord dealing with you?"

And Márya Tsarévna came out, went to meet Iván Tsarévich, asked him how he was, and began to tell him all her own story.

So the Tsarévich abode as their guest for three days, and then said, "I cannot stay with you any longer: I am going to seek my wife Márya Morévna the fair Queen."

"This will be a hard search for you," answered the Hawk. "At least leave a silver spoon here; we can gaze on it and think of you."

Iván Tsarévich left his silver spoon with them, and set out on his road.

So he went on one day and a second day, and at the dawning of the third day he saw a palace fairer than the first, and in front of the palace there was an oak, and an eagle sat on the oak: the Eagle flew down from the tree, struck the earth, turned into a doughty youth and cried: "Rise, Ólga Tsarévna, our dear brother has arrived."

Ólga Tsarévna at once came to meet him, began kissing and welcoming him, asking how he was, and they told of all they had lived and done.

Iván Tsarévich stayed with them three little days, and then said, "I can no longer be your guest: I am going seeking my wife, Márya Moryévna the fair Princess."

And the Eagle answered: "It will be an evil quest. Leave us your silver fork; we will look at it and think of you."

So he left his silver fork, and he went on the road.

And a day went by and a second, and at the dawn of the third day he saw a palace fairer than the first two. And in front of the palace there was an oak, and on the oak there perched a crow. And the Crow flew down from the oak, struck the earth, turned into a doughty youth, and cried out, "Ánna Tsarévna come out as fast as you can: our brother has arrived."

Then Ánna Tsarévna came out, met him joyously, began to kiss and to welcome him, asking him how he was. And they spoke of all they had lived and done.

After three days Iván Tsarévich said, "I can stay no longer with you; I am going to seek my wife, Márya Moryévna, the fair Queen."

"This will be a hard search for you," the Crow said. "At least leave us your silver snuff-box; we can gaze on it and think of you."

So Iván Tsarévich left them his silver snuff-box, and set out on his road.

Then a day went and another day, and on the third day he at last reached Márya Moryévna. When she saw her beloved through the window, she rushed out to him, flung herself at his neck, wept, and said, "Oh! Iván Tsarévich, why did you not obey me? Why did you look into the lumber-room and let Koshchéy the Deathless out?"

"Forgive me, Márya Moryévna; let bygones be bygones: come away with me now, whilst Koshchéy the Deathless is away: possibly he may not catch us up.

So they went away.

Now Koshchéy was out hunting. Towards evening he returned home, and his horse stumbled. "Why, you sorry jade, are you stumbling, or is it some evil that you fear?"

And the horse answered: "Iván Tsarévich has arrived, and has taken away Márya Moryévna."

"Can one catch them up?"

"You can sow wheat, wait until it grows up, harvest it, thresh it, turn it into flour, make five stones of bread, eat the bread, and then set out on the hunt, and we shall succeed."

Koshchéy leapt on the horse, caught up Iván Tsarévich. "Now," he said, "for the first time I will let you go for your doughtyhood, as you fed me with water; for the second time I will let you go; for the third time, take care: I will tear you to morsels." And he took Márya Moryévna from him, took her away, and Iván Tsarévich sat on the stone and cried.

And he cried and he cried, and again came back to Márya Moryévna. Koshchéy the Deathless was not at home: "Let us start, Márya Moryévna."

"Oh, Iván Tsarévich, he will catch us up."

"Well, let him still we shall have one or two hours together."

So they started, and off they went.

Koshchéy the Deathless came back home, and his good horse stumbled under him. "Why, you sorry jade, are you stumbling, or is it some evil thing which you fear?"

And the horse answered, "Iván Tsarévich has again arrived, and has taken Márya Moryévna away."

"Can one catch them up?"

"It would be possible to sow barley and to wait until it grows up, reap it, thresh it, to brew beer, drink it until you were drunk, sleep out your sleep and then to go on the hunt, and we should still succeed."

Koshchéy leaped on his horse, caught up Iván Tsarévich, and said, "I said you were not to see anything more of Márya Moryévna!" and he took her away with him.

So Iván Tsarévich was again left alone, and he wept bitterly; and once again he returned to Márya Moryévna, and this time too Koshchéy was not at home. "Let us go, Márya Moryévna!"

"Oh, Iván Tsarévich, he will catch us up and he will tear you to bits."

"Let him tear me to bits; I cannot live without you."

So they got ready, and off they went.

Koshchéy the Deathless returned home, and under him his good horse stumbled. "Why do you stumble, you sorry jade, or is it some evil that you fear?"

"Iván Tsarévich has arrived, and has taken Márya Moryévna with him."

Koshchéy leaped on his horse, caught up Iván Tsarévich, broke him up into tiny bits, put them into a tar cask, took this cask, locked it with iron bolts and threw it into the blue sea. And he took Márya Moryévna away with him.

At the same time the brothers-in-law of Iván Tsarévich looked at their silver ornaments and found they had turned black. "Oh," they said, "evidently some disaster has befallen him!" The Eagle rushed into the blue sea, dragged out the cask to the shore, and the Hawk flew for the Water of Life, and the Crow flew for the Water of Death. Then they all three met at a single spot and broke up the cask, took out the bits of Iván Tsarévich, washed them, laid them together as was fit: then the Crow sprinkled him with the Water of Death, and the body grew together and was one; and the Hawk sprinkled him with the Water of Life, and Iván Tsarévich shivered, sat up and said, "Oh, what a long sleep I have had!"

"But your sleep would have been very much longer if we had not been there," answered the brothers-in-law. "Now you must come and be our guest!"

"No, brothers, I must go and seek Márya Moryévna."

So he came to her and said, "Go and find out from Koshchéy the Deathless where he got such a fine horse!"

Then Márya Moryévna looked out for a good opportunity, and asked Koshchéy the Deathless.

Koshchéy answered, "Beyond thrice-nine lands, in the thrice-tenth kingdom, beyond the river of fire, lives the Bába Yagá. She has a mare on which every day she rides round the whole of the world. She has many splendid mares. I was there for three days as a herd, and she would not let me have the mare; but she gave me one of the foals."

"How can one cross the river of fire?"

"I have a kerchief: if you shake it to the right three times a lofty bridge rises and the fires cannot overreach it."

Márya Moryévna listened, told Iván Tsarévich all about it, and he took the cloth away. Iván Tsarévich crossed the river of fire and he reached the Bába Yagá: but journeying afar, neither eating nor drinking. A sea-bird came to meet him with her young. Iván Tsarévich asked if he might eat one of her chicks.

"Do not eat it," the sea-bird said; "at some time I shall be of service to you, Iván Tsarévich."

Then he went farther, and he was in a wood, and he saw a bee-hive. "Perhaps," he said, "I may take a little honey."

Then the queen-bee answered him, "Do not touch my honey, Iván Tsarévich; at some time or other I shall be of service to you."

So he did not touch the honey, but went farther. Then he met a lioness with her whelps. "May I eat this lion-whelp? I am so hungry?"

"Do not touch it, Iván Tsarévich," the lioness said; "at some time or other I shall be of service to you."

"Very well; it shall be as you will."

So he went on hungry, and he went on and on and on, and at last he reached the house of the Bába Yagá. Round the house there were twelve poles, and on eleven of the poles there were the skulls of men: only one as yet was untenanted.

"Hail, bábushka!" he said.

"Hail, Iván Tsarévich!" she replied: "what have you come for? By your own good will or for need?"

"I have come to earn of you a knightly horse."

"Very well, Iván Tsarévich: you are to serve me not one year, but only three days. If you can guard my mares, I will give you a knightly horse; if you cannot, do not be angry, but your head must also lie on the last of the stakes."

Iván Tsarévich agreed, and Bába Yagá gave him drink and food and bade him set to work. As soon as ever he had driven the mares into the field, they all turned their tails and ran in the meadows so far that the Tsarévich could not trace them with his eyes: and thus they were all lost. Then he sat down and wept, and became melancholy, and sat down on a stone and went to sleep.

The sun was already setting when the sea-bird flew to him, woke him up and said, "Arise, Iván Tsarévich—all the mares have gone home."

The Tsarévich got up, turned back home; but Bába Yagá was angry with her mares. "Why have you all come home?"

"Why should we not come home? the birds flew down from every quarter of the sky and almost clawed out our eyes."

"Well, to-morrow do not stray in the meadows, but scatter into the dreamy forest."

So Iván Tsarévich passed that night; and next day Bába Yagá said to him, "Look, Iván Tsarévich, if you do not keep the mares well, if you lose one, then your false head shall nod up and down on the stake."

So then he drove all the mares to the field, and this time they turned their tails, and they ran into the dreamy woods. And once again the Tsarévich sat on the stone and wept and wept and went to sleep, and the sun began to rest on the woods when the lioness ran up and said, "Get up, Iván Tsarévich—all the mares have been collected." Then Iván Tsarévich got up and went home.

And Bába Yagá was angry that the mares had come home, and she called out to her mares, "Why have you all come home?"

And they answered, "How should we not come home?—wild beasts from all the four quarters of the world assembled round us and almost tore us to bits."

"Well, you go to-morrow into the blue sea."

Once again Iván passed the night there, and the next day Bába Yagá sent her mares to feed. "If you do not guard them, then your bold head shall hang on the pole."

He drove the mares into the field, and they at once turned tail and vanished from his eyes and ran into the blue sea and stood up to their necks in the water. So Iván Tsarévich sat on the stone, wept and went to sleep. And the sun was already setting on the woods when the bee flew up to him and said: "Get up, Iván Tsarévich—all the mares have been gathered together. But, when you return home, do not appear before Bába Yagá; go into the stable and hide behind the crib. There there is a mangy foal who will be rolling in the dung: steal him; and, at the deep of midnight, leave the house."

Iván Tsarévich got up, went into the stable, and lay behind the crib.

Bába Yagá made a tremendous stir and cried out to her mares: "Why did you come back?"

"How should we not come back?—all the bees from every part o£ the world, visible and invisible, flew round us, and they stung us till our blood flowed."

Bába Yagá went to sleep; and that same night Iván Tsarévich stole the mangy steed from its stall, mounted it and flew to the fiery river. He reached that river, waved the cloth three times to the right; and, at once, from some strange source, a lofty, splendid bridge hung all the way over. The Tsarévich crossed the bridge, waved the cloth to the left twice, and all that was left of the bridge was a thin thread.

In the morning Bába Yagá woke up and she could not see the mangy foal, so she hunted to the chase: with all her strength she leapt into her iron mortar and she chased after with the pestle, and very soon she was on their track. When she came to the river of fire, she looked across and thought, "Ah ha ha! a fine bridge!" Then she went on to the bridge; but as soon as she got on to the bridge it snapped, and Bába Yagá slipped into the river, and it was a savage death she had.

Iván Tsarévich fed his foal on the green, and a splendid horse grew out of him; then the Tsarévich arrived at the palace of Márya Moryévna. She rushed out, fell upon his neck and said, "How has God blessed you?" And he told her how it had gone with him. "I am frightened, Iván Tsarévich; if Koshchéy catches us up you will again be torn to atoms."

"No, he will not catch us up now; I have a fine knightly horse which flies like a bird." So they sat on the horse and went.

Koshchéy the Deathless came back home, and his horse stumbled. "Oh, you sorry jade, why do you stumble, or is it that you fear some evil?"

"Iván Tsarévich has arrived, and has taken away Márya Moryévna."

"Can one catch them up?"

"God knows; now Iván Tsarévich has a knightly horse better than me."

"No, I will not stand it," Koshchéy the Deathless said. "We will up and after him!"

And, sooner or later, so soon he caught up Iván Tsarévich, and he leapt to him and was going to cleave him with his curved sabre; but then the steed of Iván Tsarévich kicked Koshchéy the Deathless with all his might, and clove in his head, and the Tsarévich struck him down with his club. Then the Tsarévich gathered together a mass of timber, set fire to it, burnt Koshchéy the Deathless on the pile and scattered the dust to the winds.

Márya Moryévna then sat on Koshchéy's steed, and Iván Tsarévich on his own, and the two went and stayed as guests, first of all with the Crow, then with the Eagle, and lastly with the Hawk. Wherever they went they were joyously received. "Oh! Iván Tsarévich, I am so glad to see you! We never expected to see you back. And your work has not been in vain; such a beauty as Márya Moryévna might be sought for all over the world and you would not have found any other."

So they were as guests and junketed well, and arrived into their own kingdom, reached it and began to live a life of joy enduring and to drink good mead.


This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.