Russian Folk-Tales/Nikíta the Tanner

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One day, somewhere near Kíev, a dragon appeared, who demanded heavy tribute from the people. He demanded every time to eat a fair maiden: and at last the turn came to the Tsarévna, the princess. But the dragon would not eat her, she was too beautiful. He dragged her into his den and made her his wife. When he flew out on business, he used to pile logs of wood in front of the den to prevent the Tsarévna escaping. But the Tsarévna had a little dog that had followed her all the way from home. When she wrote a letter to her father and mother she used to tie it to the neck of her little dog, which would run all the way home and bring an answer back. One day her parents wrote to her: "Try to discover any one who is stronger than the dragon." The Tsarévna got every day on more intimate terms with her dragon in order to discover who was stronger. At last he owned that Nikíta, the tanner at Kíev, was the stronger. So the Tsarévna at once wrote to her father: "Look for Nikíta, the tanner at Kíev, and send him on to me to deliver me from my imprisonment."

So the Tsar looked for Nikíta, and went to him himself to beg him to release the land from the cruelty of the dragon and redeem the princess.

Just then Nikíta was tanning skins. He was just enfolding twelve hides in his hands. But when he saw the Tsar come to see him, his hands so trembled for fear that he rent the twelve hides. But, however much the Tsar and the Tsarítsa asked him, he would not set out against the dragon. Then the Tsar assembled five thousand children, who were to mollify the tanner with their bitter tears. The little ones came to Nikíta and begged him to go and fight the dragon. And when he saw them weep, Nikíta the tanner himself almost felt the tears flowing. He took thirty puds of hemp, tarred it, and swathed himself in it in order that the dragon might find him a hard morsel, and then set out. But the dragon locked himself up in his den and would not come to view.

"Come with me into the open field, otherwise I will shatter your den to pieces!" said the tanner, and began clattering at the doors.

Then the dragon, seeing his doom approach, came out into the open. Nikíta the tanner fought the grisly worm some time, maybe long, maybe short, and at last got him under.

Then the dragon besought Nikíta the tanner: "Do not beat me to death. Stronger than us two there is nothing in the white world. Let us divide the earth. You may live on the one half and I on the other."

"Very well!" said Nikíta, "only we must delimit frontiers."

So the tanner took the plough, which weighed three hundred puds, and harnessed to it the dragon, and drew the harrow all the way from Kíev to the Caspian Sea.

"Now we have divided the entire earth," said the dragon.

"Yes, we have divided the earth, but not the sea; we must also divide the sea, otherwise you would say I was taking your share of the water." So they then set out into the middle of the sea, and there Nikíta slew the dragon and drowned him.

The trench may still be seen: it is two fathoms deep. They plough all round it; but never touch the bottom: those who do not know whence came this trench call it a battlement.

When Nikíta had done this feat, he demanded no reward for it, but went home and went on tanning.

This work was published before January 1, 1927, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.