Russian Folk-Tales/The Story of Tsar Angéy and how he Suffered for Pride

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Russian Folk-Tales by Alexander Nikolaevich Afanasyev, translated by Leonard Arthur Magnus
The Story of Tsar Angéy and how he Suffered for Pride


Once there was in the city of Filuyán [1] a Tsar named Angéy, who was very famous. And, in course of time, it came upon him to stand in the church at the Divine Service at the reading of the sacred Gospel by the priest, when the priest was reading those verses in the Gospel in which it is said: He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek. And when the Tsar heard this he grew angry, and the Tsar spoke: "This writing is falsely written; the word of the Gospel is untrue." And the Tsar said: "I am very rich and famous. How shall I be put down from my seat and the humble and meek be exalted?" And then he was filled with fear. And the Tsar bade the priest be confined in a dungeon, and he bade that page be torn out of the Gospel Book. And the Tsar went to his palace and began to eat and drink and be merry.

When the Tsar saw a deer in the fields, he went up and he took his young men with him, and he hunted him and almost captured the deer; and the deer was very beautiful. And the Tsar spoke to his champions: "Do ye stand here. I will go, and I alone will take the deer alive." And he hunted after him, and they swam across the stream. The Tsar tied his horse to an oak, and tied his garments around him, and swam naked across the stream. Then the deer became invisible, and an angel of God stood by the Tsar's horse in the image of Tsar Angéy and spoke to the youths. "The deer has swum across the stream."

And he went with the youths into the Tsar's city to his palace.

But Tsar Angéy went back for his horse, but he could neither find his steed nor his apparel, and he remained there naked and began to think. And Angéy went up to his city, and he saw shepherds feeding oxen, and he asked them: "Ye lesser brothers, shepherds, where have ye seen my horse and my garments?" And the shepherds asked him: "Who art thou?" He said to them: "I am Tsar Angéy." And the shepherds spake: "Wicked boaster! how darest thou call thyself the Tsar, for we have seen Tsar Angéy, who has just ridden into his city with five youths!" And they began to rebuke him and to beat him with whips and scourges. And the Tsar began to weep and to sob. The shepherds drove him afar, and he went naked into his city.

The trade folk of the city met him on his way and asked him: "Man, why art thou naked?" And he said to them: "Robbers have stolen my garments." And they gave him a poor and tattered dress. He took it and bowed down to them, and he went unto his city, and arrived in his town, and he asked a widow if he might stay there the night, and he questioned her, saying: "Say, my mistress, who is the Tsar here?" And she replied to him: "Art thou not a man of our country?" And she said: "Our Tsar is Tsar Angéy." He asked: "For how many years has he been Tsar?" And she said: "For years five and thirty."

He then wrote a letter with his own hand to the Tsarítsa, that he had secret things and thoughts to speak of with her; and he bade a woman take this letter to the queen. The Tsarítsa received the letter and had it read to her. He signed it as her husband, Tsar Angéy. And a great fear fell upon her, and in her fear, she began to speak: "How can this poor man name me his wife? I must inform the Tsar and have him punished." And she bade him be beaten with whips mercilessly, without informing the Tsar. He was pitilessly beaten, and was scarcely left alive, and could hardly leave the town. He wept and sobbed, and remembered the words of the Gospel: He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek. And he spoke to a pope of this, how he had profaned the Sacred Book, and had sent the priest into the dark dungeon, and had gone a long, long way.

And the Tsarítsa spoke to the angel who was taking the shape of the Tsar: "Thou, my dear lord, for one year hast not slept with me. How can I, then, be thine?" And the Tsar spake to her: "I have made a covenant with God that for three years I will not sleep with thee nor share thy bed." And he left her and went into the Tsar's palace.

Angéy the Tsar arrived in an unknown town and engaged himself with a peasant to reap the harvest; and he did not know how to do a peasant's work; and the peasant discharged him, and he began to weep and sob, and went on his way from that city. And poor men met him on the road. He said to them: "Will ye take me up with ye? I am now a poor man, and do not know how to work, and I am ashamed to beg. What ye bid of me I will do. I will work for you." And they accepted him and gave him a burden to carry. And they went to lie at night, and they bade him heat the bath, carry water, and lay the bed. And Tsar Angéy wept bitterly: "Woe to me ! What have I done! I was wroth with the Sovereign, and He has deprived me of my kingdom and has brought me to ruin, and I have suffered all this through the word of the Gospel."

In the morning the poor men got up, and they arrived at his own city of Filuyán. And they reached the abode of the Tsar and began to beg for alms. At this time the Tsar was holding a mighty feast, and he bade the poor be summoned into the palace, bade them be fed sufficiently, and he bade the food of the poor men be taken into the Tsar's palace and put into a special room. And, when the Tsar's feast was over and the boyárs[2] and the guests had all separated, the angel who had taken the form of the Tsar Angéy came to him in the palace where Angéy the Tsar was dining with the beggars: "Dost thou know of a proud and mighty Tsar, how he profaned the word of the Gospel?" And he began to teach him and to instruct him before all of the world that he must not profane the word of the Gospel, and must show respect for the priests, and must not upraise himself, but must be kindly and inclined to the ways of peace.

This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

  1. A mythical city, very probably derived from θύλη.
  2. Earls.