Russian Folk-Tales/The Witch and the Sister of the Sun

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THE WITCH AND THE SISTER OF THE SUN


In a distant country, a country far away, once there lived a Tsar and Tsarítsa, who had a son, Iván Tsarévich, who was dumb from his birth. When he was twelve years old he went to the stable to the groom whom he loved, who always told him stories. But this time he was not to be told any.

"Iván Tsarévich," said the groom, "your mother will soon have a daughter, and you will have a sister. She will be a dreadful witch and will eat up your father and your mother and all their subjects. Go back home and ask your father to give you his best horse; mount that and ride away and follow your eyes if you would escape misfortune."

Iván Tsarévich ran up to his father and spoke for the first time in his life. The Tsar was so glad at this that he never asked what the Tsarévich wanted the horse for, but ordered the very best of his Tabún to be saddled for him.

Iván Tsarévich mounted the horse and rode away, following his eyes. He rode far, to a very great distance, and he came to two old seamstresses, and asked them if they would not let him live with them.

"We should be very glad to accept you, Iván Tsarévich," they replied, "but we shall not live much longer. We are breaking up this box and with our needles sewing it together again, and as soon as we have done that Death will come to us."

Then Iván Tsarévich wept and rode on farther. And he rode on, very very far, and came to Vertodúb. And he begged him, "Will you take me as your son?"

"I should be very glad to take you," Vertodúb replied, "but, as soon as I have turned round all these oaks with all their roots, the hour will have come for me to die."

Then the Tsarévich wept yet more, and he rode farther on, and he came to Vertogór, and he made him the same request.

"I should be very glad to take you, Iván Tsarévich, but I too shall not live much longer," was the answer he received. "You see, I am placed here in order to turn these mountains round; and when I have done with the last of them then I must die."

Then Iván Tsarévich wept bitter tears, and he rode yet farther. And at last he came to the Sister of the Sun. She gave him meat and drink and adopted him as a son. The Tsarévich had a fine time there. But still he was always dissatisfied, because he did not know what was going on at home. And so he clomb a lofty mountain, looked out to his own house, and saw that everything there had been eaten up, and only the walls were standing. Then he sighed and wept.

And when he came down from the mountain, the Sister of the Sun met him and asked, "Iván Tsarévich, why hast thou wept?"

"It was the wind which was blowing something in my eye!" And once again he began to weep.

And he went a second time into the mountain, and saw that only the walls of his house remained standing—everything had been eaten up. And he wept and returned home.

Again the Sister of the Sun met him: "Iván Tsarévich, why hast thou wept?"

"It was the wind which was blowing something in my eye!" And the Sun was angry, and forbade the wind to blow.

And he mounted the hill a third time, and this time he was forced to say why he was sad, and beg the Sister of the Sun for leave to go home to see what had been happening, like a doughty youth. So she gave him a brush and comb and two apples to take with him. And, however old a man might be, if he only ate one apple, he would be young once more.

Iván ran away, and he found Vertogór, who had only one mountain left. So Iván Tsarévich took his brush, and threw it into the open field. And suddenly mountains grew up everywhere, and their summits and peaks pierced into the skies, and there were so many of them that no man could count them. Vertogór was then very happy and set about work gaily.

Iván Tsarévich met Vertodúb once more, and there were only three oaks left. So he threw the comb into the field, and then there rustled out of the earth a thick oak forest, every tree thicker than the other. And Vertodúb was then very joyous and set to work gaily.

And at last, after a journey long or short, Iván Tsarévich reached the old women, and he gave each of them an apple. They ate them, and they once more became young, and gave him a little handkerchief, which he need only shake, and a big lake would appear.

When Iván Tsarévich came home, his sister ran to him and caressed him. "Sit down, brother mine; play on the harp whilst I go and prepare dinner."

Iván Tsarévich sat down and began to finger the strings when a mouselet crept out of the corner and spoke with a human voice: "Run away, Tsarévich, as fast as you can. Your sister is now whetting her teeth."

Iván Tsarévich then left the room, sat on his horse, and went all the way back to the Sun. The mouselet ran up and down on the strings of the harp, and the sister never noticed that the brother had gone away. When she had sharpened her teeth, she ran into the room, but there was not a single soul to be seen there, even the mouselet had crept back into its hole. And the witch became furious, gnashed her teeth and made ready to pursue Iván Tsarévich. Iván Tsarévich heard a noise behind him, looked, and saw his sister had almost caught him up, so he waved his handkerchief, and a deep lake rose behind him. Whilst the witch was swimming through the lake Iván Tsarévich flew a vast way, and she was swifter than he, and again came near.

Vertodúb guessed Iván was fleeing from his sister, and piled oaks on the way, whirled a vast mass of them in her path and she could not get through; she had at first to clear the road. So she gnawed and gnawed away, and at last made herself a path. But Iván Tsarévich in the meantime had gained ground. So she followed him farther, and she had almost caught him up.

When Vertogór saw what was happening, he seized hold of the highest mountain, piled it up on the road and stuck another on top of it. And the witch was very furious, and began climbing up, and in the meantime Iván Tsarévich got far and far away. But the witch soon got up and cried out: "This time you shall not escape me."

He had got into the palace of the Sister of the Sun, and cried out, "Sun, Sun! open your big windows."

The Sun opened his window and Iván Tsarévich leaped in on his horse.

The witch asked him to give her her brother, but the Sun would not. Then the witch said, "Iván Tsarévich must put himself on one balance and I will put myself on the other, and if I am the heavier I will eat him up; and, if he is the heavier he shall lay me low."

So they went and set up the scales. First Iván Tsarévich sat down on it, then the witch on the other side; but as soon as ever she had put her foot into it the Tsarévich was hurled with such force into the house, that he flew right into the very bosom of the sky, into the chambers of the Sun, whilst the witch remained on the earth.


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