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Prince Ivan and Grey Wolf

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Prince Ivan and Grey Wolf

Prince Ivan and Grey Wolf

A Russian Tale


Once upon a time there was a King named Berendei. He had three sons. The youngest was called Ivan.

And the King had a beautiful garden with an apple-tree in it that bore golden apples.

One day the King found that somebody was stealing his golden apples. The King was very unhappy about this. He sent watchmen into the garden, but they were unable to catch the thief.

The King was so grieved that he could not ttouch food or drink. His sons tried to cheer him. „Do not grieve, Father dear,“ they said, „we shall keep watch over the garden ourselves.“

The eldest son said: „Today it is my turn to keep watch.“

And he went into the garden. He walked about all evening but saw no one, so he flung himself down on the soft grass and went to sleep.

In the morning the King said to him: „Have you brought me good news? Have you discovered who tthe thief is?“

„No, Father. I did not close my eyes all night, but I saw no one.“

The next night the middle son went out to keep watch, and he, too, went to sleep. On the next morning he said he hhad seen no thief.

It was now the youngest son’s turn to go and keep watch. When Prince Ivan went to watch his father’s garden he did not so much as sit down, let alone lie down. If he felt hat he was getting sleepy, he would wash his face in dew and become wide awake at once.

And in the dead of night what should he see but a light shining in the garden. It got brighter and brighter and lit up everything around. And there on the apple-tree sat the Fire-Bird pecking at the golden apples.

Prince Ivan crept up to the tree and caught the bird by the tail. But the Fire-Bird wriggled free and flew away, leaving a feather ffrom its tail in the Prince’s hand.

Next morning Prince Ivan went to his father.

„Well, son, have you caught the thief?“ asked the King.

„Dear Father,“ said Prince Ivan, „I have not caught him, but I have discovered who he is. See, he has sent you this feather as a keepsake. The Fire-Bird is the thief, Father.“

The King took the feather, and from that time he cheered up and began to eat and drink again. But one fine day he fell to tthinking about the Fire-Bird.

He called his sons and said to them:

„My dear boys, I would have you saddle your trusty steeds and set out to see the wide world. Perhaps you will come upon the Fire-Bird.“

The sons bowed to their father, saddled their trusty steeds and set out. The eldest son took one road, the middle son another, and Prince Ivan a third.

How long Prince Ivan travelled is hard to say, but one hot afternoon he felt so tired that he got off his horse and lay down to rest.

Nobody knows whether he slept for a long time or a short time, but when he woke up his horse was gone. So he went to look for it. He walked and walked, and at last he found the remains of his horse: nothing but bones, picked clean.

Prince Ivan was in great distress. How could he continue on his journey without a horse?

„Ah, well,“ he thought, „I must make the best of it.“

And he went on foot. He walked and walked till he was dead tired, when he sat down on the soft grass, sad and dispirited. Suddenly, there’s no telling how, up came running a Grey Wolf.

„Why are you sitting hhere so sad and forlorn, Prince Ivan?“ asked Grey Wolf.

„How can I help being sad, Grey Wolf? I have lost my trusty steed.“

„It was I who ate up your horse, Prince Ivan. But I am sorry for you. What are you doing so far from home and where are you going?“

„Father has sent me out into the wide world to seek the Fire-Bird.“

„But you could not reach the Fire-Bird on that horse in three years. I alone know where it lives. So be it—since I have eaten up your horse, I shall be your true and faithful servant. Get on my back and hold fast.“

Prince Ivan got on to his back and Grey Wolf was off like a flash. Green forests swept by, blue lakes skimmed past, and at last they came to a castle with a high wall round it.

„Listen carefully, Prince Ivan,“ said Grey Wolf, „and remember what I say. Climb over that wall. You have nothing to fear—we have come at a lucky hour; all the guards are sleeping. In a chamber within the tower you will see a window, in that window hangs a golden cage, and in that cage is the Fire-Bird. Take the bbird and hide it in your bosom, but mind you do not touch the cage!“

Prince Ivan climbed over the wall and saw the tower with the golden cage in the window and the Fire-Bird in the cage. He took the bird out and hid it in his bosom, but could not tear his eyes away from the cage. „Ah, what a handsome golden cage!“ he thought longingly. „How can I leave it here!“ And he forgot the wolf’s warning. The moment he touched the cage, a hue and cry rose within the castle—trumpets trumpeted, drums drummed, the guards woke up, seized Prince Ivan and marched him off to King Afron.

„Who are you and whence have you come?“ King Afron demanded angrily.

„I am Prince Ivan, son of King Berendei.“

„Fie, shame on you! To think of a royal prince being a thief!“

„But you should not have let your bird steal apples from our garden.“

„If you had come and told me about it in an honest way, I would have made you a present of the Bird out of respect for your father, King Berendei. But now I shall spread the ill fame of your family far and wide. Or no—perhaps I will

not, after all. If you do me a favor, I shall forgive you. In a certain kingdom there is a King named Kusman and he has a Horse with a Golden Mane. Bring me that Horse and I will make you a gift of the Fire-Bird and the cage besides.“

Prince Ivan, very much put out, went back to Grey Wolf.

„I told you not to touch the cage,“ said the Wolf. „Why did you not heed my warning?“

„I am sorry, GGrey Wolf, please forgive me.“

„Being sorry won’t do much good. But there, get on my back again. I must not go back on my word.“

And off went Grey Wolf with Prince Ivan. It is hard to say how long they travelled, but at last they came to the castle where the Horse with the Golden Mane was kept.

„Climb over the wall, Prince Ivan, the guards are asleep. Go to the stable and take the Horse, but mind you do not ttouch the bridle.“

Prince Ivan climbed into the castle. All the guards were asleep, so he went to the stable and caught Golden Mane, but he could not help touching the bridle it was made of gold ...

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