from Russian Wonder Tales. (1912)
(A more modern and less reverent version of this story can be found on Myths Retold.)
IN a certain far-away Tsardom not in this Empire, there lived a Tsar named Vyslav, who had three sons: the first Tsarevitch Dimitri, the second Tsarevitch Vasilii and the third Tsarevitch Ivan.
The Tsar had a walled garden, so rich and beautiful that in no kingdom of the world was there a more splendid one. Many rare trees grew in it whose fruits were precious jewels, and the rarest of all was an apple tree whose apples were of pure gold, and this the Tsar loved best of all.
One day he saw that one of the golden apples was missing. He placed guards at all gates of the garden; but in spite of this, each morning on counting, he found one more apple gone. At length he set men on the wall to watch day and night, and these reported to him that every night there came flying into the garden a bird that shone like the moon, whose feathers were gold and its eyes like crystal, which perched on the apple tree, plucked a golden apple and flew away.
Tsar Vyslav was greatly angered, and calling to him his two eldest sons, said: “My dear children, I have for many days sought to decide which of you should inherit my Tsardom and reign after me. Now, therefore, to the one of you who will catch the Fire Bird, which is the thief of my golden apples, and will bring it to me alive, I will during my life give the half of the Tsardom, and he shall rule after me when I am dead.”
The two sons, hearing, rejoiced, and shouted with one voice: “Gracious Sir! We shall not fail to bring you the Fire Bird alive!”
Tsarevitch Dimitri and Tsarevitch Vasilii cast lots to see who should have the first trial, and the lot fell to the eldest, Tsarevitch Dimitri, who at evening went into the garden to watch. He sat down under the apple tree and watched till midnight, but when midnight was passed he fell asleep.
In the morning the Tsar summoned him and said: “Well, my son, didst thou see the Fire Bird who steals my golden apples?” Being ashamed to confess that he had fallen asleep, however, Tsarevitch Dimitri answered: “No, gracious Sir; last night the bird did not visit thy garden.”
The Tsar, however, went himself and counted the apples, and saw that one more had been stolen.
On the next evening Tsarevitch Vasilii went into the garden to watch, and he, too, fell asleep at midnight, and next morning when his father summoned him, he, like his brother, being ashamed to tell the truth, answered: “Gracious Sir, I watched throughout the night but the Fire Bird that steals the golden apples did not enter thy garden.”
And again Tsar Vyslav went himself and counted and saw that another golden apple was missing.
On the third evening Tsarevitch Ivan asked permission to watch in the garden, but his father would not permit it. “Thou art but a lad,” he said, “and mightest be frightened in the long, dark night.” But Ivan continued to beseech him till at length the Tsar consented.
So Tsarevitch Ivan took his place in the garden, and sat down to watch under the apple tree that bore the golden apples. He watched an hour, he watched two hours, he watched three hours. When midnight drew near sleep al most overcame him, but he drew his dagger and pricked his thigh with its point till the pain aroused him. And suddenly, an hour after midnight, the garden became bright as if with the light of many fires, and the Fire Bird came flying on its golden wings to alight on the lowest bough of the apple tree.
Tsarevitch Ivan crept nearer, and as it was about to pluck a golden apple in its beak he sprang toward it and seized its tail. The bird, however, beating with its golden wings, tore itself loose and flew away, leaving in his hand a single long feather. He wrapped this in a handkerchief, lay down on the ground and went to sleep.
In the morning Tsar Vyslav summoned him to his presence, and said: “Well, my dear son, thou didst not, I suppose, see the Fire Bird?”
Then Tsarevitch Ivan unrolled the handkerchief, and the feather shone so that the whole place was bright with it. The Tsar could not sufficiently admire it, for when it was brought into a darkened room it gleamed as if a hundred candles had been lighted. He put it into his royal treasury as a thing which must be safely kept for ever, and set many watchmen about the garden hoping to snare the Fire Bird, but it came no more for the golden apples.
Then Tsar Vyslav, greatly desiring it, sent for his two eldest sons, and said: “Ye, my sons, failed even to see the thief of my apples, yet thy brother Ivan has at least brought me one of its feathers. Take horse now, with my blessing, and ride in search of it, and to the one of you who brings it to me alive I will give the half of my Tsardom.” And the Tsarevitches Dimitri and Vasilii, envious of their younger brother Ivan, rejoiced that their father did not bid him also go, and mounting their swift horses, rode away, gladly, both of them, in search of the Fire Bird.
They rode for three days-whether by a near or a far road, or on highland or lowland, the tale is soon told, but the journey is not done quickly-till they came to a green plain from whose center three roads started, and there a great stone was set with these words carved upon it:
Who rides straight forward shall know both hunger and cold.
Who rides to the right shall live, though his steed be dead.
Who rides to the left shall die, though his steed shall live.
They were uncertain what to do, since none of the three roads promised well, and turning aside into a pleasant wood, pitched their silken tents and gave themselves over to rest and idle enjoyment.
Now when days had passed and they did not return, Tsarevitch Ivan besought his father to give him also his blessing, with leave to ride forth to search for the Fire Bird, but Tsar Vyslav denied him, saying: “My dear son, the wolves will devour thee. Thou art still young and unused to far and difficult journeying. Enough that thy brothers have gone from me. I am already old in age, and walk under the eye of God; if He take away my life, and thou, too, art gone, who will remain to keep order in my Tsardom? Rebellion may arise and there will be no one to quell it, or an enemy may cross our borders and there will be no one to command our troops. Seek not, therefore, to leave me!”
In spite of all, however, Tsarevitch Ivan would not leave off his beseeching till at length his father consented, and he took Tsar Vyslav’s blessing, chose a swift horse for his use and rode away he knew not whither.
Three days he rode, till he came to the green plain whence the three ways started, and read the words carved on tile great stone that stood there. “I may not take the left road, lest I die,” he thought, “nor the middle road, lest I know hunger and cold. Rather will I take the right-hand road, whereon, though my poor horse perish, I at least shall keep my life.” So he reined to the right.
He rode one day, he rode two days, he rode three days, and on the morning of the fourth day, as he led his horse through a forest, a great Gray Wolf leaped from a thicket. “Thou art a brave lad, Tsarevitch Ivan,” said the Wolf, “but didst thou not read what was written on the rock?” When the Wolf had spoken these words he seized the horse, and tearing it in pieces, devoured it and disappeared.
Tsarevitch Ivan wept bitterly over the loss of his horse. The whole day he walked, till his weariness could not be told in a tale. He was near to faint from weakness, when again he met the Gray Wolf. “Thou art a brave lad, Tsarevitch Ivan,” said the Wolf, “and for this reason I feel pity for thee. I have eaten thy good horse, but I will serve thee a service in payment. Sit now on my back and say whither I shall bear thee and wherefore.”
Tsarevitch Ivan seated himself on the back of the Wolf joyfully enough. “Take me, Gray Wolf,” he said, “to the Fire Bird that stole my father’s golden apples,” and instantly the Wolf sped away, twenty times swifter than the swiftest horse. In the middle of the night he stopped at a stone wall.
“Get down from my back, Tsarevitch Ivan,” said the Wolf, “and climb over this wall. On the other side is a garden, and in the garden is an iron railing, and behind the railing three cages are hung, one of copper, one of silver, and one of gold. In the copper cage is a crow, in the silver one is a jackdaw, and in the golden cage is the Fire Bird. Open the door of the golden cage, take out the Fire Bird, and wrap it in thy handkerchief. But on no account take the golden cage; if thou dost, great misfortune will follow.”
Tsarevitch Ivan climbed the wall, entered the iron railing and found the three cages as the Gray Wolf had said. He took out the Fire Bird and wrapped it in his handkerchief, but he could not bear to leave behind him the beautiful golden cage.
The instant he stretched out his hand and took it, how ever, there sounded throughout all the garden a great noise of clanging bells and the twanging of musical instruments to which the golden cage was tied by many invisible cords, and fifty watchmen, waking, came running into the garden. They seized Tsarevitch Ivan, and in the morning they brought him before their Tsar, who was called Dolmat.
Tsar Dolmat was greatly angered, and shouted in a loud voice: “How now! This is a fine, bold handed Cossack to be caught in such a shameful theft! Who art thou, from what country comest thou? Of what father art thou son, and how art thou named?”
“I come from the Tsardom of Vyslav,” answered Tsarevitch Ivan, “son of Tsar Vyslav, and I am called Ivan. Thy Fire Bird entered my father’s garden by night and stole many golden apples from his favorite tree. Therefore the Tsar, my father, sent me to find and bring to him the thief.”
“And how should I know that thou speakest truth?” answered Tsar Dolmat. “Hadst thou come to me first I would have given thee the Fire Bird with honor. How will it be with thee now when I send into all Tsardoms, declaring how thou hast acted shamefully in my borders? However, Tsarevitch Ivan, I will excuse thee this if thou wilt serve me a certain service. If thou wilt ride across three times nine countries to the thirtieth Tsardom of Tsar Afron, and wilt win for me from him the Horse with the Golden Mane, which his father promised me and which is mine by right, then will I give to thee with all joy the Fire Bird. But if thou dost not serve me this service, then will I declare throughout all Tsardoms that thou art a thief, unworthy to share thy father’s honors.”
Tsarevitch Ivan went out from Tsar Dolmat in great grief. He found the Gray Wolf and related to him the whole.
“Thou art a foolish youth Tsarevitch Ivan,” said the Wolf. “Why didst thou not recall my words and leave the golden cage?”
“I am guilty before thee!” answered Ivan sorrowfully.
“Well,” said the Gray Wolf, “I will help thee. Sit on my back, and say whither I shall bear thee and wherefore.”
So Tsarevitch Ivan a second time mounted the Wolf’s back. “Take me, Gray Wolf,” he said, “across three times nine countries to the thirtieth Tsardom, to Tsar Afron’s Horse with the Golden Mane.” At once the Wolf began running, fifty times swifter than the swiftest horse. Whether it was a long way or a short way, in the middle of the night he came to the thirtieth Tsardom, to Tsar Afron’s Palace, and stopped beside the royal stables, which were built all of white stone.
“Now, Tsarevitch Ivan,” said the Wolf, “get down from my back and open the door. The stablemen are all fast asleep, and thou mayest win the Horse with the Golden Mane. Only take not the golden bridle that hangs beside it. If thou takest that, great ill will befall thee.”
Tsarevitch Ivan opened the door of the stables and there he saw the Horse with the Golden Mane, whose brightness was such that the whole stall was lighted by it. But as he was leading it out he saw the golden bridle, and its beauty tempted him to take it also. Scarcely had he touched it, however, when there arose a great clanging and thundering, for the bridle was tied by many cords to instruments of brass. The noise awakened the stablemen, who came running, a hundred of them, and seized Tsarevitch Ivan, and in the morning led him before Tsar Afron.
The Tsar was much surprised to see so gallant a youth accused of such a theft. “What!” he said. “Thou art a goodly lad to be a robber of my horses. Tell me from what Tsardom dost thou come, son of what father art thou, and what is thy name?”
“I come from the Tsardom of Tsar Vyslav,” replied Tsarevitch Ivan, “whose son I am, and my name is Ivan. Tsar Dolmat laid upon me this service, that I bring him the Horse with the Golden Mane, which thy father promised him and which is his by right.”
“Hadst thou come with such a word from Tsar Dolmat,” answered Tsar Afron, “I would have given thee the horse with honor, and thou needst not have taken it from me by stealth. How will it be with thee when I send my heralds into all Tsardoms declaring thee, a Tsar’s son, to be a thief? However, Tsarevitch Ivan, I will excuse thee this if thou wilt serve me a certain service. Thou shalt ride over three times nine lands to the country of the Tsar whose daughter is known as Helen the Beautiful, and bring me the Tsarevna to be my wife. For I have loved her for long with my soul and my heart, and yet cannot win her. Do this and I will forgive thee this fault and with joy will give thee the Horse with the Golden Mane and the golden bridle also for Tsar Dolmat. But if thou dost not serve me this service, then will I name thee as a shameful thief in all Tsardoms.”
Tsarevitch Ivan went out from the splendid Palace weeping many tears, and came to the Gray Wolf and told him all that had befallen.
“Thou hast again been a foolish youth,” said the Wolf. “Why didst thou not remember my warning not to touch the golden bridle?”
“Gray Wolf,” said Ivan, still weeping, “I am guilty be fore thee!”
“Well,” said the Wolf, “be it so. I will help thee. Sit upon my back and say whither I shall bear thee and wherefore.”
So Tsarevitch Ivan wiped away his tears and a third time mounted the Wolf’s back. “Take me, Gray Wolf,” he said, “across three times nine lands to the Tsarevna who is called Helen the Beautiful.” And straightway the Wolf began running, a hundred times swifter than the swiftest horse, faster than one can tell in a tale, until he came to the country of the beautiful princess. At length he stopped at a golden railing surrounding a lovely garden.
“Get down now, Tsarevitch Ivan,” said the Wolf; “go back along the road by which we came, and wait for me in the open field under the green oak tree.” So Tsarevitch Ivan did as he was bidden. But as for the Gray Wolf, he waited there.
Toward evening, when the sun was very low and its rays were no longer hot, the Tsar’s daughter, Helen the Beautiful, went into the garden to walk with her nurse and the ladies-in-waiting of the Court. When she came near, suddenly the Gray Wolf leaped over the railing into the garden, seized her and ran off with her more swiftly than twenty horses. He ran to the open field, to the green oak tree where Tsarevitch Ivan was waiting, and set her down beside him. Helen the Beautiful had been greatly frightened, but dried her tears quickly when she saw the handsome youth.
“Mount my back, Tsarevitch Ivan,” said the Wolf, “and take the Tsarevna in your arms.”
Tsarevitch Ivan sat on the Gray Wolf’s back and took Helen the Beautiful in his arms, and the Wolf began run- fling more swiftly than fifty horses, across the three times nine countries, back to the Tsardom of Tsar Afron. The nurse and ladies-in-waiting of the Tsarevna hastened to the Palace, and the Tsar sent many troops to pursue them, but fast as they went they could not overtake the Gray Wolf.
Sitting on the Wolf’s back, with the Tsar’s beautiful daughter in his arms, Tsarevitch Ivan began to love her with his heart and soul, and Helen the Beautiful began also to love him, so that when the Gray Wolf came to the country of Tsar Afron, to whom she was to be given, Tsarevitch Ivan began to shed many tears.
“Why dost thou weep, Tsarevitch Ivan?” asked the Wolf, and Ivan answered: “Gray Wolf, my friend! Why should I not weep and be desolate? I myself have begun to love Helen the Beautiful, yet now I must give her up to Tsar Afron for the Horse with the Golden Mane. For if I do not, then Tsar Afron will dishonor my name in all countries.”
“I have served thee in much, Tsarevitch Ivan,” said the Gray Wolf, “but I will also do thee this service. Listen. When we come near to the Palace, I myself will take the shape of the Tsar’s daughter, and thou shalt lead me to Tsar Afron, and shalt take in exchange the Horse with the Golden Mane. Thou shalt mount him and ride far away. Then I will ask leave of Tsar Afron to walk on the open steppe, and when 1 am on the steppe with the Court ladies-in-waiting, thou hast only to think of me, the Gray Wolf, and I shall come once more to thee.”
As soon as the Wolf had uttered these words, he beat his paw against the damp ground and instantly he took the shape of the Tsar’s beautiful daughter: so like to her that no one in the world could have told that he was not the Tsarevna herself. Then, bidding Helen the Beautiful wait for him outside the walls, Tsarevitch Ivan led the Gray Wolf into the Palace to Tsar Afron.
The Tsar, thinking at last he had won the treasure he had so long desired as his wife, was very joyful, and gave Tsarevitch Ivan, for Tsar Dolmat, the Horse with the Golden Mane and the golden bridle. And Tsarevitch Ivan, mounting, rode outside the walls to the real Helen the Beautiful, put her before him on the saddle and set out across the three times nine countries back to the Tsardom of Tsar Dolmat.
As to the Gray Wolf, he spent one day, he spent two days, he spent three days in Tsar Afron’s Palace, all the while having the shape of the beautiful Tsarevna, while the Tsar made preparations for a splendid bridal. On the fourth day he asked the Tsar’s permission to go for a walk on the open steppe.
“Oh, my beautiful Tsar’s daughter,” said Tsar Afron, “I grant thee whatever thou mayst wish. Go then and walk where it pleaseth thee, and perchance it will soothe thy grief and sorrow at parting from thy father.” So he ordered serving-women and all the ladies-in-waiting of the Court to walk with her.
But all at once, as they walked on the open steppe, Tsarevitch Ivan, far away, riding with the real Helen the Beautiful on the Horse with the Golden Mane, suddenly be thought himself and cried: “Gray Wolf, Gray Wolf, I am thinking of thee now. Where art thou?” At that very instant the false Princess, as she walked with the ladies-in-waiting of Tsar Afron’s Court, turned into the Gray Wolf, which ran off more swiftly than seventy horses. The ladies-in waiting hastened to the Palace and Tsar Afron sent many soldiers in pursuit, but they could not catch the Gray Wolf and soon he overtook Tsarevitch Ivan.
“Mount on my back, Tsarevitch Ivan,” said the Wolf, “and let Helen the Beautiful ride on the Horse with the Golden Mane.”
Tsarevitch Ivan mounted the Gray Wolf, and the Tsarevna rode on the Horse with the Golden Mane, and so they went on together to the Tsardom of Tsar Dolmat, in whose garden hung the cage with the Fire Bird. Whether the way was a long one or a short one, at length they came near to Tsar Dolmat’s Palace. Then Tsarevitch Ivan, getting down from the Wolf’s back, said:
“Gray Wolf, my dear friend! Thou hast served me many services. Serve me also one more, the last and greatest. If thou canst take the shape of Helen the Beautiful, thou canst take also that of this Horse with the Golden Mane. Do this and let me deliver thee to Tsar Dolmat in exchange for the Fire Bird. Then, when I am far away on the road to my own Tsardom, thou canst again rejoin us.”
“So be it,” said the Wolf and beat his paw against the dry ground, and immediately he took the shape of the Horse with the Golden Mane, so like to that the Princess rode that no one could have told one from the other. Then Tsarevitch Ivan, leaving Helen the Beautiful on the green lawn with the real Horse with the Golden Mane, mounted arid rode to the Palace gate.
When Tsar Dolmat saw Tsarevitch Ivan riding on the false Horse with the Golden Mane he rejoiced exceedingly. He came out, embraced Ivan in the wide courtyard and kissed him on the mouth, and taking his right hand, led him into his splendid rooms. He made a great festival, and they sat at oak tables covered with embroidered cloths and for two days ate, drank and made merry. On the third day the Tsar gave to Tsarevitch Ivan the Fire Bird in its golden cage. Ivan took it, went to the green lawn where he had left Helen the Beautiful, mounted the real Horse with the Golden Mane, set the Tsarevna on the saddle before him, and together they rode away across the three times nine lands towards his native country, the Tsardom of Tsar Vyslav.
As to Tsar Dolmat, for two days he admired the false Horse with the Golden Mane, and on the third day he de sired to ride him. He gave orders, therefore, to saddle him, and mounting, rode to the open steppe. But as he was riding, it chanced that Tsarevitch Ivan, far away with Helen the Beautiful, all at once remembered his promise and cried:
“Gray Wolf, Gray Wolf, I am thinking of thee!” And at that instant the horse Tsar Dolmat rode threw the Tsar from his back and turned into the Gray Wolf, which ran off more swiftly than a hundred horses.
Tsar Dolmat hastened to the Palace and sent many soldiers in pursuit, but they could not catch the Gray Wolf, who soon overtook the Horse with the Golden Mane that bore Tsarevitch Ivan and the Tsarevna.
“Get down, Tsarevitch Ivan,” said the Wolf; “mount my back and let Helen the Beautiful ride on the Horse with the Golden Mane.”
So Tsarevitch Ivan mounted the Gray Wolf and the Tsarevna rode on the Horse with the Golden Mane, and at length they came to the forest where the Wolf had devoured Tsarevitch Ivan’s horse.
There the Gray Wolf stopped. “Well, Tsarevitch Ivan,” he said, “I have paid for thy horse, and have served thee in faith and truth. Get down now; I am no longer thy servant.”
Tsarevitch Ivan got down from the Wolf’s back, weeping many tears that they should part, and the Gray Wolf leaped into a thicket and disappeared, leaving Tsarevitch Ivan, mounted on the Horse with the Golden Mane, with Helen the Beautiful in his arms who held in her hands the golden cage in which was the Fire Bird, to ride to the Palace of Tsar Vyslav.
They rode on three days, till they came to the green plain where the three ways met, and where stood the great stone, and being very tired, the Tsarevitch and the Tsarevna here dismounted and lay down to rest. He tied the Horse with the Golden Mane to the stone, and lying lovingly side by side on the soft grass, they went to sleep.
Now it happened that the two elder brothers of Ivan, Tsarevitch Dimitri and Tsarevitch Vasilii, having tired of their amusements in the wood and being minded to return to their father without the Fire Bird, came riding past the spot and found their brother lying asleep with Helen the Beautiful beside him. Seeing not only that he had found the Fire Bird, but a horse with a mane of gold and a lovely Princess, they were envious, and Tsarevitch Dimitri drew his sword, stabbed Tsarevitch Ivan to death, and cut his body into small pieces. They then awoke Helen the Beautiful and began to question her.
“Lovely Tsarevna,” they asked, “from what Tsardom dost thou come, of what father art thou daughter, and how art thou named?”
Helen the Beautiful, being roughly awakened, and seeing Tsarevitch Ivan dead, was greatly frightened and cried with bitter tears: “I am the Tsar’s daughter, Helen the Beautiful, and I belong to Tsarevitch Ivan whom ye have put to a cruel death. If ye were brave knights, ye had ridden against him in the open field; then might ye have been victorious over him with honor; but instead of that ye have slain him when he was asleep. What praise will such an act receive?”
But Tsarevitch Vasilii set the point of his sword against her breast and said: “Listen, Helen the Beautiful! Thou art now in our hands. We shall bring thee to our little father, Tsar Vyslav, and thou shalt tell him that we, and not Tsarevitch Ivan, found the Fire Bird, and won the Horse with the Golden Mane and thine own lovely self. If thou dost not swear by all holy things to say this, then this instant will we put thee to death!” And the beautiful Tsar’s daughter, frightened by their threats, swore that she would speak as they commanded.
Tsarevitch Dimitri and Tsarevitch Vasilii cast lots to see who should take Helen the Beautiful and who the Horse with the Golden Mane and the Fire Bird. The Princess fell to Tsarevitch Vasilii and the horse and the bird to Tsarevitch Dimitri, and Tsarevitch Vasilii took Helen the Beautiful on his horse and Tsarevitch Dimitri took the Fire Bird and the Horse with the Golden Mane and both rode swiftly to the Palace of their father, Tsar Vyslav.
The Tsar rejoiced greatly to see them. To Tsarevitch Dimitri, since he had brought him the Fire Bird, he gave the half of his Tsardom, and he made a festival which lasted a whole month, at the end of which time Tsarevitch Vasilii was to wed the Tsarevna, Helen the Beautiful.
As for Tsarevitch Ivan, dead and cut into pieces, he lay on the green plain for thirty days. And on the thirty- first day it chanced that the Gray Wolf passed that way. He knew at once by his keen scent that the body was that of Tsarevitch Ivan. While he sat grieving for his friend, there came flying an iron-beaked she-crow with two fledglings, who alighted on the ground and would have eaten of the flesh, but the Wolf leaped up and seized one of the young birds.
Then the mother crow, flying to a little distance, said to him: “O Gray Wolf, wolf’s son! Do not devour my little child, since it has in no way harmed thee.”
And the Gray Wolf answered: “Listen, Crow, crow’s daughter! Serve me a certain service, and I will not harm thy fledgling. I have heard that across three times nine countries, in the thirtieth Tsardom, are two springs, so placed that none save a bird can come to them, which give forth, the one the water of death, and the other the water of life. Bring to me two bottles of these waters, and I will let thy fledgling go safe and sound.
But if thou dost not, then I will tear it to pieces and devour it.”
“I will indeed do thee this service, Gray Wolf, wolf’s son,” said the crow, “only harm not my child,” and immediately flew away as swiftly as an arrow.
The Gray Wolf waited one day, he waited two days, he waited three days, and on the fourth day the she-crow came flying with two little bottles of water in her beak.
The Gray Wolf tore the fledgling to pieces. He sprinkled the pieces with the water of death and they instantly grew together; he sprinkled the dead body with the water of life and the fledgling shook itself and flew away with the she-crow, safe and sound. The Gray Wolf then sprinkled the pieces of the body of Tsarevitch Ivan with the water of death and they grew together; he sprinkled the dead body with the water of life, and Tsarevitch Ivan stood up, stretched himself and said: “How long I must have slept!”
“Yes, Tsarevitch Ivan,” the Gray Wolf said, “and thou wouldst have slept forever had it not been for me. For thy brothers cut thee to pieces and took away with them the beautiful Tsar’s daughter, the Horse with the Golden Mane and the Fire Bird. Make haste now and mount on my back, for thy brother Tsarevitch Vasilii today is to wed thy Helen the Beautiful.”
Tsarevitch Ivan made haste to mount, and the Gray Wolf began running, swifter than a hundred horses, toward the Palace of Tsar Vyslav.
Whether the way was long or short, he came soon to the city, and there at the gate the Gray Wolf stopped. “Get down now, Tsarevitch Ivan,” he said. “I am no longer a servant of thine and thou shalt see me no more, but sometimes remember the journeys thou hast made on the back of the Gray Wolf.”
Tsarevitch Ivan got down, and having bade the Wolf farewell with tears, entered the city and went at once to the Palace, where the Tsarevitch Vasilii was even then being wed to Helen the Beautiful.
He entered the splendid rooms and came where they sat at table, and as soon as Helen the Beautiful saw him, she sprang up from the table and kissed him on the mouth, crying:
“This is my beloved, Tsarevitch Ivan, who shall wed me, and not this wicked one, Tsarevitch Vasilii, who sits with me at table!”
Tsar Vyslav rose up in his place and questioned Helen the Beautiful and she related to him the whole: how Tsarevitch Ivan had won her, with the Horse with the Golden Mane and the Fire Bird, and how his two elder brothers had slain him as he lay asleep and had threatened her with death so that she should say what they bade.
Tsar Vyslav, hearing, was angered like a great river in a storm. He commanded that the Tsarevitches Dimitri and Vasilii be seized and thrown into prison, and Tsarevitch Ivan, that same day, was wed to the Princess Helen the Beautiful. The Tsar made a great feast and all the people drank wine and mead till it ran down their beards, and the festival lasted many days till there was no one hungry or thirsty in the whole Tsardom.
And when the rejoicing was ended, the two elder brothers were made, one a scullion and the other a cowherd, but Tsarevitch Ivan lived always with Helen the Beautiful in such harmony and love that neither of them could bear to be without the other even for a single moment.