The Frog Tsarevna
Long, long ago there was a tsar who had three sons. One day, when his sons were grown to manhood, the Tsar called them to him and said;
“My dear sons, while yet I am not old I should like to see you married and to rejoice in the sight of your children and my grandchildren.”
And the sons replied:
“If that is your wish, Father, then give is your blessing. Who would you like us to marry?”
“Now then, my sons, you must each of you take an arrow and go out into the open field. You must shoot the arrows, and wherever they fall, there will you find your destined bridges.”
The sons bowed to their father, and each of them taking an arrow, went out into the open field. There they drew their bows and let fly their arrows.
The eldest son’s arrow fell in boyar’s courtyard and was picked up by the by the boyar’s daughter. The middle son’s arrow fell in a rich merchant’s yard and was picked up by the merchant’s daughter. And as for the youngest son, Tsarevich Ivan, his arrows shot up and flew away he knew not where. He a masrh, and what did he see sitting there but a frog with the arrows in its mouth.
Said Tsarevich Ivan to the Frog:
“Frog, Frog, give me back my arrow.”
But the Frog replied:
“I will if you marry me!”
“What do you mean, how can I marry a frog!”
“You must, for I am destined bride.”
Tsarevich Ivan felt sad and crestfallen. But there but there was nothing to be done, and he picked up the a Frog and carried it home. And the Tsar celebrate three weddings: his eldest son he married to the boyar’s daughter, his middle son-to the merchant’s daughter, and poor Tsarevnia Ivan-to the Frog.
Some little time passed, and the Tsar called his sons to his side.
“I want to see which of wives is the better needlewoman,” said he. “Let them each make me a shirt by tomorrow morning.”
The sons bowed to their father and left him.
Tsarevnia Ivan came home, sat down and hung his head. And the Frog hopped over the floor and up to him and asked:
“Why do you hang your head, Tsarevnia Ivan? What is iot that troubles you?”
“Father bids you make him a shirt by tomorrow morning.”
Said the Frog:
“Do not grieve, Tsarevich Ivan, but go to bed, for morning is wiser than evening.”
Tsarevich Ivan went to bed, and the Frog hoped out on to the porch, cast off its frog skin and turned into Vasilisa the Wise and Clever, a malden fair beyond compare.
She clapped her hands and cried:
“Come, my women and malds, make haste and set to work! Make me a shirt by tomorrow morning, like those my own father used to wear.”
In the morning Tsarevich Ivan awoke, and there was the Frog hopping on the floor again, but the shirt and he went with it to his father who was busy receiving his two went with is to his father who was busy receiving his two elder son’s gift. The eldest son laid out his shirt, and the Tsar took it and said:
“This shirt will only do for a poor peasant to wear.”
The middle son laid out his shirt, and the Tsar said:
“ This shirt will only do to go the baths in.”
The Tsarevich Ivan laid out his shirt, all beautifully embroidered in gold and silver, and the Tsar took one look at it and said:
“Now that is a shirt to wear on holidays!”
The two elder brothers went home and they spoke among themselves and said:
“It seems we were wrong to laught at Tsarevich Ivan’s wife. She is no frog, but a witch.”
Now the Tsar again called his sons.
“Let your wives bake me some bnread by tomorrow morning.” He said. “I want to know which of them is the best cook.”
Tsarevich Ivan hung his head and went home. And the Frog asked him:
“Why are you so sad, Tsarevich Iavn?”
Said Tsarevich Ivan:
“Do not to bake some bread for my father by tomorrow morning.”
“Do not grieve, Tsarevich Ivan, but go to bed. Morning is wiser than evening.”
And her two sister-in-law, who had laughed at the Frog at first, now sent an old woman who worked in the kitchen to see how she baked her bread.
But the Frog was sly and guessed what they were up to. She kneaded some dough, broke off the top the stove and threw the dough down the hole. The old woman ran to the two sisters-in-law and told them all abouit it, and they did as the Frog had done.
And the Frog hopped out on to the porch, turned into Vasilisa the Wise and Clever clapped her hands.
“ Come, my women and malds, make hast and set to work!” cried she. “By tomorrow morning bake me some soft white bread, the kind I used to eat my own father’s house.”
In the morning Tsarevich Ivan woke up, and there was the bread all ready, lying on the table and prettily decorated with all manner of things: stamped figures on the sides and towns with walls and gates on the top.
Tsarevich Ivan was overjoyed. He wrapped up the bread in a towel and tookj it to his father who was just receiving the loaves his elder sons had brought. Their wives had dropped the dough into the slove as the old woman had told them to do, and the loaves came out charred and lumpy.
The Tsar took the bread from the bread from his eldest son, he looked at it and he sent it to the servant’s hall. He took the bread from his middle son, and he did the same with it. But when Tsarevich Ivan handed him his bread, the Tsar said:
“Now that is bread to be eaten only on holidays!”
And the Tsar bade his three sons come and feast with him on the morrow together with their wives.
Once again Tsarevich Ivan came home sad and sorrowful, and he hung his head very low. And the Frog hopped over the floor and up to him and said:
“Croak, croak, why are you sad, Tsarevich Ivan? Is it that your father has grieved you bu an unkind word?”
“Oh, Frog, Frog!” cried Tsarevich Ivan. “How can I help being sad? The Tsar has ordered me to bring you to his feast, and how can I show you to people!”
Said the Frog in reply:
“Do not grieved, Tsarevich Ivan, but go to the feast alone, and I will follow later. When you hear a great tramping and thundering, do not be afraid, but if they ask you what it is, say: “That is my Frog riding in her box.”
“So Tsarevich Ivan went to the feast alone, and his eider brothers came with their wives who were all dressed up in their finest clothes and had their brows blackened and roses painted on their cheeks. They stod there, and they made fun Tsarevich Ivan.
“Why have you come without your wife?” asked they. “You could have brought her in handkerchief. Wherever did you find such a beauty? You must have searched all the swamps for her.”
Now the Tsar with his sons and his daughters-in-law and all the guest sat down to feastat the oaken tables covered with embroidered clothes. Suddenly there came a great tramping and thundering, and the whole palace shook and trembled. The guests were frightened and jumped up from their seats. But Tsarevich Ivan said:
“Do not fear, honest folk. That is only my Frog riding in the box.”
And there dashed up to the porch of the Tsar’s palace a gilded carriage drawn by six horses, and out of it stopped Vasilisa the with stars, and on her head she wore the gright crescent moon, and so beautiful was she that it cannot be pictured and cannot be told, but was a true wonder and joy behold! She took Tsarevich Ivan by the hand and led him to the oaken tables covered with embroidered cloths.
The guests began eating and drinking and making merry. Vasilisa the Wise and Clever drank from her glass and poured the dregs into her left sleeve.
And the wives of the older sons saw what she did and they did the same. They ate and drank and then the time came to dance. Vasillas the Wise and Clever caught Tsarevich Ivan by the hand and began to dance. She danced and she whirled and she circled round and round, and everyone watched and marveled. She waved her left sleeve, and a lake appeared; she waved her right sleeve, and white swans began to swim upon the lake. The Tsar and his guest were filled with wonder.
Then the wives of the two elder sons dancing. They waved their left sleeves, and only splashed mead over the guest; they waved their right sleeves, and bones flew about on all sides, and one bone hit the Tsar in the eye. And the Tsar was very angry and drove out both his daughters-in-law.
In the meantime, Tsarevich Ivan slipped out, ran home, and finding the frog skin, threw it in the stove and burn it.
Now Vasilisa the Wise and Clever came home, and she at once saw that her frog skin was gone. She sat down on a bench, very sad and sorrowful, and she said to Tsarevich Ivan;
“Ah, Tsarevich Ivan, what have you done! Had you but waited just three more days, I would have been yours forever. But now farewell. Seek me beyond the Thrice-Nine-Lands int the Thrice-Ten Tsardom where lives Koschei the Deathless.”
And Vasilisa the Wise and Clever turned into a grey cuckoo-bird and flew out of the window. Tsarevic Ivan cried and wept for a long time and then he bowed in four directions and went off he knew not where he walked a distance short or long, for a time that was short or long no one knows, but his boots were worn, his caftan frayed and torn, and his cap battered by the rain. After a while he met a little old man who was as old can be.
“Good morrow, good youth!” quoth he. “What do you seek and whiter are you bound?”
Tsarevich Ivan told him of his trouble, and the little old man who was as old as old can be, said:
“Ah, Tsarevich Ivan, why did you burn the frog skin? It was not yours to wear or to do away with. Vasilisa the Wise and Clever was born wiser and cleverer than her father, and this so angered him that he turned her into a frog for three years. Ah, well, it can’t be helped now. Here is a ball of thread for you. Follow it without fear wherever it rolled. In an open field he met a bear. Tsarevich Ivan took aim and was about to kill it, but the bear spoke up in a human voice and said:
“Do not kill me, Tsarevich Ivan, who knows but you may have need of me some day.”
And Tsarevich Ivan spared the drake and went on. Just then a hare came running. Tsarevich Ivan took aim quickly and was about to shoot it, but the hare said, in a human voice;
“D not kill me, Tsarevich Ivan, who knows but you may have need of me some day!”
And Tsarevich Ivan spared the hare and went farther. He came to the blue sea and he saw a pike lying on the sandy shore and gasping for breath.
“Take pity on me, Tsarevich Ivan,” said the pike. “Throw me back into the blue sea!”
So Tsarevich Ivan threw the pike into the sea and walked on along the shore. Whether a long time passed by or a short time no one knows, but by and by the ball of thread rolled up to a forest, and there in the forest stood a little huty on chicken’s feet, spinning round and round.
“Little hut, little hut, stand as once you stood, with your face to me and your back to the wood,” said Tsarevich Ivan.
The hut turned its faced to him and its back to the forest, and ledge, lay Baba-Yaga the Witch with the Switch, in a pose she liked best, her cooked nose to the ceiling pressed.
“What brings you here, good youth?” asked Baba-Yga. “Is there aught you come to seek? Come, good youth. I pray you, speak!”
Said Tsarevich Ivan:
“First give me food and drink, you old hag, and steam me in the bath, and then ask your questions.”
So Baba-Yaga steamed him in the bath, gave him food and drink and put him to bed, and then Tsaevich Ivan told her that he was seeking his wife, Vasilisa the Wise and Clever.
“I know where where she is,” said Baba-Yaga. “Koschei the Deathless has her in his power. It will be hard getting her back, for it is not easy to get the better of Koschei. His death is at the point of neddle, the neddle is in an egg, the egg in a duck, the duck, the duck in a hare, the hare in a stone chest and the chest at the top of a tall oak-tree which Koschei the Deathless guards as the apple of his own eye.”
Tsarevich Ivan spent the night in Baba-Yaga’s hut, and in the morning she told him where the tall oak-tree was to be found. Wheather he was long on the way or not no one knows, but by and by he come to the tall oak-tree. It stood there and it rustled and swayed, and the stone chest was at the top of it and very hard to reach.
All of a sudden, lo and behold! The bear came running and it pulled out the oak-tree, roots and all. Down fell the chest, and it broke open. Out of the chest bounded a hare and away it tore as fast as it could. But another hare appeared and gave it chase. It caught up the first hare and tore it to bits. Out of the hare flew a duck, and it soared up to the very sky. But in a trice the drake was upon it and it struck the duck so hard that it dropped the egg, and down the egg fell into the blue sea.
At this Tsarevich Ivan began weeping bitter tears, for how could be find the egg in the sea! But all at once the pike came swimming to the shore with the egg in its mouth. Tsarevich Ivan cracked the egg, took out the needle and began trying to break off the point. The more he bent it, the more Koschei the Deathless writhed and twisted. But all in vain. For Tsarevich Ivan broke off the point of the neddle, and Koschei fell down dead.
Ttsarevich Ivan then went to Koschei’s palace of while stone. And Vasilisa the Wise and Clever ran out him and kissed him on his honey-sweet mouth. And Tsarevich Ivan and Vasilisa the Wise and Clever went back to their own home and lived together long and happily till they were quite, quite old.