Tsarevich ivan, the fire bird, and the gray wolf
Russian Wonder Tales
In a far away tsardom, there lived Tsar Vyslav who bore three sons: Dimitri, Vasilii, and Ivan. Vyslav had a beautiful garden with the rarest of richest of plants, but he loved one tree most of all : an apple tree that grew golden apples. However, one day he noticed one of the apples was missing. Every morning he found less and less apples on his beloved tree. One night he sent out guards to watch the garden, onl to have them tell him that they witnessed a massive bird of fire fly over the gates and snatch an apple. The angered Tsar summoned his two eldest sons, Dmitri and Vasilii, and told them that whoever seized this fire bird was to inherit his Tsardom. The morning after he sent them to watch the garden, however, they both sadly admitted to falling asleep at midnight. On the third night, the youngest son, Ivan, volunteered to watch the garden. The next morning, Ivan presented a shining feather he plucked from the firebird before it escaped to his father. Desiring the bird, the Tsar summoned his two eldest sons and sent them out to catch the firebird. After many days of waiting, Ivan rode off to search for the bird himself. As he rode upon his horse, he came upon three roads, each marked with different outcomes for the rider. One path let the rider know death, one path let the rider know hunger and cold, and one path let the rider's steed know death. Ivan took the path to his steed's death, and wept once it was devoured by a wolf. The wolf, admiring Ivan's courage, alowed Ivan to command him. Ivan then leapt upon the wolf and commanded it to take him to the firebird. When the wolf and Ivan reached the garden where the firebird was being held, and told him to take the bird but not the beautiful golden cage in which it resided. However, when Ivan looked upon the cage, he could not resist and was seized by guards. The owner of the garden and the bird, Tsar Dolmat, told Ivan that he will forgive his thievery if he brings him the horse with the golden mane from a far away Tsardom. Ivan, weeping bitterly, ran back to the wolf and commanded it to take him to the horse with the golden mane. When they stood before the royal stables where the horse was being held, the wolf told Ivan to take the horse but not to touch the golden bridle next to it. Unable to resist the beautiful bridle, Ivan attempted to grab it. The moment he touched it, however, guards seized him and brought him to the Tsar who owned the horse. The Tsar said that he would forgive Ivan only if he brought him the princess Elena the Fair. Weeping once again, Ivan ran to the wolf and commanded it to take him to Elena. When they reached Elena's kingdom, the wolf acquired Elena itself. Riding back to the previous Tsardom upon the wolf's back, Ivan fell in love with Elena. When they reached the Tsardom, Ivan told the wolf his predicament, and the wolf willingly transformed into Elena. The trade was made, and Ivan acquired the horse with the golden mane. The wolf stayed in that Tsardom for four days, before Ivan cried out for it in loneliness and it appeared before him. As they rode to the Tsardom that held the firebird, Ivan, not wanting to let go of the beautiful horse, asked the wolf to transform again. Once again, the wolf stayed in the Tsardom for four days, before appearing before Ivan. Now that Ivan had the firebird, he was off to show it to his father. After extensive amounts of travelling, Ivan was tired, and had to rest. While he rested, his brothers found him and his many treasures. Struck by jealousy, they both sliced him up into bits with their swords and threatened to kill Elena if she didn't comply with their demands. She would tell their father that they acquired all the treasures themselves. Luckily, the gray wolf came across Ivan's carcass thirty days later. The wolf saw a mother crow passing by with her child, and seized the fledging, and threatened to kill it lest the mother bring him the water of death and the water of life. The wolf then sprinkled the water of death on Ivan's mutilated corpse, reforming and repairing it, and then sprinkled the water of life on it, bringing Ivan back. Upon awakening, Ivan immediately set off to his fathers kingdom, where his brothers were being wedded to Elena. Upon Ivan's arrival, Elena burst out and told his father the truth. Upon hearing this disturbing story, the Tsar threw Ivan's brothers in jail and had him and Elena wedded.
Most fairy tales start off with a special beginning, 'once upon a time,' or 'there once lived.' Tsarevich Ivan, the Firebird, and the Gray Wolf begins with a Tsar living "in a certain far away Tsardom not in this Empire." Most fairy tales also tend to follow a pattern of an evidently good or protagonistic character, and in contrast, a misled or bad character. Tsarevich Ivan seems to be the main good character, as he is the protagonist, while his brothers Dmitri and Vasilii seem to be the evil characters, as they "cut [Ivan's] body into small pieces." Most fairy tales also use royalty or castles. This story involves a very Russian form of royalty or rule, that being Tsarism. In this story, Ivan encounters two Tsars, is a Tsarevich (son of a Tsar) himself, and lives in a castle. Fairy tales tend to lean towards specific numbers, the most common of which being three. In this story, Ivan's father has three sons, and Ivan returned home with three treasures. Fairy tales also tend to involve problems with solutions and magic. In this story, Ivan's father "saw that one of the golden apples was missing." After sending his two eldest sons, he counted the next morning and saw that "one more [apple] had been stolen." When Ivan leaves to acquire the firebird, a "bird that shone like the moon, whose feathers were gold and its eyes crystal," he comes across a wolf that can talk and will later "beat his paw against the ground and immediately take the shape of Elena." Finally, when Ivan dies, the wolf "sprinkled [Ivan's] dead body with the water of life, and [he] stood up." Once Ivan was brought back, everything was retrieved, and the evil was punished, the story happily ended with him and Elena being wedded.