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Bash Tchelik Or Real Steel






Source: Hero Tales And Legends Of The Serbians

There lived once a tsar who had three sons and three daughters. When
old age overtook him and the hour came for him to die he called his
children to him, and desired his sons to give their sisters to the
first wooers who might ask them in marriage. "Do as I tell you,"
added the dying tsar, "or dread my curse!"

Shortly after the tsar had passed away there came one night a fearful
knocking at the palace gate, so that the whole building shook, and
a great roaring, screaming, and blowing was heard; it seemed as if
the palace was assailed by some awful tempest. All the courtiers
were seized with unspeakable fear, and suddenly a voice from outside
was heard: "O princes, open the door!" Thereupon the eldest brother
exclaimed: "Do not open!" The second brother added: "Do not open for
anything!" But the youngest brother said: "I must open the door!" and
he sprang to the door and flung it open. As he did so something came
in, but the brothers could see only a bright light, out of which
proceeded these urgent words: "I have come to ask your eldest sister
in marriage, and to take her away this moment; for I have no time to
lose, neither shall I come a second time to demand her! Answer quickly,
will you give her or not? That is what I must know."

The eldest brother answered: "I will not give her. I cannot see you,
and do not know who you are or even whence you came. To-night is
the first time I have heard your voice, and you insist upon taking
my sister away at once. Should I not know where I could visit my
sister sometimes?"

The second brother also said: "I will not consent that my sister
should be taken away to-night!"

But the youngest brother protested, saying: "If you will not give her,
I will. Do you not remember our father's words?" Thereupon he took
his sister by the hand, [83] and presented her to the invisible wooer,
saying: "May she be a loyal and dutiful wife!"

The moment the princess passed over the threshold every one in the
palace fell to the ground in terror, so fearsome was the lightning
and so loud the peals of thunder. The whole building shook as if
about to fall. The storm, however, passed and daybreak came. That
morning close search was made to see if any trace could be found of
the strange visitant or the way it had gone; but, alas! all their
efforts were vain.

The second night, about the same time, a similar noise was heard
again round the palace, and a voice at the door exclaimed: "O princes,
open the door!"

Seized with fear they dared not disobey. Then the pitiless voice
spake again: "Give me your second sister; I have come to ask her
in marriage!"

The eldest brother protested: "I will not consent!" The second brother
said: "I will not give away our sister!" But the youngest brother was
willing. "I will give her!" said he; "have you already forgotten what
our father commanded at the hour of his death?"

Thereupon the youngest prince took his sister by the hand and presented
her to the unseen visitor, saying: "Take her, may she be loyal and
dutiful to you!" So the visitant departed with the princess, and next
morning no trace of him could be found.

The third night at the same hour the earth quaked and the palace rocked
on its foundations, so mighty was the tumult around it. And again a
mysterious voice was heard from without. The princes opened the door,
and the unseen presence entered and said: "I come to ask your youngest
sister in marriage!" The two elder brothers exclaimed simultaneously:
"We will not give our sister by night; we must know to whom we are
giving her, so that we may visit her when we wish to do so!" But
once more the youngest brother exclaimed: "I will give her, if you
will not! Have you, then, forgotten what our father told us? It is
not so very long ago!" So saying, he took the maiden and presented
her to the invisible power, saying: "Take her with you! And may she
bring you joy and happiness!"




The Princes set Out

Next morning the brothers debated the fate of their sisters, and
sorrow filled their hearts. "Great Heaven!" they said, "what a mighty
wonder! We know not what has befallen our sisters; neither do we
know where they have gone nor whom they have married!" At length
they decided to go in search of their beloved sisters, and making
the necessary preparations for their journey they set out on the quest.

They journeyed for some time and then lost their way in a dense
forest, in which they wandered for a whole day. When darkness fell,
they agreed that they must pass the night at some place where they
could find water, so when they came to a lake, they decided to pass
the night there, and sat down to eat. When they were ready to compose
themselves to sleep, the eldest proposed to his brothers that they
should sleep while he kept guard. So the two younger brothers went
to sleep, and the eldest watched.

About midnight the lake became agitated, and the watcher was seized
with horror when he saw in the middle of it something moving straight
toward him. As it came nearer, he saw clearly that it was a monstrous
alligator with two huge ears. The monster attacked the prince with
all its strength, but the gallant young man received it on the point
of his sword and swiftly cleft its head asunder. Then he cut off the
ears, placed them in his bag, but threw the carcass back into the
lake. Soon after this, morning broke; but the two younger brothers
slept quietly on, unconscious of their brother's exploit.

In due time the prince awakened the young men and, without mentioning
what had happened, he recommended that they should continue their
journey. They travelled the whole day long and, having again lost
their way in another dense forest, they decided to pass the coming
night by a small lake, and they quickly made a fire. After they had
eaten, the second brother said: "To-night you two sleep, and I shall
watch." And so the eldest and the youngest brothers slept, while the
second kept guard.

Suddenly the water of the lake began to stir, and lo! an alligator with
two heads appeared and rushed furiously upon the three brothers. But
the second brother was no coward; he gave the monster a fearful blow
with his gleaming sabre and the alligator fell dead. Then the prince
cut off its four ears, placed them in his bag, and threw the horrible
carcass into the lake. The two sleeping brothers knew nothing of all
this and slept till sun-rise. Then the gallant prince exclaimed:
"Get up, my brothers, it is high time!" And they instantly arose,
and prepared to continue their journey, without knowing whither they
should go.

A great fear seized their hearts when they found themselves in a
horrible desert; they wandered in this for three long days, and, as
their food was consumed, they feared now lest they should die of hunger
in this strange land, which seemed to have no end. Then they addressed
their fervent prayers to the Almighty that He might be pleased to
afford them some guidance, and lo! they saw at length a large sheet
of water. Great was now their joy, and they took counsel with each
other and agreed to pass the night on the shores of that lake.

Having quenched their thirst, they made a bright fire, and when the
hour for sleep approached, the youngest brother proposed: "To-night
it is my turn; you two go to sleep and I shall watch!" So the two
elder brothers went to sleep, and the youngest brother kept awake,
looking sharply about him, often casting his eyes over the lake. Toward
midnight he noticed a disturbance in the water, and as he looked in
wonder the lake grew so agitated that a wave overflowed the shore and
nearly extinguished the fire. The next moment a horrible alligator
with three heads appeared and rushed furiously on the brothers,
obviously intending to devour them. But the youngest prince was no
less brave than his two brothers; he unsheathed his sword, and as
the monster came on with jaws wide agape, he gave it three fearful
blows in rapid succession, slashing off its three heads. Then he cut
off the six ears and placed them in his bag, and threw the body and
the heads back into the lake.




The Nine Giants

Meantime the fire had smouldered out, and having no materials with
which to make a fresh fire, and not wishing to awake his brothers,
the prince went a short distance into the desert in the hope of
finding some fuel, but without success. He climbed upon a rock, and
looking around he saw at length the glare of a fire. As it seemed
that the fire was not very far off, he decided to go and get brands
with which to relight his own fire. So he descended from the rock and
hastening for some time through the desert, he came at last to a cave
in which he saw nine giants sitting round a big fire and roasting on
spits two men, one on each side. Upon the fire there stood a caldron
full of the limbs of men.

When the prince saw all this, he was seized with horror, and would
readily have gone back, but it was too late. So he saluted the giants
thus: "Good evening, my comrades, I have been in search of you for a
long time!" They welcomed him in a friendly manner and returned the
greeting, saying: "May God favour you, since you are one of us!" The
wily prince added: "Why, I shall remain one of your faithful friends
for ever, and would give my life for your sake!" "Eh!" exclaimed
the giants, "since you intend to join us, no doubt you are ready
to eat man's flesh, and to join our company when we go in search of
prey?" Thereupon the tsar's son answered: "Most decidedly! I shall
do willingly everything that you, yourselves, do." Hearing this the
giants retorted: "That is well for you then! Come and sit here with
us!" Then the whole company, sitting round the fire, and taking the
meat out of the caldron, began to eat. The tsar's son pretended to
eat, but he deceived them cleverly, for instead of eating he threw
the meat behind him.

After supper the giants exclaimed: "Now let us go to hunt, for we
must have something to eat to-morrow!" So they started out, all nine
of them, the prince being the tenth of the party. "Come with us,"
said the giants to the prince, "we will go to a neighbouring city
in which lives a tsar: for from that city we have been supplying
ourselves with food for many years!" When they arrived at that
place, the giants uprooted two fir-trees, and, reaching the walls
of the city, they placed one tree against it and ordered the prince:
"Go up to the top of the wall, and we will hand you the second tree,
which you will fix on the other side of the wall, so that we can climb
down the stem of it into the city." The prince obeyed, and, when he
was on the top of the wall, he said: "I do not know how to do it,
I am not familiar with this place, and I cannot manage to throw the
tree over the wall; please come up, one of you, and show me how to do
it!" Thereupon one of the giants climbed up, took the top of the tree
and threw the stem over the wall, holding fast the highest branch in
his hands. The prince utilised this opportunity to draw his sword,
and, unseen by those below, with one stroke he cut off the giant's
head, and pushed his body over the wall. Then he said to the others:
"Now come up one by one, so that I can let you down into the city as
I did our first comrade." The giants, suspecting nothing, climbed up
one after the other; and the prince cut off their heads till he had
killed the whole nine. Then he slowly descended the pine-tree and
reached the ground within the city walls.

Walking through the streets he was surprised to see no living soul
there, and the whole city seemed to be deserted! So he reasoned to
himself: "Those ugly giants must have annihilated all the inhabitants
of this city!"




The Sleeping Princess

He continued wandering about till he saw at length a very tall tower,
through one of the vent-holes of which shone a light. He opened the
door and went straight to the room from which he judged the light
to have come. It was magnificently decorated with gold and velvet,
and lying on a resplendent couch, was a maiden sleeping. The girl was
exceedingly beautiful, and as the prince devoured her with his eyes
he was horrified to see a snake on the wall; it poised its hideous
head with the obvious intention of striking the girl on her forehead
between the eyes, but the prince rushed swiftly forward with drawn
poniard and pierced the serpent's head so that it was nailed to the
wall, exclaiming as he did so: "May God grant that my poniard cannot
be drawn out of the wall by any hand but mine!" He then hurried away,
climbing the city wall by the same way as he had come. When he arrived
at the giants' cave, he took a brand from the fire, and hastened to the
place where he had left his brothers, and found them still sleeping. He
made a fresh fire, and, as meantime the sun had risen, he now awoke his
brothers and they immediately continued their journey. That same day
they came to a road which led to the city of which we have heard. It
was the custom of the tsar who lived in that city to walk abroad
every morning and to lament the great destruction of his people by
the giants. His greatest anxiety was lest his only daughter would one
day be their prey. On this particular morning he walked unusually
early through the streets, which were all empty. After a time he
came to a part of the city wall against which the tall pine-tree
of the giants leaned. He approached closely and found the bodies of
the nine giants, the terrible enemies of his people, lying upon the
ground with their heads cut off. When the tsar saw this wonder he
rejoiced exceedingly, and the people soon gathered around him and
prayed that God might grant happiness and long life to the hero who
had killed the giants. At that very moment servants came hurriedly
from the palace and informed the tsar that a snake had very nearly
caused the death of his daughter. Hearing this the tsar ran to his
daughter, and entering her room he was amazed to see a large, hideous
serpent nailed to the wall. He tried at once to pluck out the poniard,
but was not able to do so.

Then the tsar issued a proclamation throughout his vast empire to the
effect that if the hero who had killed the nine giants and pierced
the snake would come to court he should receive great gifts and the
hand of the tsar's daughter in marriage. This proclamation spread
quickly all over the land, and by the tsar's orders, in every inn
on the principal roads an official was stationed whose duty it was
to ask every traveller if he had heard of the hero who had killed
the nine giants. If any man should know anything about the matter,
he was at once to come before the tsar and tell what he knew, and
was to be rewarded. And the tsar's commands were strictly carried out.

After some time the three princes in search of their sisters came
to pass the night at one of the inns of that country, and, after
supper, they began an animated conversation with the inn-keeper,
in the course of which the witty host boasted of his exploits, and
at length asked the princes: "Tell me now, what heroic deeds have
you young men performed?"

Thereupon the eldest brother started thus: "When my brothers and I set
out on our expedition in search of our sisters, we decided to pass
the first night on the shores of a lake in the midst of a deserted
forest. There I proposed that my brothers should go to sleep while
I remained to keep watch. As soon as they fell asleep, a terrible
alligator rose from the lake to devour my brothers, but I received
it on the point of my sword and cleft its hideous head asunder: if
you do not believe, here are the ears of the monster!" Saying this,
the eldest brother took out of his bag the ears of the alligator and
placed them on the table.

When the second brother heard this, he said: "And I was on guard,
my brothers, while you were sleeping the second night; and from the
lake appeared an alligator with two heads. I rushed at it with my
sword and cut off both its heads: if you do not believe me, see! here
are the four ears of the monster!" Saying this, he produced the ears
from his bag and placed them on the table to the great astonishment
of the listeners.




The Hero Found

But the youngest brother kept silent. And the inn-keeper asked him:
"By my faith, young man, your brothers are veritable heroes, let us
hear whether you have performed any heroic exploit?" Then the youngest
brother began to relate: "I have also done a little. When we arrived
at the shores of a lake on the third night in that desert to pass the
night, you, my brothers, went to rest, and I remained awake to keep
watch. About midnight, the lake was greatly agitated and an alligator
with three heads rushed out with the intention of swallowing you, but I
received it on the point of my sword and successfully cleft its three
heads asunder: if you do not believe me, see! here are the six ears
of the monster!" This astounded even his brothers, and the young man
continued: "Meantime our fire was extinguished, and I went in search
of fuel. Wandering over the desert, I came across nine giants ..." and
so he proceeded to relate to them all his surprising deeds. When the
story came to an end the inn-keeper hurried off and told everything to
the tsar, who gave him money and ordered that the brothers should be
brought to him. When they appeared the tsar asked the youngest prince:
"Is it really you who have done all those wonders in my city, and
saved the life of my only daughter?" "Yes, your Majesty!" answered
the prince. Thereupon the tsar moved with great joy and gratitude,
gave his daughter in marriage to the gallant prince and appointed
him his prime minister. As to his brothers, the tsar said: "If you
wish to remain with your brother, I shall find you wives and shall
order castles to be built for you!" But the two princes thanked his
Majesty and declared that they were already married and that they
wished to continue their search for their lost sisters.

The tsar approved of this resolution, and having been supplied with
two mules loaded with gold the two brothers said their farewells
and departed. The youngest brother soon began to think of his three
sisters; he would have been sorry to leave his wife to go in search of
them, and in any case the tsar, his father-in-law, would not permit
him to leave the court. Nevertheless the prince wasted away slowly
in grief for his sisters.

One day the tsar went forth to hunt, and said to the prince:
"Remain in the palace, and take these nine keys and keep them in
your pocket. You can open three or four rooms with those keys, there
you will find unbounded gold, silver and precious stones. In fact,
if you wish to do so, you can open even the eight rooms, but do not
dare to open the ninth. Ill indeed will be your fate if you do!"




Bash Tchelik

As soon as the tsar had left the palace, the young prince began
to open the doors, one after the other, of all the eight rooms,
and truly he saw much gold, silver and other precious things. At
length he came to the ninth room, and reasoned to himself: "I have
survived many extraordinary adventures, nothing ever surprised me;
why should I now be afraid to venture into this room?" Saying this,
he opened the door, and what do you think he saw there? In the middle
of the room stood a strange man, whose legs were bound in iron up to
the knees and his arms up to the elbows; in the four corners of the
room there were chains fastened to thick beams, and all the chains
met in a ring round the man's neck, so that he could not make the
slightest movement. In front of him was a fountain from which the water
streamed through a golden pipe into a golden basin. Near him stood a
golden mug, incrusted with precious stones. Despite his longing to
drink the water, the man could not move to reach the mug. When the
prince saw all this, he was indeed astounded, and drew back, but the
man groaned: "For heaven's sake, come to me!" The prince approached
him and the man said: "Do a good deed! Give me now a cup of water,
and know for certain, that I will reward you with another life!"

The prince thought within himself: "Is there anything better than
to possess two lives?" So he took the mug, filled it with water, and
handed it to the man, who drank eagerly. Then the prince asked him:
"Tell me now, what is your name?" The man answered: "My name is Bash
Tchelik (Real Steel)." The prince made a movement toward the door,
but the man again implored him: "Give me another mug of water, and
I shall give you a second life!" The prince thought: "Now, if he
gives me a second life, I shall have, together with my own, three
lives! This will be quite wonderful!" So he again filled the mug
and handed it to the strange prisoner, who emptied it greedily. The
prince turned toward the door, but the man exclaimed: "O hero, do not
go! Come back a moment! Since you have done two good deeds, do yet
a third, and I will give you a third life as reward. Take this mug,
fill it with water, and pour it over my head!"

The prince had no desire to refuse; he filled the cup with water,
and poured it over the man's head. No sooner had he done this than
Bash Tchelik broke the iron chains around his neck, jumped up with
the speed of lightning, and, lo! he had wings. He rushed through the
door before the surprised prince could make a movement, and, having
snatched up the daughter of the tsar, the wife of his deliverer,
he flew into the air and disappeared.

When the tsar returned from the hunt, his son-in-law told him all
that had happened, and the tsar was indeed greatly saddened, and
exclaimed: "Why did you do this? Did I not tell you not to open the
ninth room?" The prince humbly answered: "Do not be angry, I shall
go in search of Bash Tchelik, for I must fetch my wife." But the
tsar tried to dissuade him, saying: "Do not go, for anything in the
world! You do not yet know this man; it cost me many an army before
I succeeded in taking him prisoner. Remain in peace where you are,
and I will find for you a still better wife than my daughter was, and
rest assured that I shall continue to love you as my own son!" However,
the young prince would not listen to his father-in-law's advice, but
took money for his travelling expenses, saddled a horse and went in
search of Bash Tchelik.




The Prince finds his Sister

Some time later the young man came to a city. From the window of
a castle a girl cried out: "O prince, alight from your charger and
come into our courtyard!" The prince did as he was invited; the girl
met him in the courtyard, and he was greatly astonished to recognize
in her his eldest sister. They embraced and kissed each other, and
his sister said: "Come within, my brother." When they were inside,
the prince asked his sister who her husband was, and she answered:
"I have married the king of dragons, and he has sworn that he will
kill my brothers the first time he comes across them. Therefore,
I will hide you, and shall ask him first what he would do to you
if you appeared. Should he declare that he would do you no harm,
I would tell him of your presence." So she hid both her brother and
his horse. Toward evening the dragon flew home, and the whole castle
shone. As soon as he entered, he called his wife: "My dear, there is
a smell of human bones! Tell me at once who is here!" She answered:
"There is nobody!" But the dragon added: "That cannot be!" Then his
wife asked him: "Please answer truly, would you harm my brothers if
one of them should come here to see me?" And the king of dragons said:
"Your eldest and your second brother I would slaughter and roast, but
your youngest brother I would not harm." Then she said: "My youngest
brother, and your brother-in-law, is here." Thereupon the king said:
"Let him come in." And when the prince appeared, the king of dragons
stretched forth his arms, embraced his brother-in-law, and said:
"Welcome, O brother!" And the prince answered: "I hope you are
well?" Then they related to each other all their adventures from
beginning to end, and sat down to supper.

At length the prince told his brother-in-law that he was searching
for Bash Tchelik, and the dragon advised him, saying, "Do not go any
further! I will tell you all about him; the very day when he escaped
from his prison, I met him with five thousand of my dragons, and,
after a severe battle, he escaped victorious. So you see, there is
slender hope for you, alone, to overpower him. Therefore I advise you,
as a friend, to abandon your plan, and return home in peace; and if
you are in need of money I will give you any amount of it." But the
prince answered: "I thank you very much for all your good wishes
and advice, but I cannot do otherwise than go in search of Bash
Tchelik!" And he thought: "Why should I not do so, since I have three
superfluous lives?"

When the king of dragons saw that he could not dissuade the prince,
he handed a feather he was wearing to him, and said: "Take this, and if
you are ever in need of my help, you have only to burn it, and I will
come at once to your aid with all my forces." The prince thankfully
took the feather and started once more in pursuit of Bash Tchelik.




The Second Sister

Wandering for some time he came at length to another city, and,
as he was riding under the tower of a magnificent castle, a window
opened and he heard a voice calling him: "Alight from your steed, O
prince, and come into our courtyard!" The prince complied immediately,
and when he entered the courtyard, he was greatly surprised to see
his second sister, who threw herself into his arms, weeping for
joy. Then she showed her brother into her private apartment, and
he asked: "To whom are you married, sister dear?" And she answered:
"My husband is the king of the eagles." When the king returned home
his loving wife welcomed him, but he exclaimed at once: "Who is the
daring man now in my castle? Tell me directly!" She lied and said:
"No one!" Then they began their supper, and the princess asked her
husband: "Tell me truly, would you do any harm to my brothers if
one of them should dare to come here to see me?" And the eagle-king
answered: "As to your eldest and your second brother, I declare that
I would kill them; but your third brother I would welcome and help
as much as I could." Then she took heart and told him: "Here is
my youngest brother, and your brother-in-law, who has come to see
us!" Then the king ordered his servants to bring the prince before
him, and when the servants obeyed and the prince appeared, he stood
up and embraced and kissed his brother-in-law, saying: "Welcome,
my dear brother-in-law!" And the prince, touched by his kindness,
answered most courteously: "Thank you, my brother! I hope you are
well!" The king at once bade him be seated at table, and after supper
the prince related his wonderful adventures, and finished by telling
them about his search for Bash Tchelik. Hearing this, the eagle-king
counselled his brother-in-law most urgently to give up his hazardous
plan, adding: "Leave that fiend alone, O dear brother-in-law! I would
advise you to remain here; you will find everything you desire in my
castle." But the adventurous prince would not listen to this advice
for a moment, and on the morrow he prepared to resume his search for
Bash Tchelik. Then the eagle-king, seeing that the prince's resolution
was unshakable, plucked out of his garment a beautiful feather, handed
it to his brother-in-law, and said: "Take this feather, O brother,
and if you ever should need my help you will have but to burn it,
and I will at once come to your aid with the whole of my army." The
prince accepted the feather most gratefully, took his leave, and went
away in pursuit of his enemy.




The Third Sister

After some time he came to a third city, in which he found in the
same manner his youngest sister. She was married to the king of the
falcons, who also welcomed him in a friendly manner, and gave him a
feather to burn in case of need.




The Prince finds his Wife

After wandering from one place to another, he finally found his wife in
a cave. When his wife saw him she exclaimed: "How in the world did you
come here, my dear husband?" And he told her all about his adventures
and said: "Let us flee together, my wife!" But she replied: "How could
we flee, when Bash Tchelik will surely overtake us: he would kill you,
and he would take me back and punish me." Nevertheless, the prince,
knowing well that he had three additional lives, persuaded his wife
to go with him.

No sooner had they left the cavern than Bash Tchelik heard of their
departure and hurried after them. In a short time he reached them,
took back the princess, and reproached the prince; "O prince, you have
stolen your wife! This time I forgive you, because I recollect having
granted you three lives. So you can go, but if you dare come again
for your wife I shall kill you!" Thereupon Bash Tchelik disappeared
with the princess, and her husband remained to wonder what he should
do next. At length he decided to try his luck again, and when he
was near the cave he chose a moment when Bash Tchelik was absent,
and again took away his wife. But Bash Tchelik again learnt of their
departure quickly, and in a short time reached them again. Now he drew
his bow at the prince, saying: "Do you prefer to be shot by this arrow,
or to be beheaded by my sabre?" The prince asked to be pardoned again,
and Bash Tchelik forgave him, saying: "I pardon you this time also,
but know surely that should you dare come again to take away your
wife I shall kill you without mercy."

The prince tried his luck yet a third time, and, being again caught
by Bash Tchelik, once more implored to be pardoned. Because he had
given him of his own free will three lives, Bash Tchelik listened to
his plea, but said: "Be warned; do not risk losing the one life God
gave you!"

The prince, seeing that against such a power he could do nothing,
started homeward, pondering in his mind, however, how he could
free his wife from Bash Tchelik. Suddenly an idea came to him: he
recalled what his brothers-in-law had said when giving him a feather
from their garments. So he thought: "I must go once more and try to
rescue my wife; if I come to any harm I will burn the feathers and
my brothers-in-law will come to my aid."

Thereupon the prince returned to the cave of Bash Tchelik, and his
wife was greatly surprised to see him and exclaimed: "So, you are
tired of life, since you have come back a fourth time for me!" But
the prince showed his wife the feathers and explained their uses, and
prevailed upon her to try once more to escape. No sooner had they left
the cavern, however, than Bash Tchelik rushed after them shouting:
"Stop, prince! You cannot escape me!" The prince, seeing that they
were in imminent peril, hastily burnt all three feathers, and when Bash
Tchelik came up with drawn sabre ready to kill him, oh! what a mighty
wonder! At the same moment came flying to the rescue the dragon-king
with his host of dragons, the eagle-king with all his fierce eagles,
and the falcon-king with all his falcons. One and all fell furiously
upon Bash Tchelik, but despite the shedding of much blood Bash Tchelik
seemed to be invincible, and at length he seized the princess and fled.

After the battle the three brothers-in-law found the prince dead,
and immediately decided to recall him to life. They asked three
dragons which of them could bring, in the shortest possible time,
some water from the Jordan. The first said: "I could bring it in half
an hour!" The second declared: "I will bring it in ten minutes!" The
third asserted: "I can bring it in nine seconds!" Thereupon the king
dispatched the third dragon, and, indeed, he used all his fiery might
and returned in nine seconds. The king took the healing water, poured
it upon the gaping wounds of their brother-in-law, and, as they did
so, the wounds were healed up and the prince sprang to his feet alive.

Then the kings counselled him: "Since you have been saved from death go
home in peace." But the prince declared that he would once more try to
regain his beloved wife. The kings endeavoured to dissuade him, saying:
"Do not go, for you will be lost if you do! You know well that you
have now only the one life which God gave you." But the prince would
not listen. Thereupon the kings said: "Since it cannot be otherwise,
then go! But do not vainly think to flee with your wife! Request your
wife to ask Bash Tchelik where his strength lies, and then come and
tell us, in order that we may help you to conquer him."




The Secret of Strength

This time the prince went stealthily to the cavern and, as
counselled by the kings, told his wife to inquire from Bash Tchelik
wherein lay his strength. When Bash Tchelik returned home that
evening, the princess asked: "I pray you, tell me where lies your
strength?" Bash Tchelik, hearing this laughed and said: "My strength
is in my sabre!" The princess knelt before the sabre and began to
pray. Thereupon Bash Tchelik burst into louder laughter, exclaiming:
"O foolish woman! My strength is not in my sabre, but in my bow and
my arrows!" Then the princess knelt before the bow and the arrows,
and Bash Tchelik, shouting with laughter, said: "O foolish woman! My
strength is neither in my bow nor in my arrows! But tell me who
instructed you to ask me where my force lies? If your husband were
alive I could guess it was he who demanded it!" But the princess
protested that no one urged her, and he believed what she said.

After some time the prince came, and when his wife told him that she
could not learn anything from Bash Tchelik, he said: "Try again!" and
went away.

When Bash Tchelik returned home the princess began again to ask him to
tell the secret of his strength. Then he answered: "Since you esteem
my heroism so much, I will tell you the truth about it." And he began:
"Far away from here is a high mountain, in that mountain there lives a
fox, in the fox is a heart, in that heart there lives a bird: in that
bird lies my whole strength. But it is very hard to catch that fox,
for it can turn itself into anything!"

Next morning, when Bash Tchelik left the cave, the prince came
and learned the secret from his wife. Then he went straight to his
brothers-in-law who, upon hearing his tale, went at once with him
to find the mountain. This they were not long in doing, and they
loosed eagles to chase the fox, whereat the fox quickly ran into a
lake and there it transformed itself into a six-winged duck. Then the
falcons flew to the duck and it mounted into the clouds. Seeing this,
the dragons pursued it; the duck changed again into a fox; the other
eagles surrounded it, and at length it was caught.

Then the three kings ordered the fox to be cut open and its heart
taken out. This done, they made a great fire and from the fox's
heart took a bird which they threw into the fire, and it was burnt
to death. So perished Bash Tchelik, and thus did the prince finally
regain his beloved and loyal wife.





Next: The Golden Apple-tree And The Nine Peahens

Previous: He Who Asks Little Receives Much



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