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The Story Of Ivan And The Daughter Of The Sun

Source: Cossack Fairy Tales And Folk Tales

There were once upon a time four brethren, and three of them remained
at home, while the fourth went out to seek for work. This youngest
brother came to a strange land, and hired himself out to a husbandman
for three gold pieces a year. For three years he served his master
faithfully, so, at the end of his time, he departed with nine gold
pieces in his pocket. The first thing he now did was to go to a
spring, and into this spring he threw three of his gold pieces. "Let
us see now," said he, "if I have been honest, they will come swimming
back to me." Then he lay down by the side of the spring and went fast
asleep. How long he slept there, who can tell? but at any rate he woke
up at last and went to the spring, but there was no sign of his money
to be seen. Then he threw three more of the gold pieces into the
spring, and again he lay down by the side of it and slept. Then he got
up and went and looked into the spring, and still there was no sign of
the money. So he threw in his three remaining gold pieces, and again
lay down and slept. The third time he arose and looked into the
spring, and there, sure enough, was his money: all nine of the gold
pieces were floating on the surface of the water!

And now his heart felt lighter, and he gathered up the nine gold
pieces and went on his way. On the road he fell in with three
katsapi[22] with a laden wagon. He asked them concerning their
wares, and they said they were carrying a load of incense. He begged
them straightway to sell him this incense. Then they sold it to him
for the gold pieces, and when he had bought it and they had
departed, he kindled fire and burnt the incense, and offered it up
to God as a sweet-smelling sacrifice. Then an angel flew down to
him, and said, "Oh, thou that hast offered this sweet-smelling
sacrifice to God, what dost thou want for thine own self? Dost thou
want a tsardom, or great riches? Or, perchance, the desire of thy
heart is a good wife? Speak, for God will give thee whatsoever thou
desirest." When the man had listened to the angel, he said to him,
"Tarry a while! I will go and ask those people who are ploughing
yonder." Now those people who were ploughing there were his own
brethren, but he did not know that they were his brethren. So he went
up and said to the elder brother, "Tell me, uncle, what shall I ask
of God? A tsardom, or great riches, or a good wife? Tell me, which of
the three is the best gift to ask for?"--And his eldest brother
said to him, "I know not, and who does know? Go and ask some one
else." So he went to the second brother, who was ploughing a little
farther on. He asked him the same question, but the man only
shrugged his shoulders and said he didn't know either. Then he went to
the third brother, who was the youngest of the three, and also
ploughing there. And he asked him, saying, "Tell me, now, which is
the best gift to ask of God: a tsardom, or great riches, or a good
wife?"--And the third brother said, "What a question! Thou art too
young for a tsardom, and great riches last but for a little while;
ask God for a good wife, for if it please God to give thee a good
wife, 'tis a gift that will bless thee all thy life long." So he went
back to the angel and asked for a good wife. Then he went on his way

till he came to a certain wood, and, looking about him, he perceived
that in this wood was a lake. And while he was looking at it,
three wild doves came flying along and lit down upon this lake. They
threw off their plumage and plunged into the water, and then he saw
that they were not wild doves, but three fair ladies. They bathed in
the lake, and in the meantime the youth crept up and took the raiment
of one of them and hid it behind the bushes. When they came out of
the water the third lady missed her clothes. Then the youth said to
her, "I know where thy clothes are, but I will not give them to thee
unless thou wilt be my wife."--"Good!" cried she, "thy wife will I
be." Then she dressed herself, and they went together to the
nearest village. When they got there, she said to him, "Now go to
the nobleman who owns the land here, and beg him for a place where
we may build us a hut." So he went right up to the nobleman's castle
and entered his reception-room, and said, "Glory be to God!"--"For
ever and ever!" replied the nobleman. "What dost thou want here,
Ivan?"--"I have come, sir, to beg of thee a place where I may build me
a hut."--"A place for a hut, eh? Good, very good. Go home, and
I'll speak to my overseer, and he shall appoint thee a place."--So
he returned from the nobleman's castle, and his wife said to him, "Go
now into the forest and cut down an oak, a young oak, that thou
canst span round with both arms." So he cut down such an oak as his
wife had told him of, and she built a hut of the oak, for the overseer
had come and shown them a place where they might build their hut. But
when the overseer returned home he praised loudly to his master the
wife of this Ivan. "She is such and such," said he. "Fair she may
be," replied the nobleman, "but she is another's."--"She need not be
another's for long," replied the overseer. "This Ivan is in our
hands; let us send him to see why it is the sun grows so red when he
sets."--"That's just the same as if you sent him to a place whence he
can never return."--"All the better."--Then they sent for Ivan, and
gave him this errand, and he returned home to his wife, weeping
bitterly. Then his wife asked him all about it, and said, "Well, I
can tell thee all about the ways of the sun, for I am the sun's
own daughter. So now I'll tell thee the whole matter. Go back to this
nobleman and say to him that the reason why the sun turns so red as
he sets is this: Just as the sun is going down into the sea, three
fair ladies rise out of it, and it is the sight of them which makes
him turn so red all over!" So he went back and told them. "Oh-ho!"
cried they, "if you can go as far as that, you may now go a little
farther"; so they told him to go to hell and see how it was there.
"Yes," said his wife, "I know the road that leads to hell also very
well; but the nobleman must let his overseer go with thee, or else
he never will believe that thou really didst go to hell."--So the
nobleman told his overseer that he must go to hell too, so they
went together; and when they got there the rulers of hell laid
hands upon the overseer straightway. "Thou dog!" roared they,
"we've been looking out for thee for some time!" So Ivan returned
without the overseer, and the nobleman said to him, "Where's my
overseer?"--"I left him in hell," said Ivan, "and they said there that
they were waiting for you, sir, too." When the nobleman heard this
he hanged himself, but Ivan lived happily with his wife.

[22] Lit. Big billy-goats, the name given by the clean-shaved
Ruthenians to their hairy neighbours the Russians.

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