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The Story Of Tremsin The Bird Zhar And Nastasia The Lovely Maid Of The Sea






Source: Cossack Fairy Tales And Folk Tales

There was once upon a time a man and a woman, and they had one little
boy. In the summertime they used to go out and mow corn in the fields,
and one summer when they had laid their little lad by the side of a
sheaf, an eagle swooped down, caught up the child, carried him into a
forest, and laid him in its nest. Now in this forest three bandits
chanced to be wandering at the same time. They heard the child crying
in the eagle's nest: "Oo-oo! oo-oo! oo-oo!" so they went up to the oak
on which was the nest and said one to another, "Let us hew down the
tree and kill the child!"--"No," replied one of them, "it were better
to climb up the tree and bring him down alive." So he climbed up the
tree and brought down the lad, and they nurtured him and gave him the
name of Tremsin. They brought up Tremsin until he became a youth, and
then they gave him a horse, set him upon it, and said to him, "Now go
out into the wide world and search for thy father and thy mother!" So
Tremsin went out into the wide world and pastured his steed on the
vast steppes, and his steed spoke to him and said, "When we have gone
a little farther, thou wilt see before thee a plume of the Bird
Zhar[12]; pick it not up, or sore trouble will be thine!" Then they
went on again. They went on and on, through ten tsardoms they went,
till they came to another empire in the land of Thrice Ten where lay
the feather. And the youth said to himself, "Why should I not pick up
the feather when it shines so brightly even from afar?" And he went
near to the feather, and it shone so that the like of it cannot be
expressed or conceived or imagined or even told of in tales. Then
Tremsin picked up the feather and went into the town over against him,
and in that town there lived a rich nobleman. And Tremsin entered the
house of this nobleman and said, "Sir, may I not take service with
thee as a labourer?"--The nobleman looked at him, and seeing that he
was comely and stalwart, "Why not? Of course thou mayst," said he. So
he took him into his service. Now this nobleman had many servants, and
they curried his horses for him, and made them smart and glossy
against the day he should go a-hunting. And Tremsin began to curry his
horse likewise, and the servants of the nobleman could not make the
horses of their master so shining bright as Tremsin made his own
horse. So they looked more closely, and they perceived that when
Tremsin cleaned his horse he stroked it with the feather of the Bird
Zhar, and the coat of the good steed straightway shone like burnished
silver. Then those servants were filled with envy, and said among
themselves, "How can we remove this fellow from the world? We'll
saddle him with a task he is unable to do, and then our master will
drive him away."--So they went to their master and said, "Tremsin has
a feather of the Bird Zhar, and he says that if he likes he can get
the Bird Zhar itself." Then the nobleman sent for Tremsin and said to
him, "O Tremsin! my henchmen say that thou canst get the Bird Zhar if
thou dost choose."--"Nay, but I cannot," replied Tremsin.--"Answer me
not," said the nobleman, "for so sure as I've a sword, I'll slice thy
head off like a gourd."--Then Tremsin fell a-weeping and went away to
his horse. "My master," said he, "hath given me a task to do that will
clean undo me."--"What task is that?" asked the horse.--"Why, to fetch
him the Bird Zhar."--"Why that's not a task, but a trifle," replied
the horse. "Let us go to the steppes," it continued, "and let me go
a-browsing; but do thou strip thyself stark-naked and lie down in the
grass, and the Bird Zhar will straightway swoop down to feed. So long
as she only claws about thy body, touch her not; but as soon as she
begins to claw at thine eyes, seize her by the legs."

[12] I.e. Burning bright.

So when they got to the wild steppes, Tremsin stripped himself naked
and flung himself in the grass, and, immediately, the Bird Zhar
swooped down and began pecking all about him, and at last she pecked
at his eyes. Then Tremsin seized her by both legs, and mounted his
horse and took the Bird Zhar to the nobleman. Then his fellow-servants
were more envious than ever, and they said among themselves, "How
shall we devise for him a task to do that cannot be done, and so rid
the world of him altogether?" So they bethought them, and then they
went to the nobleman and said, "Tremsin says that to get the Bird Zhar
was nothing, and that he is also able to get the thrice-lovely
Nastasia of the sea." Then the nobleman again sent for Tremsin and
said to him, "Look now! thou didst get for me the Bird Zhar, see that
thou now also gettest for me the thrice-lovely Nastasia of the
sea."--"But I cannot, sir!" said Tremsin.--"Answer me not so!"
replied the nobleman, "for so sure as I've a sword, I'll slice thy
head off like a gourd an thou bring her not."--Then Tremsin went out
to his horse and fell a-weeping.--"Wherefore dost thou weep?" asked
the faithful steed.--"Wherefore should I not weep?" he replied. "My
master has given me a task that cannot be done."--"What task is
that?"--"Why, to fetch him the thrice-lovely Nastasia of the
sea!"--"Oh-ho!" laughed the horse, "that is not a task, but a trifle.
Go to thy master and say, 'Cause white tents to be raised by the
sea-shore, and buy wares of sundry kinds, and wine and spirits in
bottles and flasks,' and the thrice-lovely Nastasia will come and
purchase thy wares, and then thou mayst take her."

And the nobleman did so. He caused white tents to be pitched by the
sea-shore, and bought kerchiefs and scarves and spread them out gaily,
and made great store of wine and brandy in bottles and flasks. Then
Tremsin rode toward the tents, and while he was on the way his horse
said to him, "Now when I go to graze, do thou lie down and feign to
sleep. Then the thrice-lovely Nastasia will appear and say, 'What for
thy wares?' but do thou keep silence. But when she begins to taste of
the wine and the brandy, then she will go to sleep in the tent, and
thou canst catch her easily and hold her fast!" Then Tremsin lay down
and feigned to sleep, and forth from the sea came the thrice-lovely
Nastasia, and went up to the tents and asked, "Merchant, merchant,
what for thy wares?" But he lay there, and moved never a limb. She
asked the same thing over and over again, but, getting no answer, went
into the tents where stood the flasks and the bottles. She tasted of
the wine. How good it was! She tasted of the brandy. That was still
better. So from tasting she fell to drinking. First she drank a
little, and then she drank a little more, and at last she went asleep
in the tent. Then Tremsin seized the thrice-lovely Nastasia and put
her behind him on horseback, and carried her off to the nobleman. The
nobleman praised Tremsin exceedingly, but the thrice-lovely Nastasia
said, "Look now! since thou hast found the feather of the Bird Zhar,
and the Bird Zhar herself, since also thou hast found me, thou must
now fetch me also my little coral necklace from the sea!" Then Tremsin
went out to his faithful steed and wept sorely, and told him all about
it. And the horse said to him, "Did I not tell thee that grievous woe
would come upon thee if thou didst pick up that feather?" But the
horse added, "Come! weep not! after all 'tis not a task, but a
trifle." Then they went along by the sea, and the horse said to him,
"Let me out to graze, and then keep watch till thou seest a crab come
forth from the sea, and then say to him, 'I'll catch thee.'"--So
Tremsin let his horse out to graze, and he himself stood by the
sea-shore, and watched and watched till he saw a crab come swimming
along. Then he said to the crab, "I'll catch thee."--"Oh! seize me
not!" said the crab, "but let me get back into the sea, and I'll be of
great service to thee."--"Very well," said Tremsin, "but thou must get
me from the sea the coral necklace of the thrice-lovely Nastasia," and
with that he let the crab go back into the sea again. Then the crab
called together all her young crabs, and they collected all the coral
and brought it ashore, and gave it to Tremsin. Then the faithful
steed came running up, and Tremsin mounted it, and took the coral to
the thrice-lovely Nastasia. "Well," said Nastasia, "thou hast got the
feather of the Bird Zhar, thou hast got the Bird Zhar itself, thou
hast got me my coral, get me now from the sea my herd of wild
horses!"--Then Tremsin was sore distressed, and went to his faithful
steed and wept bitterly, and told him all about it. "Well," said the
horse, "this time 'tis no trifle, but a real hard task. Go now to thy
master, and bid him buy twenty hides, and twenty poods[13] of pitch,
and twenty poods of flax, and twenty poods of hair."--So Tremsin went
to his master and told him, and his master bought it all. Then Tremsin
loaded his horse with all this, and to the sea they went together. And
when they came to the sea the horse said, "Now lay upon me the hides
and the tar and the flax, and lay them in this order--first a hide,
and then a pood of tar, and then a pood of flax, and so on, laying
them thus till they are all laid." Tremsin did so. "And now," said the
horse, "I shall plunge into the sea, and when thou seest a large red
wave driving toward the shore, run away till the red wave has passed
and thou dost see a white wave coming, and then sit down on the shore
and keep watch. I shall then come out of the sea, and after me the
whole herd; then thou must strike with the horsehair the horse which
gallops immediately after me, and he will not be too strong for
thee."--So the faithful steed plunged into the sea, and Tremsin sat
down on the shore and watched. The horse swam to a bosquet that rose
out of the sea, and there the herd of sea-horses was grazing. When
the strong charger of Nastasia saw him and the hides he carried on his
back, it set off after him at full tilt, and the whole herd followed
the strong charger of Nastasia. They drove the horse with the hides
into the sea, and pursued him. Then the strong charger of Nastasia
caught up the steed of Tremsin and tore off one of his hides, and
began to worry it with his teeth and tear it to fragments as he ran.
Then he caught him up a second time, and tore off another hide, and
began to worry that in like manner till he had torn it also to shreds;
and thus he ran after Tremsin's steed for seventy miles, till he had
torn off all the hides, and worried them to bits. But Tremsin sat upon
the sea-shore till he saw the large white billow bounding in, and
behind the billow came his own horse, and behind his own horse came
the thrice-terrible charger of the thrice-lovely Nastasia, with the
whole herd at his heels. Tremsin struck him full on the forehead with
the twenty poods of hair, and immediately he stood stock still. Then
Tremsin threw a halter over him, mounted, and drove the whole herd to
the thrice-lovely Nastasia. Nastasia praised Tremsin for his prowess,
and said to him, "Well, thou hast got the feather of the Bird Zhar,
thou hast got the Bird Zhar itself, thou hast got me my coral and my
herd of horses, now milk my mare and put the milk into three vats, so
that there may be milk hot as boiling water in the first vat, lukewarm
milk in the second vat, and icy cold milk in the third vat." Then
Tremsin went to his faithful steed and wept bitterly, and the horse
said to him, "Wherefore dost thou weep?"--"Why should I not weep?"
cried he; "the thrice-lovely Nastasia has given me a task to do that
cannot be done. I am to fill three vats with the milk from her mare,
and the milk must be boiling hot in the first vat, and lukewarm in the
second, and icy cold in the third vat."--"Oh-ho!" cried the horse,
"that is not a task, but a trifle. I'll caress the mare, and then go
on nibbling till thou hast milked all three vats full." So Tremsin did
so. He milked the three vats full, and the milk in the first vat was
boiling hot, and in the second vat warm, and in the third vat freezing
cold. When all was ready the thrice-lovely Nastasia said to Tremsin,
"Now, leap first of all into the cold vat, and then into the warm vat,
and then into the boiling hot vat!"--Tremsin leaped into the first
vat, and leaped out again an old man; he leaped into the second vat,
and leaped out again a youth; he leaped into the third vat, but when
he leaped out again, he was so young and handsome that no pen can
describe it, and no tale can tell of it. Then the thrice-lovely
Nastasia herself leaped into the vats. She leaped into the first vat,
and came out an old woman; she leaped into the second vat, and came
out a young maid; but when she leaped out of the third vat, she was so
handsome and goodly that no pen can describe it, and no tale can tell
of it. Then the thrice-lovely Nastasia made the nobleman leap into the
vats. He leaped into the first vat, and became quite old; he leaped
into the second vat, and became quite young; he leaped into the third
vat, and burst to pieces. Then Tremsin took unto himself the
thrice-lovely Nastasia to wife, and they lived happily together on the
nobleman's estate, and the evil servants they drove right away.

[13] A pood = 40 lb.





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