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The Two Princes






Source: Cossack Fairy Tales And Folk Tales

There was once upon a time a King who had two sons, and these sons
went a-hunting in the forest and there lost themselves. They wandered
on and on for twelve weeks, and at the end of the twelve weeks they
came to a place where three roads met, and the elder brother said to
the younger, "My brother, here our roads part. Take thou the road on
that side, and I'll take the road on this." Then the elder brother
took a knife and stuck it into the trunk of a maple-tree by the
roadside, and said, "Look now, brother, should any blood drip from the
blade of this knife it will be a sign that I am perishing, and thou
must go and seek me; but if any blood flow from the handle, it will be
a sign that thou art perishing, and I will then go and seek thee."
Then the brothers embraced each other and parted, and one went in one
direction and the other went in the other.

The elder brother went on and on and on till he came to a mountain so
high that there cannot be a higher, and he began climbing it with his
dog and his stick. He went on till he came to an apple-tree, and
beneath the apple-tree a fire was burning, and he stopped to warm
himself, when an old woman came up and said to him, "Dear little
gentleman! dear little gentleman! tie up that dog lest he bite me." So
he took the dog and tied it up, and immediately he was turned to
stone, and the dog too, for the old woman was a pagan witch.

Time passed, and the younger brother came back to the maple-tree by
the cross-roads and saw that blood was dripping from the blade of the
knife. Then he knew that his brother was perishing, and he went in
search of him, and came at last to the high mountain that was higher
than all others, and on the top of this mountain there was a little
courtyard, and in the courtyard an old woman, who said to him, "Little
Prince, what brings thee hither, and what dost thou seek?"--"I seek my
brother," said he; "a whole year has passed since I heard of him, and
I know not whether he be alive or dead."--Then she said to him, "I can
tell thee that he is dead, and it is of no use seeking for him, though
thou goest the wide world over. But go up that mountain, and thou wilt
come to two other mountains opposite to each other, and there thou
wilt find an old man, who will put thee on thy way." So he went up the
high mountain till he came to two other mountains that were opposite
each other, and there he saw two old men sitting, and they asked him
straightway, "Little Prince! little Prince! whither dost thou go, and
what dost thou seek?"--"I am going in search of my brother," said he,
"my dear elder brother who is perishing, and I can find him
nowhere."--Then one of the old men said to him, "If thou canst scale
those two mountains yonder without falling, I'll give thee all that
thou dost want." Then he scaled the two mountains as nimbly as a goat,
and the old man gave him a bast rope, three fathoms long, and bade him
return to the mountain where was the fire and the old woman who had
asked him to stay and warm himself, and bind this old woman with the
cord and beat her till she promised to bring his brother back to life
again, and not only his brother but a Tsar and a Tsaritsa[23] and a
Tsarivna, who were also turned to stone there. "Beat her till she has
brought them all to life again," said they. So he took the cord and
went back to where the fire was burning. An apple-tree was there, and
beneath the apple-tree was the fire, and the old witch came out to him
and said, "Little master! little master! let me come and warm
myself."--"Come along, little mother!" cried he; "come and warm
thyself and make thyself comfortable." Then she came out, but no
sooner had she done so, than he threw the cord around her and began
flogging her. "Say," cried he, "what hast thou done with my
brother?"--"Oh, dear little master! dear little master! let me go, let
me go! I'll tell thee this instant where thy brother is." But he
wouldn't listen, but beat her and beat her, and held her naked feet
over the fire, and toasted and roasted her till she shrivelled right
up. Then he let her go, and she went with him to a cave that was on
that mountain, and drew from the depths of it some healing and
life-giving water, and brought his brother back to life again, but it
was as much as she could do, for she was half dead herself. Then his
brother said to him, "Oh, my dear brother, how heavily I must have
been sleeping! But thou must revive my faithful dog too!" Then she
revived the faithful dog, and she also revived the Tsar and the
Tsaritsa and the Tsarivna, who had been turned to stone there. Then
they left that place and when they had gone a little distance, the
elder brother bowed to the ground and went on his way alone.

[23] The wife of a Tsar.

He went on and on till he came to a city where all the people were
weeping and all the houses were hung with black cloth. And he said to
them, "Why do ye weep, and why are all your houses hung with
black?"--And they answered, "Because there's a Dragon here who eats
the people, and it has come to such a pass with us that to-morrow we
must give him our Princess for dinner."--"Nay, but ye shall not do
this thing," said he, and, with that, he set out for the cavern where
the Dragon lived, and tethered his horse there and slept by the side
of the cavern all night. And the next day, sure enough, the Princess
was brought to the mouth of the cavern. She came driving thither in a
carriage and four and with a heyduck[24] in attendance. But when the
Prince saw her, he came forth to meet her and led her aside and gave
her a prayer-book in her hand, and said to her, "Stay here, Princess,
and pray to God for me." Then she fell down on her knees and began to
pray, and the Dragon popped one of his heads out of the cavern and
said, "It is time I had my dinner now, and there's not so much as a
breakfast here!" But the Prince also fell down on his knees and read
out of his prayer-book and prayed to God, and said to the Dragon,
"Come forth! come forth! and I'll give thee breakfast and dinner at
the same time!" Then the Dragon darted back again, but when he had
waited till midday and still there was neither breakfast nor dinner
for him, he popped two of his heads out and cried, "It is high time I
had my dinner, and still there is neither breakfast nor dinner for
me!"--"Come forth, and I'll give thee both at once!" cried the
Prince. Then the Dragon wouldn't wait any longer, but stuck out all
his six heads and began to wriggle out of the cavern; but the Prince
attacked him with his huge broadsword, a full fathom long, which the
Lord had given him, and chopped off all the Dragon's six heads, and
the rock fell upon the Dragon's body and crushed it to pieces. Then
the Prince gathered up the six dragon-heads and laid them on one side,
and cut out the six lolling tongues and tied them in his handkerchief,
and told the Princess to go back to her palace, for they could not be
married for a year and twelve weeks, and if by that time he did not
appear, she was to marry another, and with that he departed. Then the
coachman of the Princess came up to the place and saw the six heads of
the Dragon, and took them up and said to the Princess, "I will slay
thee on the spot if thou dost not swear to me twelve times that thou
wilt say I slew the Dragon, and wilt take me for thy husband!" Then
she swore to it twelve times, for else he would have slain her. So
they returned together to the town, and immediately all the black
cloth was taken off the houses and the bells fell a-ringing, and all
the people rejoiced because the coachman had killed the Dragon. "Let
them be married at once!" cried they.

[24] Hungarian soldier.

Meanwhile the King's son went on and on till he came to that town
where he had left his brother, and there he found that the Tsar and
the Tsaritsa had given his brother the whole tsardom and the Tsarivna
to wife as well, and there he tarried for a time; but toward the end
of a year and twelve weeks he went back to the other city where he had
left the Princess, and there he found them making ready for a grand
wedding. "What is the meaning of all this?" asked he. And they
answered, "The Tsar's coachman has slain the Dragon with six heads and
saved the Princess, and now he is to be married to her."--"Good Lord!"
cried he, "and I never saw this Dragon! What manner of beast was
it?"--Then they took him and showed him the heads of the Dragon, and
he cried, "Good Lord! every other beast hath a tongue, but this Dragon
hath none!" Then they told this to the coachman, who had been made a
Prince, and the coachman was very angry and said, "Whoever maintains
that a Dragon has tongues, him will I order to be tied to four wild
horses, and they shall tear him to pieces on the open steppe!" The
Princess, however, recognized the King's son, but she held her peace.
Then the King's son took out his handkerchief, unrolled it, showed
them the six tongues, and put each one into one of the six mouths of
the Dragon's six heads, and each of the tongues began to speak and bid
the Princess say how the matter went. Then the Princess told how she
had knelt down and prayed out of the prayer-book while the King's son
slew the Dragon, and how the wicked coachman had made her swear twelve
times to that which was false. When the Tsar heard this, he
immediately gave the Princess his daughter to the King's son, and they
asked him what death the wicked coachman should die. And he answered,
"Let him be tied to the tails of four wild horses, and drive them into
the endless steppe that they may tear him to pieces there, and the
ravens and crows may come and pick his bones."





Next: The Ungrateful Children And The Old Father Who Went To School Again

Previous: The Origin Of The Mole



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