Bash Tchelik Or Real Steel





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.





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