The Magic Egg

: Cossack Fairy Tales And Folk Tales

There was once upon a time a lark who was the Tsar among the birds,

and he took unto himself as his Tsaritsa a little shrew-mouse. They

had a field all to themselves, which they sowed with wheat, and when

the wheat grew up they divided it between them, when they found that

there was one grain over! The mouse said, "Let me have it!" But the

lark said, "No, let me have it!"--"What's to be done?" thought they.

They would
ave liked to take counsel of some one, but they had no

parents or kinsmen, nobody at all to whom they could go and ask advice

in the matter. At last the mouse said, "At any rate, let me have the

first nibble!" The lark Tsar agreed to this; but the little mouse

fastened her teeth in it and ran off into her hole with it, and there

ate it all up. At this the Tsar lark was wrath, and collected all the

birds of the air to make war upon the mouse Tsaritsa; but the Tsaritsa

called together all the beasts to defend her, and so the war began.

Whenever the beasts came rushing out of the wood to tear the birds to

pieces, the birds flew up into the trees; but the birds kept in the

air, and hacked and pecked the beasts wherever they could. Thus they

fought the whole day, and in the evening they lay down to rest. Now

when the Tsaritsa looked around upon her forces, she saw that the ant

was taking no part in the war. She immediately went and commanded the

ant to be there by evening, and when the ant came, the Tsaritsa

ordered her to climb up the trees with her kinsmen and bite off the

feathers round the birds' wings.

Next day, when there was light enough to see by, the mouse Tsaritsa

cried, "Up, up, my warriors!" Thereupon the birds also rose up, and

immediately fell to the ground, where the beasts tore them to bits. So

the Tsaritsa overcame the Tsar. But there was one eagle who saw there

was something wrong, so he did not try to fly, but remained sitting on

the tree. And lo! there came an archer along that way, and seeing the

eagle on the tree, he took aim at it; but the eagle besought him and

said, "Do not kill me, and I'll be of great service to thee!" The

archer aimed a second time, but the eagle besought him still more and

said, "Take me down rather and keep me, and thou shalt see that it

will be to thy advantage." The archer, however, took aim a third time,

but the eagle began to beg of him most piteously, "Nay, kill me not,

but take me home with thee, and thou shalt see what great advantage it

will be to thee!" The archer believed the bird. He climbed up the

tree, took the eagle down, and carried it home. Then the eagle said to

him, "Put me in a hut, and feed me with flesh till my wings have grown


Now this archer had two cows and a steer, and he at once killed and

cut up one of the cows for the eagle. The eagle fed upon this cow for

a full year, and then he said to the archer, "Let me go, that I may

fly. I see that my wings have already grown again!" Then the archer

let him loose from the hut. The eagle flew round and round, he flew

about for half a day, and then he returned to the archer and said, "I

feel I have but little strength in me, slay me another cow!" And the

archer obeyed him, and slew the second cow, and the eagle lived upon

that for yet another year. Again the eagle flew round and round in the

air. He flew round and about the whole day till evening, when he

returned to the archer and said, "I am stronger than I was, but I have

still but little strength in me, slay me the steer also!" Then the man

thought to himself, "What shall I do? Shall I slay it, or shall I not

slay it?" At last he said, "Well! I've sacrificed more than this

before, so let this go too!" and he took the steer and slaughtered it

for the eagle. Then the eagle lived upon this for another whole year

longer, and after that he took to flight, and flew high up right to

the very clouds. Then he flew down again to the man and said to him,

"I thank thee, brother, for that thou hast been the saving of me! Come

now and sit upon me!"--"Nay, but," said the man, "what if some evil

befall me?"--"Sit on me, I say!" cried the eagle. So the archer sat

down upon the bird.

Then the eagle bore him nearly as high as the big clouds, and then let

him fall. Down plumped the man; but the eagle did not let him fall to

the earth, but swiftly flew beneath him and upheld him, and said to

him, "How dost thou feel now?"--"I feel," said the man, "as if I had

no life in me."--Then the eagle replied, "That was just how I felt

when thou didst aim at me the first time." Then he said to him, "Sit

on my back again!" The man did not want to sit on him, but what could

he do? Sit he must. Then the eagle flew with him quite as high as the

big clouds, and shook him off, and down he fell headlong till he was

about two fathoms from the ground, when the bird again flew beneath

him and held him up. Again the eagle asked him, "How dost thou feel?"

And the man replied, "I feel just as if all my bones were already

broken to bits!"--"That is just how I felt when thou didst take aim at

me the second time," replied the eagle. "But now sit on my back once

more." The man did so, and the eagle flew with him as high as the

small fleecy clouds, and then he shook him off, and down he fell

headlong; but when he was but a hand's-breadth from the earth, the

eagle again flew beneath him and held him up, and said to him, "How

dost thou feel now?" And he replied, "I feel as if I no longer

belonged to this world!"--"That is just how I felt when thou didst aim

at me the third time," replied the eagle. "But now," continued the

bird, "thou art guilty no more. We are quits. I owe thee naught, and

thou owest naught to me; so sit on my back again, and I'll take thee

to my master."

They flew on and on, they flew till they came to the eagle's uncle.

And the eagle said to the archer, "Go to my house, and when they ask

thee, 'Hast thou not seen our poor child?' reply, 'Give me the magic

egg, and I'll bring him before your eyes!'" So he went to the house,

and there they said to him, "Hast thou heard of our poor child with

thine ears, or seen him with thine eyes, and hast thou come hither

willingly or unwillingly?"--And he answered, "I have come hither

willingly!"--Then they asked, "Hast thou smelt out anything of our

poor youngster? for it is three years now since he went to the wars,

and there's neither sight nor sound of him more!"--And he answered,

"Give me the magic egg, and I'll bring him straightway before your

eyes!"--Then they replied, "'Twere better we never saw him than that

we should give thee the magic egg!"--Then he went back to the eagle

and said to him, "They said, ''Twere better we never saw him than that

we should give thee the magic egg.'"--Then the eagle answered, "Let us

fly on farther!"

They flew on and on till they came to the eagle's brother, and the

archer said just the same to him as he had said to the eagle's uncle,

and still he didn't get the egg. Then they flew to the eagle's father,

and the eagle said to him, "Go up to the hut, and if they ask for me,

say that thou hast seen me and will bring me before their eyes."--So

he went up to the hut, and they said to him, "O Tsarevich, we hear

thee with our ears and see thee with our eyes, but hast thou come

hither of thine own free will or by the will of another?"--And the

archer answered, "I have come hither of my own free will!"--Then they

asked him, "Hast thou seen our son? Lo, these four years we have not

had news of him. He went off to the wars, and perchance he has been

slain there."--And he answered them, "I have seen him, and if you will

give me the magic egg, I will bring him before your eyes."--And the

eagle's father said to him, "What good will such a thing do thee? We

had better give thee the lucky penny!"--But he answered, "I don't want

the lucky penny, give me the magic egg!"--"Come hither then," said he,

"and thou shalt have it." So he went into the hut. Then the eagle's

father rejoiced and gave him the egg, and said to him, "Take heed

thou dost not break it anywhere on the road, and when thou gettest

home, hedge it round and build a strong fence about it, and it will do

thee good."

So he went homeward. He went on and on till a great thirst came upon

him. So he stopped at the first spring he came to, and as he stooped

to drink he stumbled and the magic egg was broken. Then he perceived

that an ox had come out of the egg and was rolling away. He gave chase

to the ox, but whenever he was getting close to one side of it, the

other side of it got farther away from him. Then the poor fellow

cried, "I shall do nothing with it myself, I see."--At that moment an

old she-dragon came up to him and said, "What wilt thou give me, O

man, if I chase this ox back again into the egg for thee?"--And the

archer replied, "What can I give?"--The dragon said to him, "Give me

what thou hast at home without thy will and wit!"--"Done!" said the

archer. Then the dragon chased the ox nicely into the egg again,

patched it up prettily and gave it into the man's hand. Then the

archer went home, and when he got home he found a son had been born to

him there, and his son said to him, "Why didst thou give me to the old

she-dragon, dad? But never mind, I'll manage to live in spite of her."

Then the father was very grieved for a time, but what could he do? Now

the name of this son was Ivan.

So Ivan lost no time in going to the dragon, and the dragon said to

him, "Go to my house and do me three tasks, and if thou dost them not,

I'll devour thee." Now, round the dragon's house was a large meadow

as far as the eye could reach. And the dragon said to him, "Thou must

in a single night weed out this field and sow wheat in it, and reap

the wheat and store it, all in this very night; and thou must bake me

a roll out of this self-same wheat, and the roll must be lying ready

for me on my table in the morning."

Then Ivan went and leaned over the fence, and his heart within him was

sore troubled. Now near to him there was a post, and on this post was

the dragon's starveling daughter. So when he came thither and fell

a-weeping, she asked him, "Wherefore dost thou weep?"--And he said,

"How can I help weeping? The dragon has bidden me do something I can

never, never do; and what is more, she has bidden me do it in a single

night."--"What is it, pray?" asked the dragon's daughter. Then he told

her. "Not every bush bears a berry!" cried she. "Promise to take me to

wife, and I'll do all she has bidden thee do." He promised, and then

she said to him again, "Now go and lie down, but see that thou art up

early in the morning to bring her her roll." Then she went to the

field, and before one could whistle she had cleaned it of weeds and

harrowed it and sown it with wheat, and by dawn she had reaped the

wheat and cooked the roll and brought it to him, and said, "Now, take

it to her hut and put it on her table."

Then the old she-dragon awoke and came to the door, and was amazed at

the sight of the field, which was now all stubble, for the corn had

been cut. Then she said to Ivan, "Yes, thou hast done the work well.

But now, see that thou doest my second task." Then she gave him her

second command. "Dig up that mountain yonder and let the Dnieper flow

over the site of it, and there build a store-house, and in the

store-house stack the wheat that thou hast reaped, and sell this wheat

to the merchant barques that sail by, and everything must be done by

the time I get up early next morning!" Then he again went to the fence

and wept, and the maiden said to him, "Why dost thou weep?" and he

told her all that the she-dragon had bidden him do. "There are lots of

bushes, but where are the berries? Go and lie down, and I'll do it all

for thee." Then she whistled, and the mountain was levelled and the

Dnieper flowed over the site of it, and round about the Dnieper

store-houses rose up, and then she came and woke him that he might go

and sell the wheat to the merchant barques that sailed by that way,

and when the she-dragon rose up early in the morning she was amazed to

see that everything had been done which she had commanded him.

Then she gave him her third command. "This night thou must catch the

golden hare, and bring it to me by the morning light." Again he went

to the fence and fell a-weeping. And the girl asked him, "Why art thou

weeping?"--He said to her, "She has ordered me to catch her the golden

hare."--"Oh, oh!" cried the she-dragon's daughter, "the berries are

ripening now; only her father knows how to catch such a hare as that.

Nevertheless, I'll go to a rocky place I know of, and there perchance

we shall be able to catch it." So they went to this rocky place

together, and she said to him, "Stand over that hole. I'll go in and

chase him out of the hole, and do thou catch him as he comes out; but

mind, whatever comes out of the hole, seize it, for it will be the

golden hare."

So she went and began beating up, and all at once out came a snake and

hissed, and he let it go. Then she came out of the hole and said to

him, "What! has nothing come out?"--"Well," said he, "only a snake,

and I was afraid it would bite me, so I let it go."--"What hast thou

done?" said she; "that was the very hare itself. Look now!" said she,

"I'll go in again, and if any one comes out and tells you that the

golden hare is not here, don't believe it, but hold him fast." So she

crept into the hole again and began to beat for game, and out came an

old woman, who said to the youth, "What art thou poking about there

for?"--And he said to her, "For the golden hare."--She said to him,

"It is not here, for this is a snake's hole," and when she had said

this she went away. Presently the girl also came out and said to him,

"What! hast thou not got the hare? Did nothing come out then?"--"No,"

said he, "nothing but an old woman who asked me what I was seeking,

and I told her the golden hare, and she said, 'It is not here,' so I

let her go."--Then the girl replied, "Why didst thou not lay hold of

her? for she was the very golden hare itself, and now thou never wilt

catch it unless I turn myself into a hare and thou take and lay me on

the table, and give me into my mother's, the she-dragon's hands, and

go away, for if she find out all about it she will tear the pair of us

to pieces."

So she changed herself into a hare, and he took and laid her on the

table, and said to the she-dragon, "There's thy hare for thee, and

now let me go away!" She said to him, "Very well--be off!" Then he set

off running, and he ran and ran as hard as he could. Soon after, the

old she-dragon discovered that it was not the golden hare, but her own

daughter, so she set about chasing after them to destroy them both,

for the daughter had made haste in the meantime to join Ivan. But as

the she-dragon couldn't run herself, she sent her husband, and he

began chasing them, and they knew he was coming, for they felt the

earth trembling beneath his tread. Then the she-dragon's daughter said

to Ivan, "I hear him running after us. I'll turn myself into standing

wheat and thee into an old man guarding me, and if he ask thee, 'Hast

thou seen a lad and a lass pass by this way?' say to him, 'Yes, they

passed by this way while I was sowing this wheat!'"

A little while afterward the she-dragon's husband came flying up.

"Have a lad and a lass passed by this way?" said he. "Yes," replied

the old man, "they have."--"Was it long ago?" asked the she-dragon's

husband.--"It was while this wheat was being sown," replied the old

man.--"Oh!" thought the dragon, "this wheat is ready for the sickle,

they couldn't have been this way yesterday," so he turned back. Then

the she-dragon's daughter turned herself back into a maiden and the

old man into a youth, and off they set again. But the dragon returned

home, and the she-dragon asked him, "What! hast thou not caught them

or met them on the road?"--"Met them, no!" said he. "I did, indeed,

pass on the road some standing wheat and an old man watching it, and

I asked the old man if he had seen a lad and a lass pass by that way,

and he said, 'Yes, while this wheat was being sown,' but the wheat was

quite ripe for the sickle, so I knew it was a long while ago and

turned back."--"Why didst thou not tear that old man and the wheat to

pieces?" cried the she-dragon; "it was they! Be off after them again,

and mind, this time tear them to pieces without fail."

So the dragon set off after them again, and they heard him coming from

afar, for the earth trembled beneath him, so the damsel said to Ivan,

"He's coming again, I hear him; now I'll change myself into a

monastery, so old that it will be almost falling to pieces, and I'll

change thee into an old black monk at the gate, and when he comes up

and asks, 'Hast thou seen a lad and a lass pass this way?' say to him,

'Yes, they passed by this way when this monastery was being built.'"

Soon afterward the dragon came flying past, and asked the monk, "Hast

thou seen a lad and a lass pass by this way?"--"Yes," he replied, "I

saw them what time the holy fathers began to build this monastery."

The dragon thought to himself, "That was not yesterday! This monastery

has stood a hundred years if it has stood a day, and won't stand much

longer either," and with that he turned him back. When he got home, he

said to the she-dragon, his wife, "I met a black monk who serves in a

monastery, and I asked him about them, and he told me that a lad and a

lass had run past that way when the monastery was being built, but

that was not yesterday, for the monastery is a hundred years old at

the very least."--"Why didst thou not tear the black monk to pieces

and pull down the monastery? for 'twas they. But I see I must go after

them myself, thou art no good at all."

So off she set and ran and ran, and they knew she was coming, for the

earth quaked and yawned beneath her. Then the damsel said to Ivan, "I

fear me 'tis all over, for she is coming herself! Look now! I'll

change thee into a stream and myself into a fish--a perch."

Immediately after the she-dragon came up and said to the perch, "Oh,

oh! so thou wouldst run away from me, eh!" Then she turned herself

into a pike and began chasing the perch, but every time she drew near

to it, the perch turned its prickly fins toward her, so that she could

not catch hold of it. So she kept on chasing it and chasing it, but

finding she could not catch it, she tried to drink up the stream, till

she drank so much of it that she burst.

Then the maiden who had become a fish said to the youth who had become

a river, "Now that we are alive and not dead, go back to thy

lord-father and thy father's house and see them, and kiss them all

except the daughter of thy uncle, for if thou kiss that damsel thou

wilt forget me, and I shall go to the land of Nowhere." So he went

home and greeted them all, and as he did so he thought to himself,

"Why should I not greet my uncle's daughter like the rest of them?

Why, they'll think me a mere pagan if I don't!" So he kissed her, and

the moment he did so he forgot all about the girl who had saved him.

So he remained there half a year, and then bethought him of taking

to himself a wife. So they betrothed him to a very pretty girl, and

he accepted her and forgot all about the other girl who had saved

him from the dragon, though she herself was the she-dragon's daughter.

Now the evening before the wedding they heard a young damsel crying

Shishki[28] in the streets. They called to the young damsel to go

away, or say who she was, for nobody knew her. But the damsel

answered never a word, but began to knead more cakes, and made a

cock-dove and a hen-dove out of the dough and put them down on the

ground, and they became alive. And the hen-dove said to the

cock-dove, "Hast thou forgotten how I cleared the field for thee, and

sowed it with wheat, and thou mad'st a roll from the corn which thou

gavest to the she-dragon?"--But the cock-dove answered, "Forgotten!

forgotten!"--Then she said to him again, "And hast thou forgotten how

I dug away the mountain for thee, and let the Dnieper flow by it that

the merchant barques might come to thy store-houses, and that thou

mightst sell thy wheat to the merchant barques?" But the cock-dove

replied, "Forgotten! forgotten!"--Then the hen-dove said to him

again, "And hast thou forgotten how we two went together in search of

the golden hare? Hast thou forgotten me then altogether?"--And the

cock-dove answered again, "Forgotten! forgotten!" Then the good

youth Ivan bethought him who this damsel was that had made the doves,

and he took her to his arms and made her his wife, and they lived

happily ever afterward.

[28] Wedding-cakes of the shape of pine-cones.