The Story Of The Forty-first Brother

: Cossack Fairy Tales And Folk Tales

There was once upon a time an old man who had forty-one sons. Now

when this old man was at the point of death, he divided all he had

among his sons, and gave to each of the forty a horse; but when he

came to the forty-first he found he had no more horses left, so the

forty-first brother had to be content with a foal. When their father

was dead, the brothers said to each other, "Let us go to Friday and

get married!"--Bu
the eldest brother said, "No, Friday has only

forty daughters, so one of us would be left without a bride."--Then

the second brother said, "Let us go then to Wednesday--Wednesday has

forty-one daughters, and so the whole lot of us can pair off with the

whole lot of them." So they went and chose their brides. The eldest

brother took the eldest sister, and the youngest the youngest,

till they were all suited. And the youngest brother of all said,

"I'll take that little damsel who is sitting on the stove in the

corner and has the nice kerchief in her hand." Then they all drank

a bumper together to seal the bargain, and after that the forty-one

bridegrooms and the forty-one brides laid them down to sleep side by

side. But the youngest brother of all said to himself, "I will

bring my foal into the room." So he brought in the foal, and then

went to his bedchamber and laid him down to sleep also. Now his

bride lay down with her kerchief in her hand, and he took a great

fancy to it, and he begged and prayed her for it again and again,

until at last she gave it to him. Now, when Wednesday thought that

all the people were asleep, he went out into the courtyard to sharpen

his sabre. Then the foal said, "Oh, my dear little master, come

here, come here!" He came, and the foal said to him, "Take off the

night-dresses of the forty sleeping bridegrooms and put them on the

forty sleeping brides, and put the night-dresses of the brides on

the bridegrooms, for a great woe is nigh!" And he did so. When

Wednesday had sharpened his sabre he came into the room and began

feeling for the stiff collars of the bridegrooms' night-dresses, and

straightway cut off the forty heads above the collars. Then he carried

off the heads of his forty daughters in a bunch (for the brides

now had on the night-dresses of their bridegrooms), and went and

lay down to sleep. Then the foal said, "My dear little father! awake

the bridegrooms, and we'll set off." So he awoke the bridegrooms

and sent them on before, while he followed after on his own little

nag. They trotted on and on, and at last the foal said to him, "Look

behind, and see whether Wednesday is not pursuing." He looked round:

"Yes, little brother," said he, "Wednesday is pursuing!"--"Shake

thy kerchief then!" said the foal. He shook his kerchief, and

immediately a vast sea was between him and the pursuer. Then they

went on and on till the foal said to him again, "Look behind, and

see if Wednesday is still pursuing!"--He looked round. "Yes, little

brother, he is pursuing!"--"Wave thy handkerchief on the left

side!" said the foal. He waved it on the left side, and immediately

between them and the pursuer stood a forest so thick that not

even a little mouse could have squeezed through it. Then they went on

still farther, till the foal said again, "Look behind, and see

whether Wednesday is still pursuing!"--He looked behind, and

there, sure enough, was Wednesday running after them, and he was not

very far off either.--"Wave thy kerchief!" said the foal. He waved

his kerchief, and immediately a steep mountain--oh, so steep!--lay

betwixt them. They went on and on, until the foal said again, "Look

behind, is Wednesday still pursuing?"--So he looked behind him and

said, "No, now he is not there." Then they went on and on again,

and soon they were not very far from home. Then the youngest brother

said, "You go home now, but I am going to seek a bride!" So he went

on and on till he came to a place where lay a feather of the bird

Zhar. "Look!" cried he, "what I've found!"--But the foal said to

him, "Pick not up that feather, for it will bring thee evil as well

as good!"--But his master said, "Why, I should be a fool not to pick

up a feather like that!" So he turned back and picked up the

feather. Then he went on farther and farther, until he came to a

clay hut. He went into this clay hut, and there sat an old woman.

"Give me a night's lodging, granny!" said he.--"I have neither bed

nor light to offer thee," said she. Nevertheless he entered the hut

and put the feather on the window-corner, and it lit up the whole

hut. So he went to sleep. But the old woman ran off to the Tsar, and

said to him, "A certain man has come to me and laid a certain

feather on the window-sill, and it shines like fire!" Then the

Tsar guessed that it was a feather of the bird Zhar, and said to his

soldiers, "Go and fetch that man hither!" And the Tsar said to him,

"Wilt thou enter my service?"--"Yes," he replied, "but you must give

me all your keys." So the Tsar gave him all the keys and a hut of his

own to live in besides. But one day the Tsar said to his servants,

"Boil me now a vat of milk!" So they boiled it. Then he took off his

gold ring, and said to the man, "Thou didst get the feather of the

bird Zhar, get me also this golden ring of mine out of the vat of

boiling milk!"--"Bring hither, then, my faithful horse," said he,

"that he may see his master plunge into the vat of boiling milk and

die!" So they brought his horse, and, taking off his clothes, he

plunged into the vat, but as he did so the horse snorted so

violently that all the boiling milk leaped up in the air and the

man seized the ring and gave it back to the Tsar. Now when the Tsar

saw that the man had come out of the vat younger and handsomer than

ever, he said, "I'll try and fish up the ring in like manner." So he

flung his ring into the vat of boiling milk and plunged after it

to get it. The people waited and waited and wondered and wondered

that he was so long about it, and at last they drained off the

milk and found the Tsar at the bottom of the vat boiled quite red.

Then the man said, "Now, Tsaritsa, thou art mine and I am thine." And

they lived together happily ever afterward.