The Two Princes

: 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."