The Fire-Bird and Vasilisa
Once upon a time in kingdom far far away, there lived one powerful Tsar who had an archer named Ivanushka. He had a strong and fast horse. One sunny morning Ivan rode to the forest to hunt. He had lots of joy riding his horse. On the way home, the archer found a golden fire-bird feather. When he was about to pick it up, his horse talked to him in a human voice, “Ivan, do not take this feather since it will cause you nothing but trouble.” But the young man did not believe his horse and decided to pick the feather anyway hoping to get rewarded by the tsar for his find. The tsar was very impressed by Ivan’s gift since the golden feather was a real treasure for him. However, the Tsar did not want a single feather, instead, he wanted his poor archer to go and find the bird that lost it. In case the young man failed, the tsar would order to execute him on the spot. Ivanushka knew that he was in trouble, he went to see his horse and told him what happened. The horse replied, “Did I not tell you that this feather will bring you nothing, but trouble?’” Do not worry, Master, go and sleep now. This is not the real troubles yet.
Next morning, Ivan asked the tsar to get a hundred bags of fine seeds dumped on the field. The same night, the archer hid behind the bush and as soon as the fire-bird landed on the field and started pecking the seeds, Ivanushka sneaked from befind, threw his rope and caught the bird. Next morning, Ivan rushed to present it to the tsar. The ruler was very pleased and even promoted the archer to the higher rank, but shortly after, gave Ivan a new more difficult task, “Please me once again, my dear servant,” he said. “I have heard that somewhere far from here there lives a beautiful Princess Vasilisa. I want her to be my bride. Go and bring her to me now, and if you fail to do so, my axe man will be glad to cut your head off!” The devastated Ivan went to see his horse and told him about the tsar’s new behest. The horse answered that this is not the real troubles yet. Next morning, Ivan asked the tsar to provide him with the white tent along with fine foods and drinks for his journey. The tsar did what Ivan requested. Next morning, the tsar’s archer rode his horse to the middle of the earth. They saw Princess Vasilisa walking by herself nearby. Ivan quickly assembled the white tent and served fine foods and drinks to the Princess. After trying some wine, Vasilisa fell asleep. The archer put the sleeping beauty on his horse and rode back to his land.
The old tsar was very pleased with Ivan’s performance and rewarded him well. When Princess Vasilisa woke up, she realized that she was being forced to get married with an old man who she did not love. Vasilisa told the tsar that there was a golden ring hidden in the depth of the ocean and that she needed that ring before she would marry. The tsar ordered Ivan to find and deliver him the Princess’s ring. The poor young man was more upset than ever. But his horse cheered him up by saying, “Do not worry, Master and do not be sad. We will do what the tsar wants.” Next day, they went back to the middle of the earth where they first met Princess Vasilisa and saw a big lobster and its baby crawling on the shore. Ivan’s horse pushed the baby lobster to the ground with his hoof when the mother lobster cried to him, “Please do not harm my son, I will do anything that you wish for you or your master.” The young man told the mother lobster his wish and within a few minutes the lobster brought the golden ring to the shore. Ivanushka thanked the lobster and his horse left its baby unharmed. The Tsar was very excited to get the ring in order to marry the beautiful Princess. But Vasilisa replied to him, “I cannot marry such an old man like you, Tsar.
I wish you would be younger and more handsome. If you want to marry me, become the young man again. All you need to do is follow my simple instructions: Order your guards to heat up water in a tub and take a bath there once it’s boiling.” The Tsar ordered his guards to follow Vasilisa’s instructions and boil water in the tub. However, the old ruler was scared to jump into the boiling water himself and ordered his archer to do it first. Ivan asked the tsar’s permission to see his horse before he would die in order to say goodbye. The tsar was generous enough this time to grant him one. “Do not weep nor be afraid, Master?" said the horse by casting a spell over the archer that would protect him against the boiling water. As soon as the archer left the stall, the Tsar’s guards seized him and threw him into the cauldron. Ivan took a dip, then another and jumped out of the water being more handsome than ever before. The beautiful Princess Vasilisa could not resist Ivan’s charm and fell in love with him.
Knowing that the experiment went successful, the old, but foolish tsar rushed to follow his archer’s example and jumped into the boiling water himself where he was scalded to death immediately. After the old tsar was buried, the people chose Ivan to be the new tsar. Ivan and Vasilisa got married shortly after, they ruled with dignity and were respected and honored by their people, whose children and grandchildren told this story.