Ivanoushka the Simpleton

The second night it was Pakhom’s turn to go to his father’s grave. He thought it over and said to the Simpleton:

“To-morrow is a busy day with me. Go in my place to our father’s grave.”

“All right,” answered Ivanoushka. He took along with him a piece of fish pie, went to the grave and slept. Midnight approached, the wind roared, crows came flying, the grave opened and the old man came out.

“Who is there?” he asked.

“I,” answered his son the Simpleton.

“Well, my beloved son, I will not forget thine obedience,” said the old man.

The cocks crowed and the old man dropped into his grave. Ivanoushka the Simpleton came home, went to sleep on the warm stove, and in the morning his brothers asked:

“What happened?”

“Nothing,” answered Ivanoushka.

On the third night the brothers said to Ivan the Simpleton:

“It is thy turn to go to the grave of our father. The father’s will should be done.”

“All right,” answered Ivanoushka. He took some cookies, put on his sheepskin, and arrived at the grave.

At midnight his father came out.

“Who is there?” he asked.

“I,” answered Ivanoushka.

“Well,” said the old father, “my obedient son, thou shalt be rewarded;” and the old man shouted with a mighty voice:

“Arise, bay horse thou wind-swift steed,
Appear before me in my need;
Stand up as in the storm the weed!”

And lo! Ivanoushka the Simpleton beheld a horse running, the earth trembling under his hoofs, his eyes like stars, and out of his mouth and ears smoke coming in a cloud. The horse approached and stood before the old man.

“What is thy wish?” he asked with a man’s voice.

The old man crawled into his left ear, washed and adorned himself, and jumped out of his right ear as a young, brave fellow never seen before.

“Now listen attentively,” he said. “To thee, my son, I give this horse. And thou, my faithful horse and friend, serve my son as thou hast served me.”

Hardly had the old man pronounced these words when the first cock crew and the sorcerer dropped into his grave. Our Simpleton went quietly back home, stretched himself under the icons, and his snoring was heard far around.

“What happened?” the brothers again asked.

But the Simpleton did not even answer; he only waved his hand.

The three brothers continued to live their usual life, the two with cleverness and the younger with foolishness. They lived a day in and an equal day out. But one morning there came quite a different day from all others. They learned that big men were going all over the country with trumpets and players; that those men announced everywhere the will of the Tsar, and the Tsar’s will was this: The Tsar Pea and the Tsaritza Carrot had an only daughter, the Tsarevna Baktriana, heiress to the throne. She was such a beautiful maiden that the sun blushed when she looked at it, and the moon, altogether too bashful, covered itself from her eyes. Tsar and Tsaritza had a hard time to decide to whom they should give their daughter for a wife. It must be a man who could be a proper ruler over the country, a brave warrior on the battlefield, a wise judge in the council, an adviser to the Tsar, and a suitable heir after his death. They also wanted a bridegroom who was young, brave, and handsome, and they wanted him to be in love with their Tsarevna. That would have been easy enough, but the trouble was that the beautiful Tsarevna loved no one. Sometimes the Tsar mentioned to her this or that one. Always the same answer, “I do not love him.” The Tsaritza tried, too, with no better result; “I do not like him.”

From Folk tales from the Russian, by Verra de Blumenthal.
Chicago, New York, London: Rand, McNally and Company, 1903.

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