Ivanoushka the Simpleton
“Well, brothers, this tree, this wonderful apple tree, is not for sale,” answered Ivanoushka, “but if you wish to obtain it you may. The price will not be too high, a toe from each right foot.”
The brothers thought the matter over and finally decided to give the desired price. Ivanoushka cut the toes off, gave them the apple tree, and the happy brothers brought it to the Tsar and there was no end to their bragging.
“Here, all-powerful Tsar,” they said. “We went far, and had many a trouble on our way, but thy wish is fulfilled.”
The Tsar Pea seemed pleased, ordered a feast, commanded tunes to be played and drums beaten, rewarded the two brothers of Ivanoushka the Simpleton, each one with a town, and praised them.
The boyars and warriors became furious.
“Why,” they said to the Tsar, “there is nothing wonderful in such an apple tree with golden apples and silver leaves. The brothers of thy son-in-law are bragging around that they will get thee a pig with golden bristles and silver tusks, and not alone the pig, but also her twelve little ones!”
The Tsar called the brothers before him and ordered them to bring the very pig with her golden bristles and silver tusks and her twelve little ones. The brothers’ excuses were not listened to and so they went. Once more the brothers were traveling on a difficult errand, looking for a golden-bristled pig with silver tusks and twelve little pigs.
At that time Ivanoushka the Simpleton made up his mind to take a trip somewhere. He put a saddle on a cow, jumped up on her back facing the tail, and left the town. He came to a field, grasped the cow by the horns, threw her far on the prairie and shouted:
“Come, come, you gray wolves and red foxes! there is a dinner for you!”
Then he ordered his faithful horse, crawled into one ear, and jumped out of the other. Master and courser went on an errand, this time toward the south. One, two, three, and they were in dark woods. In these woods the wished-for pig was walking around, a golden-bristled pig with silver tusks. She was eating roots, and after her followed twelve little pigs.
Ivanoushka the Simpleton threw over the pig a silk rope with a running noose, gathered the little pigs into a basket and went home, but before he reached the town of the Tsar Pea he pitched a tent with a golden top and lay down for a rest. On the same road the brothers came along with gloomy faces, not knowing what to say to the Tsar. They saw the tent, and near by the very pig they were searching for, with golden bristles and silver tusks, was fastened with a silk rope; and in a basket were the twelve little pigs. The brothers looked into the tent. Ivanoushka again! They awakened him and wanted to trade for the pig; they were ready to give in exchange three carts loaded with precious stones.
“Brothers, my pig is not for trade,” said Ivanoushka, “but if you want her so much, well, one finger from each right hand will pay for her.”
The brothers thought over the case for a long while; they reasoned thus: “People live happily without brains, why not without fingers?”
So they allowed Ivanoushka to cut off their fingers, then took the pig to the Tsar, and their bragging had no end.
“Tsar Sovereign,” they said, “we went everywhere, beyond the blue sea, beyond the dark woods; we passed through deep sands, we suffered hunger and thirst; but thy wish is accomplished.”
The Tsar was glad to have such faithful servants. He gave a feast great among feasts, rewarded the brothers of Ivanoushka the Simpleton, created them big boyars and praised them.
The other boyars and different court people said to the Tsar:
“There is nothing wonderful in such a pig. Golden bristles, silver tusks, yes, it is fine. But a pig remains a pig forever. The brothers of thy son-in-law are bragging now that they will steal for thee out of the stables of the fiery dragon a mare with golden mane and diamond hoofs.”
The Tsar at once called the brothers of Ivanoushka the Simpleton, and ordered the golden-maned mare with the diamond hoofs. The brothers swore that they never said such words, but the Tsar did not listen to their protests.
“Take as much gold as you want, take warriors as many as you wish, but bring me the beautiful mare with golden mane and diamond hoofs. If you do it my reward will be great; if not, your fate is to become peasants as before.”
The brothers went, two sad heroes. Their march was slow; where to go they did not know. Ivanoushka also jumped upon a stick and went leaping toward the field. Once in the wide, open field, he ordered his horse, crawled into one ear, came out of the other, and both started for a far-away country, for an island, a big island. On that island in an iron stable the fiery dragon was watchfully guarding his glory the golden-maned mare with diamond hoofs, which was locked under seven locks behind seven heavy doors.
From Folk tales from the Russian, by Verra de Blumenthal.
Chicago, New York, London: Rand, McNally and Company, 1903.