The Frog Princess
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So Prince Ivan went by himself. His elder brothers drove up with their wives, rouged and powdered and dressed in fine clothes. They stood there and mocked Prince Ivan: "Why did you not bring your wife? You could have brought her in a handkerchief. Where, indeed, did you find such a beauty? You must have searched all the marshes for her!"
The King and his sons and daughters-in-law and all the guests sat down to feast at the oaken tables covered with handsome cloths. All at once there was a knocking and a banging that made the whole palace shake. The guests jumped up in fright, but Prince Ivan said, "Do not be afraid, good people, it is only my Froggy riding in her box."
Just then a gilded carriage drawn by six white horses dashed up to the palace door and out of it stepped Vasilisa the Wise in a dress of sky-blue silk strewn with stars and a shining moon upon her head -- a maiden as fair as the sky at dawn, the fairest maiden ever born. She took Prince Ivan by the hand and led him to the oaken tables with the handsome cloths on them.
The guests began to eat, drink and make merry. Vasilisa the Wise drank from her glass and emptied the dregs into her left sleeve. Then she ate some swan meat and put the bones in her right sleeve. The wives of the elder princes saw her do this and they did the same.
When the eating and drinking were over, the time came for dancing. Vasilisa the Wise took Prince Ivan and tripped off with him. She whirled and danced, and everybody watched and marveled. She waved her left sleeve, and lo! a lake appeared! She waved her right sleeve, and white swans began to swim on the lake. The King and his guests were struck with wonder.
Then the other daughters-in-law went to dance. They waved one sleeve, but only splashed wine over the guests; they waved the other, but only scattered bones, and one bone hit the King right in the forehead. The King flew into a rage and drove both daughters-in-law away.
Meanwhile, Prince Ivan slipped out and ran home. There he found the frog skin and threw it into the fire. When Vasilisa the Wise came home, she looked for the frog skin but could not find it. She sat down on a bench, sorely grieved, and said to Prince Iva n, "Ah, Prince Ivan, what have you done? Had you but waited three more days I would have been yours forever. But now, farewell. Seek me beyond the Thrice-Nine Lands, in the Thrice-Ten Kingdom, where Koshchei the Deathless dwells." So saying, Vasilisa the Wise turned herself into a gray cuckoo and flew out of the window. Prince Ivan wept long and hard, then bowed in all four directions and went forth he knew not where to seek his wife, Vasilisa the Wise. How long he walked is hard to say, but h is boots wore down at the heels, his tunic wore out at the elbows, and his cap became battered by the rain. By and by he met a little man, as old as old can be.
"Good day, my lad," said the little old man. "Where are you going and what is your errand?"
Prince Ivan told him about his trouble.
"Ah, why did you burn the frog skin, Prince Ivan?" said the little old man. "It was not yours to keep or do away with. Vasilisa the Wise was born wiser than her father, and that made him so angry that he turned her into a frog for three years. Ah, well, it cannot be helped now. Take this ball of yarn and follow it without fear wherever it rolls."
Prince Ivan thanked the little old man and followed the ball of yarn. It rolled on and he came after. In an open field he met a bear. Prince Ivan took aim and was about to kill it, but the bear spoke in a human voice: "Do not kill me, Prince Ivan, for you may have need of me someday."
Prince Ivan spared the bear's life and went on farther. Suddenly he saw a drake flying overhead. He took aim with his bow, but the drake said in a human voice, "Do not kill me, Prince Ivan, for you may have need of me someday."
He spared the drake and went on. A hare came running by. Again Prince Ivan snatched his bow to shoot it, but the hare said in a human voice, "Do not kill me, Prince Ivan, for you may have need of me someday."
So he spared the hare and went on. He came to the blue sea and saw a pike lying on the sandy beach gasping for breath. "Ah, Prince Ivan," said the pike, "take pity on me and throw me back into the blue sea."
So he threw the pike into the sea and walked on along the shore. By and by the ball of yarn rolled into a forest, and there stood a little hut on hen's feet, turning round and round. "Little hut, little hut, turn your back to the trees and your face to me, please."
The hut turned its face to him and its back to the trees. Prince Ivan walked in, and there, sitting in the corner, was Baba-Yaga, the witch with a broom and a switch, a bony hag with a nose like a snag. When she saw him she said, "Ugh, ugh, Russian blood, never met by me before, now I smell it at my door. Who comes here? Where from? Where to?"
"You might give me meat and drink and a steam bath before asking questions," retorted Prince Ivan. So Baba-Yaga gave him a steam bath, gave him meat and drink, and put him to bed. Then Prince Ivan told her he was seeking his wife, Vasilisa the Wise.
"I know, I know," said Baba Yaga. "Your wife is now in the power of Koshchei the Deathless. It will be hard for you to get him back. Koshchei is more than a match for you. His death is at the point of a needle. The needle is in an egg; the egg is in a duck; the duck is in a hare; the hare is in a stone casket; the casket is at the top of a tall oak tree that Koshchei the Deathless guards as the apple of his eye."
Prince Ivan spent the night at Baba-Yaga's, and in the morning she showed him the way to the tall oak. How long he walked it is hard to say, but by and by he came to the tall oak tree with the stone casket at the top of it. But it was hard to reach.
Suddenly, up came the bear whose life he had spared, and pulled the tree out, roots and all. Down fell the casket and broke open. Out of the casket sprang a hare and scampered off as fast as it could. The other hare, whose life Prince Ivan had spared, gave chase, caught it and tore it to bits. Out of the dead hare flew a duck, and shot high into the sky. But in a twinkling, the drake, whose life Prince Ivan had spared, was at it. The duck dropped the egg, and down it fell into the blue sea.
At this Prince Ivan wept bitter tears. How could he find the egg in the sea? But all at once the pike, whose life Prince Ivan had spared, swam up with the egg in its mouth. Prince Ivan broke the egg, took the needle out, and set about breaking the point off. The more he bent it, the more Koshchei the Deathless writhed and screamed, but all in vain. Prince Ivan broke off the point of the needle and Koshchei fell down dead.
Prince Ivan went to Koshchei's white stone palace. Vasilisa the Wise came running out to meet him and kissed him deeply. And Prince Ivan and Vasilisa the Wise went back to their own home and lived in peace and happiness to a ripe old age.
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