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Russian Fairytale Story

There were once three brothers, of whom two were sharp-witted,
but the third was a fool. The elder brothers set off to
sell their goods in the towns down the river, and said to the

"Now mind, fool! obey our wives, and pay them respect as
if they were your own mothers. We'll buy you red boots, and
a red caftan, and a red shirt."

The fool said to them:

"Very good; I will pay them respect."

They gave the fool their orders and went away to the downstream
towns; but the fool stretched himself on top of the stove
and remained lying there. His brothers' wives say to him--

"What are you about, fool! your brothers ordered you to
pay us respect, and in return for that each of them was going to
bring you a present, but there you lie on the stove and don't do
a bit of work. Go and fetch some water, at all events."

The fool took a couple of pails and went to fetch the water.
As he scooped it up, a pike happened to get into his pail. Says
the fool:

"Glory to God! now I will cook this pike, and will eat it all
myself; I won't give a bit of it to my sisters-in-law. I'm savage
with them!"

The pike says to him with a human voice:

"Don't eat me, fool! if you'll put me back again into the
water you shall have good luck!"

Says the fool, "What sort of good luck shall I get from

"Why, this sort of good luck: whatever you say, that shall
be done. Say, for instance, 'By the Pike's command, at my
request, go home, ye pails, and be set in your places.'"

As soon as the fool had said this, the pails immediately
went home of their own accord and became set in their places.
The sisters-in-law looked and wondered.

"What sort of a fool is this!" they say. "Why, he's so
knowing, you see, that his pails have come home and gone to
their places of their own accord!"

The fool came back and lay down on the stove. Again did
his brothers' wives begin saying to him--

"What are you lying on the stove for, fool? there's no wood
for the fire; go and fetch some."

The fool took two axes and got into a sledge, but without
harnessing a horse to it.

"By the Pike's command," he says, "at my request, drive,
into the forest, O sledge!"

Away went the sledge at a rattling pace, as if urged on by
some one. The fool had to pass by a town, and the people he
met were jammed into corners by his horseless sledge in a way
that was perfectly awful. They all began crying out:

"Stop him! Catch him!"

But they couldn't lay hands on him. The fool drove into
the forest, got out of the sledge, sat down on a log, and said--

"One of you axes fell the trees, while the other cuts them
up into billets."

Well, the firewood was cut up and piled on the sledge. Then
says the fool:

"Now then, one of you axes! go and cut me a cudgel, as
heavy a one as I can lift."

The axe went and cut him a cudgel, and the cudgel came
and lay on top of the load.

The fool took his seat and drove off. He drove by the
town, but the townspeople had met together and had been looking
out for him for ever so long. So they stopped the fool, laid
hands upon him, and began pulling him about. Says the fool--

"By the Pike's command, at my request, go, O cudgel, and
bestir thyself."

Out jumped the cudgel, and took to thumping and smashing,
and knocked over ever such a lot of people. There they lay on
the ground, strewed about like so many sheaves of corn. The
fool got clear of them and drove home, heaped up the wood,
and then lay down on the stove.

Meanwhile, the townspeople got up a petition against him,
and denounced him to the King, saying:

"Folks say there's no getting hold of him the way we tried;[354]
we must entice him by cunning, and the best way of all will be
to promise him a red shirt, and a red caftan, and red boots."

So the King's runners came for the fool.

"Go to the King," they say, "he will give you red boots, a
red caftan, and a red shirt."

Well, the fool said:

"By the Pike's command, at my request, do thou, O stove,
go to the King!"

He was seated on the stove at the time. The stove went;
the fool arrived at the King's.

The King was going to put him to death, but he had a
daughter, and she took a tremendous liking to the fool. So
she began begging her father to give her in marriage to the fool.
Her father flew into a passion. He had them married, and
then ordered them both to be placed in a tub, and the tub to be
tarred over and thrown into the water; all which was done.

Long did the tub float about on the sea. His wife began to
beseech the fool:

"Do something to get us cast on shore!"

"By the Pike's command, at my request," said the fool,
"cast this tub ashore and tear it open!"

He and his wife stepped out of the tub. Then she again
began imploring him to build some sort of a house. The fool

"By the Pike's command, at my request, let a marble palace
be built, and let it stand immediately opposite the King's

This was all done in an instant. In the morning the King
saw the new palace, and sent to enquire who it was that lived
in it. As soon as he learnt that his daughter lived there, that
very minute he summoned her and her husband. They came.
The King pardoned them, and they all began living together
and flourishing.[355]

"The Pike," observes Afanasief, "is a fish of great repute in
northern mythology." One of the old Russian songs still sung at
Christmas, tells how a Pike comes from Novgorod, its scales of silver
and gold, its back woven with pearls, a costly diamond gleaming in its
head instead of eyes. And this song is one which promises wealth, a
fact connecting the Russian fish with that Scandinavian pike which was
a shape assumed by Andvari--the dwarf-guardian of the famous treasure,
from which sprang the woes recounted in the _Voelsunga Saga_ and the
_Nibelungenlied_. According to a Lithuanian tradition, there is a
certain lake which is ruled by the monstrous pike Strukis. It sleeps
only once a year, and then only for a single hour. It used always to
sleep on St. John's Night, but a fisherman once took advantage of its
slumber to catch a quantity of its scaly subjects. Strukis awoke in
time to upset the fisherman's boat; but fearing a repetition of the
attempt, it now changes each year the hour of its annual sleep. A
gigantic pike figures also in the _Kalevala_.

It would be easy to fill with similar stories, not only a section of
a chapter, but a whole volume; but instead of quoting any more of
them, I will take a few specimens from a different, though a somewhat
kindred group of tales--those which relate to the magic powers
supposed to be wielded in modern times by dealers in the Black Art.
Such narratives as these are to be found in every land, but Russia is
specially rich in them, the faith of the peasantry in the existence of
Witches and Wizards, Turnskins and Vampires, not having been as yet
seriously shaken. Some of the stories relating to the supernatural
Witch, who evidently belongs to the demon world, have already been
given. In those which I am about to quote, the wizard or witch who is
mentioned is a human being, but one who has made a compact with evil
spirits, and has thereby become endowed with strange powers. Such
monsters as these are, throughout their lives, a terror to the
district they inhabit; nor does their evil influence die with them,
for after they have been laid in the earth, they assume their direst
aspect, and as Vampires bent on blood, night after night, they go
forth from their graves to destroy. As I have elsewhere given some
account of Slavonic beliefs in witchcraft,[357] I will do little more
at present than allow the stories to speak for themselves. They will
be recognized as being akin to the tales about sorcery current farther
west, but they are of a more savage nature. The rustic warlocks and
witches of whom we are accustomed to hear have little, if any, of that
thirst for blood which so unfavorably characterizes their Slavonic
counterparts. Here is a story, by way of example, of a most gloomy