River of fairy tales

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Unprofessional translation from Russian

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Prophetic Cushion

Once upon a time there lived two sisters. The younger sister was kind, nice and hardworking. Her name was Alena. The elder sister was wicked and envious. Her name was Clara. Their parents died, and the two sisters lived together in a house by the side of the road.

Once a poor old lady was passing by, and she stopped to spend the night in the girls’ house. Alena gave the lady something to eat and drink, and then prepared a soft featherbed for her to sleep on. She always treated guests and old people with deference and tried to appease them and make them comfortable.

The elder sister was not happy with the old lady’s presence. She was grumbling the whole evening, looking at her discontentedly, and did not even say good night to the old woman. She was too greedy to give the stranger food or shelter. The biggest wealth that Clara had amassed was her greediness. She was too greedy even to share the sunrays from her yard for free.

In the morning, when the guest was about to leave, she decided to thank the young girls. She took a soft embroidered cushion out of her bag and gave it to the sisters. When leaving, she smiled and said:

«This is not an ordinary cushion. When you sleep on it, you have prophetic dreams, and they come true when you wake up. You will see in your dream whatever you think of before sleeping. And whatever you see in your dream, will happen to you. A good person will see a good dream and his life will be good. And a bad person will see a bad dream, and it will be only fair that he will have trouble and misfortunes.»

The elder sister did not believe a word and accused the old lady of lying and telling cock-and-bull stories. And the younger sister accepted the gift with gratitude and wished the old woman a nice trip and a good day. So, they parted.

On the first night, Alena said:

«Sister, tomorrow we will go to the forest to pick berries and mushrooms. It’s good if we are lucky to find a lot of berries and mushrooms. We will bring them home and store them to use in the winter.»

With these thoughts Alena fell asleep. In her dream, she saw a forest and a wonderful meadow spangled with berries and mushrooms. They were walking around with her sister and picking them, and they had full baskets, too heavy to carry. Fortunately, they saw a man riding on a cart. He agreed to help the girls. They put their supplies in the cart, occupying all the space, and brought them home.

When Alena woke up, she told Clara her dream at once. But the elder sister started to make fun of the younger one:

«Silly you are! How can this be that two girls picked a whole cartful of berries and mushrooms? And met a man with a cart in the dense forest? And he helped them absolutely for free? Such things don’t happen in our life!»

Clara did not like her sister first of all because other people loved her, and she was better than her. Of all her relatives, she loved only herself. That’s why Clara laughed at the sister and her dream, and they went to the forest. But a miracle happened — they really happened to stumble upon a wonderful meadow. And there were so many mushrooms and berries there! You could pick them with a spade. And there were plenty of berries on the bushes, all of them ripe and juicy. Put a basket under a bush, shake the branches several times, and the basket is full of berries. Just one problem — where to put all this wealth? But suddenly they saw, just as Alena did in her dream, a man riding on a cart. He saw the sisters and said:

«Beautiful girls, shall I help you? I can bring everything you have gathered to your house.»

Clara did not believe in the man’s kindness and wanted to drive him away. But Alena accepted his help before her sister managed to do anything. On the contrary, she thanked him heartily. They loaded the whole cart with supplies and brought them all home. There were so many of them that the man got his share, too, in reward for his help. It’s only the greedy elder sister who did not want to share the supplies. She was walking about and grumbling that the man transported their berries and mushrooms too carelessly and mashed them on hollows and sloughs. But Alena gave the kind man his share of mushrooms and berries on the sly. He was thankful to her for that and promised to help her in the future, should an opportunity arise.

In the evening Clara thought about the magic cushion the old lady had given to them. What if it is really prophetic? The elder sister decided to see for herself and told Alena before going to sleep:

«Now I will sleep on the cushion and wish a dream to have.»

But Clara could not imagine what dream to wish. She was envious the whole day that the younger sister had such a good dream last night and everything turned out to as be promised. As on the next day the girls were going to the forest again to pick healing herbs and roots, Clara wickedly decided: «We will collect those herbs anyway! May wolves attack my sister in the forest and scare her very much!» Thinking so, she fell asleep. She dreamt of fierce wolves in the dense forest: they were running and chasing, snapping their teeth, and sputtering.

In the morning the elder sister sprang up terrified, in cold sweat. But she saw in her dream what she had wished. She did not tell Alena about her dream.

The sisters went to the forest and lost their way. They found themselves in a dark thicket. Sunrays could not get through; the huge trees covered the sky with their tops. Then fierce wolves appeared all of a sudden. The girls started to run, and the animals chased them. Everything happened just like in Clara’s dream. The sisters hardly managed to escape from wolves, their dresses were torn to pieces. Their hands and legs were scratched, bruised and bleeding, but they found their way in the forest and got away from trouble.

They came home and the elder sister said:

«That’s a bad cushion! I don’t want to sleep on it anymore. Sleep yourself on this bewitched cushion!»

She threw it to Alena. The younger sister agreed and asked:

«What shall I ask the cushion for to see in this night’s dream?»

Clara took offence at the cushion, but decided to make fun of her sister:

«It’s time we got married, but we have no dowry at all! We have no smart clothes or jewelry. Ask your cushion for luxurious outfits and beautiful jewelry.»

«Right, sister,» Alena replied.

Before going to sleep she sat down near the cushion and thought:

«It would be nice if we could have a new dress each and girls’ trinketry. Not much — just a little bit.»

Thinking so, she fell asleep. In her dream she saw Clara and herself walking in smart dresses. The earrings in their ears were glistening, and pearl necklaces on their necks were sparkling. Alena woke up and told her sister:

«Sister, in my dream I saw that we will have new dresses made of brocade, turquoise earrings and pearl necklaces.»

Clara started to scold her sister as she was offended and envious that she had had such a wonderful dream:

«You are silly and featherheaded! Where can we get all this? Will it fall from the sky? You believe this stupid cushion! And this is nothing, but the old woman’s lies!»

In the evening, foreign merchants returning from a fair were passing by their house. They sold their goods at great profit and were returning home merrily. The merchants asked the sisters to stay in their house overnight.

Clara met the guests angrily as she usually did. She did not take care of them, just mumbled something rude. And Alena welcomed the unexpected guests with a smile, gave them something to eat and drink and put them to bed. In the morning, before leaving, the merchants agreed to thank the younger sister for such a hearty welcome. They searched through the remains of their goods and gave her two brocade dresses, a pair of turquoise earrings and a pair of white and blue pearl necklaces. They liked the kind girl very much: she welcomed them heartily, gave tasty food, said kind words. And they did not want to take these goods home anyway. It was a relief for the merchants and a delight for a nice girl. The guests said good-bye and left in a good mood.

Clara saw that and moved to complain:

«I asked the dowry for myself, and the wretched and ungrateful merchants gave all the gifts to you! Where is the justice? I am deprived and offended!»

«Don’t be angry, my dear sister. If you like these dresses, earrings, and necklaces, take them all for yourself!» Alena offered her the gifts with a smile.

The younger sister was not greedy and loved her grumbling sister. She had no other relatives in the world. And Alena’s heart was pure and light. She felt bad if her elder sister was grieving or angry. That’s why she always tried to appease Clara and make her feel good.

The elder sister took away all the merchants’ gifts at once and started to scold Alena again:

«You are so unsophisticated! Why did you ask the cushion for so little? These dresses and jewelry are not sufficient. I want more — and more luxurious, too!»

Now Clara clearly understood that the cushion was really magic. The dreams come true for the third time in succession. She took away the cushion and said:

«This night, I will dream of our wealth myself. Go to bed, and I will think what to wish.»

In the evening Clara sat down and started to ponder: «I wish a lot of gold and silver for myself, and my sister will get shards and pieces of glass. She shouldn’t dress and look better than me!»

Clara went so deeply into her dreams, wishing to offend and humiliate her sister as much as possible, that she fell asleep with these thoughts. In her dream she saw a barrel of broken shards and a chest of glass pieces.

On the next day, a glassblower with his goods and a potter with pots were passing by their house on their way to the fair. They asked to stay in their house overnight. The elder sister looked at the guests and saw that they were not rich, and no profit could be obtained from them. She told them to go to the shed and spend the night there. She was so angry that she failed to get gold and silver as a dowry that she was walking about on the jump.

At night, when everybody fell asleep, she went out and in anger smashed some jugs and glassware that belonged to the craftsmen. In the morning they woke up and saw that somebody had done the smashing. The glassblower and the potter turned sad. But they had nothing to do, they picked up the remains of goods and cleaned the yard before leaving. They put the shards and pieces of glass in the barrel and in the chest, so that the sisters would not have to sweep so much after them.

When Clara woke up and went out, she saw that everything happened exactly as she had seen in her dream last night. She realized that the younger sister’s dreams were better when they came true and started to hate Alena even more because of that. Clara did not know her real value, so she considered herself to be priceless. As for her sister, she treated her as an obstacle in her life.

«This night we will sleep on the cushion together,» Clara decided to dodge.

«It’s time we thought about handsome fiancés. So, we will act in this way — you will wish a fiancé for me in your dream, and I will wish one for you.»

«Let’s do as you say, sister,» Alena agreed obediently.

They went to sleep side by side and put their heads on the edges of the cushion.

Alena dreams before going to sleep: «It would be nice if a good-hearted young man on a white horse came to us. He would be so dashing, handsome and well-built…»

She fell asleep and saw exactly what she thought in her dream. And she also saw a palace and a great feast. Singers were singing, musicians were playing merry tunes, guests were dancing boldly. Everybody around was celebrating a wedding.

And Clara thought before going to sleep: «May my sister have an old, ugly and wicked fiancé. May she live in the thicket, drudge with her husband all her life and appease him!»

That’s what she saw. A dense forest and an old terrible bandit sitting on a crumbly stump. Around him, his terrible companions were feeding a fire, roasting meat, drinking home brew, swearing, and fighting — thus celebrating their chieftain’s wedding.

On the next day, early at sunrise, a squad of brave warriors was passing by the house. It was headed by a young and dashing prince. The younger sister was hardworking, and she always set about her duties in the yard since early morning. She woke up at dawn and was working in the vegetable garden when the warriors were passing by along the road.

The prince saw Alena and liked her so much that loved her at first sight. He jumped down from his horse and asked her to marry him. The girl liked the prince very much, so she agreed at once, without much thinking. She was modest and was not used to flirting and dallying. The young man put her on the horse and took her to his palace to celebrate a wedding.

And Clara liked to sleep until midday, but the noise in the yard woke her up. She looked out the window and froze. Her sister was going away with a young handsome prince and his men. And she could see that the youth was looking at Alena with loving eyes and she was looking at him in the same way.

The elder sister rushed out in her night gown. She wanted to shout that Alena was taking away her dream, her fiancé, her happiness. But it was too late — they had vanished into thin air.

Clara returned to the house and started to cry and smash anything that got into her hands — out of spite, envy, and offence. She was raging until the evening and could not stop. Closer to nighttime, some forest bandits suddenly came to her house. They saw a girl rushing about in anger, smashing, and throwing everything around. They laughed and said:

«Such a wicked hostess! She will suit perfectly for our bandit affairs. She is quite like us. She will make a good wife for our chieftain.»

They seized Clara and took her to the forest. And they also burned the house where the sisters lived and all the constructions there, so that she would have no desire to run away and return home.

The bandits brought the girl to the forest and gave her to their chieftain. He was old and ugly. He was sitting in the middle of the meadow on a crumbly stump and picking his teeth disgustingly. He saw Clara and laughed nastily and loud, saying in his strident voice:

«Now the forest is your house! You will appease me all my life. And if you don’t obey, I will punish you and give you to fierce wild animals.»

The chieftain ordered the bandits to prepare a wedding celebration. And then everything happened in the way Clara had wished in her dream for her younger sister. It was so because she did not remember the words of the old lady who had given them the cushion. The old woman warned: you will get what you wish. A good dream will come to a good person, and his life will be good, too. And a bad person, doing bad deeds, will have a bad dream and trouble will come.

When the young prince brought Alena to his palace, he made a nice wedding. The feast was so marvelous that you couldn’t tell in a tale or write with a pen. Guslars were playing, traveling minstrels were dancing, singers were singing. And the guests celebrated for three days and three nights.

And as for the magic cushion, it should have perished in the fire when the bandits burned the house. Or perhaps it did not. It is magic anyway. Who knows, probably it exists somewhere in the world. People have new dreams on it. And they are not just dreams, they are prophetic ones — they always come true! Kind people have good dreams. And wicked people have the dreams they deserve!

Two Seeds

Once upon a time there was a ship which sailed in the sea. But the storm blew up and the ship sunk. Only two people got saved, two castaways, the farmer and the merchant. They found themselves on a desert island. Nobody to be seen for miles and miles around… only a thick forest grows, and the fields spread. How to survive in such unpopulated place? The only luck it happened in the beginning of summer. There were mushrooms and berries in the forest, all kinds of fruits ripened on the trees. They were glad to find food for the first time and rejoiced they would not die of hunger.

Thus, they looked around, sat on an old log and started to think how they would survive on this island. Suddenly an old raven appeared as if from nowhere. He sat on a branch, bowed his head slightly on the side, and stared at the people. The merchant wanted to drive the bird away with a stick. He was so very angry and frustrated because of the shipwreck and the fact that all his merchandise sank in the sea. He flourished a stick at the raven when the bird croaked and then said with a clear human voice:

«I am the owner of this island. You are my guests now, so I will help you a bit. In the very center of the island there is a big tree stump. There is a casket on it. It holds two magic seeds. One seed is common, the other one is gold. Go and plant them in the field. As man sows, so he shall reap!»

Upon having spoken these words the raven flew away. The Farmer and the Merchant were surprised at what happened but went to where the raven had shown. There they found the tree stump and the casket.

The Merchant said:

«I will take the gold seed! I will plant it and will grow the gold wheat. I will be rich again. Gold is always useful; one can live everywhere if one has gold. I know this from my own experience. One can buy everything with gold.»

«I don’t know how to live with gold. I have never chased riches in my life,» the Farmer retorted. «All my life I’ve been growing wheat. I think I will take the ordinary seed and plant it.»

«You are a fool,» the Merchant scolded him. «You understand nothing in life that is why you are so poor. Take your ordinary seed. And don’t even look at my gold one!»

The Merchant grabbed the gold seed and ran away before the Farmer changed his mind. He was hoping for the future but forget about the present, as many people do. The most intolerable thing for him was other people’s wealth.

Thus, they went every which way. On the opposite sides of the island, they have built huts where they lived. Near each hut each one of them spotted a good lot to plant their seeds.

The Merchant dug a hole in the field and planted his gold seed. He tried to hide and cover where he did it so that the Farmer wouldn’t see it so well that instantly forgot where he planted his seed. First, he was worried, and then calmed down. «That was a smart idea of mine,» he thought. «The seed is magic; it’s made of gold, so one doesn’t need to take care of it. It doesn’t need any work. The only thing I have to do is to wait till the gold wheat grows.»

Usually, the more stupid is the person the cleverer he thinks he is. In fact, everybody has some human stupidity but not everybody shows it and boasts it.

So, by day the Merchant went to the forest to gather mushrooms, berries, and fruits — to have something to eat. The rest of the day he just slept, lounged away, and basked in the sun. He was dreaming how he would get rich with his harvest of gold wheat, how he would live rich and wealthy doing nothing. He was so happy thinking this he even envied himself.

The ordinary seed was magic, too, but still required a lot of work. To grow wheat in the field one has to plow it, drag it, fertilize it, weed it away, water it… Everything what a farmer does when he grows normal wheat.

Thus, the Farmer started to plow and drag his field. It was a difficult task for one person. He had neither horses nor oxen. Food he had to gather in the wood took much time, too. He’s been working night and day fearing he would be late with preparing the land.

So, he came to the Merchant.

«Please, help me to plow the field. I won’t be able to do it myself,» he said.

«What for?» the Merchant was indignant. «I have a lot of things to do, too!»

Meanwhile he was only basking in the sun, eating the sweet berries heartily. The Farmer only sighed sadly and went to his field — to go on working. He went on working on his land without any sleep or rest.

The Merchant only looked at him and thought: «I don’t believe this beggar. I have to hide my field from him. When my gold wheat grows, he’ll get envious and will most definitely coma and try to steal it!»

Thus, the Merchant started to make a fence around his hut and his field, trying to hide his crops from the Farmer.

The time passed, the Farmer planted his seed. Now the land should be fertilized to get a good harvest from it afterwards. Again, he came to the Merchant.

«Please, neighbor, could you help me to fertilize my field,» he asked. «It’s so difficult to do it alone, and you just lay behind your fence doing nothing.»

«Don’t be stupid,» the Merchant snapped back. «I work just as hard. I protect my field from birds and wild animals. Can’t you see I’ve built a fence? Go away and do everything yourself!»

The Farmer went away. He gathered some manure and bird droppings and threw it evenly in the field. It was quite difficult, but he did fertilize the entire field by himself.

The Merchant spied on him from behind his fence and thought: «My fence is too small. The Farmer could easily get over it. I will gather more pricks and burrs in the forest tomorrow and will throw them around my fence. Thus, he will never steal my crops.»

The Merchant went to the forest, gathered big burrs, and laid his fence with the sharpest pricks. The pricks stuck out like true daggers — nobody could approach the fence.

Some more time passed. Now the season of weeding the field away came. The Farmer went to the Merchant’s hut and shouted from outside the fence:

«Maybe you could help me to weed away my field? I’ve got too much of them!»

«No way!» the Merchant got really mad behind his thorny fence. «My gold fears no weeds. And you have to deal with yours yourself.»

Again, the Farmer turned around and went away. The Merchant was nervous when watching him go. «I think I have to dig a ditch around my fence, or the farmer would really come and steal my gold.»

Thus, he went on digging a ditch around his hut and the field in the night. The ditch was so deep the one falling into it would definitely break his neck and never get out alive.

Meanwhile the Farmer’s wheat came into head. It required to be watered now, and there were no rains on the island. The Farmer had to bring water in buckets from the nearby spring. But it was so difficult to do just by himself. Again, he came to the Merchant and started asking him for help.

«Dear neighbor, please, come to me, help me to water the field. I will share my crops with you afterwards.»

The Merchant got very scared. «The Farmer wants to share his crops! It means he wants some part of my gold harvest, too! Who would share just like that? I would never do such a stupid thing!» The Merchant was so greedy he didn’t want to part even with the things he didn’t need anymore. As for sharing, the Merchant considered it a true crime against himself.

So, he stood behind his thorny fence and deep ditch and shouted to the Farmer:

«It was a nice idea with the water, thank you! I have a lot of things to do, too. I have no time to help you. Go away!»

The Farmer returned to his field to work further. And the Merchant decided to fill in his ditch with water — so that the Farmer would never be able to swim it across. Even if he tried, he would definitely suffocate and drown.

But finally, the harvest time came. For the last time the Farmer decided to ask for help from the Merchant. He came to the ditch and shouted:

«I have a heavy crop! I don’t need as much. I’m afraid my wheat will get rotten as I can’t reap it all myself. Please, come to me, come to my field to reap and thresh my wheat! All you will reap will be yours!»

«Never ever!» The Merchant was angry and didn’t believe the Farmer. «I need to reap my own crop. And you want me to help you. Go away, you stupid beggar!»

The farmer was very surprised at such reply and went away.

The Merchant’s field did bring him the gold wheat. The stems were covered with golden powder and the heads were all full of gold seeds. He rushed to reap his precious harvest, quickly, quickly, so that the Farmer doesn’t see. He reaped a whole sac of gold seeds. The Merchant sat on the sack and smiled happily. How rich he is now! How happy! He caressed the sac with a palm, fingered the seeds and grinned.

Meanwhile the Farmer reaped all his harvest by himself, threshed it and put in the sacs. He had to work night and day. Tired and exhausted as he was, the farmer felt happy — not a single seed was lost.

The fall came. The weather turned to cold, winds and nasty rains. There were no mushrooms and berries in the forest anymore. The winter came and each one had whatever he managed to stock during the summer.

The Farmer had a full house of fine, selected wheat. He just grinds the flour and makes pancakes. Enjoys them with tea and jam and rejoices.

And the Merchant sits on his sac of gold, hungry and mad. Finally, he started to shout to the farmer, to call him to his hut. The Farmer came to the ditch filled up with water and asked:

«Now, why have you called me, my good neighbor?»

«Do you remember you offered me your wheat? I thought it over and decided to help you a bit! I agree to take your harvest,» the Merchant said discontentedly.

«Yes, I did,» the Farmer agreed. «But I asked you to help me! You refused to plow and drag; you didn’t have time to fertilize and weed the field away. I had to water my field all alone. And when I asked you to come and reap the harvest, and to thresh it, you even chased me away!»

«All right!» the Merchant was very displeased. «If you don’t want to give your wheat to me, I can buy it! I’m a rich man, and I will give you five gold seeds for five sacks of your wheat!»

The Merchant ached for his gold. He didn’t want to lose even a few seeds. But he was hungry, and his stomach was growling.

«I don’t need your five seeds,» the Farmer laughed.

«What?! Will you ask ten gold seeds from me?» The Merchant couldn’t find his place, so very indignant he was. «Ten gold seeds for some ordinary wheat?»

«I don’t need your ten seeds either!» the Farmer laughed his heart out.

«What do you want then? Would you snatch all my gold from me?» The Merchant was so scared, he started to scold the Farmer again. «You, outlaw! You wicked lazy bones! I will never ever allow it!»

«But if you have nothing to eat, you will die of hunger,» the Farmer explained.

«Then will you need all your gold seeds at all? You will never take them in the grave with you.»

The Merchant burst into tears. He understood finally how right the Farmer was. His sack of gold costs nothing when he has no food for winter. One cannot bake pancakes of gold, or crumpets of gold.

«Please don’t leave me here to die,» the Merchant begged. «Help!»

The Farmer was kind-hearted and never remembered any evil. He held no grudge against the Merchant. That’s why he only smiled and said:

«I will share my wheat with you, but you have to go and take it. I can’t drag the sacks through your ditch and thorny fence!»

He turned away and went home — to drink tea with crumpets.

The Merchant was glad the Farmer offered him food for free. He went on getting over his own fence he had built to protect himself from the Farmer. He was so afraid to leave his gold unattended he took the sack and threw it on his back. But he was so hungry and greedy and, thus, in so much of a hurry, he hit his own thorns, fell down in the ditch and suffocated. He was too good in hiding from his neighbor. Instead of helping him in his work, the stupid Merchant was digging the ditch and putting the traps and the thorns. The sack of gold was too heavy, but the Merchant was so greedy he couldn’t just drop it in the water.

As for the Farmer, he made it fine through the winter. And in spring he spotted a ship. The ship took the Farmer and brought him home.

The Old Garden

This strange and weird story happened in ancient times somewhere in the East. In one country there lived a sultan, and he had a charming daughter. She was famous for her intelligence and perfect manners. When time came for her to marry, three noble princes arrived at the sultan’s palace to ask for the young beauty’s hand. They were all young, attractive, and deserved to become the princess’ husband.

The sultan started to think of how to choose the best fiancé for his beloved daughter, for she was his only child. What is more, he gave half of his kingdom as dowry. And after the sultan’s death, the prince would rule the whole country on his own. So, the father had to decide not only his daughter’s fate, but also the destiny of his kingdom. And he did not want to make a mistake and give it all into unreliable hands.

The sultan thought and thought, but he could not find a solution. Then he had his wisest and oldest counselor called to him; he addressed him very rarely, in the most important cases. Usually, this wise man spoke less than others, so he was listened to more attentively than others. His wise advice was always on time, like a friend’s helping hand.

The old man came, and the sultan told him about his doubts. The counselor listened to the ruler attentively and said:

«You have a large, withered garden. Divide it into three parts and instruct the fiancés to restore it, so that it would be green and blossoming.»

The sultan was surprised at this advice but took it. He called the fiancés, gave them a hoe and a bucket each. He ordered them each to cultivate a third of the old garden on the outskirts of the palace.

The youths were also astonished at the task. But they all wanted to marry the beautiful young princess. So, they obeyed and set about the sultan’s task from an early morning.

When the princes left, the old wise man came to the ruler again. He sat down on the silky cushions near the bride’s father and looked at him attentively. Then he smiled and advised the sultan to change into plain clothes, so that nobody would recognize him. Then he instructed him to leave the palace, go to the youths and ask them what they were doing.

The sultan dressed as a commoner, and nobody would recognize a great a powerful ruler in this man. He left his chamber on the quiet and headed for the abandoned garden.

First of all, the disguised sultan saw a fiancé from the western kingdom. He was very educated and had good manners, a real scholar. He was standing near a tree thoughtfully and pottering about dismally.

«Who are you, oh wonderful youth? And what are you doing here?» the sultan asked innocently, as if he did not know who he was talking to.

«I am a prince of the neighboring country!» the youth said proudly. «I was taught by the best teachers and tutors of the west. I speak a lot of languages and I have mastered different sciences. My knowledge and good education are known far beyond my kingdom. Here I am obeying the sultan’s will — I am doing silly and useless work. I have to do it because I want to be the one to marry the beautiful princess and get half a kingdom as dowry.»

The youth sighed bitterly, looked around and added:

«What a stupidity! I am trying pointlessly to bring life to these old snags. Otherwise, I could write a good book on philosophy or make a discovery. I would like to surprise the world with new knowledge, but I have to water withered roots and fertilize the soil with dung! As soon as I marry the sultan’s daughter, I will rule this country sensibly. I will develop sciences. Only the most educated people will rule in my kingdom. And I will be known as the cleverest and the most educated monarch in all the nearest lands! Meanwhile, I am stupidly carrying water and loosening the soil. It is offensive and humiliating, but such is the price of the princess’ hand and the throne.»

«You said a lot about your scholarly merits, but not a word about love. Or it’s not important to you?» the bride’s disguised father said.

«My intelligence and education will win the love of any girl. I read hundreds of books about love; I know all secrets of sensuous pleasures for the body. So, I am sure that I will get the princess’ love easily.»

Upon hearing this answer, the sultan went on, thinking on his way: «It’s good to have a clever son-in-law. It would be reasonable to let such an intelligent and educated youth rule the country!»

The sultan imagined that sciences and education were prospering in his country. He imagined people discussing different problems, having endless arguments on the porches of their houses. Everybody, young and old, know the position of stars in the sky and basics of geometry. They draw circles and squares on the ground. They prove each other the reason for thunder and lightning. But one thought preyed upon the ruler’s mind: who will grow wheat and graze sheep in this wonderful world of scholars and philosophers? Who will forge metal and mould plates out of clay? The ruler had no answer to these questions, and it puzzled him very much. Moreover, a really wise man is not the one who knows more than others, but the one who does not boast about his knowledge everywhere.

Thinking about it, the sultan came to the second fiancé. It was a prince from southern lands. He was swarthy, strong, and hot, like all natives of those countries. The disguised ruler bowed to him politely and asked the same question as to the first fiancé:

«Who are you, oh manly fellow? And what are you doing in these hours of heat?»

The prince waved his hoe harshly, like a sword, and replied discontentedly:

«I am your princess’ fiancé, a prince of the southern land! I studied martial arts with the best teachers. I know how to use the bow perfectly and I can hit a grain of barley from one hundred steps. I have mastered sword fighting perfectly. There is no one in the world who can throw a javelin as well as I do! I am a real warrior, and I was made to potter about the garden and dig the dung! What a disgrace! I have to spend my time and efforts pointlessly to get the princess and half a kingdom as dowry!»

The youth was very disappointed and got too excited. He kicked the bole of the withered apple tree and continued:

«It would have been better if the ruler ordered me to perform some great exploit or beat a monster. But he told me to mess around with trees. When I marry the princess and become a sultan myself, I will surely gather the most powerful army and expand the country’s borders to reach the sea. I will be famous for my warrior’s strength and victories over weaker countries. And now I have to fight against old snags and stumps. It is offensive and humiliating!»

«Oh, noble knight, I would like to ask you one more thing. If you marry the sultan’s daughter, will you have time for love and family besides victories in battles?» the bride’s father wondered carefully.

«Sure! The princess must give birth to sons, and I will bring them up to be just as manly warriors as me. And I don’t worry at all about feelings and love. The girls love strong and brave ones. I will surely win the love of the sultan’s daughter for my bravery and heroism. There is no other way!»

Having heard this fiancé’s answer, the sultan turned and went on. He liked this prince’s bravery and decisiveness. The monarch imagined what would happen to the country if he let this fiancé rule. The prince will make all the men in the kingdom put on battle armor. He will teach them to be soldiers and immediately start war with the neighboring countries. He is a strong and able knight, so he will surely win many battles. He will conquer new lands and new kingdoms. He may create a new empire and become an emperor. But there are so many of those whose great strength is of little use! The sultan was in big doubts. «Many people will be killed in these battles,» the monarch thought. «He will have to take all men to war. Children will be left without fathers; women will be left without husbands. Who will be a father to their new children? Who will work on the fields and in workshops if best craftsmen and grain farmers go to war? And how much sorrow will be brought to the houses of country dwellers when many of those who went to war perish or become crippled? It is easy to start a war, but it is difficult to finish it. Moreover, war is an expensive thing that only wealthy countries may afford.» The absence of answer to new questions confused the sultan again.

At this moment he came up to the third fiancé, the prince of eastern lands. He was ecstatically digging the soil around withered trees. It seemed that hard work gave him real pleasure and joy.

«Who are you? And what are you doing with this land?» the disguised ruler asked.

«I am the youth who wants to marry the most beautiful and wonderful girl of your country — the young princess!» the young man answered with a kind and modest smile. «I am trying to restore this wonderful garden. I am very lucky, because I am making new life, creating, and reproducing it. I am not very good at sciences, and I am bad at weapons. But I am good at writing songs and poems. It’s probably for this reason that I like to create. There is nothing better in the world than to work on restoring something destroyed or create something new. The sultan will hardly choose me as a fiancé for his daughter. I have no education or military valor, like the other princes have. They are stronger and more intelligent than me. But even if I fail to get the princess’ hand, I will be glad to accomplish this task anyway. For I will be able to leave a memory about myself. When I restore this garden, it will be my gift for her. Later, when she comes here, the rustling leaves will remind her about me and my feelings. When she gives birth to children, they will also run here, play, and have fun in this garden. They will hide in the shade of branches from sun or rain. And the fruit that will ripen here every year will bring joy to everybody with their taste and aroma. The sultan gave me a wonderful task, and I am very glad and thankful to him.»

«Does it mean that you don’t think you will be able to get princess’ love before you even try to do it?» the disguised bride’s father asked in surprise.

«I think that you cannot get true love, you can only give it to another one. I can give my love to the charming princess and have no right to demand and expect something back. I don’t know who she will give her love to. My love for the princess is my gift to her, not a deal or an exchange. True feeling is always disinterested…»

The youth caressed the withered boles of trees gently and diligently continued digging the soil, carrying water, and fertilizing the soil.

«That’s a worthless fiancé!» the sultan thought sadly. «He has no education, like the first one. No strength, like the second one. What is the point in such a useless husband? If I leave the country to him, he will turn it into gardens and parterres. Can it be right?!»

The monarch turned around and staggered to the palace thoughtfully. Then he called the old wise man again. The sultan complained the counselor that he had met the princes and talked to them, but he could not decide who was the worthiest husband of them. Whom should he choose as a husband for his beloved daughter, so that she would be happy all her life and so that the country would get a reliable ruler? In the end of the story, he exclaimed helplessly:

«Why is it that the good is always doubtful and relative, while the evil is apparent and definite?»

The old man sneered. He knew quite enough to learn to doubt his infallibility, so he said evasively:

«Try to ask the bride’s opinion. Tell her everything you heard from the three fiancés when you talked in the garden. But don’t call their names. And let her appreciate their answers.»

The sultan called the daughter and told her about his conversations with fiancés in the garden. The princess thought just a little bit; she looked into her father’s eyes honestly and confessed:

«If the decision depended on me, I would choose the third one. The most worthless one, in your opinion. The one who does not believe that I will be his wife but continues to work and restore the garden. Because he did not seek joy in sciences or war, but in creation. Because he did not feel happy with discoveries and winning battles, but with his ability to give his work and love to other people. Because when he is working, he is not thinking about himself or his glory, but about his love, his bride, her future, and the future of her children! You can rely on such a person in family life. And it means that you can also rely on him in ruling the country.»

The wise man smiled and said to the sultan:

«I think you don’t need my advice anymore. I could not have said better.»


Once there lived a man in a village. His name was Frol. Everything was fine with him: he had a nice house, a milk-cow, laying hens, a fertile field. But once he decided to go to the forest and pick sweet berries. He was about to leave when his neighbor, an old woman, told him:

«Frolushka, pick some berries in the forest and bring a handful to me. I am too old to go to the forest alone.»

«All right,» the kind Frol agreed. «Don’t worry, I’ll bring a whole basket of berries for you, so that you could eat as much as you like.»

«Thank you, dear! But I’ll give you one important piece of advice. Don’t go to the huge cliff above the river,» the old woman warned.

«Why not?» the curious man asked.

«There is a bad berry there. GreediBerry! If you eat it, you will become greedy. And great trouble may happen to you then.»

Frol laughed at the old woman’s words and went to the forest. He was walking along the road and thinking: «That’s stupid. There is no GreediBerry. And even if it existed, what is the trouble with greediness? Nobody has ever died of it. Greedy people just become richer than others.» thought Frol and headed for the huge cliff.

Near the edge of the cliff there was a wonderful meadow. He saw a marvelous bush there with unusual red berries that grew in clusters. Frol could not help picking one berry and trying it. He liked it very much! The berry tasted so delicious that the man threw at it and ate almost everything at once.

He was picking it and putting handfuls into his mouth so violently that he was covered in berries all over. He ate his full of juicy berries, felt heavy and flopped to the ground. He sat down and felt that he was too weak to go home.

Frol had a little rest and thought: «The nasty old woman! She knew that the berry here was very tasty. That’s why she forbade going here. It’s good that I disobeyed. I have never tried such juicy berries in my life! And I won’t bring this disgusting old woman anything, I won’t appease her. I will keep for myself everything I will pick in the forest. I don’t have enough for myself!»

The man picked the rest of berries from this wonderful bush and went home. But he did not notice and did not understand that he had become greedy. And now he was not his own master but gain and greediness were his masters.

The man came to the village, and the neighbor was waiting for him:

«So, Frolushka? Have you brought me some berries as you promised?»

«I have not, and I will not bring anything to you!» the man answered angrily. «The berries I have picked are not enough for me. If you need berries, go to the forest and look for them yourself.»

The old woman got angry with his rudeness, but decided to ask:

«Tell me the truth, my dear neighbor: have you been to the huge cliff? Have you tasted the GreediBerry?»

«Yes, I have!» Frol laughed. «And I understood why you forbade me to pick the berries there. I have never seen or tasted anything better than those berries. If I had obeyed you, I would have never known their wonderful taste. That’s why I am offended, and I don’t want to see you anymore! Off you go from my yard!»

Frol drove the kind old woman away. She shook her head with regret, sighed heavily, turned around and went to her hut. And the man’s life was going its way, he did his usual duties. But his life started to change from day to day somehow. His interest in other people’s wealth was greater than the interest in his own fortune.

It happened so that Frol’s cow ate several Greediberries. In some time, it stopped giving milk. The cow became too greedy to give its milk to the owner. Like Frol, it became greedy.

The man spilt several berries in the yard by chance. The hens picked them and stopped laying eggs. They did not want to give Frol their eggs. They became greedy, too.

Time came to gather harvest. Frol came to his field, looked at it and felt glad. The wheat was very good: ripe and magnificent heads with large grains. At this moment he had a worrying thought:

«I have a good harvest, but if I reap it now, my neighbors will see it and come to borrow some. And if I refuse, they will be angry with me and complain to tax collectors about me. They will come, see my good harvest and ask to pay bigger toll than last year.»

Frol felt greedy. He did not want to share his harvest with anybody and decided not to reap it at all. He did not want anybody to get anything. So, his wheat rotted on the field.

Winter was approaching. He needed to chop some wood to heat the house when frost comes. Frol was about to go to the forest, but then he stopped and thought: «Now I will chop some wood for myself, and what if somebody comes at night and steals it?! I may die of offence then. I can’t share my wood with anybody.»

He threw his axe to the fence and decided not to go to the forest.

Frol’s house was old — he got it from his parents. It required a lot of repairs. He wanted to set about repairing his house a long time ago. One of the walls nodded and was about to fall and crumble. But now the owner looked at it with different eyes. He gave it a little thinking and got scared: «If I renovate the house and rebuild it, somebody may want to visit me. Or relatives will come to see me. I will have to give them something to eat and drink. No, I don’t need it. I don’t want to waste my food on guests. I’d better leave the house in ruins. Then nobody will visit me or stay in it.»

That’s the way Frol was living. With one thought in his head — he did not want to do anything that might be good or beneficial for other people. And when it came to sharing anything with anybody, it was death-like for Frol.

Winter came, it became frosty. The cow gave no milk. And the man did not feed it — he grudged hay for the cow. It was hungry, became weaker and weaker and then died. The hens did not lay eggs. Frol was starving them as well. He was too greedy to give any millet to his hens. They died, too.

Frol was cold as he had no wood. He had nothing to eat, his harvest rotted in the field. The man had a quarrel with his neighbors, he became wicked and unsociable. He did not believe anybody and suspected everybody of stealing. And he was so greedy that he never put another word in.

And once, when it snowed heavily, his leaning and ruined house gave way, crackled heavily, and crumbled. The roof and the walls fell on the owner, and that was how he died.

His fellow villagers thought that Frol died because the house fell down on him. And only the old woman, his neighbor, knew that Frol died because of his greediness, not because the roof fell down. Because he did not follow the elder people’s advice and ate too much GreediBerry in the forest. He was too nosy. In reality, the poor Frol lost in this controversy between greediness and stupidity. And only his death cured him of greediness.

Scales of Life

It happened so that a caravan with goods from far-away countries was walking on the road. It was led by three brothers.

The elder brother was the caravan’s owner. Their father left him all his wealth in his will, because he was grown-up and was better versed in trading. His business was going well, he was sly and enterprising. He successfully made others work for himself and did not overstrain himself. He did not blow off his father’s fortune, but he increased it and managed to accumulate a lot of money. He became a rich and notable merchant in his town.

He was dressed smartly and looked neat. He was used to luxury and magnificence. He became fat because of easy life, and prosperity made him arrogant and presumptuous. A real self-complacent nobleman and master.

The middle brother was strong and nimble. He had a lot of heroics daring and brave agility. However, he did not like to work himself, either. He did not learn any good craft. He could not trade for this you should have intelligence and trickery, while nature gave him nothing but strength and dexterity. What he really liked was drunken parties and fights. That’s why he helped his elder brother in protecting goods and accompanied him in travels to defend him from highwaymen. He had beautiful shining armor on, a sword attached to his belt, and a beautiful shining helmet on his head. A real bully of a warrior.

The younger brother had nothing out of the ordinary. No skills of a merchant, no trickery, no strength, no military skills. But he was a kind, modest, easy-going, and hard-working youth. That’s why elder brothers always sent him on errands and let him do all hard and dirty work. He had to make a fire, put up a tent, cook some food and then clean up afterwards — that’s how they used him and ordered him about as they wished. And he did not mind. He did everything he was told well and with a smile. The elder brothers often sneered at the younger one, but he took no offence as he was peaceful and kind-hearted. And he loved his brothers, even though they were sometimes unjust to him. They gave him a lot of work to do, but never thanked him. He wore rags, ate what was left after his brothers and slept where he could. It was like he was not their brother, but a stranger whom they did not know. And he had to serve them like a slave — free of charge, at their first demand. Sometimes the middle brother, using his great strength, could give the younger one a cuff or offend him in another way. And he did that for no reason, just for fun.

The caravan had been returning home for many days. They passed the dry desert and dense forests, overcame high mountains. And once they stopped near a cave and decided to stay a night there. But this cave was not an ordinary one. The inscription on it said that there is a magic wishing rock inside. The elder and the middle brothers read it and got excited. They wanted to enter the cave at once to get what they dreamed of.

The younger brother tried to dissuade them:

«Don’t go there! What if there is something terrible there? It’s impossible to get something without giving anything back!»

«You are young and silly!» the elder brother retorted. «While I was trading, I learnt to dodge and trick so well that I can easily drive anyone crazy. If I have profit, I will wrap around my fingers any devil or Satan himself.»

«And I am so strong that I fear nobody. If need be, I will beat anybody and take away what I like,» the middle brother boasted. «Nobody will contest my power!»

And they hurried to the cave. The younger brother could not leave them and dragged behind.

When the travelers entered the cave, they saw a big flat rock. It was lying in the middle of the cave. It was half black and half white. On this unusual rock there were huge scales. One scale was light, bright and shining. It hurt to look at it — so blinding it was. The second scale was dark, and it emanated terrible cold. It was so powerful that fear reached your bones.

«Who will fulfill our wishes?» the elder brother shouted menacingly.

He liked to command and order everybody about. He was a rich owner and a noble merchant and did not want to rely upon somebody’s mercy. He was used to taking everything he needed using strength, money, slyness, or tricks.

As soon as he said that a huge rock closed the entrance to the cave. The walls and the vaulting started shaking, and the travelers found themselves in a trap. A column of fire water appeared above the black and white rock lying in the middle of the cave. It was not clear whether it was flowing fire or burning water. Then the Wish Fulfillment Spirit appeared out of this unusual column. It was strange, huge, and black and white, like the rock.

The Spirit rolled in a thunderous voice:

«Welcome, strangers! The one who comes to me always has his wish fulfilled. I can do anything you want. But just one wish each and with a condition.»

«What condition?» the middle brother asked, fearlessly stepping forward.

He wanted to show his bravery and courage to his brothers very much. Moreover, he was a bully and liked all kinds of brawls and skirmishes.

«The condition is simple,» the Spirit roared. «Each of you will get what you deserve. All years and affairs in your life will lie on these scales. The time you lived perfectly, and your good deeds will fall on the light scale. And all the years lived in vain and unworthily and your bad deeds will be gathered on the black scale. If most of your life was good and kind and the light scale is heavier, your wish will be fulfilled to this extent. And if the lesser part of your life was good and kind and the black scale is heavier, you will lose even what you have. If you have more bad things than good things in your life and affairs, you may lose everything».

The elder and middle brothers agreed at once without much thinking. Each person considers himself to be good and kind. Everybody thinks highly of himself and is ready to blame others for bad deeds, but not himself. A person is more likely to justify himself than to admit his guilt.

The brothers decided that they have nothing to fear. They thought they had done many perfect things in their life. And even if they did something not quite good, there was not much of it. Their good deeds will cover over and above all the mistakes, minor faults, and bad deeds.

The elder brother was the first to approach the scales. Like most people, he was convinced of other people’s depravity and his innocence. He did not think much; he said that he wanted to have an enormous wealth. I wish to be richer than overseas merchants with whom I met and traded some time ago. He started to describe how much gold and semiprecious stones he wanted and what house he wished to have. He said in detail how many doors, windows, and rooms he would like it to have. He also remembered to describe the shops and goods he wanted to have. He wanted very much to be richer than all the merchants he knew. In a nutshell, he took explaining his wish seriously. It was quite understandable: he was a merchant, so he was used to counting and recounting everything. He counted every coin, every trifle.

The middle brother was not very modest, either. Confidence in his rightness and impunity replaced his conscience and shame a long time ago. He stepped forward and wished to be the strongest man on earth, so that nobody could ever beat him, and so that the story of his great strength would be spread all over the world. He said what swords, spears, armor and boots he needed for that.

Then he said how many kilos he wanted to lift with each arm and how accurately he wanted to shoot. And in the end, he ordered his favorite wine which sustained his power in revelries.

The younger brother smiled and said that he did not need anything. He had no great wishes, and as for those he has, he will fulfill them himself. And he started to persuade his brothers to leave the cave as soon as possible. He did not like it here; his heart felt that something was wrong.

This elder brother’s life was the first to fall on the scales. Wonderful balloons started to fly down from the sky. Each balloon contained a story from his life. The white balloons which fell on the light scale contained a good story from life, some good deed, or a well-meant initiative. And the dark balloons that fell on the black scale displayed bad deeds and evil thoughts of the elder brother.

He had few kind and good deeds in his life. Several times he donated some money to the temple. But during the next three years he mentioned how much he was donating to church. He wanted to convince everybody that it is only thanks to him that there is holiness and faith in their town. He gave a few coins to the poor, but he boasted everybody long after that and claimed to have spent a whole fortune on the poor and the needy.

As for evil deeds, he had ten times more of them. He cheated people while selling, replaced good products with bad ones. He dismissed a servant who had five children, and she nearly avoided starvation to death. He scolded his workers for no reason or fault. He told lies and cheated every day. In the end, the scales lopsided to the side of sins and evil ten times more than to the side of good.

And the brothers saw through the walls, in a magic mist, that their caravan and all the goods disappeared. They looked on the other side and were terrified: the elder brother’s house and the shop with all his possessions were burning in the town where they lived. In an instant, all his wealth disappeared. And even his clothes turned into rags. He was standing in the middle of the cave in wretched rags, poor and penniless. The elder brother burst into tears, started to yell, and tremble. He sniveled and fell to the ground, helpless and paralyzed.

The middle brother came to the scales and started to enumerate his good deeds. Brave and impudent though he was, he became more tense and serious when he saw what happened to his elder brother. But there was no backing space. And he really wanted to become the strongest person in the world.

It was difficult for him to remember good deeds. He remembered that once he defended an old lady from a drunkard. He helped a girl to carry a heavy pitcher to the house. He liked the young beauty and wanted to get acquainted with her, so he helped her. He hardly remembered a couple of other good deeds, and he could recollect no more. But he had four times as many evil deeds. He fought, stirred up trouble wishing to make a parade of his strength, and offended people who were weaker than him. And he spoiled so many other people’s things when he was drunk that it would take long to enumerate them. Dark balloons were falling and falling from the sky. In the end, the scale with bad deeds became much heavier than the light scale.

The middle brother instantly turned into an infirm old man. A bonny and strong young man became feeble, humped, and miserable. His legs failed and grew weak. He sat down on the ground, put his head into his hands and burst into bitter tears.

The Wish Fulfillment Spirit looked at the younger brother and said:

«Everybody who comes here must have a wish. You cannot leave without making a wish. Because even leaving this place is a wish. Think well and say — what do you want? But don’t make a mistake. And I will weigh your life while you are thinking.»

The good and evil deeds of the younger brother started to fall down on the scales. But a surprise was awaiting them there. When all his deeds were put on the scales, they were of equal weight, and the scales stopped in balance.

«So, what is your wish?» The Spirit smiled thoughtfully.

«I told you the truth — I have no wishes. We came here and not only gained nothing, but also lost everything. And I’ve lost more than others. I’ve lost my brothers. Return my brothers and restore everything as it was before. Let them become as they were before. And I personally don’t need anything from you! This is my only wish.»

And as soon as the younger brother said these words, one more balloon fell down to the scale of good deeds. It became heavier than the black scale. His brothers were restored to their previous condition. The elder brother became a rich merchant and a respected man. And the middle brother became younger, and his strength and power returned to him.

The younger brother was surprised and asked the Wish Fulfillment Spirit:

«Why did it happen so? The scales showed an equal amount of good and evil in my life.»

The Spirit replied:

«As soon as you made your wish and it was not for you personally, but for your nearest and dearest, you made one more good thing. You refused your personal benefit for other people’s sake. And the scales moved to the side of the good. Now you can go in peace. But remember what happened in the cave. And don’t forget about these scales of life. You will encounter them once again at the end of your life.»

The stone wall of the cave opened and let the travelers out.

Since that time the three brothers never forgot that time would come, and they would have to answer for all their deeds on the earth. You cannot cheat the scales of life. So, you should hurry to do good things in order to somehow make up for the bad things we all do in the course of our life.

White Dove

It happened a long time ago. An old man lived somewhere, and he had three daughters. When his time came, he died. He left to his daughters as their dowry three things — a house, a pavilion, and an old dove house with a white dove.

The elder daughters quickly took charge of the dowry. The eldest daughter got the house. She took fancy to the beautiful building and said she would never move from there. The second daughter got to the pavilion and declared she was quite satisfied with this dwelling. As for the youngest daughter, the two elders decided to give her the ruined dove house and the white dove. Moreover, they said this pile of junk spoils their beautiful yard, so the youngest daughter should take her kennel with her and live somewhere else. Thus, they planned to get rid of the small old, ruined dove house as well as of their own sister. Sometimes it happens in life that the closest relatives become the bitterest enemies when it comes to sharing something.

The youngest daughter had nobody to seek help from. When the father was alive, he protected her from reproaches and mockery of the sisters. But he died and she was left all alone in the world.

«This ugly dove house will scare all the wooers off our houses!» the eldest sister considered.

She was already in her middle years and was very worried she could stay an old maid. As she became the mistress of a large house, she hoped to marry quickly. If not by love, then by dowry.

«Also, this old barn brings only problems. Down and droppings are everywhere in the yard!» the second sister agreed.

She «loved’ her elder sister so much she wished her secretly not only to never marry but also to get old, dry up and die as soon as possible. Then she thought to take over the house and to become the only mistress of the whole father’s legacy. That is why she didn’t need the youngest sister who was nothing but impediment to her wicked plans. She only wanted to chase the youngest one as soon and as far as possible.

Thus, the youngest sister has nothing left to do but to take the white dove from the dove house, put her in a cage and walk-up hill and down dale.

The elder sisters happy to get rid of the nuisance instantly chopped the old dove house to splinters and laughed over the youngest sister’s fate. They were glad to witness other people’s hardships more than to be happy for themselves.

The youngest daughter, the poor orphan, said goodbye to her father’s grave and took a long road to the rising sun. After a while she came to a large palace near the Silver Wood. An old noble lady lived there. She was very rich, strict, and evil. Moreover, she was capricious and arrogant. When she combed her hair, she thought she became wiser. She lived alone because she was not only a rich mistress but also a wicked witch. She didn’t want people to know she was a witch. In fact, she didn’t like people at all. She could put a jinx on somebody, hoodoo or even bedevil people. That is why she built the most impenetrable wall between her and people — the wall of lies, evil and stupidity.

The girl asked her to allow her to stay overnight. The lady let her in but first of all ordered her to clean the house, to cook some food and to sweep up the yard. She was very lazy and unkept. When she started to clean the house, it got even more chaotic after that.

The youngest sister was very hard-working and behaved well. During her life in the father’s house, she learned a lot of things: wash, cook and keep the house clean. She knew how to do everything quickly and well. The elder sisters didn’t like to work. They were more worried about the wooers, so they spent their days looking out of the windows afraid to miss their happiness. All the housework was the youngest sister’s responsibility, that’s why the orphan was used to the hard work.

The girl did everything she was told quickly and well. She swept up the yard with the broom, cooked a lot of food and even repaired the porch of the house.

The lady saw it all and said:

«You are a smart and hard-working girl. I think I’ll let you to live with me. You will be my housemaid. You will take care of me and entertain me. And if you do something wrong, I will lock you in the closet. It is so dark in there, and there are lots of huge hungry rats. If they don’t eat you overnight, they’ll bite you all over for sure. And if you decide to run, I will find you anyway because I’m a witch and I know lots of things. So, abide. You will work for me all your life! If you abide to my kindness and favor, you will live. Otherwise, I’ll simply rot you!»

The youngest sister burst into ears but nothing doing, she had to stay. She had nowhere to go. She had no one to help or support her. Her own sisters chased her from her father’s house, and her father died. That’s why she had nothing to do but abide and stay with the lady-witch.

Thus, the girl started to work over the palace night and day. She had to please her wicked mistress and follow all her whims. For example, the lady invented special tasks for the girl. The orphan did everything quick and well. The witch saw the girl did everything, sneaked up and spoiled everything. And after that she scolded the poor housemaid threatening her with the closet full of rats.

One day the wicked witch hurt the poor girl so much with her criticism, shouts, and abuse that the little housemaid returned to her small cell and burst into tears.

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