The Witch and the Sun’s Sister

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Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived a tsar with a tsaritsa. They had a son called Ivan Tsarevitch who was dumb from birth. Ivan Tsarevitch liked to visit the palace stables where he would listen to story tales told by the stable boy. But one day at the age of twelve, the stable boy had something different to tell him.

“Ivan Tsarevitch!” said the stable boy. “Your mother will soon have a daughter and you will gain a sister. She will be an ugly witch who will eat up your parents with all your servants in the palace. So, go now and ask your father for his best horse for horseback riding and get away from here as fast and as far away as your eyes may lead you.”

Ivan Tsarevitch ran up to his father and spoke to him for the first time ever. The surprised tsar was so overjoyed that he didn’t even ask what he might need a good horse for? He ordered his staff to saddle the best horse out of his stables for his son. Ivan Tsarevitch rode the horse and galloped over the hills and far away.

After some time riding, he met two old seamstresses and asked,

“Give me shelter, please.”

The old women answered,

“We would gladly give you shelter, Ivan Tsarevitch, but we have little time left. Here we are, breaking a bunch of needles and sewing out a bunch of threads and we’ll be dead right after that!”

Ivan Tsarevitch wept as he moved on. After some time riding, he rode to Vertodúb* and asked,

“Give me shelter, please!”

“I would be glad to give you shelter, Ivan Tsarevitch, but I have little time left. As soon as I pull out all these oaks with roots, my death will come!”

Ivan Tsarevitch cried more than ever as he kept going. He rode to Vertogór*,

“Please, give me shelter!”

Vertogór replied,

“I would be glad to give you shelter, Ivan Tsarevitch, but I have got little time left. You see, I am here to move mountains, and as soon as I finish with the last one, death will come to me!”

Ivan Tsarevitch burst into tears and moved on further away.

After some time riding, he finally arrived at the Sun’s sister’s terem**. She took him in, wined and dined him and looked after him as if he was her own son. It was a good place to live for Ivan Tsarevitch, but sometimes he felt low as he wanted to know what was going on at his home. So, he climbed up a high mountain, and beyond he saw his family’s palace.

Everyone and everything had been devoured, and only the walls remained! He took a deep breath and began to cry, and when he returned, on seeing the boy cry, the Sun’s sister asked,

“Why are you so sad, Ivan?”

He answered,

“The wind blew into my eyes.” Day after day, Ivan Tsarevitch continued to cry and the Sun’s sister asked him again, “Why are you so sad, Ivan? Crying, and yet again Ivan Tsarevitch said, “The wind blew into my eyes.” So, the Sun’s sister forbade the wind to blow any more.

Ivan Tsarevitch continued to cry and for the third time, the Sun’s sister asked him, “Why do you cry so much?” There was nothing to be done about it but to tell her everything. He pleaded with the Sun’s sister to let him get back home. She wouldn’t let him go, but he kept pleading. Finally, he succeeded; she let him go to drop in on his homeland, giving him a brush, a comb and a couple of Apples of Youth: “No matter how old a man is, if he has the apple, he will grow young again in a heartbeat!”

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