BÁBA YAGÁ AND ZAMORÝSHEK
Once upon a time there lived an old man and his old wife, and they had no children, and what on earth did they not do to get them! How did not they beseech God! But for all that the wife bore no children. One day the old man went into the forest to look for mushrooms, and an old gaffer met him.
“I know your thoughts. You are thinking of children,” he said. “Go to the village and collect one little egg from every house and put a brood hen over them, and, what will ensue, you will yourself see.”
Now there were forty-one houses in the village. The old man went and collected the eggs and put a brood hen over them. Two weeks later he and his wife went to see, and they found that there were children born of the eggs, and they looked again and they found that forty of the children were fine, strong and healthy, and there was one who was a weakling.
So the old man gave them names. But he had no name left for the last, so he called him Zamorýshek[Benjamin]. And these children grew up not by days, but by hours, and they shot up fast and began to work and to help the mother and father. The forty of them used to go into the fields whilst Zamorýshek stayed at home. When the harvesting season came on the forty began making the hayricks, and in a single week all the ricks were put up. So they came back home to the village, lay down, slept, and ate of the fare God provided.
The old man looked at them and said, “Young and green, goes far, sleeps sound, and leaves the work undone!”
“You go and see, bátyushka [father],” said Zamorýshek.
So the old man went into the fields and saw forty ricks standing. “Ah, these are fine boys of mine! Look at all they have harvested in one week!” Next day he went out again to gloat on his possessions, and found one rick was a-missing. He came home and said, “One rick has vanished.”
“Never mind, bátyushka,” said Zamorýshek, “we will catch the thief: give me a hundred roubles, and I will do the deed.”
Then Zamorýshek went to the smith and asked for a chain big enough to cover a man from head to foot.
And the smith said, “Certainly.”
“Very well, then: if the chain hold, I will give you one hundred roubles; if it break, your labour’s lost.”
The smith forged the chain; Zamorýshek put it round him, stretched it, and it broke. So the smith made a second iron chain, Zamorýshek put it round his body, and it again broke. Then the smith made a third chain, three times as strong, and Zamorýshek could not break it.
Zamorýshek then went and sat under the hayrick and waited. At midnight a sudden storm rose and the sea raged, and a strange nag rose out of the sea, ran up to the rick and began to eat it. Zamorýshek bound the neck round with chains and mounted her. The mare began to gallop over the valleys and over the hills, and she reared, but she could not dislodge the rider; and at last she stopped and said in a human voice: “Now, good youth, now you can mount me, you may become master of my foals.” Then she ran under the sea and neighed, and the sea opened and up ran forty-one foals; and they were such fine foals, every single horse was better than every other horse. You might go round the entire earth and never see any horses as good.
Next morning the old man heard neighing outside his door, and wondered what the noise was, and there was his son Zamorýshek with the entire drove. “Good!” he said. “Now, my sons, ye had better go and hunt for brides.” So off they went. The mother and father blessed them, and the brothers set forth on their distant way and road.
They rode far in the white world in order to seek their brides. For they would not marry separately, and what mother could they find who should boast of having forty-one daughters?
And they went across thirteen countries, and they then saw a steep mountain which they ascended, and there there stood a white stone palace with high walls round and iron columns and gates where they counted forty-one columns. So they tied their knightly horses to each of the stakes, and they entered.
Then the Bába Yagá met them and said: “O ye unlooked-for, uninvited guests, how did you dare without leave to tie your horses to my stakes?”
“Come, old lady, what are you complaining of? First of all give us food and drink, take us into the bath, and thereafter ask us for our news, and question us.”
So the Bába Yagá served them with food and drink, conducted them to the bath, and then afterwards she asked them: “Have ye come to do deeds, doughty youths, or to flee from deeds?”
“We have come to do deeds, grandmother,” they said.
“What have ye come to seek?”
“We are seeking brides.”
Then she replied, “I have daughters.” And she burst into the lofty rooms and brought out her forty-one daughters.
They were then betrothed, and began to feast together and celebrate the marriage.
When the evening came Zamorýshek went to look at his horse, and the good horse saw him and spoke with a human voice. “See to this, my master: when you lie down with your young wives, dress them in your clothes, and put on your wives’ clothes, otherwise you will all be killed.”
Then they all went and lay down, and they all went to sleep, only Zamorýshek took care to keep his eyes open.
And at midnight Bába Yagá cried out in a loud voice: “Ho, ye my faithful servants! Will ye cut off the heads of my insolent and uninvited guests?” And so the servants ran and cut off the daughters’ heads.
Zamorýshek roused his brothers and told them what had happened. So they took the heads with them, put them on the forty-one stakes, armed themselves and galloped off.
In the morning the Bába Yagá got up, looked through her little window, and saw the heads on the stakes. She was very angry, and she called for her fiery shield, and leapt out on the chase, and set to waving her fiery shield in all directions to the four winds.
Whither should the youths betake themselves for concealment? In front of them there was the blue sea and behind them the Bába Yagá. And she burned everything in front of her with her fiery shield. They might have had to die, but Zamorýshek was an inventive youth, and had not forgotten to take Bába Yagá’s handkerchief, and he shook the handkerchief in front, and so built a bridge across all the width of the blue sea, and the doughty youths crossed the sea safely. Then Zamorýshek shook the handkerchief on the left-hand side and the bridge vanished. The Bába Yagá had to turn back, but the brothers went home safely.