The Worlds Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906. Vol. XIV: RussianScandinavianMiscellaneous
Traditional Russian Fairy Tale
From Chodskos Anthology
ON the banks of a certain river, where there was always good fishing, lived an old man and his three sons. The two eldest were sharp-witted, active young men, already married; the youngest was stupid and idle, and a bachelor. When the father was dying, he called his children to him and told them how he had left his property. The house was for his two married sons, with a sum of three hundred rubles each. After his death he was buried with great pomp, and after the funeral there was a splendid feast. All these honors were supposed to be for the benefit of the mans soul.
When the elder brothers took possession of their inheritance they said to the youngest, Listen, brother; let us take charge of your share of the money, for we intend going out into the world as merchants, and when we have made a great deal of money we will buy you a hat, a sash, and a pair of red boots. You will be better off at home; and mind you do as your sisters-in-law tell you.
The brothers set out on their travels, and crossed the sea in search of fortune. The fool of the family remained at home; and as he was an out-and-out sluggard, he would lie whole days at a time on the warm stove without doing a stroke of work, and only obeying his sisters-in-law with the greatest reluctance. He liked fried onions, potato soup, and cider, better than anything else in the world.
Stupid boy, go at once! We will have some onions, potato soup, and cider ready for you when you come back. If you refuse to do what we ask you we shall tell our husbands, and then there will be neither cap, sash, nor red boots for you.
At these words the sluggard thought he had better go. So he rolled off the stove, took a hatchet and a couple of pails, and went down to the river. On the surface of the water, where the ice had been broken, was a large pike. The sluggard seized him by the fins and pulled him out.
The pails, and the strong rod to which they were fastened, immediately set off and walked solemnly along, the sluggard following them with his hands in his pockets. When they reached the house he put them in their places, and again stretched himself out to enjoy the warmth of the stove. Presently the sisters-in-law said, Come and chop some wood for us.
It is not fit work for women. Besides, if you dont do it the stove will be cold, and then you will be the chief sufferer. Moreover, pay attention to what we say, for if you do not obey us, there will be no red boots, nor any other pretty things.
Instantly the hatchet came out from behind a stool and chopped up a large heap of wood, put a part of it on the stove, and retired to its corner. All this time the sluggard was eating and drinking at his ease.
Another day some wood had to be brought from the forest. Our sluggard now thought he would like to show off before the villagers, so he pulled a sledge out of the shed, loaded it with onions and soup, after which he pronounced the magic words.
When the forest was reached, our friend looked on while the blocks of wood and fagots cut, tied, and laid themselves on the sledge, after which they set off home again. But when they got to the middle of the village, the men who had been hurt and frightened in the morning seized hold of the sluggard and pulled him off the sledge, dragging him along by the hair to give him a sound thrashing.
A large broom, and not particularly clean, immediately hopped up, and, first dipping itself in a pail of water, beat the soldier so mercilessly that he was obliged to escape through the window, whence he returned to the king. His Majesty, amazed at the sluggards refusal, sent another messenger. This man was cleverer than his comrade, and first made inquiries as to the sluggards tastes. Then he went up to him and said, Good day, friend; will you come with me to see the king? He wishes to present you with a cap, a sash, and a pair of red boots.
Then he ate as much as he could of his favorite dishes, and went to sleep on the stove. He slept so long that at last his sisters-in-law woke him up and told him he would be late if he did not at once go to see the king. The lazy fellow said nothing but these words:
At the very same instant the stove moved from its place and carried him right up to the palace door. The king was filled with amazement, and, running out, followed by the whole court, asked the sluggard what he would like to have.
Meanwhile the princess had fallen in love with him, and begged her father to send for him again. As the sluggard would not consent, the king had him bound when asleep, and thus brought to the palace. Then he summoned a celebrated magician, who at his orders shut the princess and sluggard up in a crystal cask, to which was fastened a balloon well filled with gas, and sent it up in the air among the clouds. The princess wept bitterly, but the fool sat still and said he felt very comfortable. At last she persuaded him to exert his powers, so he said:
The crystal cask immediately descended, and opened upon a hospitable island where travelers could have all they wanted by simply wishing for it. The princess and her companion walked about, eating when hungry and drinking when thirsty. The sluggard was very happy and contented, but the lady begged him to wish for a palace. Instantly the palace made its appearance. It was built of white marble, with crystal windows, roof of yellow amber, and golden furniture. She was delighted with it. Next day she wanted a good road made, along which she could go to see her father. Immediately there stretched before them a fairy-like bridge made of crystal, having golden balustrades set with diamonds, and leading right up to the kings palace. The sluggard was just about to accompany the princess when he began to think of his own appearance, and to feel ashamed that such an awkward, stupid fellow as he should walk by the side of such a lovely and graceful creature; so he said:
At my behest, and by the orders of the pike,
To be both handsome, wise, and clever I should like.