Russian Folk Tale: Go there I know not where, bring back what I know not
A king, who was single, not married, ruled a certain kingdom. In his employment was a ranger named Andrew. Once upon a time, Andrew the ranger went off to hunt. He walked and he walked around all day throughout the woods - no luck: he could not find game to hunt. The time turned to evening; he had to go back - thoroughly miserable. He sees - a dove sitting in a tree.
`Might as well,' he thinks, "shoot it at least'.
He shot and winged it - the dove fell off the tree onto the moist ground. Andrew lifted it, wanted to break its neck, put it into his game-bag.
And the dove spoke to him in a human voice:
"Don't kill me, Andrew the ranger, don't cut-off my head, take me live, bring me home, and put on a windowsill. And keep an eye on me, as soon as I grow sleepy - strike me with your right hand at full strength: you'll gain great happiness."
Andrew the ranger grew bewildered: what gives? It looks just like a bird, yet speaks in a human tongue. He brought the dove home, put it on a windowsill, and himself began to wait.
Some time passed, the dove snuck its' head under wing and fell asleep. Andrew remembered the dove's instructions and slapped it with his right hand at full strength. The dove fell to the ground and turned into a woman, Mary the princess, and so beautiful, that you can neither believe it nor imagine it, only describe in a tale.
Mary the princess spoke to the ranger:
"You were able to take me, so be able to hold me - with a wedding feast and a wedding. I'll be an honest and merry wife to you."
It was settled immediately. Andrew the ranger married Mary the princess and he lived with his young wife - very happily. Moreover, he did not forget his job: every morning before sunrise, he goes to the woods, shoots wild game and brings to the royal kitchens.
They lived like this for a while, and then Mary the princess said:
"You live poorly, Andrew!"
"Well, you can see it yourself."
"Get for yourself a hundred rubles, buy various silk threads with this cash, I'll fix these affairs."
Andrew listened to his wife, went to his comrades, loaned from all a ruble or two, bought various silk threads and brought them to his wife. Mary the princess took the silk and said:
"Now go to sleep, an hour in the morning worth two in the evening."
Andrew went to rest while Mary the princess went to weave. She wove all night and wove a carpet the likes of which have been unseen in the entire world: on it was woven the whole kingdom, with cities and villages, with forests and fields, and birds in the sky, and beasts in the mountains, and fishes in the seas; around it were the moon and the sun in the sky.
In the morning, Mary the princess gave the carpet to her husband:
"Take it to the merchant rows, sell it to the merchants, and take heed - do not give your own price, but whatever they'll give it, you must take."
Andrew took the carpet, draped it over an arm and went through the merchant rows.
One of the merchants approached him:
"Tell me, honorable sir, what is your price?"
"You're the man of trades, you tell me."
So the merchant began to think - and could not estimate the carpet's price. Another joined in, after him - even more. A great crowd of merchants gathered, all looked at the carpet in wonderment, and yet could not estimate the carpet's price.
At that time, a royal councilor was riding past the row and he decided to learn of what the merchants were gossiping. He exited his coach, barely passed through the great crowd and asked:
"Greetings, merchants, men of abroad! What are you talking about?"
"Of so and so, we cannot estimate a carpet's price."
The royal councilor looked at the carpet and grew bewildered himself:
"Tell me, ranger, tell me the sacred truth: where did you get such a fine carpet?"
"By so and so, my wife wove it."
"So how much do you want for it?"
"Why, I do not know myself. My wife forbade me to barter: whatever I'll receive will be fair."
"Well then, ranger, here's ten thousand."
Andrew took the money, gave away the carpet and went home. And the royal councilor rode on to the king and showed him the carpet.
The king looked - the carpet showed him his own kingdom and could be held by a single hand. He promptly gasped:
"Well, do as you like, but I won't give you back this carpet!"
The king took twenty thousand rubles and gave him to the councilor himself. The councilor pocketed the money and thought: `No matter, I know where I can get one that's even better'.
He sat in his coach and rode to the living quarters. He found the hut where Andrew the ranger lived and knocked on the door. Mary the princess opened it. The royal councilor put one leg over the threshold, but not the other, fell silent and forgot his business: such a beauty stood before him, he could stare an age at her, just go on and on.
Mary the princess waited, waited, and turned the royal councilor around by his shoulders and closed the door. The man barely recovered, and went home unwillingly. Moreover, from that time, he could not eat his fill nor drink it: the ranger's wife just stood in his mind's eye.
The king noticed it and began to enquire, what sort of trouble befell him?
The councilor told the king:
"Ach, I saw a wife of a certain ranger, can't stop thinking about her! And I can't drink it away, nor eat it, nor cure with a potion."
The king grew interested in seeing the ranger's wife for himself. He dressed in plain clothing, rode to the living quarters, found the hut where Andrew the ranger lived and knocked on the door. Mary the princess opened it. The king put one leg over the threshold, but not the other, fell utterly silent: beauty beyond description stood before him.
Mary the princess waited, waited for an answer, turned the king around by his shoulders and closed the door.
The king grew ill with heart-sickness. `What for,' he thought, `I am single, unmarried? Why can't I be married to such beauty instead! She cannot be a ranger's wife; her destiny must be that of a queen'.
The king got back to the palace and thought an ill thought - take away a wife from her living husband. He summoned his councilor and spoke:
"Think of a way to get rid of Andrew the ranger. I want to marry his wife. If you'll do it - I'll award you with cities and villages and golden treasure, if you don't - I'll decapitate you."
The royal councilor grew heavy-hearted, he departed and felt miserable. How to get rid of the ranger just would not come into his head. And from that misery, he went into a pub to drink some wine.
One of the drunkards in ripped clothing ran up to him:
"Of what, you royal councilor, are thinking, what for are you miserable?"
"Go away, you drunkard!"
"Don't you chase me away, better give me a drink, I'll give you an idea."
Therefore, the royal councilor gave him a glass of wine and spoke to him of his woe.
And the drunkard spoke back to him:
"To get rid of Andrew the ranger is no big thing - he is a simpleton by himself, but he got a very cunning wife. Well, we will give her such a riddle that she will not manage. Go back to the king and say: let him sent Andrew the ranger into the afterlife to learn how fares the late father of the king. Andrew will leave and never return."
The royal councilor thanked the drunkard - and ran back to the king:
"By so and so - we can get rid of the ranger."
And explained where the ranger should be sent and what for.
The king rejoiced, and ordered for Andrew the ranger to come hence.
"Well, Andrew, you served me fair and square, serve me one more service: go to the afterlife, learn how my father fares. Otherwise my sword - will off your head..."
Andrew got home, sat down and drooped.
Mary the princess asked him:
"Why aren't you happy? Or do you have a problem?"
Andrew told her what kind of an assignment the king gave him.
Mary the princess spoke:
"That's nothing to worry about! That is no great service but a small one, the challenge is yet to come! Go to bed, an hour in the morning worth two in the evening."
Early in the morning, as soon as Andrew awoke, Mary the princess gave him a sack of bread and a gold ring.
"Go back to the king and ask for the royal councilor for cohorts, because otherwise, you will say, you won't be believed that you've been in the afterlife. And as soon as you and your cohort will start your journey, throw before you the ring, it'll lead you there."
Andrew took the sack of bread and the ring, said farewell to his wife and went to the king ask for a cohort for the journey. There was nothing to do, the king agreed, order the councilor to join Andrew for the afterlife.
Therefore, together they went on the journey. Andrew threw the ring - and it rolled. Andrew went through the clear fields, mossy bogs, rivers and lakes, and after him went the royal councilor.
They would grow weary, eat some bread - and journey anew.
Whether soon or late, near from the kingdom or far, they came into a deep dark forest, descended into a deep ravine, and there the ring stopped.
Andrew and the councilor sat down to eat some bread. But behold, past them, the old king drove two devils and a load of wood - a big load - and was encouraged by clubs, one from the right side, another - from the left.
"Take a look: can this be our late old king?"
"You speak truly; it is him driving the logs."
Therefore, Andrew shouted to the devils:
"Lo, master devils! Release this deceased onto my keep at least for a little while, I must ask him a question or two."
The devils respond:
"We don't have time to dawdle! Do you expect us to drive this load ourselves?"
"Why, you take this fresh man from me for a change."
Therefore, the devils unhitched the old king, hitched the royal councilor in his place, and began to encourage him from both sides with clubs - and so he groaned, but moved.
Andrew began to ask the old king about the afterlife.
"Ach, Andrew the ranger," the king responded, "I fare poorly in the afterlife! Bow on my behalf before my son and say that I ask him most strongly not to abuse the subjects, for otherwise he will fair the same as I."
They only had time for this exchange as the devils returned for a new load. Andrew said farewell to the old king, took the royal councilor back from the devils, and they went home.
They returned to their kingdom, came to the palace.
The king saw the ranger and angrily went to him:
"How dare you come back?"
Andrew the ranger replied:
"By so and so, I went to the afterlife to see your late father. He fares poorly, told me to bow to you and asked most strongly not to abuse your subjects."
"And how shall you prove it, that you've been to the afterlife and saw my late father?"
"And I shall prove it by your councilor, whose back still has the signs how the devils sped him by clubs."
Here the king grew convinced, and had to let Andrew go home. And spoke to the councilor thus:
"Figure out how to get rid of the ranger, or else, my sword - will off your head."
The royal councilor left, feeling even more miserable than before. He went into a pub, sat at a table, asked for wine. A drunk approached him:
"Why, royal councilor, are you so upset? Give me a drink; I'll give you an idea."
The councilor gave him a drink of wine and told him his woes. The drunk told him:
"Go back and tell the king that he should give the ranger this assignment - it is hard to imagine, let alone carry out: may the ranger go through three times nine lands, into the thirtieth kingdom and got there the magical cat..."
The royal councilor ran to the king and told him, what assignment the ranger should receive to prevent him from returning. The king sent for Andrew.
"Well, Andrew, you did me a service, now do me another: go to the thirtieth kingdom and get me the magical cat that lives there. Otherwise my sword - will off your head."
Andrew went home, his head dropping below the shoulders and told his wife what sort of an assignment the king gave him.
"There's nothing to worry about!" Mary the princess said. "That is no great service but a small one, the challenge is yet to come. Go to bed, an hour in the morning worth two in the evening."
Andrew went to bed, while Mary the princess went to the smithy and ordered the blacksmiths to make three iron caps, iron pincers and three rods: one of iron, another of copper, the third of lead.
Early in the morning, Mary the princess woke Andrew:
"Here, take these three caps, pincers and three rods, go through three times nine lands into the thirtieth kingdom. When you get within three miles of your goal, you will want to go to sleep most strongly - that will be the doing of the magic cat. Do not go to sleep, crawl with your hands, stumble with your feet, and even roll on the ground. But if you go to sleep, you shall never awake again."
And here Mary the princess taught him what and how to act, and sent him off.
The tale is told quickly, the deed done not so - Andrew the ranger came into the thirtieth kingdom. Three miles away from his goal, he began to want to fall asleep most strongly. Andrew put on his head the three iron caps, crawled with his arms, crawled by his feet - and so he walked or just rolled on the ground.
He barely managed to stay awake and found himself at a foot of a tall pillar.
The magic cat saw Andrew, hissed, snarled, and jumped from the pillar onto his head - it broke one cap and then another, and then went for the third. Here Andrew the ranger grabbed the cat with pincers, cast it to the ground and began to beat it with the rods. At first, he used the iron rod, broke it - began to use the copper one and broke it as well, and began to use the leaden rod.
The leaden rod bent, not broke, wrapped around the cat's back. Andrew struck, while the cat began to tell tall tales about priests, deacons, priests' daughters. Andrew did not listen, and continued to use the rod.
The cat could not take it anymore, it saw that it could not speak its' way out of this situation, it began to plead:
"Leave me alone, my good fellow! Whatever you want, I'll do it."
"Will you go with me?"
"I'll go wherever you want."
Andrew journeyed home and took the magical cat with him. He came to his kingdom, went to the palace with the cat, and told the king:
"By so and so, I fulfilled my assignment, brought you the magical cat."
The king grew surprised and spoke:
"Well now, magical cat, show me what you got."
Here the cat showed its claws, pointed them at the king's direction, wanted to tear his breast, take the heart still live from the chest.
The king grew afraid:
"Andrew the ranger, please, calm down the magical cat!"
Andrew calmed down the cat and locked it in a cage, and himself went home, to Mary the princess. Therefore, he lived, and was happy with his young wife. Moreover, king's condition grew even worse from heart-sickness. He called the councilor once again:
"Do whatever you like, but get rid of Andrew the ranger, or else my sword - will off your head."
The royal councilor went straight to the pub, found the drunk in ripped clothing and asked him to help, give him an idea. The drunk drank his wife and wiped his whiskers:
"Go," he said, "to the king and say: let him send Andrew the ranger there, I know not where, let him bring what I know not. This assignment Andrew will not fulfill in all eternity and won't be back."
The councilor ran to the king and told him everything. The king sent for Andrew.
"You fulfilled two assignments, now do the third: go there, I know not where, bring back what I know not. If you'll fulfill it - I'll reward you royally, or else my sword - will off your head."
Andrew went home, sat down on a bench and went. Mary the princess asked him:
"Why, my dear, are you so upset? Or else there's some other problem?"
"Ach," Andrew said, "I am suffering for the sake of your beauty! The king ordered me to go there I know not where, bring back what I know not."
"Now this is a challenge indeed! But fear naught, go to bed, an hour in the morning worth two in the evening."
Mary the princess waited for the night, opened a grimoire, read it, read and grew desperate: nothing spoke about the royal riddle in the volume of magic. Mary the princess went to the porch took out a handkerchief and waved it. All sorts of birds flew up, all sorts of beasts ran up.
Mary the princess asked them:
"Beasts of the forest, birds of the skies, you beasts go everywhere, you birds fly everywhere - did any of you hear who one can go there I know not where, bring back what I know not?"
The beasts and the birds replied:
"No, Mary the princess, we didn't hear about that."
Mary the princess waved the handkerchief - the beasts and the birds vanished without a trace. She waved them again - two giants appeared before her.
"What do you want? What do you need?"
"My loyal servants take me to the middle of Ocean the sea."
The giants grasped Mary the princess, took her to the Ocean the sea and stood in its middle, in the very depths - they stood as still as pillars, holding her in their hands. Mary the princess waved the handkerchief, and all sorts of fishes and monsters of the sea swam up to her.
"You monsters and fishes of the sea, you swim everywhere, saw every island: did you perchance hear, how get there, I know not where, bring back what I know not?"
"No, Mary the princess, we didn't hear about that."
Mary the princess grew upset and ordered to bring her home. The giants took her, brought her to Andrew's yard, put down on the porch.
Early in the morning, Mary the princess prepared Andrew for the road and gave him a roll of threads and a decorated towel.
"Throw the threads before you - wherever it will roll, you shall go. And take heed, wherever you may come to, if you must take a bath, don't use another towel, but use mine."
Andrew said farewell to Mary the princess, bowed to all four corners of the earth and left the kingdom. He threw the threads before him, and they rolled - on and on, and Andrew followed them.
The tale is told quickly, the deed done not so. Many kingdoms and countries did Andrew leave behind him. The threads rolled, the roll unraveled: the roll grew small as a chicken's head; it grew even smaller, unseen from the ground... Andrew came to a forest, and saw - a hut was standing on chicken legs.
"Hut, ye hut, turn your front to me, your back to the woods!"
The hut turned. Andrew entered and saw - on a bench lay on old woman and wove.
"Cough, cough, the Russian folk were unheard-of, unseen-of, and now a Russian came off his own volition. I'll roast you in a furnace and eat you, and roll around on your bones."
Andrew replied to the old woman:
"Why should you, you old witch, eat a wandering man! A wandering man is bony and dirty; you beforehand warm a batch, wash me, steam me, and then eat me."
The old witch prepared a bath. Andrew washed himself, steamed himself, took out the wife's towel and began to wipe himself off.
The witch asked:
"From where did you get the towel? I can see my daughter's work."
"Your daughter is my wife; she gave me this towel of your own volition."
"Aye, my beloved son-in-law, and how shall I treat you?"
Here the witch made the supper produced various foods, wines and meads. Andrew did not shy around - sat down to the table and began to eat. The witch sat down next to him - Andrew ate and she questioned: how did he marry Mary the princess, and how do they live, well or not? Andrew told everything: how he got married and how the king sent him there, he knew not where, to get what he knew not.
"If only you could help me, old mother!"
"Aye, son-in-law this is a sort of a miracle not even I know about. Only one old frog that lived in a swamp for three hundred years knows about it... But fear not, go to bed, an hour in the morning worth two in the evening."
Andrew went to bed, and the old witch took two broomsticks, flew to the swamp and began to call out:
"Grandmother hop-frog, are you still alive?"
"That I am."
"Then get out of the swamp."
The old frog got out of the swamp, the old witch asked her:
"Do you know how to go to there, I know not where?"
"That I do."
"Then show the way - be so kind. My son-in-law got himself this assignment: go there I know not where, bring back what I know not."
The frog replied:
"I would've done it, but I'm too old, I won't make it. If your son-in-law will carry me in steamed milk down to the river of fire, then I'll show him."
The old witch took the hop-frog, flew back home, poured a jug full of milk, put the frog there and early in the morning awoke Andrew.
"Well, my dear son-in-law, get dressed, take this jug of steamed milk, in milk is a frog, and go ride my steed, it will bring you to a river of fire. There you will leave it, and take the frog from the jaw, it'll tell you everything."
Andrew got dressed, took the jug, sat on the witch's steed. In a long or short while, the steed brought him to a river of fire. Over it, neither a beast could jump over nor a bird fly over.
Andrew got off the horse, and the frog told him:
"Get me, my good fellow, out of the jug, now we must go over the river."
Andrew got the frog out of the jug and sat it on the ground.
"And now, my good fellow, sit on my back."
"Come now, old mother, you're so small, I'll squash you."
"Don't worry, you shall not squash me. Sit down and hold on."
Andrew sat down on the hop-frog. It began to expand. It expanded, expanded - grew to the size of a heap of hay.
"Are you holding on firmly?"
"Aye, firmly, old mother."
It expanded, expanded some more - became even bigger, the size of a stack of hay.
"Are you holding on firmly?"
"Aye, firmly, old mother."
Once more it expanded, expanded - became taller then the trees of the forest, and then it jumped - and jumped over the river of fire, brought Andrew to the opposite shore, and grew small again.
"Now go, my good fellow, by this path, you'll see a house that's not a house, a hut that's not a hut, a barn that's not a barn, go into there and hide behind the furnace. There you will find what you know not."
Andrew walked on the path and saw: an old hut that was not a hut, surrounded with a fence, without either windows or a porch. He entered it and hid behind a furnace.
Moreover, shortly afterwards there was a great noise from the forest and into the hut entered a small fellow with a great beard, who yelled:
"Hey, kinsman Naum, I want to eat!"
As soon as he had shouted out of nowhere appeared a table prepared for a feast, serving a barrel of bear and a roasted ox with a knife already sharpened. The small fellow with a great beard sat down next to the ox, pulled out a knife already sharpened, began to slice the meat, dip it into garlic sauce, eat and praise it.
He ate the ox down to the last bone, drank dry the whole barrel of bear.
"Hey, kinsman Naum, get rid of the leftovers!"
And suddenly the table was gone, as if it never existed - neither the bones nor the barrel... Andrew waited until the small fellow was gone, got from behind the furnace, gathered his courage and called out:
"Kinsman Naum, give me something to eat..."
As soon as he called out, out of nowhere appeared a table bearing various meals, appetizers and deserts, wines and meads.
Andrew sat down to the table and said:
"Kinsman Naum, sit down, kith, with me to this table, let's share this meal."
An unseen speaker replied to him:
"Thank you, good fellow! For so many years that I have served here, I didn't get a burnt crust, whereas you asked me to join you at this table."
Andrew watched and grew bewildered: no one was seen, while the meals were seemingly swept off with a broom from the table, the wines and meads poured themselves into the glass - and the glass just hopped, hopped and hopped.
"Kinsman Naum, make yourself visible!"
"No, no one can see me, for I am what I know not."
"Kinsman Naum, do you want to serve me?"
"Why shouldn't I? You, as I can see, are a good fellow."
Therefore, they finished eating. Andrew said then:
"Well, clean it all up and follow me."
Andrew left the hut, turned around:
"Kinsman Naum, are you here?"
"Here, don't you worry, I won't get left behind."
Andrew made it to the river of fire, where the frog awaited him:
"Good fellow, did you find what I know not?"
"That I did, old mother."
"Sit on me, then."
Andrew again sat down on it, the frog began to grow, it grew, jumped and brought him over the river of fire.
Here Andrew thanked the hop-frog and went on his way to his kingdom. He walked, walked and turned around:
"Kinsman Naum, are you here?"
"Here, don't you worry, I won't get left behind."
Andrew walked and walked, the road is long - his speedy feet grew weary, his white hands dropped down.
"Ach," spoke he, "how weary I got!"
And kinsman Naum replied:
"Why didn't you tell me from the start? I would've gotten you to the place post haste."
Andrew was picked up by a wild wind and off he went - mountains and forests, cities and villages just flashed below him. Andrew flew over the deep sea and he grew scared.
"Kinsman Naum, let's take a breather!"
Immediately the wind died down and Andrew began to descend to the sea. He beholds - were once blue waves crushed by themselves, an island appeared, on the island stood a palace with a golden roof surrounded by a great garden...
Kinsman Naum spoke to Andrew:
"Rest, eat, drink, but keep an eye on the sea. Three merchant ships shall swim past. You call out the merchants and give them a treat - they have three wondrous items. You exchange me for these items - do not fear, I'll come back to you."
Whether briefly or not so, from the western side three ships sailed past. The ship owners saw the island, on the island a palace with a golden roof surrounded by a great garden.
"What miracle is this?" they asked. "For as long as we swam here, nothing was here but the blue sea. Let's take a look!"
The three ships cast their anchors, the three ship-owning merchants sat in light boats, swam to the island. And Andrew the ranger met them there:
"Dear guests, welcome."
The ship-owning merchants walk in wonder: on the palace, the roof burns like from fire, on trees birds sing, on pathways beasts wander.
"Tell us, good fellow, who built here this wondrous wonder?"
"My servant, kinsman Naum, built it in a single night."
Andrew let the guests inside:
"Hey, kinsman Naum, give us food and drink!"
Out of nowhere a set table appeared, on it - wines and meals, whatever one would want. The ship-owning merchants' just ah'ed.
"Let us," they said, "make a trade, good fellow: give to us your servant, kinsman Naum, take from us any wondrous item."
"Why should not we trade? And what are your wondrous items?"
One merchant pulls out a club from out of his coat. The club needs only to be said: `Now then, club, break back of this man!' - The club will begin to wield itself; will break back of no matter what strongman.
Another merchant pulls out an axe, turned it blade down - the axe began to wield itself, one and two - a ship appeared, one and two - another ship. With sails, with cannons, with brave crews. The ships sail, the cannons fire, the brave crews ask for instructions.
The axe was turned around - at once, the ships vanished, as if they were never seen.
The third merchant pulled a flute from his pocket, began to play - appeared an army: the cavalry and the infantry with guns, with cannons. The forces went, the music played, the banners waved, the riders rode, asking for orders.
The merchant played the flute from another end - and there was nothing, all has gone.
Andrew the ranger spoke:
"Great are your wondrous items, but mine's better. If you want to trade - then give me, for my servant, kinsman Naum, all three of them."
"Won't that be too much?"
"As you want, I won't trade otherwise."
The merchants thought and thought: `What for we need the club, the axe and the flute? It is better to trade, with kinsman Naum without any care we'll be sated and drunk day and night'.
The ship-owning merchants gave Andrew the club, the axe and the flute and yelled:
"Hey, kinsman Naum, we're taking you with us! Will you serve us by faith and by truth?"
An unseen voice replied them:
"Why won't I serve? I care not for company."
Go there, I know not where; Find what I know not