This section is from the book "Myths And Folk-Tales Of The Russians, Western Slavs, And Magyars", by Jeremiah Curtin. Also available from Amazon: Myths and Folk-Tales of the Russians, Western Slavs, and the Magyars.
"Hurry not," said the horse; "for it would be better for thee not to go".
"Why?" asked Boyislav with wonder.
"Because thy father has uttered sentence of death against thee".
"I do not believe that," replied Boyislav, shaking his head; and the horse was silent.
Boyislav's heart beat with joy when he entered the gates of his native place, but his joy was short-lived. He had scarcely passed one street when people began to gather around him, till at last an officer of the king's army seized the bridle of his horse, and ordered the people who were standing around to seize his arms. All rushed like hungry birds of prey on the terrified Boyislav.
"What art thou doing!" cried he, when at length he recovered himself. "Do ye not know that I am your prince?"
"Prince or not," cried all, "we know thee well enough to know that to-morrow thou wilt dance in the air." They took the unfortunate Boyislav to the castle, where, by command of the king, he was cast into a dark dungeon, and his horse, which they all laughed at, was shut up in a pen. The officer who brought Boyislav to the palace got a great reward, and went in high glee to the nearest inn to drink with his comrades.
Why was the king enraged with his favorite son? Because shameless lies had been told by his other sons. When Boyislav brought the three princesses of Black Island to the boat and returned for his horse, his brothers weighed anchor at once and sailed off. On the way they forced the unfortunate princesses to promise on oath to tell the king that they were the liberators, and to say that Boyislav on Black Island had attached himself to a worthless woman, and made sport of his old father.
Meanwhile they agreed to cast lots for the princesses. When the brothers declared their wish, the princesses said that they would not break their oaths, but could never be the wives of such men. The brothers paid small heed to this, for their hearts were hard. They were satisfied with having got rid of Boyislav. They ordered the oarsmen to press on. As a favorable wind blew without stopping, they soon arrived safely on firm land, where they hired horses and hurried to their native place.
The king, who had recovered as soon as the princesses on Black Island were freed, welcomed his sons and the princesses with tears in his eyes. But how he flushed up with anger when they told the story to which they had been forced by oath! He ordered the death of Boyislav at once, and offered a great reward for his capture. The wicked brothers rubbed their hands with glee, but the princesses withdrew to the chambers given them by the king, and passed their time in silent grief.
The king was astonished at this, and wished to know what prince they loved; he would give his blessing at once, and the proper income. But the princesses only shook their heads, and the king asked his sons the reason of the princesses' sorrow. The young men evaded the question, saying that perhaps the princesses were homesick. At last they led the conversation to Boyislav. The king flushed up with anger, which was all his sons wanted, so as to avoid speaking of the princesses of Black Island, for they knew nothing about them.
And now, when Boyislav was in prison, they continued to excite the king to give an order forbidding any one to ask mercy for him under pain of death. "Why should I endanger my life?" thought every one; "the king of course knows why he puts his son to death." Many pitied the prince, but only one man shed tears. He was an old warrior who had once commanded the king's armies, and was retained as a friend of the king; he did not believe that Boyislav deserved death, and resolved to ask pardon for him.
"Well," thought he, "I shall not live till spring, and it is all the same whether I die a day earlier or later. I have been in danger of death times without number and have never been even wounded; perhaps I shall escape now".
He went bravely to the king, who greeted him very kindly, as was his wont. "What dost thou wish?" asked he of the old man, who was silent.
"I ask mercy for Boyislav," said he.
"How darest thou slight my order?" asked the king, angrily. "Knowest not thou art doomed to death?"
"I know," answered the old man with dignity; "but I fear not death. I mean to say that thou art disgracing thyself by giving thy own blood to the hangman".
The king was struck with these words, and walked up and down the room with bowed head.
"Who knows whether Boyislav is really guilty or not?" said the old man, "for the conduct of the princesses from Black Island is strange".
"Thou art right, and I will not give him to the hangman; but still he must die. I shall have him confined with the lions. Let them tear him".
The old man made further effort, but the king would not be persuaded. When night came Boyislav was taken secretly from prison and shut in with the lions. But the brothers were not satisfied yet; they told the king that Boyislav could easily escape, and advised him to wall up the doors. The king consented, and the next day the doors were walled up, there remaining only a small opening on the other side. This was fortunate, for otherwise Boyislav must have perished for want of air. He looked at the lions without fear; they did not harm him. Then he took out the taper and the tablecloth, which he kept in his bosom, lighted the taper, laid the cloth on the ground, and asked for the choicest food; it appeared. He fed the lions first, then ate and drank himself. The lions lay at his feet in thankfulness; he lay on them and fell asleep. When awake he played with the lions, - who in a few days were tame, - or thought of the princess on White Island. In this way his days passed quickly, and before he knew it a whole year had gone.
Meanwhile the princess of White Island travelled over the world with an army in search of her liberator; she had already visited many kings, but in no royal family had she found twelve sons. At last she came to the dominions of the old king and learned that he had twelve sons. Her heart jumped for joy, and she marched night and day till she appeared before the capital. Straightway she sent messengers to the king, asking him to send her that prince who had freed her and her whole kingdom.