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.
THERE was a Tsar who had one son, and when the Tsarevich was an infant his nurses and maids used to sing to him, "Baiyu, baiyu, Ivan Tsarevich; when thou 'It grow up a man thou 'It find thee a bride in the thirtieth kingdom, beyond the thrice ninth land, Vassilissa Kirbityevna, and her marrow flows from bone to bone".
Eifteen years had passed for the Tsarevich, and he went to ask leave to search for his bride. "Where wilt thou go?" asked his father. "Thou art still too small".
"No, father; when I was small the nurses and maids sang to me, and told where my bride lives; and now I am going to find her".
The Tsar gave his blessing and sent word to all kingdoms that his son, Ivan Tsarevich, was going for his bride.
Well, the Tsarevich came to a town, gave his horse to be cared for, and went himself to walk along the streets. He walked, and saw that on the square they were punishing a man with a whip. "Why," asked he, "do ye flog him?"
"Because," answered they, "he went in debt ten thousand to an eminent merchant, and did not pay in season. And whoso redeems him, that man's wife Koshchei Without-Death will bear away".
Now the Tsarevich thought and thought, and then went off. As he was walking through the town he came out again on the square, and they were still beating that man. Ivan Tsarevich pitied him and resolved to redeem him.
"I have no wife," thought Ivan; "there is no one to take from me." He paid the ten thousand and went to his lodgings.
All at once the man whom he had redeemed ran after him and called: "God save thee, Ivan Tsarevich! If thou hadst not redeemed me, thou couldest not have gained thy bride in a lifetime; but now I will help thee. Buy me a horse and saddle straightway".
The Tsarevich bought him a horse and saddle, and asked: "What is thy name?"
"They call me Bulat the hero".
They sat on the horses, went their way and road. When they came to the thirtieth kingdom, Bulat said: "Well, Ivan Tsarevich, give orders to buy and roast chickens, ducks, and geese, so that there may be plenty of everything, and I will go to get thy bride. And see to it: every time I run to thee, cut the right wing of a bird, and hand it to me on a plate".
Bulat the hero went to the lofty tower where Vas-silissa Kirbityevna was sitting, threw a stone lightly, and broke the summit of the gilded tower. He ran to the Tsarevich and said to him: "What, art thou sleeping? Give me a hen".
Ivan Tsarevich cut off the right wing and gave it on a plate. Bulat took the plate, ran to the tower, and cried out: "Hail, Vassilissa Kirbityevna! Ivan Tsarevich gave command to bow to thee, and asked me to give thee this hen".
Vassilissa was frightened, and sat in silence. Bulat gave answer to himself instead of her: "Hail, Bulat the hero! Is Ivan Tsarevich in good health?
"Glory be to God, in good health.
"But why stand there, Bulat the hero? Take the key, open the cupboard, drink a glass of vodka, and go with God".
Bulat the hero ran to Ivan Tsarevich and said: "Art sitting here? Give me a duck".
He cut off the wing, and gave it on a plate.
Bulat bore it to the tower and said: "Hail, Vassilissa Kirbityevna! Ivan Tsarevich gave command to bow to thee, and sent thee this duck".
She sat there, said nothing; but he answered instead of her: "Hail, Bulat the hero! Is Ivan Tsarevich well?
"Glory be to God, he is well.
"But why stand there, Bulat the hero? Take the key, open the cupboard, drink a glass, and go with God".
Bulat ran again to Ivan Tsarevich. "Art thou sitting here? Give me a goose".
Ivan cut off the right wing and gave it on a plate. Bulat the hero bore it to the tower. "Hail, Vassi-lissa Kirbityevna! Ivan Tsarevich gave command to bow to thee, and sent thee this goose".
Vassilissa Kirbityevna took the key quickly, opened the cupboard, and reached a glass of vodka. Bulat the hero took not the glass, but seized the maiden by the right hand, drew her out of the tower, and seated her on the Tsarevich's steed. They galloped away, the good hero and the beautiful soul-maiden, with all horse-speed.
Next morning Tsar Kirbit woke and rose. He saw that the top of the tower was broken and his daughter stolen; he grew powerfully angry, and gave command to pursue over all roads and ways.
Whether our heroes travelled much or little, Bulat took the ring from his hand, hid it, and said: "Go on, Ivan Tsarevich; but I will turn back and look for my ring".
Vassilissa Kirbityevna began to implore: "Do not leave us, Bulat the hero; if it please thee, thou shalt have my ring".
"Impossible, Vassilissa Kirbityevna; my ring was priceless. My own mother gave it me, and when giving, she said: "Wear and lose it not; forget not thy mother".
Bulat the hero galloped back and met the pursuers on the road. He slew them all straightway, left but one man to take news to the Tsar, hurried, back, and caught up with the Tsarevich.
Whether they went much or little, Bulat hid his handkerchief and said: "Oh, Ivan Tsarevich, I have lost my handkerchief! Ride on thy road and way; I will soon come up with thee".
He turned back, went some versts, and met pur-surers twice as many; he slew them all, and returned to Ivan, who asked: "Hast found the handkerchief? '
"I have found it".
Dark night overtook them. They pitched a tent; Bulat lay down to sleep, left Ivan Tsarevich on guard, and said to him: "If need be, rouse me".
Ivan Tsarevich stood and stood, grew tired; sleep began to bend him; he sat down at the tent and fell asleep.
From wherever he came, Koshchei Without-Death bore away Vassilissa Kirbityevna. Ivan Tsarevich woke up at dawn, saw that his bride was gone, and began to weep bitterly. Bulat the hero woke up and asked: "Why art thou weeping?"
"Why should I not weep? Some one has borne away Vassilissa Kirbityevna".
"I told thee to keep watch. That is the work of Koshchei Without-Death. Let us set out in search of her".