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.
The champions saw Ivan Tsarevich and began to ridicule him: "Oh, thou country clown, is such a beauty as this for thee? Thou art not worth her middle finger!"
They said this once, they said it twice, they said it thrice. Ivan Tsarevich was offended. He swung his arm, there was a street; he swung it a second time, the place was clear and smooth all around. Then he went to the old grandmother.
"Well, Ivan Tsarevich; hast thou seen Peerless Beauty?"
"I have, and I shall not forget her for an age".
"Now lie down to sleep. To-morrow thou wilt go to mass again; I will wake thee the minute the bell rings".
The Tsarevich lay down; he slept the day, he slept the night. The bell rang for early prayers; the grandmother ran to him, began to rouse him; whatever happened under her hand, with that she beat him; but she couldn't wake him. They rang the bell for mass; again she beat him and roused him. Ivan Tsarevich sprang up very quickly, washed very white, dressed, and to church. He entered, prayed to the images, bowed on all four sides, especially to Peerless Beauty. She looked at him and blushed. They stood side by side, prayed to God. At the end of mass she went to the cross first, he second. The Tsarevich went out on a platform, looked on the blue sea; ships were sailing, twelve champions came. They began to ask Peerless Beauty in marriage, and to make sport of Ivan Tsarevich: "Oh, thou country clown, is such a beauty for thee? Thou art not worth her middle finger!"
He was offended at these speeches. He swung his arm, there was a street; he swung the other, the place was clear and smooth around.
He went to the old grandmother. "Hast thou seen Peerless Beauty?" asked she.
"I have, and for an age I shall not forget her".
"Well, sleep now; in the morning I will wake thee".
Ivan Tsarevich slept the day, he slept the night; they rang the bell for morning prayers; the old woman ran in to wake him, beat him with whatever happened under her hand, did not spare, but could not rouse him. They rang the bell for mass, and she was working away all the time at the Tsarevich. At last she roused him. He rose up quickly, washed himself very white, prepared, dressed, and to church. When he came he prayed to the images, bowed on all four sides, and separately to Peerless Beauty. She saluted him, put him at her right hand, and she stood at the left. They stand there, pray to God. At the end of mass he went first to the cross, she after him. The Tsarevich went out on the platform, looked on the blue sea; ships are sailing, and twenty-four champions come to offer marriage to Peerless Beauty.
The champions saw Ivan Tsarevich and straightway began to make sport of him: "Oh, country clown, is such a beauty for thee? Thou art not worth her middle finger!"
They attacked him on every side to take away his bride. Ivan Tsarevich did not endure this. He swung his arm, there was a street; he swung the other, the place was smooth and clear around. He killed all to the last man. Peerless Beauty took him by the hand, led him to her chambers, seated him at the oaken tables, at the spread cloths, entertained him, called him her bridegroom. Soon after they prepared for the road and set out for the land of Ivan Tsarevich. They travelled and travelled, halted in the open field to rest. Peerless Beauty lay down to sleep, and Ivan Tsarevich guarded her slumber. When she had slept enough, and woke up, the Tsarevich said: "Peerless Beauty, guard my white body; I will lie down to sleep".
"But wilt thou sleep long?"
"Nine days and nights; and I shall not turn from one side to the other. If thou tryest to wake me, thou wilt not rouse me. When the time comes I shall wake myself".
"It is long, Ivan Tsarevich; I shall be wearied".
"Wearied or not, there is no help for it".
He lay down to sleep, and slept exactly nine days and nights. Meanwhile Koshchei Without-Death bore away Peerless Beauty to his own kingdom. Ivan Tsarevich woke up; there was no Peerless Beauty. He began to weep, and went along neither by the road nor the way. Whether it was long or short, he came to the kingdom of Koshchei Without-Death, and begged lodgings of an old woman.
"Well, Ivan Tsarevich, why art thou so sad looking?"
"Thus and thus, grandmother; I had everything, now I have nothing".
"Thy affair is a bad one, Ivan Tsarevich;. thou canst not kill Koshchei".
"Well, I will look on my bride at least".
"Lie down, sleep till morning; to-morrow Koshchei will go to war".
Ivan Tsarevich lay down, but sleep did not come to his mind. In the morning Koshchei went out of the house, and Ivan Tsarevich went in. He stood at the gate and knocked. Peerless Beauty opened it, looked at him, and fell to weeping. They went to the upper chamber, sat at the table, and talked. Ivan Tsarevich instructed her. "Ask Koshchei where his death is".
He had just left the house when Koshchei came in. "Oh!" said he, "it smells of the Russian bone; it must be that Ivan Tsarevich was with thee".
"What art thou thinking of, Koshchei Without-Death? Where could I see Ivan Tsarevich. He has remained in slumbering forests and in sticky quagmires; wild beasts have destroyed him ere now".
They sat down to sup. At supper Peerless Beauty said: "Tell me, Koshchei Without-Death, where is thy death?"
"Why dost thou wish to know, silly woman? My death is tied up in the broom".
Early next morning Koshchei went to war. Ivan Tsarevich came to Peerless Beauty. She took the broom, gilded it brightly with pure gold. The Tsarevich had just departed when Koshchei came in. "Ah!" said he, "it smells of the Russian bone; Ivan Tsarevich has been with thee".
"What dost thou mean, Koshchei Without-Death? Thou hast been flying through Russia thyself and hast caught up the odor of Russia; it is from thee. Where should I see Ivan Tsarevich?"
At supper Peerless Beauty sat on a small bench and seated Koshchei on a large one. He looked under the threshold; the broom was lying there gilded. "What does this mean?"