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.
He went farther, saw in the forest a swarm of bees. "I 'll take some honey," said he.
The queen-bee called out, "Touch not my honey, Ivan Tsarevich; in time I will serve thee".
He left the honey and went on. Then a lioness and her whelp met him. "At least I 'll eat this little lion; I feel such hunger that I am sick".
"Touch him not, Ivan Tsarevich; in time I will serve thee".
"Well, let it be as thou sayest".
He went on hungry; he travelled and travelled. There is the house of Baba-Yaga. Around the house stand twelve stakes; on eleven are heads of men, - only one stake is unoccupied.
"Hail to thee, grandmother!"
"Hail to thee, Ivan Tsarevich! Hast come of thy own good will, or from need?"
"I have come to earn of thee an heroic steed".
"Very well, Tsarevich; no need to serve a year with me, but three days in all. If thou wilt herd my mares, I'll give thee an heroic steed; but if not, be not angry, thy head will be on the last stake".
Ivan Tsarevich consented. Baba-Yaga gave him food with drink, and ordered him to begin the work. As soon as he had driven the mares afield, they raised their tails and all ran apart through the meadows. The Tsarevich could not cast his eyes round before they had vanished. Then he began to weep and grow sad; he sat on a stone and fell asleep. The sun was going down when the bird from beyond the sea flew up and roused him.
"Rise, Ivan Tsarevich; the mares are now home".
The Tsarevich stood up, came home, but Baba-Yaga was screaming and crying at her mares. "Why did ye come home?"
"How could we help it, when birds from the whole world flew together and almost picked our eyes out?"
"Well, to-morrow don't run in the meadows, but scatter through the sleeping forest".
Ivan Tsarevich slept the night; in the morning Baba-Yaga said: "See to it, Tsarevich. If thou dost not herd the mares, if thou losest even one of them, thy stormy head will be on the stake".
He drove the mares afield. That moment they raised their tails and ran through the sleeping forest. Again the Tsarevich sat down on a stone, cried and cried, then fell asleep. The sun had gone behind the forest when the lioness ran up. "Rise, Ivan Tsarevich; the mares are driven in".
Ivan Tsarevich stood up and went home. Baba- Yaga was screaming and crying more than before at her mares. "Why did ye come home?"
"How could we help coming? Savage beasts ran at us from the whole world, came near tearing us to pieces".
"Well, run to-morrow into the blue sea".
Ivan Tsarevich slept that night; next morning Baba-Yaga sent him to herd the mares. "If thou dost not guard them, thy stormy head will be on the stake".
He drove the mares to the field; that moment they raised their tails and vanished from the eye, ran into the blue sea, and stood to their necks in the water.
Ivan Tsarevich sat on a stone, cried, and fell asleep. The sun had gone beyond the forest when a bee flew up and said: "Ivan Tsarevich, the mares are driven in. But when thou art home, do not show thyself before the eyes of Baba-Yaga; go to the stable and hide behind the manger. There is a mangy little colt lying on the dung-heap; steal him, and at dark midnight leave the place".
Ivan Tsarevich rose up, made his way to the stable, and lay down behind the manger. Baba-Yaga screamed and cried at her mares: "Why did ye come home?"
"How could we help coming home when bees, seen and unseen, flew from the whole world and began to sting us on every side till the blood came!"
Baba-Yaga went to sleep, and just at midnight Ivan Tsarevich stole from her the mangy colt, saddled him, sat on his back, and galloped to the fiery river; when he came to the river he shook the kerchief three times on the right side, and suddenly, from wherever it came, a high, splendid bridge was hanging over the river. The Tsarevich crossed on the bridge, waved the kerchief on the left side only twice, and there remained above the river a bridge very, very slender.
In the morning Baba-Yaga woke up; the mangy colt is not to be seen with sight. Baba-Yaga, on an iron mortar, rushed off in pursuit with all her breath, urging forward with a pestle, and removing her trail with a broom. She galloped to the fiery river, looked and thought: "The bridge is good." She rode out on it, and the moment she reached the middle the bridge broke. Baba-Yaga went headlong into the river; there a savage death came to her.
Ivan Tsarevich fed his colt in the green meadows, and it became a marvellous steed. The Tsarevich came to Marya Morevna; she ran out to him, threw herself on his neck.
"How has God brought thee to life?"
"In this way and that way," said he; "come with me".
"I am afraid, Ivan Tsarevich. If Koshchei overtakes us again, thou wilt be cut to pieces".
"No, he will not overtake us.. I have a glorious, heroic steed now; he goes like a bird".
They sat on the horse and rode off. Koshchei Without-Death was coming home; under him stumbled his steed.
"Why stumble, hungry crow-bait; or feelest thou evil?"
"Ivan Tsarevich came, took away Marya Morevna".
"Can we overtake him?"
"God knows! Now Ivan Tsarevich has an heroic steed better than I".
"I cannot stand this," said Koshchei the Deathless, "I 'll give chase".
Whether it was long or short, he caught up with Ivan Tsarevich, sprang to the ground, and wanted to cut him with his sharp sword. That moment Ivan's horse struck, with all the sweep of his hoof, Koshchei Without-Death, and smashed his skull. The Tsarevich finished him with his club. Then he raised a pile of wood, made a fire, burned Koshchei Without-Death on the fire, and scattered the ashes to the wind.
Marya Morevna mounted Koshchei's horse, and Ivan Tsarevich his own. They went to visit the Raven, then the Eagle, and last the Falcon; wherever they came they were met with joy.
"Oh, Ivan Tsarevich, we did not think to see thee! It was not for nothing thou didst struggle; another such beauty as Marya Morevna could not be found if sought for in the whole world".
They visited and feasted, and set out for their own kingdom; arrived there, gained wealth, and drank mead.
Eagle son of Eagle flew to the sea and brought mighty winds, the sea rose, and threw the barrel on shore. Falcon son of Falcon grasped the barrel in his talons, bore it high, high in the air, and dropped it thence to the ground. The barrel fell and was broken in pieces; but Raven son of Raven carried healing water and living water and sprinkled Ivan Tsarevich with them. Then all three of them caught him up and bore him to the thrice-ninth land, to the thirtieth kingdom. They brought him to the thirtieth kingdom and said: "Go now to the blue sea, where lives a marvellous mare; in front of her twelve men are mowing hay, and twelve rakers are raking what they mow: she follows them and eats the hay. When the mare drinks water, the blue sea rises in waves and leaves fall from the trees; when she scratches herself on hundred-year oaks, they fall to the ground like bundles of oats. Every month she has one colt; twelve wolves follow her and devour these colts. Bide thy time; and the moment a colt is born with a star on its forehead, seize it quickly, - that colt will be an heroic steed for thee. On that colt Koshchei Without-Death will not overtake thee." Ivan Tsarevich did as his brothers-in-law taught him.