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.
IN a certain kingdom in a certain land lived Ivan Tsarevich. He had three sisters. The first was Marya Tsarevna; the second, Olga Tsarevna; the third, Anna Tsarevna. Their father and mother were dead. When dying they said to their son: "Whoever woos first a sister of thine, give her to him; keep not thy sisters with thee long".
The Tsarevich buried his parents, and from sorrow went with his sisters to walk in the green garden. Suddenly a black cloud rose in the sky; a fearful storm was coming. "Let us go home, sisters," said Ivan Tsarevich. They had barely entered the castle when thunder roared, the ceiling opened, and a bright falcon flew into the chamber. The falcon struck the floor, became a gallant youth, and said: "Hail, Ivan Tsarevich! Ere now I came as a guest, but now I 'm a suitor. I wish to sue for thy sister, Marya Tsarevna".
"If thou art pleasing to my sister, I shall not restrain her. Let her go, with God".
Marya Tsarevna agreed, the Falcon married her, and bore her away to his own kingdom.
Days followed days, hours chased hours, a whole year was as if it had not been. Ivan Tsarevich went with his two sisters to walk in the green garden. Again a cloud rose with whirlwind, with lightning. "Let us go home, my sisters," said the Tsarevich. They had barely entered the castle when a thunderclap came, the roof fell apart, the ceiling opened, and in flew an eagle. The eagle struck the floor and became a gallant youth. "Hail, Ivan Tsarevich! Ere now I came as a guest, but now I 'm a suitor." And he asked for Olga Tsarevna in marriage.
Ivan Tsarevich answered: "If thou art pleasing to Olga Tsarevna, then let her marry thee; I take not her will from her." Olga Tsarevna consented, and accepted the Eagle in marriage. The Eagle caught her up and bore her to his own kingdom.
Another year passed. Ivan Tsarevich said to his youngest sister: "Let us go to walk in the green garden." They walked a little; again a cloud rose with whirlwind, with lightning. "Come home, my sister, come!" They returned to the castle, but had not sat down when a thunderclap came, the ceiling opened, and in flew a raven. The raven struck the floor and became a gallant youth. The others were beautiful in person, but he was still better.
"Well, Ivan Tsarevich! Ere now I came as a guest, but now I 'm a wooer. Give me Anna Tsarevna".
"I take not her will from my sister. If thou hast pleased her, take her in marriage".
Anna Tsarevna married the Raven, and he bore her away to his own kingdom.
Ivan Tsarevich remained alone. He lived a whole year without sisters, grew wearied. "I will go," said he, "to seek out my sisters".
He made ready for the road, travelled and travelled, saw an army, a power lying slain on the field. Said Ivan Tsarevich: "If there is a living man here, let him speak. Who killed this great army?'
A living man answered: "Marya Morevna, the fair Korolyevna, killed all this great army".
Ivan Tsarevich went farther; he came to white tents. Marya Morevna, the fair Korolyevna, came forth to meet him. "Hail, Tsarevich! Where does God bear thee? Of thy own will, or against thy will?"
Ivan Tsarevich gave answer: "Good heroes travel not against their will".
"Well, if thy work be not hasty be a guest in my tents".
Ivan Tsarevich was glad; he spent two nights in the tents, pleased Marya Morevna, and married her. Marya Morevna, the fair Korolyevna, took him with her to her own kingdom. They lived together a time, and then the Korolyevna had a thought to make war; she left to her husband her household, and said: "Go everywhere, see after all things, but look not in this closet".
Ivan Tsarevich could not endure this, but when Marya Morevna had gone he rushed to the closet, opened the door, looked, and there Koshchei With-out-Death was hanging inside, fastened with twelve chains. Koshchei implored the Tsarevich: "Take pity on me, give me to drink. Twelve years do I sit here in torment; I have not eaten nor drunk; my throat is parched".
The Tsarevich gave him a whole three-gallon tub of water. He drank it, and begged, "With one tub my thirst cannot be quenched." The Tsarevich gave him another tub. Koshchei drank that, and begged for a third; and when he had drunk the third tub he regained his former strength, shook his chains, and in one moment broke all twelve.
"God save thee, Ivan Tsarevich!" said Koshchei Without-Death; "now thou wilt never see Marya Morevna any more than thy own ears;" and he went out a terrific whirlwind, flew through the window, overtook on the road Marya Morevna, the fair Ko-rolyevna, seized her, and bore her away.
But Ivan Tsarevich cried bitterly, bitterly, made ready, and went on his road, on his way. "Whatever may happen, I will find Marya Morevna." He travelled one day, he travelled a second; at the dawn of the third day he saw a wonderful palace, near the palace an oak, on the oak a bright falcon. The falcon flew down from the tree, struck the earth, turned into a gallant youth, and shouted: "Ah! my dear brother-in-law, how does God favor thee?"
Marya Tsarevna ran out, met Ivan Tsarevich joyously, asked about his health, his life, and told about her own life and household.
The Tsarevich stayed three days with them, and said: "I cannot stay longer, I am in search of my wife, Marya Morevna, the fair Korolyevna".
"It is hard to find her," said the Falcon. "In any case leave thy silver spoon here; we will look at it and think of thee".
Ivan Tsarevich left his silver spoon and went his way. He travelled a day, he travelled a second; at the dawn of the third he saw a castle better than the first, at the side of the castle an oak, on the oak sits an eagle. The eagle flew from the tree, struck the ground, turned into a gallant youth, and shouted: "Rise up, Olga Tsarevna; our dear brother is coming." Olga Tsarevna ran out that moment to meet him; she began to kiss, to embrace her brother, to ask about his health, and to tell of her own life and household.