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 good hero slept out his half year, - moved not a finger; and when he woke he sprang straight to his feet, looked on both sides. The waves are rolling; no end can be seen to the broad sea. He stands in doubt, asking himself, "By what miracle have I come to this place? Who dragged me hither?" He turned back from the point and came out on an island; on that island was a mountain steep and lofty, touching the clouds with its peak, and on the mountain a great stone. He came near this mountain and saw three devils fighting; blood was just flowing from them, and bits of flesh flying.
"Stop, ye outcasts! What are ye fighting for?"
"But seest thou our father died three days ago and left three wonderful things, - a flying carpet, swift-moving boots, and a cap of invisibility; and we cannot divide them".
"Oh, ye cursed fellows, to fight for such trifles! If ye wish I 'll divide them between you, and ye shall be satisfied; I 'll offend no one".
"Well then, countryman, divide between us if it please thee".
"Very good. Run quickly through the pine woods and gather one hundred poods of pitch, and bring it here".
The devils rushed through the pine woods, collected three hundred poods of pitch, and brought it to the soldier.
"Now bring me from your own kingdom the very largest kettle that is in it." The devils brought the very largest kettle, - one holding forty barrels, - and put the pitch into it. The soldier made a fire, and when the pitch was boiling he ordered the devils to take it on the mountain and pour it out from the top to the bottom. The devils did this in a flash. "Now," said the soldier, "push that stone there; let it roll from the mountain, and follow it. Whoever comes up with it first may take any of the three things; whoever comes up second will choose from the two remaining ones whichever he likes; and the last wonder will go to the third." The devils pushed the stone, and it rolled from the mountain quickly, quickly. One devil caught up, seized the stone, the stone turned, and in a flash put him under it, crushed him into the pitch. The second devil caught up, and then the third; and with them it happened as with the first, - they were driven firmly into the pitch.
The soldier took under his arm the swift boots and the cap of invisibility, sat on the flying carpet, and flew off to look for his own country. Whether it was long or short, he came to a hut, went in. In the hut was sitting a Baba-Yaga, bone-leg, old and toothless. "Greetings to thee, grandmother! Tell how I am to find my fair princess".
"I have not seen her with sight I have not heard of her with hearing; but pass over so many seas and so many lands, and there lives my second sister. She knows more than I do; mayhap she can tell thee".
The soldier sat on his carpet and flew away. He had to wander long over the white world. Whenever he wanted to eat or drink, he put on the cap of invisibility, let himself down, entered a shop, and took what his heart desired; then to the carpet and off on his journey. He came to the second hut, entered; inside was sitting Baba-Yaga, bone-leg, old and toothless. "Greeting to thee, grandmother! Dost thou know how I can find my fair princess?"
"No, my dove, I do not know".
"Ah, thou old hag! how many years art thou' living in the world? All thy teeth are out, and thou knovvest no good".
He sat on the flying carpet and flew toward the eldest sister. Long did he wander, many seas and many lands did he see. At last he flew to the end of the world, where there was a hut and no road beyond, - nothing but outer darkness, nothing to be seen.
"Well," thought he, "if I can get no account here, there is nowhere else to fly to." He went into the hut; there a Baba-Yaga was sitting, gray, toothless.
"Greeting to thee, grandmother! Tell me where must I seek my princess".
"Wait a little; I will call all my winds together and ask them. They blow over all the world, so they must know where she is living at present".
The old woman went out on the porch, cried with a loud voice, whistled with a hero's whistle. Straightway the stormy winds rose and blew from every side; the hut just quivered.
"Quieter, quieter!" cried Baba-Yaga; and as soon as the winds had assembled, she said: "My stormy winds, ye blow through all the world. Have ye seen the beautiful princess anywhere?"
"We have not seen her anywhere," answered the winds in one voice.
"But are ye all here?"
"All but South Wind".
After waiting a little, South Wind flew up. The old woman asked: "Where hast thou been lost to this moment? I could hardly wait for thee".
"Pardon, grandmother; I went into a new kingdom, where the beautiful princess is living. Her husband has vanished without tidings, so now various Tsars and Tsars' sons, kings and kings' sons are paying court to her".
"And how far is it to the new kingdom?"
"For a man on foot thirty-five years, ten years on wings; but if I blow I can put a man there in three hours".
The soldier implored South Wind tearfully to take him and bear him to the new kingdom.
"I will, if it please thee," said South Wind, "provided thou wilt let me run around in thy kingdom three days and three nights as I like".
"Frolic three weeks if thou choosest".
"Well, I will rest for two or three days, collect my forces and my strength, and then for the road!"
South Wind rested, collected his strength, and said to the soldier: "Well, brother, make ready, we '11 go straightway; but look out, have no fear, thou wilt arrive in safety".
All at once a mighty whirlwind whistled and roared, caught the soldier into the air, and bore him over mountains and seas up to the very clouds; and in three hours exactly he was in the new kingdom, where his beautiful princess was living. South Wind said, -
"Farewell, good hero; out of compassion for thee I will not frolic in thy kingdom".
"Why is that?"
"Because if I frolic, not one house will be standing in the town, not one tree in the gardens; I should put everything bottom upward".
"Farewell then; God save thee!" said the soldier, who put on his cap of invisibility and went to the white-walled castle. Behold, while he was absent from the kingdom all the trees in the garden had stood with withered tops, and the moment he appeared they came to life and began to bloom. He entered the great hall; there were sitting at the table various Tsars and Tsars' sons, kings and kings' sons who had come to pay court to the beautiful princess. They were sitting and entertaining themselves with sweet wines. Whoever filled a glass and raised it to his lips, the soldier that moment struck it with his fist and knocked it from his hand. All the guests wondered at this; but the beautiful princess understood in a moment the reason.
"Surely," thought she, "my friend is here." She looked through the window; all the tree-tops in the garden had come to life, and she gave a riddle to the guests. "I had a home-made casket with a golden key; I lost this key, and did not think to find it: but now this key has found itself. Who guesses the riddle, him will I marry".
The Tsars and Tsars' sons, the kings and kings' sons were long breaking their wise heads over this riddle, and could not solve it in any way.
The princess said: "Show thyself, dear friend".
The soldier removed his cap of invisibility, took her by the white hand, and began to kiss her on the sweet mouth.
"Here is the riddle for you," said the fair princess: "I am the home-made casket, and the golden key is my faithful husband".
The wooers had to turn their wagon-shafts around. They all drove home, and the princess began to live with her husband, to live and win wealth.