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, there lived a Tsar with his Tsaritsa. They had a son, Ivan Tsarevich, and Katoma of the Oaken Cap was appointed tutor to care for and guard Ivan.
The Tsar and Tsaritsa attained to ancient years, fell ill, and had no thought to recover. They summoned Ivan Tsarevich and said: "When we die, do thou obey in all things Katoma of the Oaken Cap and honor him. If thou obeyest him, thou 'It be happy; but if disobedient, thou wilt perish like a fly".
Next day the Tsar and Tsaritsa died. Ivan buried his parents and lived according to their command: whatever he did, he always held counsel with his tutor. Whether it was long or short, the Tsarevich grew to years of manhood and thought of marrying. He came to Katoma of the Oaken Cap and said: "I feel dreary alone; I wish to marry".
"Well, Tsarevich, where is the halt? Thy years are such that it is time to think of a bride. Go to the great chamber, - there the portraits of all Tsars' daughters and all kings' daughters are collected. Look at them and choose; if any please thee, propose for that one".
Ivan Tsarcvich went to the great chamber, examined the portraits; and Princess Anna the Beautiful suited his mind, - such a beauty that in the whole world there was not her equal. Under her portrait was written that if any man gave her a riddle and she could not solve it, she would marry the man; and whose riddle she solved, off went his head. Ivan Tsarevich read this inscription, grew very sorrowful, and went to his uncle. "I have been," said he, "in the great chamber, and have found for myself a bride, - Anna the Beautiful; but I know not how to get her".
"Yes, Tsarevich, it is difficult to win her. If thou go alone, thou wilt never succeed; but if thou take me and will do what I say, perhaps the affair may be settled".
Ivan Tsarevich begged Katoma of the Oaken Cap to go with him, and gave his faithful word to obey him in sorrow and in joy.
They prepared for the road and the journey, and went to ask Princess Anna the Beautiful in marriage. They travelled one year, travelled a second, then a third, and passed over many lands. Ivan Tsarevich said: "Uncle, we are travelling now so long a time, are nearing the land of Anna the Beautiful, and we know not what riddle to give her".
"Oh, we will think of one yet".
They went farther. Uncle Katoma looked on the road, and there was lying a purse with gold. He took it up, poured all the money out of it into his own purse, and said: "Here is the riddle, Ivan Tsarevich. When thou comest to the princess, give her the riddle in these words: 'We were travelling along, and we saw good lying on the road. We took good with good and put it in our good.' She '11 not solve that riddle all her life; and every other one she would know in a moment, - she would just look into her magic book, and as soon as she knew the riddle she would have thy head cut off".
Well, Ivan Tsarevich with his uncle came at last to the lofty palace where the beautiful princess was living. At that very time she was on the balcony, saw the travellers, and sent out to know whence they were, and what they had come for.
Ivan Tsarevich replied: "I have come from such and such a kingdom, and I wish to ask Anna the Beautiful in marriage".
They reported this to the princess. She gave answer that the Tsarevich should come to the palace and give, in the presence of all her counselling princes and boyars, a riddle. "With me," said she, "this order is established, that if I solve not the riddle of a man, I will marry him; but if I solve any man's riddle, I give him to a cruel death".
"Hear my riddle, beautiful princess," said Ivan. "We were going along, we saw good lying on the road, we took good with good and put it in our good".
Anna the Beautiful took her magic book, began to examine it and look for riddles; she went through the whole volume and found nothing. Then the counselling princes and boyars decided that the princess must marry Ivan Tsarevich. Though sorry, she had to give way, and began to prepare for the wedding; but plotting to win time and get rid of the bridegroom, she thought, "I will trouble him with difficult tasks." She called Ivan Tsarevich and said: "Oh, my dear Ivan Tsarevich, my betrothed husband, we must prepare for the wedding; do me a small service. In my kingdom in such a place stands a great iron pillar; bring it to the palace kitchen and cut it into small pieces as fuel for the cook".
"My princess, is it possible that I have come here to cut fuel? Is that my business? I have a servant for that, - Uncle Katoma of the Oaken Cap".
The Tsarevich called Uncle Katoma straightway, and commanded him to bring the iron pillar to the kitchen and cut it into small pieces as fuel for the cook.
Uncle Katoma went to the place mentioned, took the pillar in his arms, brought it to the palace kitchen, and cut it into small pieces. Four pieces of iron did he put in his pocket, saying, "They will be good in the future".
Next day the princess said to Ivan: "My dear Tsarevich, my betrothed husband, to-morrow we must go to the crown: I will go in a carriage, and thou on an heroic steed. Meanwhile thou shouldst try the steed".
"Shall I try a horse when I have a servant for that?' Ivan Tsarevich called Uncle Katoma of the Oaken Cap.
"Go," said he, "and order the stable-boys to lead forth the heroic steed; sit on him and ride him around. To-morrow I will go to the marriage on him".
Uncle Katoma saw through the cunning of the princess, without talking long. He went to the stable and ordered them to lead forth the heroic steed. Twelve men went: they opened twelve locks, opened twelve doors, and led out the magic horse by twelve iron chains.
Uncle Katoma went to the horse: the moment he sat on him the magic steed left the earth and rose higher than the standing forest, lower than the moving clouds. Katoma sat firmly; with one hand he held the mane, with the other he took from his pocket one of the iron bars and began to pound the horse between the ears with it. He broke one bar, took another, broke that, took a third, broke that. The fourth entered service; and Katoma so hammered the steed that he could not endure, but spoke with the voice of a man: "Father Katoma, let me even live in the white world; whatever thou wish-est, command, - everything shall be as thou sayest".