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.
There was no help for it. The Tsar had to go to Ivan the Fool's castle. They became acquainted, and after that Ivan the Fool went to the Tsar. The Tsar had a most beautiful young Tsarevna of a daughter, and she brought refreshments to Ivan; and right there she pleased him greatly, and straightway he begged the Tsar to give her in marriage to him. Now the Tsar in his turn began to put on airs.
"Give her, - why not give her? But thou, Ivan Tsarevich, perform a service for me. My daughter is not of common stock, and therefore she must marry only the very best among the whole people. Arrange this for me, that from thy castle to mine there be a golden road, and that I have a bridge over the river, - not a common one, but such a bridge that one side shall be of gold, and the other of silver; and let all kinds of rare birds be swimming on the river, - geese and swans; and on the other side of the river let there be a church, - not a simple one, but one all wax, - and let there grow around it wax apple-trees and bear ripe apples. If thou do this, my daughter shall be thine; and if not, blame thyself." ("Well," thought the Tsar, "I have joked enough with Ivan Tsarevich; " but he kept his own counsel).
"Agreed," said Ivan. "Now do thou make ready the wedding to-morrow." With that he departed.
In the evening, when all had lain down to sleep, he stood on the threshold, unscrewed all the screws in the ring: twelve thousand men stood before him.
"Thou art our master, we are thy men: command what thy soul desires".
"Thus and thus," said he; "I want this and that".
"All right," said they; "lie down with God".
In the morning the Tsar woke up, went to the window; but his eyes were dazzled. He sprang back six paces. That meant that the bridge was there, one side silver, the other gold, just blazing and shining. On the river were geese and swans and every rare bird. On the opposite bank stood a church of white wax, and around the church apple-trees, but without leaves; the naked branches were sticking up.
"Well," thought the Tsar, "the trick has failed; we must prepare our daughter for the wedding".
They arrayed her and drove to the church. When they were driving from the palace, buds began to come out on the apple-trees; when they were crossing the bridge, the apple-trees were coming into leaf; when they were driving up to the church, white blossoms were bursting forth on the trees; and when the time came to go home from the marriage ceremony, the servants and all kinds of people met them, gave them ripe apples on a golden salver. Then they began to celebrate the wedding. Feasts and balls were given; they had a feast which lasted three days and three nights.
After that, whether it was a short time or a long one, the Tsarevna began to tease Ivan. "Tell me, my dear husband, how dost thou do all this? How dost thou build a bridge in one night, and a wax church?"
Ivan the Fool would not tell her for a long time; but as he loved her very much, and she begged very hard, he said: "I have a ring with twelve screws, and it must be handled in such and such fashion".
Well, they lived on. The misery of the matter was this: one of their servants pleased the Tsarevna, - he was a fine-looking, shapely, strong fellow, and she conspired with him to rob her husband, take away the ring, and the two would then go to live beyond the sea.
As soon as evening came she took out the ring quietly, stood on the threshold, and unscrewed the twelve screws: twelve thousand men stood before her.
"Thou art our mistress, we are thy men: command what thy soul desires".
She said: "Take this castle for me and bear it beyond the sea, with all that is in it; and on this spot let the old cabin stand, with my ragged husband, Ivan the Fool, inside".
"Lie down with God," said the men; "all will be done on thy word".
Next morning Ivan woke up, looked around. He was lying on a bark mat, covered with a ragged coat, and not a sign of his castle. He began to cry bitterly, and went to the Tsar, his father-in-law. He came to the palace, asked to announce to the Tsar that his son-in-law had come. When the Tsar saw him he said: "Oh, thou this and that kind of breechesless fellow, what son-in-law art thou to me? My sons-in-law live in golden chambers and ride in silver carriages. Take him and wall him up in a stone pillar".
It was commanded and done. They took Ivan and walled him up in a stone pillar. But the cat and the dog did not leave him, they were there too, and dug out a hole for themselves; through the hole they gave food to Ivan. But one time they thought: "Why do we sit here, dog and cat, with folded hands? Let's run beyond the sea and get the ring".
As they decided to do that, they did it. They swam through the sea, found their castle. The Tsarevna was walking in the garden with the servant, laughing at her husband.
"Well, do thou remain here a while, and I 'll go to the chamber and get the ring," said the cat; and she went her way, mi-au, mi-au, under the door. The Tsarevna heard her, and said: "Ah, here is that scoundrel's cat; let her in and feed her." They let her in and fed her. The cat walked through the chambers all the time and looked for the ring. She saw on the stove a glass box, and in the box the ring.
The cat was delighted. "Glory be to God!' thought she. "Now only wait for night; I 'll get the ring, and then for home!"
When all had lain down, the cat sprang on to the stove and threw down the glass box; it fell, and was broken. She caught the ring in her mouth and hid under the door. All in the house were roused; the Tsarevna herself got up, and saw that the box was broken.
"Oh!" said she, "it must be the cat of that scoundrel broke it. Drive her out; drive her out!"
They chased out the cat, and she was glad; she ran to the dog.
"Well, brother dog," said she, "I have the ring. Now if we could only get home quickly!"
They swam through the sea, were a long time swimming. When the dog was tired, he sat on the cat; when the cat was tired, she sat on the dog; and so they worked on and it was not far from land. But the dog was growing weak. The cat saw this, and said, "Sit thou on me; thou art tired." The minute she said this the ring fell out of her mouth into the water. What was to be done? They swam to shore and wept tears. Meanwhile they grew hungry. The dog ran through the field and caught sparrows for himself, and the cat ran along the shore catching little fish thrown up by the waves; that was how she fed herself.
But all at once the cat cried out: "Oh, thou dog, come here quickly to me; I have found the ring! I caught a fish, began to eat it, and in the fish was the ring".
Now they were both powerfully glad; they ran to Ivan and brought him the ring.
Ivan waited till evening, unscrewed all the twelve screws, and twelve thousand men stood before him.
"Thou art our master, we are thy men: tell us to do what thy soul desires".
"Break in a minute this stone pillar so that dust from it shall not remain; and from beyond the sea bring hither my castle with all who are in it, and every one as sleeping now, and put it in the old place".
Straightway all this was done. In the morning Ivan went to his father-in-law. The Tsar met him, seated him in the first place, and said: "Where hast thou been pleased to pass thy time, my dear son-in-law?"
"I was beyond the sea," said Ivan.
"That's it," said the Tsar, "beyond the sea. 'Tis clear that thou hadst pressing business, for thou didst not come to take farewell of thy father-in-law. But while thou wert gone, some sort of bare-legged fellow came to me and called himself my son-in-law. I gave command to wall him up in a stone pillar; he has perished there, doubtless. Well, beloved son-in-law, where hast thou been pleased to spend thy time; what sights hast thou seen?"
"I have seen," said Ivan, "various sights; and beyond the sea there was an affair of such kind that no man knew how to settle it".
"What was the affair?"
"Well, this is the kind of affair it was; and if thou art a wise man, decide it according to thy wisdom of Tsar: A husband had a wife, and while he was living she found a sweetheart for herself; she robbed her husband, and went away with the sweetheart beyond the sea; and now she is with that man. What, to thy thinking, should be done with that wife?"
"According to my wisdom of Tsar I will utter the following sentence: Tie them both to the tails of horses, and let the horses loose in the open field, - let that be their punishment".
"If that is thy judgment, very well," said Ivan. "Come with me as a guest; I will show thee other sights and another wonder".
They went to Ivan's castle, and found there the Tsar's daughter and the servant. As Ivan had commanded, they were still asleep.
There was no help for it; according to the word of the Tsar they tied them both to the tails of horses and urged the horses into the open field, - that was their punishment. But Ivan afterwards married that beautiful, most beautiful maiden whom he had saved from the fire, and they began to live and win wealth.