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.
A PEASANT sowed rye, and the Lord gave him a wonderful harvest. He could barely bring it in from the field. He drew the bundles home, threshed the grain, and poured it into bins; his granary was full to the brim. When he was pouring it in, he thought, "Now I shall live without trouble".
A mouse and a sparrow used to visit that peasant's barn; every one of God's days they came about five times, ate all they could, and then went out. The mouse would spring into her hole, and the sparrow fly away to his nest. They lived together in this way in friendship for three whole years, ate up all the grain; there remained only a mere trifle, about eight bushels, not more.
The mouse saw that the supply was drawing to an end, and began to contrive how to deceive the sparrow and get possession of all that was left. And the mouse succeeded. She came in the dark night-time, gnawed a great hole in a plank, and let all the rye down through the floor to the last grain. Next morning the sparrow came to the granary to have breakfast; looked, there was nothing! The poor fellow flew out hungry, and thought to himself, "Oh, the cursed creature, she has deceived me! I will fly now to her sovereign, the lion, and present a petition against the mouse; let the lion pass judgment on us in justice".
So he started and flew to the lion. "Lion, Tsar of beasts," said the sparrow, beating to him with the forehead, "I lived with one of thy beasts, the strong-toothed mouse. We lived for three years in one barn and had no dispute. But when the supply began to come to an end, she went to playing tricks, gnawed a hole through the floor, and let all the grain down to herself, - left me, poor fellow, to be hungry. Judge us in truth; if not, I will fly to seek justice and reparation from my own Tsar, the eagle".
"Well, fly off, with God!" said the lion.
The sparrow rushed with his petition to the eagle, related the whole offence, how the mouse had stolen and the lion had upheld her. The eagle grew fiercely angry, and sent a swift courier to the lion straightway: "Come to-morrow with thy army of beasts to such and such a field; I will assemble all the birds and give battle".
Nothing to be done, the lion made a great call and summoned the beasts to battle. There were assembled of them seen and unseen. As soon as they came to the open field, the eagle flew upon them with his winded warriors like a cloud from heaven. A great battle began. They fought for three hours and three minutes, and the eagle Tsar conquered; he covered the whole field with bodies of beasts. Then he sent his birds to their homes, and flew himself to a slumbering forest, sat on a lofty oak, bruised and wounded, and began to think seriously how to regain his former strength.
This was a long time ago. There lived then a merchant with his wife, and they had not a single child. The merchant rose up one morning and said to his wife: "I have had a bad dream. I thought that a great bird fastened on me, - one that eats a whole ox at a meal and drinks a pailful; and it was impossible to get rid of the bird, impossible not to feed it. I 'll go to the forest; mayhap the walk will cheer me".
He took his gun and went to the forest. Whether he wandered long or short in that forest, he wandered till he came to an oak-tree, saw an eagle, and was going to shoot it.
" Kill me not, good hero," said the eagle, in a human voice. "If thou kill me, small will be thy profit. Better take me home, feed me for three years, three months, and three days. I shall recover at thy house, shall let my wings grow, regain my strength, and repay thee with good".
"What pay can one expect from an eagle?" thought the merchant, and aimed a second time. The eagle spoke as at first. The merchant aimed a third time, and again the eagle begged, -
"Kill me not, good hero! Feed me three years, three months, and three days; when I have recovered, when my wings have grown, and I have regained my strength, I 'll repay thee with good".
The merchant took pity on the eagle, carried him home, killed an ox, and poured out a pailful of mead. "This will serve the eagle for a long time," thought he; but the eagle ate and drank all at one meal. A bad time to the merchant; from the unbidden guest utter ruin.
The eagle saw the merchant's loss and said: "Hear me, my host! Go to the open field. Thou wilt find there many beasts killed and wounded. Take their rich furs, bear them to the town to sell. Get food for thyself and me, and there will be some left for a supply".
The merchant went into the open field and saw many animals lying there, some slain and some wounded. He took the dearest furs, carried them to town to sell, and sold them for much money.
A year passed. The eagle said: "Bear me to that place where the lofty oaks are standing".
The merchant got his wagon ready and took him to that place. The eagle rose above the clouds, and when he swooped down, he struck a tree with his breast, the oak was split in two. "Well, merchant, good hero," said the eagle, "I have not regained my former strength; feed me another round year".
Another year passed. Again the eagle rose beyond the dark clouds, shot down from above, struck the tree with his breast, split the oak into small pieces. "Merchant, good hero, thou must feed me another whole year; I have not regained my former strength!"
When three years, three months, and three days had passed, the eagle said to the merchant: "Take me again to the same place, - to the lofty oaks." The merchant carried him to the lofty oaks. The eagle soared higher than before; like a mighty whirlwind he struck from above the largest oak, broke it into small bits from the top to the root, - indeed, the forest was reeling all around. "God save thee, merchant, good hero!' said the eagle; "now all my former strength is with me. Leave thy horse, sit on my wings; I will bear thee to my own land, and pay thee for all the good thou hast done." The merchant sat on his wings, the eagle bore him out on the blue sea, and he rose high, high. "Look now," said he, "on the blue sea. Is it wide?"