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.
Night passed, morning came; the good youth began to eat, drink, and be merry. Ivan the peasant's son rose up from the merry-making and said to his comrades, "Do ye wait here." He turned into a cat, and went along the bridge over the fiery river, came to the house where the serpents used to live, and began to make friends with the cats there. In the house there remained alive only the old mother of the serpents and her three daughters-in-law; they were sitting in the chamber talking to one another. "How could we destroy that scoundrel, that Ivan the peasant's son?"
The youngest daughter-in-law said: "I'll bring hunger on the road, and turn myself into an apple-tree, so that when he eats an apple it will tear him to pieces in a moment".
The second daughter-in-law said: "I will bring thirst on the road, and turn myself into a well; let him try to drink".
The eldest said: "I'll bring sleep and make a bed of myself; let Ivan try to lie down, he '11 die in a minute".
At last the old woman said: "I'll open my mouth from earth to sky and swallow them all".
Ivan heard what they said, went out of the chamber, turned into a man, and went back to his comrades. "Now, boys, make ready for the road".
They made ready, went their way, and to begin with a terrible hunger appeared on the road, so that they had nothing to eat. They saw an apple-tree. Ivan's comrades wanted to pluck the apples, but Ivan would not let them. "That is not an apple-tree," said he; and began to slash at it: blood came out. Another time thirst came upon them. Ivan saw a well; he would not let them drink from it; he began to slash at it: blood came forth. Then sleep came on them; there was a bed on the road. Ivan cut it to pieces. They came to the jaws stretched from the earth to the sky. What was to be done? They thought of jumping through on a run. No man was able to jump through save Ivan; and he was borne out of the trouble by his wonderful steed, every hair of which was silver, and the bright moon on his forehead.
He came to a river; at the river was a hut; there he was met by a little man, himself one finger tall, his mustache seven versts in length, who said: "Give me the horse; and if thou wilt not give him quietly, I'll take him by force".
Ivan answered: "Leave me, cursed reptile, or I'll crush thee under the horse".
The little man himself, one finger tall, his mustache seven versts in length, knocked him on to the ground, sat on the horse, and rode away. Ivan went into the hut and grieved greatly for his horse. In the hut was lying on the stove a footless, handless man, and he said to Ivan: "Listen, good hero, - I know not how to call thee by name. Why didst thou try to fight with him? I was something more of a hero than thou, and still he gnawed my hands and feet off".
"Because I ate bread on his table".
Ivan began to ask how he could win his horse back. The footless, handless said, -
"Go to such a river and take the ferry, ferry for three years, take money from no man: then thou mayest win the horse back".
Ivan bowed down to him, went to the river, took the ferry, and ferried three whole years for nothing. Once it happened to him to ferry over three old men; they offered him money, he would not take it.
"Tell me, good hero, why thou takest no money? '
He said, "According to a promise".
"A malicious man took my horse, and good people told me to take the ferry for three years, and receive money from no man".
The old men said: "If thou choosest, Ivan, we are ready to help thee to get back thy horse".
"Help me, my friends".
The old men were not common people; they were the Freezer, the Devourer, and the Wizard. The Wizard went out on the shore, made the picture of a boat in the sand and said: "Well, brothers, you see this boat?"
"We see it".
"Sit in it".
All four sat in the boat.
The Wizard said: "Now, light little boat, do me a service as thou didst do before".
Straightway the boat rose in the air, and in a flash, just like an arrow sent from a bow, it brought them to a great stony mountain. At that mountain stood a house, and in the house lived the little man, himself one finger tall, his mustache seven versts in length. The old men sent Ivan to ask for the horse. Ivan began to ask.
The little man said: "Steal the Tsar's daughter and bring her to me; then I'll give thee the horse".
Ivan told this to his comrades. They left him at once and went to the Tsar. The Tsar knew what they had come for, and commanded his servants to heat the bath red hot. "Let them suffocate there," said he. Then he asked his guests to the bath. They thanked him and went. The Wizard commanded the Freezer to go first. The Freezer went into the bath and made it cool. Then they washed and steamed themselves, and came to the Tsar. He ordered a great dinner to be given, and a multitude of all kinds of food was on the table. The Devourer began and ate everything. In the night they came together, stole the Tsar's daughter, and brought her to the little man himself, one finger tall, his mustache seven versts in length. They gave him the Tsar's daughter and got the horse.
Ivan bowed down to the old men, sat on the horse, and went to the Tsar. He travelled and travelled, stopped in an open field to rest, put up his tent, and lay down. He woke up, threw out his hand, the Tsar's daughter was by him; he was delighted, and asked, "How didst thou come here?"
"I turned into a pin, and stuck myself into thy collar".
That moment she turned into a pin again. Ivan stuck her into his collar and travelled on; came to the Tsar. The Tsar saw the wondrous horse, received the good hero with honor, and told how his daughter had been stolen.
Ivan said: "Do not grieve, I have brought her back".
He went into the next chamber; the Tsarevna turned into a fair maiden. Ivan took her by the hand and brought her to the Tsar.
The Tsar was still more rejoiced. He took the horse for himself, and gave his daughter to Ivan. Ivan is living yet with his young wife.