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.
Long and long did they ride, till they saw two shepherds herding a flock. "Whose herd is that?"
The herdsmen answered: "This is the herd of Koshchei Without-Death".
Bulat and Ivan Tsarevich asked the herdsmen if Koshchei Without-Death lived far from there, how to go to his house, what time they went home with the flock, and how they shut it in. Then they came down from their horses, wrung the necks of the shepherds, dressed themselves in their clothes, drove the herd home, and stood at the gate.
Ivan Tsarevich had a gold ring on one of his fingers, Vassilissa had given it to him. Vassilissa had a goat, and she washed herself morning and evening with the milk of that goat. The maid ran with a vessel, milked the goat, and was carrying the milk. Bulat took the Tsarevich's ring and threw it into the vessel.
"Oh, my dove," said the maid, "thou art getting impudent!" She came to Vassilissa Kirbityevna and complained. "Now," said she, "the herdsmen have begun to make sport of us, - they threw a ring into the milk".
"Leave the milk; I will strain it myself," said Vassilissa. She strained the milk, saw the ring, and gave command to send the herdsmen to her. The herdsmen came.
"Hail, Vassilissa Kirbityevna!" said Bulat the hero.
"Hail, Bulat the hero! Be well, Tsarevich! How did God bring you?"
"We came for thee, Vassilissa Kirbityevna; thou wilt hide from us nowhere. We should find thee even on the bottom of the sea".
She seated them at the table, gave them every sort of food and all kinds of wine.
Said Bulat the hero: "When Koshchei comes home from hunting, ask him, Vassilissa Kirbi'tyevna, where his death is. And now it would not be amiss for us to hide".
As soon as the guests had hidden, Koshchei Without-Death was flying home from the hunt. "Tfu-tfu!" said he; "of old there was n't a sign of Russia to be heard with hearing or seen with sight; but now Russia runs into one's eyes and mouth".
Said Vassilissa: "Thou hast been flying through Russia thyself, and art full of its odor; so to thy thinking dost find it here".
Koshchei ate his dinner and lay down to rest. Vassilissa came to him, threw herself on his neck, fondled him, and kissed him, saying: "My dear love, hardly was I able to wait for thee. I did not expect to see thee alive; I feared that savage beasts had devoured thee".
Koshchei laughed aloud. "Simple woman! her hair is long, but her wit is short. Could savage beasts eat me?"
"But where is thy death, then?"
"My death is in the broom which lies around at the threshold".
As soon as Koshchei had flown away, Vassilissa Kirbi'tyevna ran to Ivan Tsarevich.
Bulat asked: "Well, where is Koshchei's death?"
" In a broom thrown around at the threshold".
"No, he lies with design; thou must ask him more cunningly".
Vassilissa Kirbityevna formed a plan. She took the broom, gilded it, adorned it with various ribbons, and placed it on the table. When Koshchei Without-Death flew home, he saw the broom on the table, and asked why that was done.
"How was it possible," answered Vassilissa Kirbityevna, "that thy death should roll around at the threshold? Better let it lie on the table".
"Ha, ha, ha! The woman is simple; her hair is long, but her wit is short! Could my death be here?"
"Where is it, then?"
" My death is hidden in the goat".
As soon as Koshchei went off to the hunt, Vassilissa Kirbityevna took the goat and adorned it with ribbons and bells, and gilded its horns. Koshchei saw the goat; again he laughed. "Oh, the woman is simple; her hair is long, but her wit is short!"
"My death is far from here. On the sea, on the ocean, is an island; on that island stands an oak; under the oak is buried a chest; in the chest is a hare, in the hare a duck, in the duck an egg, and in the egg my death," said he, and flew away.
Vassilissa Kirbityevna told all this to Ivan Tsare-vich. They took supplies and went to find Kosh-chei's death. Whether they travelled long or short, they ate all their provisions and began to be hungry.
A dog with her whelps happened in their way. "I will kill her," said Bulat the hero; "there is nothing else to eat".
"Do not kill me," said the dog, "do not make my children orphans, and I will serve thee myself".
"Well, God be with thee".
They went farther. On an oak was an eagle with eaglets. Said Bulat the hero: "I will kill the eagle".
"Kill me not," said the eagle, "make not my children orphans; I will serve thee myself".
"Let it be so; live to thy health".
They came to the ocean sea wide; on the shore a lobster was crawling. Said Bulat the hero: "I will kill it with a blow".
"Strike me not, good hero; there is not much good in me. Wilt eat me, thou 'It not be satisfied. The time will come when I will serve thee myself".
"Well, crawl off with God," said Bulat the hero. He looked on the sea, saw a fisherman in a boat, and shouted, "Come to shore." The fisherman brought the boat. Ivan Tsarevich and Bulat the hero sat in it and went to the island; they landed, and came to the oak. Bulat the hero caught the oak with his mighty hands and tore it out with the roots. They took the chest from under the oak, opened it; out of the chest sprang a hare, and ran with all its breath.
"Ah!" said Ivan Tsarevich, "if the dog were here now, she would catch the hare".
Behold, the dog is bringing the hare. Bulat the hero tore it open; out of the hare flew the duck and rose high in the air.
"Ah!" said Ivan Tsarevich, "if the eagle were here, she would catch the duck." And already the eagle was bringing the duck.
Bulat the hero tore open the duck; an egg rolled out and fell into the sea.
"Ah!" said Ivan Tsarevich, "if the lobster would pull it out." The lobster was crawling and bringing the egg. They took the egg, went to Koshchei Without-Death, struck him with the egg on the forehead; that moment he stretched out and died.
Ivan Tsarevich took Vassilissa Kirbityevna, and they went their way. They travelled and travelled; dark night overtook them; they pitched their tent. Vassilissa Kirbityevna lay down to rest. Said Bulat the hero, "Lie down too, Tsarevich, and I will stand guard".
At dark midnight twelve doves appeared, struck wing against wing, and became maidens.
"Well, Bulat the hero and Ivan Tsarevich, ye killed our brother, Koshchei Without-Death, ye carried away our sister-in-law, Vassilissa Kirbityevna; but no good will come to you either. When Ivan Tsarevich comes home, he will give command to bring out his favorite dog, the dog will break away from the keeper and tear the Tsarevich into small pieces; but whoso hears this and tells Ivan what we have said will become stone to the knees".
In the morning Bulat the hero roused the Tsarevich and Vassilissa Kirbityevna; they made ready and went their road and way. A second night overtook them; they pitched their tent in the open field. Again Bulat said: "Lie down to sleep, Ivan Tsarevich; I will stand guard." In the dark midnight twelve doves came flying, they struck wing against wing, and became maidens.
"Well, Bulat and Ivan Tsarevich, ye killed our brother, Koshchei Without-Death, ye carried away our sister-in-law; but no good will come to you, for when Ivan Tsarevich comes home he will give command to bring out his favorite horse, on which he has ridden since childhood. The horse will tear away from the groom and beat the Tsarevich to death; and whoso hears this and tells him will become stone to the girdle".
Morning came, again they travelled on. A third night overtook them. They pitched their tent and stopped in the open field. Bulat said: "Lie down to sleep, Ivan Tsarevich; I will stand watch." Again at midnight twelve doves came flying, struck wing against wing, and became maidens.
"Well, Bulat and Ivan Tsarevich, ye killed our brother, Koshchei Without-Death, and carried away our sister-in-law; but no good will come to you. When Ivan Tsarevich comes home he will give command to lead out his favorite cow, on whose milk he has been nourished since childhood. She will tear away from the herder and raise the Tsarevich on her horns. But whoso sees and hears us, and tells him this, will become altogether stone." They finished the sentence, turned into doves, and flew home.
In the morning Ivan Tsarevich and Yassilissa set out on the road. The Tsarevich came home, married Yassilissa Kirbityevna; and in a day or two he said to her, "I will show thee my favorite dog, with which I played all the time when I was little".
Bulat the hero took his sword, ground it sharp, sharp, and stood at the porch. They were bringing the dog. It tore away from the keeper and ran straight to the porch; but Bulat drew his sword and cut the dog in two. Ivan Tsarevich was angry, but for Bulat's former service he was silent.
The next day he ordered them to bring out his favorite horse. The horse broke his halter, tore away from the groom, and galloped straight at Ivan Tsarevich. Bulat the hero cut off the horse's head.
Ivan Tsarevich was still more in anger, and gave command to seize Bulat and hang him; but Vassilissa Kirbityevna interceded. "Had it not been for him," said she, "thou wouldst never have won me".
On the third day the Tsarevich gave command to lead out his favorite cow. She tore away from the herder and ran straight at the Tsarevich. Bulat cut off her head too.
Now Ivan Tsarevich was so enraged that he would listen to no one, gave orders to call the headsman to put Bulat to death on the spot.
"Oh, Ivan Tsarevich, if 'tis thy wish to put me to death by the executioner, better let me die of myself; only let me speak three speeches".
Bulat told about the first night, how twelve doves flew to them in the open field, and what they said. That moment he was stone to the knees; he told of the second night, and was stone to the girdle. Now Ivan Tsarevich begged him not to speak to the end. Bulat answered: "'T is all the same now, I am stone to the girdle; it is not worth while to live." He told of the third night, and was all stone.
Ivan Tsarevich put him in a chamber apart, went there each day with Vassilissa, and wept bitterly.
Years passed on. Once Ivan Tsarevich was weeping over the stone hero Bulat, and heard a voice coming out of the stone: "Why dost thou weep? It is hard for me even as I am".
"Why should I not weep? How can I help it? Thou knowest I destroyed thee".
"If thou wishest, thou canst save me. Thou hast two children, - a son and a daughter. Kill them, pour their blood into a vessel, and rub this stone with the blood".
Ivan Tsarevich told this to Vassilissa Kirbityevna. They grieved and mourned; decided to kill their children. They killed them, gathered the blood, and rubbed the stone.
When Bulat the hero came to life he asked the Tsarevich and his wife, "Were ye grieved for the children?"
"We were grieved, Bulat".
"Well, let us go to their room".
They went, and behold, the children were alive! The father and mother were delighted, and in their delight gave a feast to all.