This section is from the book "Fairy Tales Of The Slav Peasants And Herdsmen", by Aleksander Borejko Chodzko, Emily J. Harding.. Also available from Amazon: Fairy Tales of the Slav Peasants and Herdsmen (Illustrated Edition).
"Immediately upon the receipt of this letter introduce the bearer to the princess our daughter. I have chosen this young man for my son-in-law, and it is my wish they should be married before my return to the palace. Such is my pleasure".
The letter was duly delivered, and when the queen had read it, she ordered everything to be prepared for the wedding. Both she and her daughter greatly enjoyed Plavacek's society, and nothing disturbed the happiness of the newly married pair.
Within a few days the king returned, and on hearing what had taken place was very angry with the queen.
"But you expressly bade me have the wedding before your return. Come, read your letter again, here it is," said she.
He closely examined the letter; the paper, handwriting, seal - all were undoubtedly his. He then called his son-in-law, and questioned him about his journey. Plavacek hid nothing: he told how he had lost his way, and how he had passed the night in a cottage in the forest.
"What was the old woman like?" asked the king.
From Plavacek's description the king knew it was the very same who, twenty years before, had foretold the marriage of the princess with the charcoal-burner's son. After some moments' thought the king said, "What is done is done. But you will not become my son-in-law so easily. No, i' faith ! As a wedding present you must bring me three golden hairs from the head of Dede-Vsevede".
In this way he thought to get rid of his son-in-law, whose very presence was distasteful to him. The young fellow took leave of his wife and set off. "I know not which way to go," said he to himself, "but my godmother the witch will surely help me".
But he found the way easily enough. He walked on and on and on for a long time over mountain, valley, and river, until he reached the shores of the Black Sea. There he found a boat and boatman.
"May God bless you, old boatman," said he.
"And you, too, my young traveller. Where are you going?"
"To Dede-Vsevede's castle for three of his golden hairs".
"Ah, then you are very welcome. For a long weary while I have been waiting for such a messenger as you. I have been ferrying passengers across for these twenty years, and not one of them has done anything to help me. If you will promise to ask Dede-Vsevede when I shall be released from my toil I will row you across".
Plavacek promised, and was rowed to the opposite bank. He continued his journey on foot until he came in sight of a large town half in ruins, near which was passing a funeral procession. The king of that country was following his father's coffin, and with the tears running down his cheeks.
"May God comfort you in your distress," said Plavacek.
"Thank you, good traveller. Where are you going? "
"To the house of Dede-Vsevede in quest of three of his golden hairs".
"To the house of Dede-Vsevede? indeed! What a pity you did not come sooner, we have long been expecting such a messenger as you. Come and see me by and bye".
When Plavacek presented himself at court the king said to him:
"We understand you are on your way to the house of Dede-Vsevede? Now we have an apple-tree here that bears the fruit of everlasting youth. One of these apples eaten by a man, even though he be dying, will cure him and make him young again. For the last twenty years neither fruit nor flower has been found on this tree. Will you ask Dede-Vsevede the cause of it?"
"That I will, with pleasure".
Then Plavacek continued his journey, and as he went he came to a large and beautiful city where all was sad and silent. Near the gate was an old man who leant on a stick and walked with difficulty.
"May God bless you, good old man".
"And you, too, my handsome young traveller. Where are you going?"
"To Dede-Vsevede's palace in search of three of his golden hairs".
"Ah, you are the very messenger I have so long waited for. Allow me to take you to my master the king".
On their arrival at the palace, the king said, "I hear you are an ambassador to Dede-Vsevede. We have here a well, the water of which renews itself. So wonderful are its effects that invalids are immediately cured on drinking it, while a few drops sprinkled on a corpse will bring it to life again. For the past twenty years this well has remained dry: if you will ask old Dede-Vsevede how the flow of water may be restored I will reward you royally".
Plavacek promised to do so, and was dismissed with good wishes. He then travelled through deep dark forests, in the midst of which might be seen a large meadow; out of it grew lovely flowers, and in the centre stood a castle built of gold. It was the home of Dede-Vsevede. So brilliant with light was it that it seemed to be built of fire. When he entered there was no one there but an old woman spinning.
"Greeting, Plavacek, I am well pleased to see you".
She was his godmother, who had given him shelter in her cottage when he was the bearer of the king's letter.
"Tell me what brings you here from such a distance," she went on.
"The king would not have me for his son-in-law, unless I first got him three golden hairs from the head of Dede-Vsevede. So he sent me here to fetch them".
The Fate laughed. "Dede-Vse'vede indeed ! Why, I am his mother, it is the shining sun himself. He is a child at morning time, a grown man at midday, a decrepit old man, looking as if he had lived a hundred years, at eventide. But I will see that you have the three hairs from his head; I am not your godmother for nothing. All the same you must not remain here. My son is a good lad, but when he comes home he is hungry, and would very probably order you to be roasted for his supper. Now I will turn this empty bucket upside down, and you shall hide underneath it".
Plavacek begged the Fate to obtain from Dede-Vse'vede the answers to the three questions he had been asked.
"I will do so certainly, but you must listen to what he says".