Funday Times

The Frog Tsarevna - Part III
Russian Fairytales – Chapter 7
By Smriti Daniel

There was a Tsar in a far land and he had three sons, and having seen them grow to manhood, he decided it was time for them to marry. The first son married a boyar's daughter, the second a mechant's daughter, but the youngest son (through a series of strange events) married a frog.

Now Tsarevich Ivan, for that was his name, had no idea that in the night, the frog would cast off her skin and become Vasilisa the Wise and Clever. So far, Vasilisa had proved herself the most capable of the three daughters-in-law, making the Tsar first his favourite shirt and then baking his favourite bread. But now Tsarevich Ivan was instructed to bring his wife to the ball – and he was entirely embarrassed to be seen with the frog. But he needn't have worried.

Once more, Tsarevich Ivan came home sad and sorrowful and he hung his head very low. And the Frog hopped over the floor and up to him and said:

"Croak, croak, why are you so sad Tsarevich Ivan? Is it that your father has grieved you with an unkind word?"

"Oh, Frog, Frog!" cried Tsarevich Ivan, "How can I help being sad? The Tsar has ordered me to bring you to his feast, and how can I show you to people?"

Said the Frog in reply:

"Do not grieve Tsarevich Ivan, but go to the feast alone, and I will follow later. When you hear a great tramping and thundering, do not be afraid, but if they ask you what it is, say: 'That is my Frog riding in her box.'"

So Tsarevich Ivan went to the feast alone, and his elder brothers came with their wives who were all dressed up in their finest clothes and had their brows blackened and roses painted on their cheeks. They stood there and made fun of Tsarevich Ivan.

"Why have you not brought your wife with you?" they asked. "You could have brought her in a little cup. Wherever did you find such a beauty? You must have searched the swamps for her."

Now the Tsar with his sons and his daughters-in-law and all the guests sat down to feast at the great oaken tables, covered with embroidered cloth. Suddenly there came a great trampling and thundering, and the whole palace shook and trembled.The guests were frightened and jumped up from their seats, but Tsarevich Ivan said:

"Do not fear, honest folk. That is only my frog riding in her box."

And there dashed up the porch to the Tsar's palace a gilded carriage, drawn by six white horses. And out of it stepped Vasilisa the Wise and Clever. Her gown of sky-blue silk was studded with stars and on her head she wore the bright crescent moon, and so beautiful was she that it cannot be pictured and it cannot be told, but was a true wonder and a joy to behold!

The guests returned finally to their eating and drinking and making merry. Vasilisa the Wise and Clever drank from her glass and poured the dregs down into her left sleeve. She ate some swan meet and threw the bones into her right sleeve. And the wives of the elder sons saw what she did and they did the same.

They ate and drank and then the time came to dance. Vasilisa the Wise and Clever took Tsarevich Ivan by the hand and began to dance. She danced and she whirled and she circled round and round, and everyone watched and marvelled. She waved her left sleeve, and a lake appeared; she waved her right sleeve and white swans began to swim upon the lake. The Tsar and his guests were filled with wonder.

Then the wives of the two elder sons began dancing. They waved their left sleeves and only splashed mead on the guests; they waved their right sleeves and bones flew about on all sides. One bone even hit the Tsar in the eye. And the Tsar was very angry, and told both his daughters-in-law to get out of sight.
In the middle of all the confusion, Tsarevich Ivan slipped out, ran home and finding the frog skin threw it in the stove and burnt it. Now Vasilisa the Wise and Clever came home, and at once she saw her frog skin was gone. She sat down on the bench, very sad and sorrowful, and she said to Tsarevich Ivan: "Ah, Tsarevich Ivan, what have you done! Had you but waited just three more days, I would have been yours forever. But now farewell. Seek me beyond the Thrice-Nine Lands in the Thrice-Ten Tsardom where lives Koshchei the Deathless.”

Then, Vasilisa the Wise and Clever turned into a grey cuckoo-bird and flew out the window.

To be continued next week...

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