When the Tsar instructed his three sons to go out into the field and shoot their arrows in three directions, he believed that they would find their wives-to-be where the arrows landed. And in fact, his first two sons did. But Tsarevich Ivan, the Tsar's youngest son, found his arrow in the mouth of a frog, who he then married. However, his 'frog' was actually Vasilisa the Wise and Clever, and she proved herself much more accomplished than both the Tsar's daughter-in-laws. But it was only at the Tsar's grand ball that Tsarevich Ivan discovered just how beautiful and clever his new wife was. Determined to keep her that way, Tsarevich Ivan found and burnt the discarded frog skin. When she returned, Vasilisa the Wise and Clever and discovered this, she despaired, for Vasilisa was under an enchantment. Had Tsarevich Ivan waited but three more days, she would have been free, but now she would have to leave... and Tsarevich Ivan would have to travel long and far to find her again.
Tsarevich Ivan cried and wept for a long time. At long last, he remembered his wife's last words: "Seek me beyond the Thrice-Nine Lands in the Thrice-Ten Tsardom where lives Koschei the Deathless." Now he knew what he must do, and so, saying goodbye to his father and his brothers, he left his kingdom behind. How long he walked, none can know, but his boots were worn, his caftan frayed and torn, and his cap battered by rain. After many days, he met a little old man who was as old as can be.
"Good morrow, good youth!" he said, "Where do you go, and what do you seek?"
Tsarevich Ivan told him of his trouble, and the little old man, who was as old as old can be, said:
"Ah, Tsarevich Ivan, why did you burn the frog skin? It was not yours to wear or to do away with. Vasilisa the Wise and Clever was born wiser and cleverer than her father, and this so angered him that he turned her into a frog for three years. Ah, well, it can't be helped now. Here is a ball of thread for you. Follow it wherever it rolls."
Tsarevich Ivan thanked the little old man, who was as old as old can be. He went after the ball of thread, and he followed it wherever it rolled.
In an open field he met a bear. He took aim and was about to kill it, but the bear spokeup in a human voice and said:
"Do not kill me, Tsarevich Ivan, who knows but you may have need of me some day."
And Tsarevich Ivan decided to spare the bear. He continued on his way, and soon he came upon a drake just about to take flight. Tsarevich Ivan took aim, but the drake said to him in a human voice. "Do not kill me Tsarevich Ivan, who knows but you may have need of me some day!"
And Tsarevich Ivan spared the drake and went on. Just then a hare came running. Tsarevich Ivan took aim and quickly was about to shoot it, but the hare said in a human voice: "Do not kill me Tsarevich Ivan, who knows but you may have need of me some day!" And Tsarevich Ivan spared the hare and went further. He came to a blue sea and he saw a pike lying on the sandy shore and gasping for breath, "Take pity on me Tsarevich Ivan," said the pike, "Throw me back into the deep blue sea!"
So, Tsarevich Ivan threw the pike into the sea and walked along the shore. Whether a long time passed, or little, no one knows, but by and by the ball of thread rolled into a forest and in the forest stood a little hut on chicken's feet, spinning round and round. The hut was small and fast and altogether, strange, and Tsarevich Ivan knew to whom it belonged – Baba Yaga, the Witch.
To be continued