The Magic Egg
THERE was once upon a time a lark who was the
Czar among the birds, and he took unto himself as his
Czaritsa a little shrew mouse. They had a field all to
themselves, which they sowed with wheat, and when the wheat
grew up they divided it between them. When they found that
there was one grain over, the mouse said:
"Let me have it!"
But the lark said:
"No, let me have it!"
"What's to be done?" thought they.
They would have liked to take counsel of some one; but they
had no parents or kinsmen—nobody at all to whom they could
go and ask advice in the matter. At last the mouse said:
"At any rate, let me have the first nibble!"
The lark Czar agreed to this; but the little mouse fastened
her teeth in it, and ran off into her hole with it, and there ate
it all up. At this the lark Czar was wroth, and collected all
the birds of the air to make war upon the mouse Czaritsa; but
the Czaritsa called together all the beasts to defend her, and
so the war began. Whenever the beasts came rushing out
of the wood to tear the birds to pieces, the birds flew up into
the trees; but the birds kept in the air, and hacked and pecked
the beasts wherever they could. Thus they fought the whole
day, and in the evening they lay down to rest. Now when the
Czaritsa looked around upon her forces she saw that the ant
was taking no part in the war. She immediately went and
commanded the ant to be there by evening, and when the ant
came the Czaritsa ordered her to climb up the trees with her
kinsmen, and bite off the feathers around the birds' wings.
Next day, when there was light enough to see by, the
mouse Czaritsa cried:
"Up, up, my warriors!"
Thereupon the birds also rose up, and immediately fell to
the ground, where the beasts tore them to bits. So the Czaritsa
overcame the Czar. But there was one eagle who saw
there was something wrong, so he did not try to fly, but remained
sitting on the tree. And lo! there came an archer
along that way, and seeing the eagle on the tree, he took aim
at it; but the eagle besought him and said:
"Do not kill me, and I'll be of great service to thee!"
The archer aimed a second time, but the eagle besought him
still more and said:
"Take me down rather and keep me, and thou shalt see that
it will be to thy advantage."
The archer, however, took aim a third time, but the eagle
began to beg of him most piteously:
"Nay, kill me not, but take me home with thee, and thou
shalt see what great advantage it will be to thee!"
The archer believed the bird. He climbed up the tree, took
the eagle down, and carried it home. Then the eagle said to
"Put me in a hut, and feed me with flesh till my wings have
Now this archer had two cows and a steer, and he at once
killed and cut up one of the cows for the eagle. The eagle
fed upon this cow for a full year, and then he said to the
"Let me go, that I may fly. I see that my wings have
already grown again!"
Then the archer let him loose from the hut. The eagle flew
around and around, he flew about for half a day, and then he
returned to the archer and said:
"I feel I have but little strength in me, slay me another
And the archer obeyed him, and slew the second cow, and
the eagle lived upon that for yet another year. Again the
eagle flew around and around in the air. He flew around and
about the whole day till evening, when he returned to the
archer and said:
"I am stronger than I was, but I have still but little strength
in me, slay me the steer also!"
Then the man thought to himself:
"What shall I do? Shall I slay it, or shall I not slay it?"
At last he said:
"Well! I've sacrificed more than this before, so let this
go too!" and he took the steer and slaughtered it for the
Then the eagle lived upon this for another whole year
longer, and after that he took to flight, and flew high up right
to the very clouds. Then he flew down again to the man and
said to him:
"I thank thee, brother, for that thou hast been the saving
of me! come now and sit upon me!"
"Nay, but," said the man, "what if some evil befall me?"
"Sit on me, I say!" cried the eagle.
So the archer sat down upon the bird.
Then the eagle bore him nearly as high as the big clouds,
and then let him fall. Down plumped the man; but the eagle
did not let him fall to the earth, but swiftly flew beneath him
and upheld him, and said to him:
"How dost thou feel now?"
"I feel," said the man, "as if I had no life in me."
Then the eagle replied:
"That was just how I felt when thou didst aim at me the
Then he said to him:
"Sit on my back again!"
The man did not want to sit on him, but what could he do?
Sit he must. Then the eagle flew with him quite as high
as the big clouds, and shook him off, and down he fell headlong
till he was about two fathoms from the ground, when the
bird again flew beneath him and held him up. Again the
eagle asked him:
"How dost thou feel?"
And the man replied:
"I feel just as if all my bones were already broken to
"That is just how I felt when thou didst take aim at me
the second time," replied the eagle. "But now sit on my back
The man did so, and the eagle flew with him as high as the
small fleecy clouds, and then he shook him off, and down he
fell headlong; but when he was but a hand's breadth from the
earth, the eagle again flew beneath him and held him up, and
said to him:
"How dost thou feel now?"
And he replied:
"I feel as if I no longer belonged to this world!"
"That is just how I felt when thou didst aim at me the
third time," replied the eagle. "But now," continued the
bird, "thou art guilty no more. We are quits. I owe thee
naught, and thou owest naught to me; so sit on my back again,
and I'll take thee to my master."
They flew on and on, they flew till they came to the eagle's
uncle. And the eagle said to the archer:
"Go to my house, and when they ask thee: 'Hast thou not
seen our poor child?' reply, 'Give me the magic egg, and I'll
bring him before your eyes!'"
So he went to the house, and there they said to him:
"Hast thou heard of our poor child with thine ears, or seen
him with thine eyes, and hast thou come hither willingly or
And he answered:
"I have come hither willingly!"
Then they asked:
"Hast thou smelt out anything of our poor youngster? for
it is three years now since he went to the wars, and there's
neither sight nor sound of him more!"
And he answered:
"Give me the magic egg, and I'll bring him straightway
before your eyes!"
Then they replied:
"'Twere better we never saw him than that we should give
thee the magic egg!"
Then he went back to the eagle and said to him:
"They said: 'Twere better we never saw him than that we
should give thee the magic egg.'"
Then the eagle answered:
"Let us fly on farther!"
They flew on and on till they came to the eagle's brother,
and the archer said just the same to him as he had said to
the eagle's uncle, and still he didn't get the egg. Then they
flew to the eagle's father, and the eagle said to him:
"Go up to the hut, and if they ask for me, say that thou
hast seen me and will bring me before their eyes."
So he went up to the hut, and they said to him:
"O Czarevich, we hear thee with our ears and see thee
with our eyes, but hast thou come hither of thine own free will
or by the will of another?"
And the archer answered:
"I have come hither of my own free will!"
Then they asked him:
"Hast thou seen our son? Lo, these four years we have
not had news of him. He went off to the wars, and perchance
he has been slain there."
And he answered them:
"I have seen him, and if thou wilt give me the magic egg,
I will bring him before your eyes."
And the eagle's father said to him:
"What good will such a thing do thee? We had better give
thee the lucky penny!"
But he answered:
"I don't want the lucky penny, give me the magic egg!"
"Come hither, then!" said he, "and thou shalt have it."
So he went into the hut. Then the eagle's father rejoiced
and gave him the egg and said to him:
"Take heed thou dost not break it anywhere on the road,
and when thou gettest home, hedge it around and build a
strong fence about it, and it will do thee good."
So he went homeward. He went on and on till a great
thirst came upon him. So he stopped at the first spring he
came to, and as he stooped to drink he stumbled and the magic
egg was broken. Then he perceived that an ox had come
out of the egg and was rolling away. He gave chase to the
ox, but whenever he was getting close to one side of it, the
other side of it got farther away from him. Then the poor
"I shall do nothing with it myself, I see."
At that moment an old she dragon came up to him and said:
"What wilt thou give me, O man, if I chase this ox back
again into the egg for thee?"
And the archer replied:
"What can I give?"
The dragon said to him:
"Give me what thou hast at home without thy will and
"Done!" said the archer.
Then the dragon chased the ox nicely into the egg again,
patched it up prettily, and gave it into the man's hand. Then
the archer went home, and when he got home he found a son
had been born to him there, and his son said to him:
"Why didst thou give me to the old she dragon, dad? But
never mind, I'll manage to live in spite of her."
Then the father was very grieved for a time, but what could
he do? Now the name of this son was Ivan.
So Ivan lost no time in going to the dragon, and the dragon
said to him:
"Go to my house and do me three tasks, and if thou dost
them not, I'll devour thee."
Now around the dragon's house was a large meadow
stretching as far as the eye could reach. And the dragon said
"Thou must in a single night weed out this field and sow
wheat in it, and reap the wheat and store it, all in this very
night; and thou must bake me a roll out of this selfsame
wheat, and the roll must be lying ready for me on my table
in the morning."
Then Ivan went and leaned over the fence, and his heart
within him was sore troubled. Now near to him there was a
post, and on this post was the dragon's starveling daughter.
So when he came thither and fell a-weeping, she asked him:
"Wherefore dost thou weep?"
And he said: "How can I help weeping? The dragon has
bidden me do something I can never, never do; and what is
more, she has bidden me do it in a single night."
"What is it, pray?" asked the dragon's daughter. Then
he told her.
"Not every bush bears a berry!" cried she. "Promise to
take me to wife, and I'll do all she has bidden thee do."
He promised, and then she said to him again:
"Now go and lie down, but see that thou art up early in
the morning to bring her her roll."
Then she went to the field, and before one could whistle she
had cleaned it of weeds and harrowed it and sown it with
wheat, and by dawn she had reaped the wheat and cooked the
roll and brought it to him, and said:
"Now, take it to her hut and put it on her table."
Then the old she dragon awoke and came to the door, and
was amazed at the sight of the field, which was now all stubble,
for the corn had been cut. Then she said to Ivan:
"Yes, thou hast done the work well. But now, see that
thou doest my second task."
Then she gave him her second command:
"Dig up that mountain yonder and let the Dnieper flow
past the site of it, and there build a storehouse, and in the
storehouse stack the wheat that thou hast reaped, and sell this
wheat to the merchant barques that sail by, and everything
must be done by the time I get up early next morning!"
Then he again went to the fence and wept, and the maiden
said to him:
"Why dost thou weep?" and he told her all that the she
dragon had bidden him do.
"There are lots of bushes, but where are the berries? Go
and lie down, and I'll do it all for thee."
Then she whistled, and the mountain was leveled and the
Dnieper flowed over the site of it, and round about the
Dnieper, storehouses rose up, and then she came and woke
him that he might go and sell the wheat to the merchant
barques that sailed by that way, and when the she dragon rose
up early in the morning she was amazed to see that everything
had been done which she had commanded him.
Then she gave him her third command:
"This night thou must catch the golden hare, and bring it
to me by the morning light."
Again he went to the fence and fell a-weeping. And the
girl asked him:
"Why art thou weeping?"
He said to her: "She has ordered me to catch her the
"Oh, oh!" cried the she dragon's daughter, "the berries
are ripening now; only her father knows how to catch such a
hare as that. Nevertheless, I'll go to a rocky place I know
of, and there perchance we shall be able to catch it."
So they went to this rocky place together, and she said to
"Stand over that hole. I'll go in and chase him out of the
hole, and thou catch him as he comes out; but mind, whatever
comes out of the hole, seize it, for it will be the golden
So she went and began beating up, and all at once out came
a snake and hissed, and he let it go. Then she came out of
the hole and said to him:
"What! has nothing come out?"
"Well," said he, "only a snake, and I was afraid it would
bite me, so I let it go."
"What hast thou done?" said she; "that was the very hare
itself. Look now!" said she, "I'll go in again, and if anyone
comes out and tells you that the golden hare is not here, don't
believe it, but hold him fast."
So she crept into the hole again and began to beat for
game, and out came an old woman, who said to the youth:
"What art thou poking about there for?"
And he said to her: "For the golden hare."
She said to him: "It is not here, for this is a snake's hole,"
and when she had said this she went away. Presently the girl
also came out and said to him:
"What! hast thou not got the hare? Did nothing come
"No," said he, "nothing but an old woman who asked me
what I was seeking, and I told her the golden hare, and she
said, 'It is not here,' so I let her go."
Then the girl replied: "Why didst thou not lay hold of
her? for she was the very golden hare itself, and now thou
never wilt catch it unless I turn myself into a hare and thou
take and lay me on the table, and give me into my mother's,
the she dragon's hands, and go away, for if she find out all
about it she will tear the pair of us to pieces."
So she changed herself into a hare, and he took and laid
her on the table, and said to the she dragon:
"There's thy hare for thee, and now let me go away!"
She said to him: "Very well—be off!"
Then he set off running, and he ran and ran as hard as he
could. Soon after the old she dragon discovered that it was
not the golden hare, but her own daughter, so she set about
chasing after them and destroying them both, for the daughter
had made haste in the meantime to join Ivan. But as the
she dragon couldn't run herself, she sent her husband, and he
began chasing them and they knew he was coming, for they
felt the earth trembling beneath his tread. Then the she
dragon's daughter said to Ivan:
"I hear him running after us. I'll turn myself into standing
wheat and thee into an old man guarding me, and if he
ask thee, 'Hast thou seen a lad and a lass pass by this way?'
say to him: 'Yes, they passed by this way while I was sowing
A little while afterwards the she dragon's husband came
"Have a lad and a lass passed by this way?" said he.
"Yes," replied the old man, "they have."
"Was it long ago?" asked the she dragon's husband.
"It was while this wheat was being sown," replied the old
"Oh!" thought the serpent, "this wheat is ready for the
sickle; they couldn't have been this way yesterday."
So he turned back. Then the she dragon's daughter turned
herself back into a maiden and the old man into a youth, and
off they set again. But the dragon returned home, and the
she dragon asked him:
"What! hast thou not caught them or met them on the
"Met them, no!" said he. "I did, indeed, pass on the
road some standing wheat and an old man watching it, and
I asked the old man if he had seen a lad and a lass pass by that
way, and he said, 'Yes, while this wheat was being sown';
but the wheat was quite ripe for the sickle, so I knew it was
a long while ago and turned back."
"Why didst thou not tear that old man and the wheat to
pieces?" cried the she dragon; "it was they! Be off after
them again, and mind, this time tear them to pieces without
So the dragon set off after them again, and they heard him
coming from afar, for the earth trembled beneath him. So the
damsel said to Ivan:
"He's coming again; I hear him; now I'll change myself
into a monastery, so old that it will be almost falling to
pieces, and I'll change thee into an old black monk at the gate,
and when he comes up and asks, 'Hast thou seen a lad and
a lass pass this way?' say to him: 'Yes, they passed by this
way when this monastery was being built.'"
Soon afterwards the dragon came flying past, and asked the
monk: "Hast thou seen a lad and a lass pass by this way?"
"Yes," he replied, "I saw them what time the holy fathers
began to build this monastery."
The dragon thought to himself: "That was not yesterday!
This monastery has stood a hundred years if it has stood a
day, and won't stand much longer either"; and with that he
turned him back. When he got home he said to the she
dragon, his wife: "I met a black monk who serves in a monastery
and I asked him about them, and he told me that a
lad and a lass had run past that way when the monastery was
being built, but that was not yesterday, for the monastery is
a hundred years old at the very least."
"Why didst thou not tear the black monk to pieces and
pull down the monastery? for 'twas they. But I see I must
go after them myself; thou art no good at all."
So off she set and ran and ran, and they knew she was
coming, for the earth quaked and yawned beneath her. Then
the damsel said to Ivan:
"I fear me 'tis all over, for she is coming herself! Look
now, I'll change thee into a stream and myself into a fish—a
Immediately after the she dragon came up and said to the
"Oh, oh! so thou wouldst run away from me, eh!"
Then she turned herself into a pike and began chasing the
perch, but every time she drew near to it the perch turned its
prickly fins toward her, so that she could not catch hold of it.
So she kept on chasing it and chasing it, but finding she could
not catch it, she tried to drink up the stream, till she drank
so much of it that she burst.
Then the maiden who had become a fish said to the youth
who had become a river:
"Now that we are alive and not dead, go back to thy lord
father and thy father's house and see them, and kiss them all
except the daughter of thy uncle, for if thou kiss that damsel
thou wilt forget me, and I shall go to the land of Nowhere."
So he went home and greeted them all, and as he did so
he thought to himself:
"Why should I not greet my uncle's daughter like the rest
of them? Why, they'll think me a mere pagan if I don't!"
So he kissed her, and the moment he did so he forgot all
about the girl who had saved him.
So he remained there half a year, and then bethought him
of taking to himself a wife. So they betrothed him to a very
pretty girl, and he accepted her and forgot all about the other
girl who had saved him from the dragon, the one who herself
was the she dragon's daughter. Now the evening before the
wedding they heard a young damsel crying shishki[B] in the
streets. They called to the young damsel to go away, or say
who she was, for nobody knew her. But the damsel answered
never a word, but began to knead more cakes, and made a
cock dove and a hen dove out of the dough and put them
down on the ground, and they became alive. And the hen
dove said to the cock dove:
"Hast thou forgotten how I cleared the field for thee, and
sowed it with wheat, and thou mad'st a roll from the corn
which thou gavest to the she dragon?"
But the cock dove answered:
Then she said to him again:
"And hast thou forgotten how I dug away the mountain for
thee, and let the Dnieper flow by it that the merchant barques
might come to thy storehouses, and that thou might'st sell
thy wheat to the merchant barques?"
But the cock dove replied:
Then the hen dove said to him again:
"And hast thou forgotten how we two went together in
search of the golden hare? Hast thou forgotten me then
And the cock dove answered again:
Then the good youth Ivan bethought him who this damsel
was that had made the doves, and he took her to his arms
and made her his wife, and they lived happily ever afterwards.