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Published: February 3rd 2020
This tale has nothing to do with kissing frogs nor the Disney production of "The Princess & the Frog"
nor the Grimm Fairy tale "The Frog Prince"
Y'all know this dancer would NOT extol that fantasy claptrap..."Historophile"
being my middle name.
Now I've cleared that up...let us begin.
Long, long ago there was a Tsar who had three sons.
When they came of age...like any loving father he called them before him and said, "While I am still able to guide your futures...I wish to ensure you are happily married and bear grandchildren for me to enjoy."
The sons said, "You know what is best for us, oh father. Who shall our brides be?" "Do as I say. Each take a bow with a single arrow into the countryside and shoot it. Wherever it lands, there shall your destiny lie."
And as all good sons must do, they did as their father commanded.
The eldest son Sasha's arrow fell in the courtyard of a boyar (aristocrat in the rank below a prince) and was picked up by his daughter.
The middle son Vlad's arrow fell in the grounds of an oligarch (wealthy
merchant) and was picked up by his daughter.
The youngest son, Ivan's arrow flew so far that he could not see where it landed. He searched and searched and at last came to a swamp. Therein was sitting a frog holding his arrow.
He beseeched, "Oh frog, please give me back my arrow."
The frog replied, "Only if you take me as your wife." "But you are a frog. How can I take a frog as my wife?" "Take me...for that is your destiny."
Ivan Tsaravich was greatly upset but being a man of honour, he picked up the frog still clasping his arrow and took them back to his palace.
The Tsar hearing his sons had found brides, arranged a triple wedding befitting Tsaraviches of the realm.
Sasha married the boyar's daughter, Vlad married the oligarch's daughter and the unfortunate Ivan...
well...he married the frog!
Soon the Tsar called his sons before him. "I want to see which of your wives is the best needlewoman. Let each sew me a shirt by tomorrow."
Ivan returned home head hung low, whereupon the frog asked, "Croak, croak...Why so glum, Ivan?
Has something bad happened?" "My father has commanded you sew him a shirt by tomorrow." "That's OK. You go to bed and in the morning I'll have it ready."
So Ivan went to bed and the frog shed her skin and turned into Vasilisa the Wise...a maiden so beautiful she'd stop you in your stride, calling out, "Hearken seamstresses and nannies...there's work to be done"
In the morning Ivan awoke and the shirt was wrapped in a towel. So Ivan took it to his father.
Sasha unwrapped his wife's shirt and the Tsar scoffed, "That's a shirt for a lowly peasant."
Vlad unwrapped his wife's shirt and the Tsar spluttered, "That's only good for wearing in a bathhouse."
Ivan unwrapped his wife's shirt and it was embroidered with gold and silver in the Russian double headed eagle. The Tsar exclaimed, "That's a shirt fit for a feast."
Ivan's brothers returned to their palaces muttering, "We were wrong to laugh at Ivan's wife. She is obviously a cunning creature."
Soon the Tsar called his sons before him again. "I want to see which of your wives is the best cook. Have
them bake me a loaf by tomorrow."
Ivan returned home with his head hung low, whereupon the frog asked,"Croak, croak...Why so sad, Ivan?" "The Tsar wants you to bake him a loaf of bread by tomorrow." "That's OK husband. You go to bed and in the morning I'll have it ready."
Sasha and Vlad's wives, who had laughed at the frog at first, sent an old maid to watch how Ivan's bride made bread.
But the frog was a clever frog and made the dough and poured it into the top of the hot stove, knowing the old maid was looking.
The maid ran to the others and told them what she had seen and their wives got to work and did the same.
Meanwhile the frog shed her skin and called, "Hearken cooks and nannies...there's work to be done"
When Ivan woke in the morning the loaf was waiting on the table decorated with the royal emblem and a castle with turrets on the top.
So he wrapped it in a cloth and took it to his father.
Sasha and Vlad's wives had tipped the dough into the top
of their stoves and of course their loaves were shrivelled burnt messes.
But Ivan's? The Tsar exclaimed, "This is fit for a feast. We will have a banquet tomorrow."
He then commanded his sons to appear with their wives at a banquet the next evening.
Ivan returned home head hung low, whereupon the frog asked, "Croak, croak...Why so sad, Ivan? Has your father said something to upset you?" "Frog, oh frog...I cannot but be sad 'cos my father has ordered me to bring you to a banquet tomorrow. How can I show you to his guests at court?
The frog replied, "Don't worry husband. You go to the banquet alone and I shall follow, When you hear a clap of thunder say, "That's my little frog arriving in her carriage.""
So Ivan went to the banquet alone,
His older brothers came with their wives dressed in fine robes. "Why have you not come with your wife, Ivan",
they mocked. "You could have brought her in a handkerchief. You must have scoured the whole swamp to find such a beautiful frog."
The Tsar and his guests were sitting down to feast when
there was a noise like thunder, causing them to jump in fright.
Ivan called out. "Do not be afraid, dear guests. It is but my frog arriving in her carriage."
A golden carriage pulled by six white horses wheeled up to the palace steps and Vasilisa the Wise alighted. She was dressed in a sapphire blue dress scattered with stars and and wore a jewelled tiara...radiating such beauty that the guests could only gasp...taking Ivan Tsaravich by the hand as he led her to her seat at the feasting table.
The guests began to eat and make merry.
Vasilisa the Wise drank wine from a glass and poured the last drops onto her left sleeve...also eating some roast swan and tucking the bones into her right sleeve.
Sasha and Vlad's royal brides saw this and did the same.
When it was time to dance Vasilisa shook her sleeves and the wine drops turned into a lake and the bones spilled out turning into swans swimming on the lake...the guests gasping in amazement.
The other royal brides tried the same but the guests were splashed with wine and one of the bones hit the
Tsar in the eye...he thus ordering them from the hall.
Ivan crept out and raced home mortified...found the frog skin...threw it into the stove...watching it burn up.
When Vasilisa came home she could not find the frog skin...shaking her head in despair. "What have you done Ivan Tsaravich? If you had only waited three days...I would have been free of it and yours forever. Now I must bid you farewell. You must seek me at the end of the World, where Kashchei the Immortal will have power over me."
With that she turned into a cuckoo and flew out the palace window, leaving this song.
Did I say how much he wept?
T'wept much...nay...he t'wept a lot.
Taking a Prince Harry...Ivan took leave from his royal duties...searching for his wife.
Walked and walked...legs stronger...heart heavier...crashing through forests...deep snow...steep mountains...treacherous ravines...storms clapping...winds whipping...clothes shredding...skin blistering...scarred feet...forced to his knees...paths leading to the edge of the World.
Then an old, old man crossed his path. "Greetings young Sir. Where'd ye be heading?"
Ivan told him his misfortune and the old man shook his head and said, "Oh Ivan. Why did you burn the frog skin? You did not put it on Vasilisa and it was not for you to take it off. You need to find her. Here...take this ball of yarn and follow it wherever it wills."
So as the yarn rolled...Ivan followed...up hills and down dales.
'Til he came upon a bear that stood and said, "Do not kill me Ivan Tsaravich. I shall be of use to you."
A drake flew by...Ivan took aim and the drake said, "Do not kill me Ivan Tsaravich. I shall be of use to you."
The yarn rolled on 'til a hare ran across his path. Ivan raising his bow the hare said, "Do not kill me Ivan Tsaravich. I shall be of use to you."
Eventually he came to the deep blue sea...a pike leaping onto the bank in front of him saying, "Ivan Tsaravich, spare me and throw me back in the sea."
He tossed the pike and walking along the shore he came upon a wooden hut with chicken legs running around.
Ivan called, "Hut oh hut. stand as your mother placed you...with your front door
The hut did as asked and Ivan went inside where on the stove was Baba-Yaga...her teeth on a shelf...her nose coming out of the ceiling. "Why have you come calling young man? Looking for adventure or avoiding one?" "You old hag. Give me food and drink and make me a bed before you start your questioning. I'm looking for my wife Vasilisa the Wise." "I know I know"
, she cackled. "She is under the power of Kashchei the Immortal. It will not be easy to recover her. His death is at the tip of a needle...the needle is in an egg...the egg is in a duck...the duck is in a hare...the hare is in a stone box...and the stone box is in a large oak tree...guarded by Kashchei day and night." "Write that down for me will ya. How am I supposed to remember that!"
He slept in Baba Yaga's hut and in the morning she took him to the old oak tree.
And in its branches was indeed a stone box...way up in the branches well out of reach.
Suddenly from out of nowhere, a bear came loping up
and ripped the tree out by its roots...the box crashing down and breaking open.
Out sprang a hare that hopped off pursued by another hare that tore it to pieces...out flew a duck climbing into the sky...a drake striking it so hard it dropped its egg...the egg falling into the deep blue sea. Dear reader you must be in tears by now...'cos Ivan certainly was.
How could he find the egg in the sea?
Suddenly a pike swam to the shore with the egg in it's mouth.
Ivan took the egg and broke it...pulled out the needle and strained to break its tip.
Kashchei struggled but Ivan prevailed...once Immortal now D.E.D!
The sun shone...waves smiling as they crashed on the shore...birds singing...joy in the air...Vasilisa running out of Kashchei's palace and into Ivan's arms...kissing him passionately.
I awake with tears in my eyes and a smile on my matryoshka doll's face.
Ah...this glossy Russian Fairy Tale book...best ten bucks I've spent in my life.
Gotta love Russia...gotta explore more of this place.
Relax & Enjoy,
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