Favorite Fairy Tales Told in Russia

Favorite Fairy Tales Told in Russia

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780688126032
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/01/1995
Pages: 96
Product dimensions: 6.02(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.26(d)
Age Range: 7 - 11 Years

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Chapter One

To Your Good Health

Long, long ago there lived a Tsar who was such a mighty ruler that whenever he sneezed he expected everyone in his kingdom to say "To your good health!" Everyone said it, except a shepherd with bright blue eyes. He would not say it.

The Tsar heard of this and was very angry. He sent for the shepherd to come before him.

The shepherd came at once. He stood before the throne, where the Tsar sat looking very grand and powerful. But grand and powerful as the Tsar might be, the shepherd was not one bit afraid of him.

"Say at once, 'To my good health!'" cried the Tsar.

"To my good health!" replied the shepherd.

"To mine — to mine, you rascal!" stormed the Tsar.

"To mine, to mine, Your Majesty," was the answer.

"But to mine — to my own, " roared the Tsar and beat on his breast in a rage.

"Well, yes; to mine, of course, to my own," cried the shepherd and gently tapped his breast.

The Tsar was beside himself with fury. He could not think what to do.

The Lord Chamberlain whispered to the shepherd, "Say at once — say this very moment: 'To your health, Your Majesty.' If you don't say it, you will lose your life."

"No, I won't say it till I get your daughter, the Tsarevna, for my wife," said the shepherd.

The Tsarevna was sitting on a little throne beside the Tsar. She looked as lovely as alittle golden dove. When she heard what the shepherd said, she could not help laughing. This young shepherd pleased her very much. Indeed, he pleased her better than any Tsar's son she had yet seen.

But the Tsar was not as pleasant as his daughter. He gave orders to throw the shepherd into the white bear's pit. So guards led him away and thrust him into the pit with the white bear — a bear who had eaten nothing for two days and was very hungry.

The door of the pit was hardly closed before the bear rushed at the shepherd. But when it saw the shepherd's eyes it shrank away into a corner and gazed at him from there. It did not dare to touch him. Instead it sucked its own paws from sheer hunger.

The shepherd knew that if he took his eyes off the beast he would be killed. To keep himself awake while he held the bear with his eyes, he made up songs and sang them.

Thus the night went by.

Next morning the Lord Chamberlain came, expecting to see the shepherd's bones. He was amazed to find him alive and well!

He led him back to the Tsar, who fell into a furious temper and said, "Well, you have learned what it is to be very near death. Now will you say, 'To my good health'?"

But the shepherd answered, "I am not afraid of ten deaths. I will only say it if I may have the Tsarevna for my wife."

"Then go to your death," cried the Tsar. He ordered him to be thrown into a den with wild boars.

The wild boars had not been fed for a week. When the shepherd was thrust into their den, they rushed at him to tear him to pieces. But the shepherd took a little flute from his sleeve and began to play a merry tune. At first the wild boars shrank away. Then they got up on their hind legs and danced gaily.

They looked so funny that the shepherd would have given anything to be able to laugh. But he dared not stop playing. He knew well enough that the moment he stopped, the boars would fall upon him and tear him to pieces. His eyes were of no use to him here, for he could not have stared ten wild boars in the face all at the same time. So he kept on playing. The wild boars danced slowly until he began to play faster. Then they could hardly twist and turn quickly enough. Faster and faster he played until the boars fell over each other in a heap, breathless and worn out.

At last the shepherd dared to laugh. He laughed long and loud. When the Lord Chamberlain came early in the morning, expecting to find only his bones, tears of laughter were still running down his cheeks.

As soon as the Tsar was dressed, the shepherd was again brought before him. The Tsar was more angry than ever to think the wild boars had not torn the shepherd to bits.

He said to him, "Well, you have learned how it feels to be near ten deaths. Now say, 'To my good health'!"

The shepherd simply replied, "I do not fear a hundred deaths. I will say it only if I may have the Tsarevna for my wife."

"Then go to a hundred deaths!" roared the Tsar, and he ordered the shepherd to be thrown down the deep Well of Knives.

The guards dragged him away to a dark dungeon. In the middle of it was a deep well with long, sharp knife blades sticking out all around it. At the bottom of the well was a little light to show when anyone thrown in had fallen to the bottom.

When they came to the dungeon, the shepherd begged the guards to leave him alone a little while so that he might look down into the well. Perhaps he might, after all, make up his mind to say "To your good health!" to the Tsar.

So the guards left him alone. The shepherd stuck up his long stick near the well. He hung his cloak around it and put his hat on the top. He also hung his knapsack inside the cloak so that it might seem to have a body within it. When all this was done, he called out to the guards. He said that he had considered the matter but...

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