A short version of the folk tale "Prince Ivan, the Fire Bird, and the Grey Wolf."
In a far away land, a thief was stealing golden apples, which had the power of bestowing youth and beauty, from Tsar Berendey`s magic Garden. The guards of the Tsar were unable to stop this, for as hard as they tried, the thief always
got away. None of the guards had even seen this thief. The Tsar was frustrated, for he needed the golden apples for himself, as he was married to a very beautiful young Queen.
The only person who spotted the thief was the Tsar's son, Prince Ivan Tsarevich. As the night came upon the garden, the young Tsarevich hid under a water bucket and listened closely to every sound around him. At dawn, the Prince almost fell asleep, but the silence was broken by a magical being. The Prince pulled the water bucket up slightly so he could just see through the thin opening. And there it was: the Fire Bird.
In the depth of night the Fire Bird would fly into the garden with its feathers blazing with a silver and golden sheen. Its eyes were shining like crystals and would light the place as brightly as a thousand burning fires. The Tsarevich crawled up to the unsuspecting bird, and rushed to grab it by the tail.
The next day Prince Ivan told his father, the old Tsar, about the Fire Bird. He showed his father one of the Fire Bird's feathers. This was all he had managed to get, as the Bird was too smart and had flown away. From that day on, the Tsar was obsessed with the idea of capturing the Fire Bird for himself. In order to find the Bird, he sent his three sons on a journey to another kingdom.
Ivan Tsarevich's adventure begins when, after a long day's ride, he falls asleep, only to awake in the morning to find his horse gone. Wandering through the woods, he meets a gray wolf, who confesses that he ate the horse. Grateful that Ivan has spared his life, Gray Wolf offers to let Ivan ride on his back. Grey Wolf takes Ivan to Tsar Afron's kingdom, where the Fire Bird is kept in a golden cage inside the Tsar's walled garden.
The Prince, although warned by the Gray Wolf to take only the bird and not the cage, takes the cage anyway and triggers an alarm. Captured by Tsar Afron, he is told that in order to have the Fire Bird he must pay for it with the Horse of the Golden Mane, which is in possession of Tsar Kusman.
The Gray Wolf carries Ivan to Kusman's palace and advises him to acquire the horse but not the bridle. Once again the Prince is tempted by the gold and diamonds in the bridle, so he ignores the advice. He again becomes captured by Kusman, who now says he will only give him the horse in exchange for the fair Princess Elena, who was residing with Tsar Dalmat.
This time the wolf does the work himself and seizes Elena. He brings her back to Ivan and the Prince falls in love with her. The wolf offers to trick Kusman by assuming Elena's shape and also to trick Afron too by assuming the form of the horse.
Ivan returns with Elena, the horse, and the Fire Bird. However when the wolf leaves him, he is ambushed and killed by his brothers.
The wolf then returns and revives him with the Waters of Life and Death. The brothers are banished, and Ivan Tsarevich meets Tsar Berendey to tell his tragic story. When the Tsar's grief fades, the Prince marries Elena the Fair and they live happily ever after.
Composed and translated by
Paul V. Tyutin