Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, the Tsar decided that it was time for his three sons to get married. He called them together, telling them each to shoot their arrows, and whatever maiden their arrows should land by would be their bride. The eldest son drew back his bow, and shot his arrow, which hit next to a nobleman's daughter. The middle son then drew his bow, and shot his arrow, which landed by a merchant's daughter.
Then came the turn of the youngest son, Ivan Tsarevich. Ivan drew back his bow and shot his arrow. But Ivan's arrow didn't find a maiden, it flew off into a swamp. To Ivan's great surprise, his arrow had landed next to a frog. His two older brothers laughed at him, and Ivan begged the Tsar not to make him marry the frog. But the Tsar understood the fate of young Ivan, and Ivan and the frog were married.
Soon after his sons were married, the Tsar called them together once more. He had decided to set their wives to certain tasks to see which one could perform them the best. The first task was for them to bake a loaf of bread. Ivan went home and told his frog about baking the bread. The frog replied for him not to worry, and sent Ivan to bed. After Ivan was sleeping, the frog removed her skin and turned into Vasilisa the Beautiful. She stood in the doorway, clapped her hands, and her servants came running to her aid. When Ivan awoke the next morning the frog handed a loaf of white bread to him. After tasting the bread of all three wives, the Tsar declared that the bread of Ivan's wife was by far the best.
The second task was to weave a beautiful carpet. Once again the frog sent Ivan to bed, shed her skin, summoned her servants, and wove a magnificent carpet. The Tsar once again chose the work of Ivan's wife over the others.
The third task was to see which wife could dance the best at the royal ball. The frog told Ivan to arrive at the ball alone, and she would follow an hour later. And so Ivan arrived alone, and an hour later his wife, Vasilisa the Beautiful, arrived. She shamed the other wives by using her magic powers to dance and create a lake of swans.
Ivan was so enchanted with her, that he destroyed her frog skin. Vasilisa screamed at him to stop, but it was to late. As soon as her skin was destroyed, Vasilisa turned into a swan and flew away to where she was obliged to be the prisoner of Koschei the Deathless. Ivan had to embark upon a long and magical journey to find his wife. He had to inquire from the evil witch Baba Yaga to learn of the magical feats that he must accomplish to free his wife.
Baba Yaga tells him that he must travel to the Island of Buyan, and that Koschei's death is on the point of a needle, which is in an egg, inside a duck, which is in a hare, contained in a chest buried underneath a large oak tree. Ivan travels to the island, finds the tree, and with the help of several animals that he has befriended, he is able to break the egg to kill Koschei, and to snap the needle which frees Vasilisa.
They return to their home and live happily ever after.
Composed and translated by