Once upon a time in some kingdom there lived a tsar and his wife. They lived happily, but the only trouble was that they hadn't any children. Every day the tsar and his wife prayed to God so that they could have a child that would be able to succeed them after they pass on.
Once the tsaritsa dreamt that there was a lake not far from the tsar's palace where lived a golden perch. If the tsaritsa ate this fish she would give birth to a child. The next morning the tsaritsa told her dream to a court astrologer. The astrologer said that the dream was prophetic.
The tsar ordered his servants to go to the lake and catch the golden perch. The servants threw a fishing net and caught the golden perch on the first try and carried it to the palace. Then the tsar asked his favorite cook to prepare the fish for dinner.
"Be careful," said the tsar to the cook. "Don't allow anyone to even touch the fish!" The cook cleaned the golden perch, boiled it and threw the slop out in the yard. The tsaritsa ate the magic fish, the cook licked the plate clean after the tsaritsa was done and the cow that had been pasturing in the yard ate the slop.
Having tasted the golden perch all three became pregnant at the same time and gave birth to three boys. The tsaritsa gave birth to a boy who was called Ivan Tsarevich, the cook gave birth to a boy who was called Ivan the Cook's Son and the cow gave birth to a boy who was called Ivan Bykovich ("Byk" means a bull).
All three boys were handsome and strong, but Ivan Bykovich was the strongest and the most handsome of them. When the brothers tested their strength Ivan Bykovich always was the winner. He could drive his two brothers into the ground up to their necks with an iron club whereas his brothers could drive him in the ground only up to his knees and up to his waist.
In the second competition Ivan Bykovich was the winner at throwing the iron club upward. In the third competition he managed to get a huge stone moving forward whereas his brothers couldn't do it. Under that huge stone the brothers found a cellar where three steeds were standing. The brothers saddled the steeds and galloped to the tsar. "Your Highness, please, let us leave our kingdom and visit foreign lands!" they said to the tsar. The tsar gave his blessing to the brothers and they began their journey.
They passed many kingdoms, mountains, forests, meadows and fields and at last found themselves in the thick forest. In that forest they found a hut standing on chicken legs. The evil witch Baba-Yaga lived in that hut. She met the brothers and asked them where they were wending their way.
"We are going to the Smorodina River, to the Kalinov Bridge where live horrible dragons." answered Ivan Bykovich.
"It is very dangerous," replied Baba-Yaga. "The dragons destroyed all the neighboring kingdoms and killed all the citizens there!"
"We want to battle these dragons!" answered the brothers. The next morning the brothers came to the Smorodina River. The banks of the river were covered with human bones. They also saw a hut and decided to spend the night there. Before going to sleep they decided to choose someone to stand guard. So they flipped a nickel. Ivan Tsarevich was the first who had to stand on guard. Ivan the Cook's Son was the second and Ivan Bykovich's turn was the third.
Ivan Tsarevich went to stand on guard, lay on the grass and fell asleep. Ivan Bykovich had no confidence in him. He took his sword and shield and went to the Kalinov Bridge.
Suddenly a heavy gale began on the river and soon Ivan Bykovich saw a horrible dragon emerging from the river. A big black raven was sitting on the dragon's shoulder.
Ivan Bykovich went out from the bridge and said: "Let's battle, you horrible monster!" The battle began. Ivan Bykovich was the winner. He could cut off all six heads of the horrible dragon. Then he cut up the dragon's body and threw the heads in the Smorodina River.
In the morning the brothers asked Ivan Tsarevich: "Did you seen anything?"
"No, I did not see a living soul last night."
The next night Ivan the Cook's Son had to stand guard. He went to the Kalinov Bridge, lay on the grass and fell asleep. Ivan Bykovich again decided to check on his brother and wasn't mistaken. He found his brother lying on the grass and sleeping like a log.
At midnight a heavy gale began on the river and soon Ivan Bykovich saw a horrible nine headed dragon riding a big horse. The dragon noticed Ivan Bykovich and the battle began. The bogatyr again was the winner. He was able to cut off all nine heads of the dragon. Then he cut up the dragon's body and threw the heads in the Smorodina River.
In the morning the brothers asked Ivan the Cook's Son: "Did you see anything last night?"
"No, I did not see a living soul last night." was the answer.
Ivan Bykovich showed his brothers the dragons' heads and began to shame them.
"You are sleepyheads! The only thing you're good for is to sit on the stove!"
The next night it was Ivan Bykovich's turn to stand guard. Before leaving he took a white towel, hung it on the wall and put a bowl on the floor under the towel. Then he said:
"Brothers, today the battle will be difficult. Don't sleep tonight and watch how blood will trickle down from this towel. If the bowl begins to overflow with the blood, you should unchain my steed and rush to my aid." And thus, Ivan Bykovich went to the Kalinov Bridge and stood under it.
At midnight a heavy gale again began on the river and some time later Ivan Bykovich saw a horrible twelve headed dragon riding a big horse. A black raven was sitting on the dragon's shoulder. The dragon smelled the scent of a human being and said: "I know here a man is hiding. Show yourself to me, I will eat you in one gulp!"
"Don't boast! Let's battle!" cried Ivan Bykovich.
The battle was very difficult. Ivan Bykovich couldn't defeat the dragon because all the dragon's heads that had been cut off appeared again. The dragon touched the heads that had been cut with his magic finger and they adhered to its body.
Ivan Bykovich got exhausted. The dragon drove him into the ground up to his knees. The bogatyr took a big stone and threw it into the hut. The stone breached the hut's wall but it couldn't wake the brothers. Ivan Bykovich swung his arm and managed to cut off three heads but the dragon touched them with his magic finger and they stuck back on its body. The bogatyr took off his hat and threw it into the hut. The blow was so strong that the hut fell apart. The brothers woke up and looked at the bowl. The bowl overflowed with the blood that was trickling down from the towel. The brothers unchained the steed and rushed to help Ivan Bykovich.
The steed began to beat the dragon with its hooves and meanwhile Ivan Bykovich managed to cut off the dragon's magic finger. After that the bogatyr cut off all the heads of the dragon, cut up his body and threw everything in the Smorodina River.
Some time later the brothers ran up to the bridge. Ivan Bykovich told them: "You are sleepyheads! I might have been killed because of you!"
In the morning Ivan Bykovich went to the field, struck himself against the ground and turned into a sparrow. Then he flew to the palace where the dragons lived and sat on the window-sill. The old witch noticed him, gave him grain to pick and told him the following; "Little sparrow, you flew to hear my sad story. Cursed Ivan Bykovich killed all my sons-in-law."
"Don't cry, mother, we will take revenge on him!" said the dragons' widows.
"I will set hunger upon the bogatyrs," said the youngest daughter. "Then I will turn myself into an apple tree with gold and silver apples growing on it. The brothers will eat the apples and die at once."
"I will set thirst upon the bogatyrs," said the middle daughter. "Then I will turn myself into a well. On the water gold and a silver bowls will be floating. As soon as the brothers take the bowls to drink water they will die."
"I will set drowsiness upon the bogatyrs," said the elder daughter. "Then I will turn myself into a gold bed. As soon as the brothers lie on the bed they will die."
Having heard this conversation Ivan Bykovich flew back to his brothers. In the wide field he struck himself against the ground and turned into a lad again.
The brothers made ready for the journey back home. They went along the road and saw the apple tree on the roadside. The brothers were very hungry. Ivan Tsarevich and Ivan the Cook's Son wanted to eat the apples but Ivan Bykovich forbade them to do it. He took his sword and began to cut the apple tree. The apple tree's blood was splashing under his sword's blows. Then Ivan Bykovich cut the well and the gold bed. The dragons' widows were killed.
Having known that her daughters were killed the old witch turned herself into a beggar woman and began to beg. When the brothers went by her the old witch addressed Ivan Bykovich: "Strong bogatyr, give me a coin!"
Ivan Bykovich extended his hand to the witch to give her ten rubles. Suddenly the witch seized the bogatyr's hand and disappeared together with him. Ivan Tsarevich and Ivan the Cook's son were very afraid and decided to get back home as soon as possible.
The old witch dragged Ivan Bykovich under the ground and led him to her husband.
"Look, this is the killer of our children!" she said. The old man was lying on an iron bed. His eyes were shut. Twelve mighty warriors came to the old man, took an iron pitchfork and began to open his eyes with it.
The old man looked at Ivan Bykovich and said: "Ah, it's you Vanusha. I don't know what to do with you."
"You may do anything you want!" answered Ivan Bykovich.
"I can't return my slain children. So then go the unknown kingdom and bring me Tsaritsa Golden Curls. I want to marry her."
"You are too old to marry in contrast to me" thought Ivan Bykovich. The old woman flew into a rage when she knew that her husband wanted to marry. She couldn't bear it and drowned herself.
Then the old man said: "Take this club and go to the oak tree that grows on Crystal Mountain. Rap on that oak with the club and say three times 'Ship, go out!'. As soon as the ship goes out from the oak's hollow you should say three times: 'The oak's hollow, shut!' Don't forget to say these words. If you don't do it you will injure me greatly."
Ivan Bykovich came to the oak, rapped on it with the club and said: "All ships hidden in the oak's hollow, go out!" A countless number of ships began swimming out of the oak's hollow. All the people who were aboard the ships thanked the bogatyr. Ivan Bykovich boarded the first ship and ordered: "All ships, sail after me!"
Some time later an old man sailing on a small boat overtook Ivan Bykovich and said: "Hello, dear friend Ivan Bykovich! Let me come aboard and travel with you."
"What can you do?"
"I can eat bread."
Ivan Bykovich replied:
"Everyone can eat bread, but it's always pleasant to sail in company. You can come aboard."
Then another old man sailing on a small boat overtook Ivan Bykovich and said: "Hello, dear friend Ivan Bykovich! Let me come aboard and travel with you."
"What can you do?"
"I can drink beer and wine."
"It's very simple to do. It makes no nevermind; you may come aboard."
Some time afterwards a third old man sailing on a small boat overtook Ivan Bykovich and said: "Hello, dear friend Ivan Bykovich! Let me come aboard and travel with you."
"What can you do?"
"I can take a steam bath in a bathhouse."
"I also can do it but no matter; you may come aboard."
Then a fourth old man sailing on a small boat overtook Ivan Bykovich and said: "Hello, dear friend Ivan Bykovich! Let me come aboard and travel with you."
"What can you do?"
"I am an astrologer."
"Oh, that is a very respectable profession. Come aboard and be my friend!"
And at last a fifth old man asked Ivan Bykovich to come aboard. "What can you do?" asked the bogatyr.
"I can turn myself into a perch."
So Ivan Bykovich and his new friends went to find Tsaritsa Golden Curls.
When the friends came to the unknown kingdom its citizens were expecting their arrival. They had baked a countless number of loaves of bread and rolled out a countless number of barrels with wine and beer. "What does all this mean?" asked Ivan Bykovich.
"It means that you should eat all that is before you." was the answer.
"I won't be able to eat it!" exclaimed Ivan Bykovich sadly, but suddenly remembered his friends.
One of his friends ran to the bread and began to eat it heartily. In a minute he ate everything and cried: "Your bread is very tasty. Bring me more!"
Another one of Ivan Bykovich's friends rushed to the wine and beer. In a minute he drank everything and cried: "I want more beer and wine!"
Servants ran to Tsaritsa Golden Curls to inform her that Ivan Bykovich and his friends had eaten everything. Tsaritsa Golden Curls ordered her servants to lead Ivan Bykovich to the bath house to take a steam bath. The bath house had been stoking for three months. It was impossible even to approach it.
As Ivan Bykovich drew near, he called the old man who could take a steam bath in a bathhouse. "Don't worry, everything will be all right!" said the old man.
He spat in one corner of the bath house and blew in the other one. This action made the bath house cool down and Ivan Bykovich and his friends managed to wash themselves with the greatest pleasure.
The servants rushed to Tsaritsa Golden Curls to inform her that Ivan Bykovich and his friends had washed themselves in the bathhouse. The Tsaritsa went out from her palace and told Ivan Bykovich that she was ready to travel with him.
Ivan Bykovich and his friends were sailing for a long time. Tsaritsa Golden Curls became very sad. She hit her breast and turned herself into a gold star and flew into the sky. Ivan Bykovich remembered that there was the astrologer among his friends. Then he asked the astrologer to return Tsaritsa Golden Curls to him. "Don't worry, everything will be all right!" said the astrologer.
He struck himself against the ground and also turned into a gold star. Then he counted all the stars that were in the sky, found the superfluous star and pushed it. The star started fallling through the sky and fell on the board of the ship.
The friends continued their journey. Tsaritsa Golden Curls grew sad again. She hit her breast and turned herself into a pike and jumped into the sea. Ivan Bykovich remembered that there was the old man among his friends that could turn himself into a perch. He asked him to return Tsaritsa Golden Curls to him.
The old man struck himself against the ground, turned into a perch and jumped in the sea. The perch began to prick the pike under the water with its tail. The pike jumped out from the sea and turned into Tsaritsa Golden Curls.
Sooner or later the ship reached the shore. There the old men said good bye to Ivan Bykovich and went to their homes. As for Ivan Bykovich, he went to the dragons' father. The dragons' father met the bogatyr cheerfully. "You managed to bring me Tsaritsa Golden Curls. Well done! Now I will let you go anywhere you want! As for me I will marry this beautiful maiden." he said.
"No," replied Ivan Bykovich. "Let's compete. Do you see that deep gulf? There is a line thrown over the gulf. Whichever of us manages to walk along that line and cross the gulf will marry Tsaritsa Golden Curls."
The dragons' father agreed. Ivan Bykovich was the first who had to cross the gulf. When he stepped on the bridge Tsaritsa Golden Curls said: "Be lightweight like swan fuzz!" The bogatyr fulfilled the task easily.
Then it was the dragons' father's turn to cross the pit. As soon as he stepped onto the line he fell into the gulf. Ivan Bykovich took the Tsaritsa's hand and led her to his native kingdom. Soon they married and arranged a lavish feast for all to attend.