Once upon a time in some kingdom there lived a tsar. He had many servants and different masters: gunsmiths, goldsmiths, joiners, potters, tailors, carpenters, builders, cooks and many others. The tsar liked to wear fashionable clothes and boots. His tableware was adorned with beautiful drawings and patterns; his palace was decorated with whimsical carvings. In the morning all the court masters gathered in the yard to find out what new task the tsar had invented for them to fulfill. One day a joiner collided with a goldsmith at the threshold of the tsar's palace and started disputing which of them was the best in his profession and whose job was harder. The goldsmith said, "Your trade isn't serious. You make your handicrafts out of wood whereas I make my handicrafts out of gold."
The joiner retorted, "It isn't difficult to make an expensive handicraft if you work with gold that costs much. Try to make a handicraft out of plain wood that will gladden people's hearts! If you manage to do it I will believe that you really a skillful master!"
The masters were arguing for a long time till the tsar appeared in the yard. The tsar heard their conversation, grinned and ordered, "Each of you must make me a wonder. The goldsmith will make me a wonder out of gold, and the joiner will make me a wonder out of wood! I will check your work and decide which of you is the best! The errand must be carried out in a week!"
Nobody would dare argue with the tsar and the masters went to fulfill the tsar's order. In a week they returned to the palace and started waiting for the tsar. Each of them carried a package. The tsar came in and exclaimed, giggling to himself, "So, masters, show me your talents!"
Then he called his wife and his young son to look at the wonders. The tsar and his wife sat on the bench and the tsarevich stood nearby. The goldsmith stepped ahead and said, "Your Majesty! Order a large tub filled with water to be brought in!"
The servants carried in a big tub and filled it with water. The goldsmith untied his package, pulled out a golden duck and put it on the water. The golden duck started swimming, quacking, and cleaning its feathers as if it was living. The tsar was gaping with astonishment and the tsaritsa exclaimed, "This duck is alive, it isn't artificial! The goldsmith has covered a living duck with gold dust!"
Offended, the goldsmith said, "This duck is not alive! It is made out of gold! I can disassemble it and assemble it again!"
The goldsmith took the golden duck out of the tab, and unscrewed its wings and its head. Then he unscrewed the duck into smaller parts and assembled it again. Soon the duck was put on the water and it again started swimming, quaking and turning its head. Delighted with the duck, the whole court began clapping their hands; the tsar exclaimed, "You've really made a wonder! I've never seen anything like it!"
Then he turned round and, addressing the joiner, said, "Now, it's your turn to show me your art!"
The joiner bowed low to the tsar and said, "Your Majesty! Order that a window to this chamber be opened!"
The servants opened the window. The joiner unwrapped his package and pulled out a wooden eagle. The wooden eagle was so skillfully cut out of wood that it was impossible to distinguish it from a living one.
"The golden duck is able to swim, but my eagle is able to fly!" exclaimed the joiner and saddled the eagle. As soon as he turned a screw on the eagle's head, the bird rose up in the air and flew out of the tsar's chamber. All the people who were in the chamber rushed to the windows. Looking out, everyone's mouth fell open in surprise. The joiner was hovering over the tsar's yard, sitting on the wooden eagle. When he turned the screw to the left, the eagle started rising up in the air. When he turned the screw to the right, the eagle started descending. The tsar, his wife and son and all the court circle were standing motionless, staring at the wonderful bird. Nobody had ever seen such an art!
Soon the joiner flew back to the tsar's chamber and asked the tsar, "Do you like my wooden eagle?"
"I like your eagle very much! replied the tsar. "I've never seen anything like it! How have you managed to make it?"
The joiner began explaining to the tsar the secrets of the eagle's making. Meanwhile the tsarevich saddled the wooden eagle, turned the screw and flew out of the tsar's chamber through the wide window.
"Come back!" cried the tsar and his wife. "Where are you going? You might fall down!"
The tsarevich waved goodbye to his parents and flew over the tsar's yard and the silver palace. Then he turned the screw to the left and the eagle rose high in the skies and disappeared behind the clouds.
The tsar was angry with the joiner and said, "You've invented your wooden eagle on purpose! You've planned to kill my only son! Guard, seize him and throw him into the dungeon! If my son doesn't return I will order that you be hanged." The guard seized the joiner and threw him into the dark dungeon.
Meanwhile the tsarevich flew far from his native kingdom. He was flying over the dark woods, wide fields, high mountains and blue rivers. In the evening he flew to an unknown kingdom and landed near a ramshackle hut. He knocked at the door, and an old woman opened it. "Please let me stay in your hut for the night, grandmother!" said the tsarevich.
"Come in!" answered the old woman. "I live alone, there is enough room in my hut!"
The tsarevich disassembled the eagle, wrapped it in paper and came into the hut. The old woman served supper. While eating his supper, the tsarevich began inquiring of the old woman about the town, its citizens and latest news.
"There is a wonder in our kingdom," said the old woman. "The tsar's palace in the middle of our kingdom and there is a high tower near the palace. In this tower a beautiful maiden is locked. She is the daughter of our tsar. The tower is guarded by thirty watchmen. Nobody is allowed to come into this tower. The tsar and his wife don't want their beloved daughter to marry a young tsarevich and leave them. She is their only child."
"Is the tsarevna really beautiful?" asked the tsarevich.
"I don't know, my son," replied the old woman. "I haven't seen her, but people say she is the most beautiful maiden in our kingdom!"
The tsarevich wanted to look at the tsarevna. The next day he assembled the wooden eagle, mounted it and flew to the forbidden tower. Flying up to the very top of the tower, he knocked at the window. The tsarevna was very surprised when she saw the handsome young man sitting on the wooden eagle. She opened the window and the eagle flew into the room. The tsarevich greeted the maiden and told her about himself. They fell in love with each other and the tsarevich proposed marriage to the maiden.
"I want to be your wife," answered the maiden. "But I am afraid my parents won't allow me to marry you!"
The wicked nanny who guarded the tsarevna overheard their conversation and reported to the tsar that a stranger had flown to the tsarevna. The tsar's servants found out that the tsarevich lived in the old woman's hut, seized him and dragged him to the palace.
"How have you dared to break the tsar's law and enter into the tower? Tomorrow you will be put to death!" said the incensed tsar, shaking his fist at the tsarevich.
The tsar's servants threw the tsarevich into the dungeon. In the morning the tsar, his wife and all the citizens of the kingdom gathered in the square to watch the tsarevich's punishment be carried out. The tsarevich mounted the scaffold and suddenly said, "Your Majesty! Can you fulfill my last wish?"
The tsar frowned but couldn't refuse him.
"Order your servants to go to the old woman's hut and bring me my paper package!" asked the tsarevich.
The tsar's messenger ran to the old woman's hut and soon returned with the paper package. The tsarevich unwrapped the package, pulled out the wooden eagle, got on and flew away. The tsar, his wife and all the people gasped in surprise.
"Seize him!" cried the tsar, but the servants couldn't reach the tsarevich as he was able to rise high into the sky.
Meanwhile the tsarevich directed the wooden eagle to the tower, flew up to the familiar window, grasped the tsarevna by the arm and offered her to sit on the eagle. The eagle carried them to tsarevich's own kingdom. The tsarevich introduced the tsarevna to his parents and told them everything that had happened to him. The tsar and his wife were so glad that they forgave their son's prank and released the joiner from the dungeon. The tsar arranged a sumptuous feast in honor of his son's marriage. All the people of the kingdom were celebrating the wedding for three months.