In a far-off kingdom there lived a Tsar with his wife, the Tsarina. They had only one daughter, Marya the Beautiful with the Long Braid. People in the kingdom had been living happily until a great disaster came. A terrible Dragon with nine heads, nine necks and nine tails fell upon the peaceful kingdom. The Dragon flew with his two sons--the older one had six heads and the younger one had three heads.
The Dragon proclaimed the following words:
- Listen to me, Tsar, Tsarina, and all people! I will reduce your kingdom to ashes, I will pull out all the forests, I will splash out all rivers and lakes, I will trample down all fields and meadows, and I will kill all the people of your kingdom! If you want to be alive, you must feed me and my sons 'til our death. Every day you should leave a young girl of the age of sixteen in the Buyan Mountain and we will eat her.
All the people cried bitterly but they had to submit to the Dragon and every day they took a girl of the age of sixteen, chained her to the centenary oak that grew in the Buyan Mountain and left her there. The Dragons flew in, ate the girl and threw her bones in the lake.
At that time there lived a grandmother with her beloved grandson Ivan, or Vanusha for short. Once Vanusha saw how Marya the Beautiful with the long braid was singing and dancing in a ring, he fell in love with her. Suddenly he knew that it was Marya's turn to go to the Buyan Mountain and he decided to defend her from the Dragons. Vanusha said to his grandmother:
- Give me, grandmother, a clean linen shirt. I will go to fight the ferocious Dragons.
The grandmother began to cry. She ran to the kitchen garden, brought stinging nettle and began to braid a second shirt out of it. Weeping bitterly she said to her grandson:
- Vanusha, put on this shirt. The Dragon will burn his tongues if he bites you.
- All right, - answered Vanusha.
Marya the Beautiful with the long braid was chained to the centenary oak that grew on Buyan Mountain. She saw Vanusha and began to weep:
- Why have you come here, a fine fellow? Soon the Dragons will fly. Go away, he may eat you!
- Don't be afraid, - answered Vanusha.
He tore the gold chain like a rotten rope, lay on the ground, put his head on Marya's knees and said:
- I will sleep a little, wake me up if you catch sight of the Dragon.
Marya the Beautiful with the long braid woke up Vanusha as soon as she saw the Dragon with his three heads.
- Pray to your God and say goodbye to the world, Ivan, I will eat you, - the Dragon threatened Vanusha.
- You won't swallow me, damned Dragon. You will choke on me, - answered Ivan.
Vanusha snatched a sharp scythe, swung his arm and splayed all three heads of the Dragon. Then he cut the tongues out of the Dragon's heads, put them into his bag, hid the heads behind a big, gray stone and fell asleep.
Marya the Beautiful with the long braid sat on the sand and put Vanusha's head on her knees. Soon she noticed the second Dragon flying in the sky like a huge, gray storm cloud.
Marya was very frightened and began to wake up Vanusha. Ivan sprang to his feet. The six headed Dragon saw him and exclaimed:
- You must be tasteless. I will swallow you without chewing.
- You will choke on me, damned Dragon, - answered Ivanushka.
Vanusha snatched his sharp scythe, swung his arm and splayed three heads of the Dragon, while the other ones were breathing fire and smoke. Marya took her long plait and began to whip the Dragon with it. The Dragon turned round to her and at that moment Ivan cut off the other three heads. After that he cut the tongues out of the Dragon's heads, put them into his bag, hid the heads behind the big, gray stone and fell asleep.
Marya the Beautiful with the long braid raised Ivan's head and put it on her knees. After a time she noticed the awful nine-headed Dragon flying in the sky. She was terribly frightened and began to wake up Vanusha. Ivan was roused from his sleep and snatched his scythe.
- I will eat you together with your bones, - screamed the Dragon.
- You will choke on me, damned Dragon, - retorted Ivanushka boldly.
They began to fight. The ground trembled and the forest swayed with their battle. Ivan was able to cut seven heads of the Dragon but couldn't conquer the other two. The Dragon tried to gulp Vanusha but he wasn't successful because Vanusha's nettle shirt burnt his tongues.
Marya the beautiful grasped her long plait and began to flog the Dragon with it. The Dragon turned round to her and at that moment Ivan cut off the two last heads. Then he cut all the tongues out of the Dragon's heads, put them into his bag and hid the heads behind the big, gray stone.
Marya the Beautiful with the long braid came to him and said:
- Thank you, Ivan, you've saved me and the whole kingdom. I want to be your wife.
She took off a gold ring and gave it to Ivan. Vanusha was happy to take it and then he fell asleep again. A short time later, a Tsar's guard, or voevode appeared on the road. He grabbed Marya the Beautiful with the long braid and drove her to a thick forest.
- Tell your father that I've saved you and the whole kingdom from the Dragons instead of silly Ivan or I will kill you, - said the Voevode to Marya in the depths of the forest.
Marya the Beautiful with the long braid had to submit to him and they went to the palace. The Voevode showed the Tsar the Dragons' heads and accepted an offer to marry Marya the Beautiful with the long braid.
At that time Vanusha woke up and went to the town. People told him about the wedding and he decided to go to the palace at once.
The wedding was at its height. The bride was pale and tearful, she didn't want to marry the Voevode. Ivan took a gold bowl, dropped Marya's gold ring into it, called a servant and said to him:
- Bow to Marya the Beautiful and ask her to drink this bowl.
Marya the Beautiful with the long braid drank the bowl and found her gold ring at the bottom of it. She was very happy and declared to all people:
- The Voevode hasn't saved my life. It was the other man who has done it. Come here, Ivanushka. Here is my bridegroom!
The Voevode began to justify himself:
- I've killed the Dragons and even showed their heads!
- If you find the defects in these heads I will agree that you've killed the Dragons.
The Voevode couldn't say anything. Ivanushka raised the heads, opened the jaws and said.
- There aren't any tongues in the Dragons' heads, these tongues are in my bag. Look!
Everybody understood that Vanusha was the victor over the Dragons. The Tsar was very angry with the Voevode and sent him out of the kingdom. And the same evening Vanusha and Marya the Beautiful with the long braid got married.