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Main > Czechoslovak folktale > Fairy tale "Zlatovlaska the Golden-haired: The Story of Yirik and the Snake"

Zlatovlaska the Golden-haired: The Story of Yirik and the Snake

"Ha! Ha!" said the king. "See what you've done! You forfeit your head! However, I'll suspend sentence on condition that you find this golden-haired maiden and bring her to me for a wife."

Poor Yirik didn't know who the maiden was nor where she lived. But what could he say? If he wanted to keep his head, he must undertake the quest. So he saddled his horse and started off at random.

His road led him through a forest. Here he came upon a bush under which some shepherds had kindled a fire. Sparks were falling on an anthill nearby and the ants in great excitement were running hither and thither with their eggs.

"Yirik!" they cried. "Help! Help, or we shall all be burned to death, we and our young ones in the eggs!"

Yirik instantly dismounted, cut down the burning bush, and put out the fire.

"Thank you, Yirik, thank you!" the ants said. "Your kindness to us this day will not go unrewarded. If ever you are in trouble, think of us and we will help you."

As Yirik rode on through the forest, he came upon two fledgling ravens lying by the path.

"Help us, Yirik, help us!" they cawed. "Our father and mother have thrown us out of the nest in yonder tall fir tree to fend for ourselves. We are young and helpless and not yet able to fly. Give us some meat to eat or we shall perish with hunger."

The sight of the helpless fledglings touched Yirik to pity. He dismounted instantly, drew his sword, and killed his horse. Then he fed the starving birds the meat they needed.

"Thank you, Yirik, thank you!" the little ravens croaked. "You have saved our lives this day. Your kindness will not go unrewarded. If ever you are in trouble, think of us and we will help you."

Yirik left the young ravens and pushed on afoot. The path through the forest was long and wearisome. It led out finally on the seashore.

On the beach two fishermen were quarreling over a big fish with golden scales that lay gasping on the sand.

"It's mine, I tell you!" one of the men was shouting. "It was caught in my net, so of course it's mine!

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