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Imperishable

On pronouncing the two words, “Guzla, play,” strains of music so gay and inspiriting were heard that all the courtiers began dancing with one another. The sick who listened were cured of their diseases, those who were in trouble and grief forgot their sorrows, and all living creatures were thrilled with a gladness such as they had never felt before. The king was beside himself with joy; he loaded Niezguinek with honours and presents, and, in order to have him always at court, raised him to a higher rank in the army. In this new post he had many under him, and he showed much exactitude in drill and other matters, punishing somewhat severely when necessary. He made, too, no difference in the treatment of his brothers, which angered them greatly, and caused them to be still more jealous and to plot against him. So they again imitated his handwriting and composed another letter, which they left at the king’s door. When his majesty had read it he called Niezguinek to him and said, “I should much like to have the marvellous sword you speak of in your letter.”

“Sire, I have not written anything about a sword,” said Niezguinek.

“Well, read it for yourself.” And he read:

“In a certain country within the house of old Yaga is a sword that strikes of its own accord: if the king would like to have it, I will engage to bring it him.

“(Signed) Niezguinek.”

“Certainly,” said Niezguinek, “this writing resembles mine, but I never wrote those words.”

“Never mind, as you succeeded in bringing me the guzla you will find no difficulty in obtaining the sword. Start without delay, and do not return without it at your peril.”

Niezguinek bowed and went to the stable, where he found his horse looking very thin and miserable, with his head drooping.

“What is the matter, my horse? Do you want anything?”

“I am unhappy because I foresee a long and dangerous journey.”

“You are right, for we are ordered to return to Yaga’s house for the sword: but how can we get hold of it? doubtless she guards it as the apple of her eye.

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