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Main > Ukrainian folktales > Fairy tale "The Wondrous Story of Ivan Golik and the Serpents"

The Wondrous Story of Ivan Golik and the Serpents

They went on and on, for more than a month maybe, till they came to another land and to another tsardom, to the Empire of Thrice-ten. And the serpent was the Tsar of that tsardom. Vast were his palaces, iron railings surrounded his courtyards, and the railings were covered with the heads of various warriors; only on the twenty huge pillars in front of the gate were there no heads. As they drew nigh, deadly fear oppressed the heart of the prince, and he said to Ivan, “Mark me, Ivan! those pillars yonder are meant for our heads!”––“That remains to be seen,” replied Ivan Golik.

When they arrived there, the serpent at first treated them hospitably as welcome guests. They were all to come in and make merry, he said, but the prince he took to his own house. So they ate and drank together, and the thoughts of their hearts were joyous. Now the serpent had twenty-one daughters, and he brought them to the prince, and told him which was the eldest, and which the next eldest, down to the very last one. But it was the youngest daughter of all that the prince’s fancy fed upon more than on any of the others. Thus they diverted themselves till evening, and in the evening they made ready to go to sleep. But the serpent said to the prince, “Well, which of my daughters dost thou think the loveliest?”

“The youngest is the most beautiful,” said the prince, “and her will I wed.”

“Good!” said the serpent, “but I will not let thee have my daughter till thou hast done all my tasks. If thou doest my tasks, thou shalt have my daughter; but if thou doest them not, thou shalt lose thy head, and all thy suite shall perish with thee.”

Then he gave him his first task: “In my barn are three hundred ricks of corn; by the morning light thou shalt have threshed and sifted them so that stalk lies by stalk, chaff by chaff, and grain by grain.”

Then the prince went to his own place to pass the night there, and bitterly he wept. But Ivan Golik saw that he was weeping, and said to him, “Why dost thou weep, O prince?

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