The Tale of Firebird


The Firebird is a frequent feature of Russian fairy tales, the mysterious and majestic creature can take on many meanings but is often used as a symbol of a difficult quest. Below is the translation of The Firebird from Russian Folklore for you to enjoy. 

The Story of the Firebird

Long ago, in a distant Kingdom, lived Tsar Vyslav Andronovich. He had three sons; the first Tsarevich Dimitri, the second Tsarevich Vassili and the third Tsarevich Ivan.

The Tsar’s garden was the most magnificent in all the land and in it was an apple tree that bore beautiful golden apples. One day the Tsar noticed the apples were being taken, he asked the guards and they informed him it was a “Firebird”. 

Furious that his apples were being taken, the Tsar then tasked his two eldest sons with catching the Firebird but both fell asleep and missed him coming. The youngest son begged his father to try and catch the Firebird himself, his Father was dubious, but agreed. 

The youngest son sat and waited all night and finally saw the Firebird come into the garden and steal a golden apple. He crept over to the bird and caught it by the tail. The bird managed to get away and the youngest son was left only with a beautiful glowing orange feather. The Firebird never returned. 

On seeing the feather, the Tsar wanted the magnificent creature for himself and tasked his three sons again with finding the Firebird. In return they would receive half of his kingdom whilst he was alive and half when he died and off they all went on horseback. After travelling a while they came to a fork in the road with three signs. 

The first read that if you went left you would be cold and hungry, the second straight on that you would survive but your horse would die and the third to the right was that you would die and your horse survive. On reading the signs the two eldest sons gave up and headed back to the kingdom and to the safety of their father. 

The third son decided to take on the challenge....

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The youngest son decided to take the middle path, the one where his horse would be slain, and he would be spared.  Sure enough a wolf came along and killed his horse to eat it.  

Days passed and the young man carried on walking but became exhausted and unable to carry on. The wolf that ate his horse found him and asked where he could take him seeing as he had such a lovely feast from his horse.  The young man told his story and they soon left in search again for the Firebird.  

A short time later they reached Tsar Dolmat’s kingdom and found the bird in the Tsars garden hanging in a wonderfully ornate cage.  The wolf told the Tsars youngest son to take the bird but to leave the cage as that would get them found out by the king. 

The Tsars youngest son made his way into the garden and got the bird, on his way back to the wolf however he couldn’t bring himself to leave the beautiful cage and so he crept back in and grabbed it. 

By stealing the cage, he set off an alarm and they were soon caught by Tsar Dolmat. Tsar Dolmat flew into a rage, he was so angry and wanted to know what kingdom he was from and who his father was. The youngest son calmly explained that the Firebird had been coming into his fathers garden and stealing his favourite golden apples and for that reason his father wanted the bird for himself.

On hearing this the Tsar Dolmat proclaimed that had he only asked for the bird he would have allowed it but now he wanted something in return, a horse with a golden mane. The wolf and the youngest son soon set off in search for it, they travelled day and night and finally came to a white walled stable. The wolf told Tsarevich Ivan, the youngest son to climb the wall, take the horse with the golden mane but do not take his bridle as this will get you found out. 

He climbed the wall, got the horse and on leaving the stable the bridle caught his eye. Again he could not bring himself to leave such a beauty and so he took it.  On picking it up it he made a huge clatter which awoke the stable boy who presented him to Tsar Afron, the owner of the horse. 

Tsar Afron began to question him, he too wanted to know what kingdom he came from and who his father was. He explained he needed the horse with the golden mane so he could in turn get the Firebird.  

Tsar Afron told him, if only you had asked first I would gladly have given you the horse, but now if you do not do me a favour I’ll tell the whole kingdom you are a dishonourable knight.  I want you to go out and find me Tsarevna Elena the fair, I love her and want you to bring her back to be my bride.

Feeling guilty he and the wolf soon took off in search for the fair lady. It didn’t take them long before they got to the kingdom. The wolf told Tsarevich Ivan to wait outside the gates whilst he went in and seized Tsarevna Elena. 

Once he had her they fled, the wolf ran so fast that her guards couldn’t catch up and soon they were back in the kingdom of Tsar Afron. All would have been fine but Tsarevich Ivan and Tsarevna Elena had quickly fallen in love and they couldn’t bare to part. 

Stuck in their predicament the wolf offered to turn himself into the girl so they could get the horse with the golden mane.  

The exchange went smoothly, Tsarevich Ivan and Tsarevna Elena started making way back to the kingdom of Tsar Dolmat with the horse with the golden mane and the wolf caught them up two days later after escaping in the night.

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Once back in the kingdom of Tsar Dolmat the youngest son had also decided he couldn’t bare to part with the horse with the golden mane either and requested that the wolf turn himself into the horse so they could trick Tsar Dolmat. Unbelievably they got the Firebird back after trading her for the horse and began on their way once more to the youngest sons kingdom.

A few days later the wolf managed to get free from Tsar Dolmat and made his way to Tsarevich Ivan and Tsarevna Elena, where he bid them farewell and they made their way back to their own kingdom. Soon the couple became weary and decided to rest under a tree close to the kingdom of his father.  They fell asleep straight away, with their horse and Firebird close by.

The young Tsarevich Ivan’s two older brothers came to find them lying there. They were sorely jealous of their brother and all his prizes and decided to kill him there on the spot and take the horse, the Firebird and the fair lady for themselves. When she awoke to find her love had been killed she was heartbroken.

The brothers threatened to kill Elena if she told their father what they’d done. Reluctantly she agreed. After winning the toss of a coin Tsarevich Vassili won the right to marry her, whilst Tsarevich Dimitri got the horse with the golden mane. The Firebird was taken to their father whom was most pleased to finally have the amazing bird in his possession.

After laying dead on the ground for thirty days his friend the grey wolf discovered the youngest son. He also saw two baby ravens and their mother feeding from his body. The wolf seized one of her babies and told her to go to the ends of the earth and get the water of life and the water of death, if she didn’t he would eat her young.

Three days passed and the raven returned with two vials. First the wolf poured the water of death over Tsarevich Ivan and his body grew back together. When he poured the water of life after, he awoke. The wolf rejoiced but told him to hurry as his brother was set to marry Tsarevna Elena that very day.  They rushed to the palace where his brother and Elena had just sat down to their wedding banquet. Upon seeing Tsarevich Ivan, Elena the fair flew out of her seat and threw herself at him. 

They told Tsar Vyslav Andronovich the real truth about what his brothers had done, and they were soon thrown into the dungeons. Tsarevich Ivan and Tsarevna Elena the fair married not long after and lived happily ever after.