Firebird by Ivan Bilibin Sixty Folk-Tales From Exclusively Slavonic Sources by A. H. Wratislaw Firebird by Ivan Bilibin

Sixty Folk-Tales From Exclusively Slavonic Sources by A. H. Wratislaw

Return to
Sixty Folk-Tales
Table of Contents

Croatian Stories


LII. Kraljevitch Marko

LIII. The Daughter of the King of the Vilas

LIV. The Wonder-Working Lock

LV. The She-Wolf

LVI. Milutin

Illyrian-Slovenish Stories


LVII. The Friendship of a Vila and of the Months

LVIII. The Fisherman's Son

LIX. The White Snake

LX. The Vila

LVI. Milutin

A CERTAIN man had two children--one a boy, and the other a girl. This man required his children to relate to him every morning what they had dreamed. Indeed, the girl related her dream, whatever she had dreamed, every morning, but the boy did not, for he dreamed every night what eventually happened to him; he dreamed that he killed a king, took to wife a count's daughter, and became king in the kingdom in which he killed the king. Exasperated at this, his father thought the reason why he did not tell his dream was because he was afraid, and drove him out along a road, and beat him so that he cried piteously. A count was driving past, and heard the child crying. He ordered his servant to go to the man, and tell him not to beat the child, but say how much he should give him to take it away himself. The man said, in reply, that he need only take it away from before his eyes. He immediately took it, and delivered it to the count, and the count took it away home. The count had one daughter, who took a great affection for the boy. It was also a custom with the count that the children were obliged to relate what they dreamed. But he would not reveal his dream to the count, and say what he had dreamed; and he had dreamed the very same dream that he had dreamed at his father's. Then the count became very angry, and caused a vault to be built in his garden, inside which he was to be thrown, and it was to be constructed of such masonry that nobody should be able to give him anything to eat, and that no light should by possibility enter it. But the count's daughter, who was very sorry for the boy, went out to the masons, and promised them a purse of money, only to construct it in such a manner that she would be able to give him food at night. This the masons did, in return for the good money. He was seven years inside, and unable to sit or lie.

Now came a time when king sent a staff to the count, and said he would attack him with an army, if he did not tell him on which side the staff opened. Now the damsel came at night, and brought the lad food, saying: 'Now, I have brought you food for the last time, because a king has sent us a staff, and my father must open it if he does not open it, he will attack us with an army. We must perish under the open sky, but you in this vault.' He replied that she was not to frighten herself, 'but go, lie down, and soon jump up and say to your father: "My dear papa, I have dreamt of good luck for us." He will say: "What?" Reply to him: "I dreamt that I should tell you that, if you will open the staff, you need only fill a tub with water, and put the staff in it; the staff will turn with that side up on which it opens."' Even so it came to pass. Her father did so, sealed up the staff on that side, and sent it to the king. The king wrote back to him: 'You have certainly done it, but not with your own stupid head. But you have one hard by your house, of whom you know not; he has done this for you.' Then he wrote a letter again to the count, and said: 'I shall send you three horses all alike, and you must tell me how many years old each is.' And all alike they were. One was one year old, the second two, and the third three years old. Then the damsel took him food, and said to him: 'Now I am bringing you food for the last time; you will have to die here, and we in the open air, for the king has sent us three horses exactly alike, and we must tell him how old each is.' He replied that she must go and lie down, and say that she had dreamt thus: that he must prepare three heaps of oats of three different years, and let the horses go to the oats, and they would go of themselves each to his own heap; the one which was one year old would go to the one-year-old oats, the second to the second, and the third to the third heap. She told him this. And it came to pass just as she told him. Then he wrote in reply to the king, and the king to him: 'Certainly, you have done this, but not with your own stupid head; but you have another who does it for you, of whom you are not aware. But I shall send you one thing more. I shall send you, on a given day, at the hour when you will be at dinner, a war-mace, weighing three hundredweight; it will strike the spoon out of your mouth. You must throw it back to me just as I threw it to you.' Indeed, this, too, came to pass. The mace flew in, knocked his spoon out of his hands, and flew off with speed into the cellar, inside which it stuck so fast that a score of soldiers couldn't move, much less throw, it. Now the count assembled, and invited all people, but no one was able to do it. She took him food again, and said to him: 'You have set us free twice, but certainly the third time you will not be able to do so, and now you will die here, and all of us in the open air.' He then asked her what sort of work it was that had to be done. She told him, and he answered: 'Go home and lie down, then get up and say that you have dreamt that no one else but I can do it, so I tell you; but the count will not believe you, yet will think, since you have twice dreamed with success, that possibly now, too, it may be true.' And so it came to pass. The count caused him to be dug out. He saw how weak he was, and said: 'I am stronger than he, but I can't throw it; how, then, can he throw it?' He then said: 'Go to a certain king; he has nine hundred cows, and has them all registered when each was calved. Buy for me one cow, which is neither more nor less than nine years old, and whatever he says you are to pay for it, pay. If you pay one kreutzer less, I shall be two hundredweight lighter.' Well, he went thither, and inquired whether he had such a cow. The king answered that he had. Then he asked the price. The king replied: 'Nine thousand pieces of silver.' He paid them, drove it home, and had it slaughtered immediately. The young man then said that he must be three months by himself in a house, without anybody being allowed to go in to him. Now he took at once two pounds of beef, but did not eat the flesh, but only the soup. This lasted for three months. Well, the cook told the count that he would not eat the flesh, in order to serve his own interests. Then the count went himself to him, and asked him why he would not eat the flesh. He replied that something must be brought him to eat. Now he took a piece, threw it upon the wall, and said to the count: 'You see the flesh has fallen down, and the soup has stuck to the wall; and so it is with me: the soup abides with me, and the flesh goes down from me.' Then he went out to look at the mace. He was already able to move it. Then he went in for three months to eat. Then he was able, with his left hand, to throw it two hundred fathoms high into the air. He went in once more to eat for three months. Now he was exceedingly strong, and told the count to write freely to the king, that on such and such a day, at such and such an hour, the mace would arrive, and knock the spoon out of his mouth at dinner. In fact, so it was. He threw it a hundred and twenty-five hours walk into the other kingdom. Now the king saw that he had done this also. Then he wrote to him: 'Certainly you have done all that I told you, but not with your own stupid head, but he has done it for you, whom you caused to be walled up in a vault. But you must send him here to me, that I may see him.' But he wanted to slay him. Now, the count was unwilling to let him go, but, nevertheless, he was obliged to do so. 'But do you know what, count? Cause all your people to be summoned hither, and we will select as many as ever we can that resemble me.' There were only nine such, and he was himself the tenth. Now he told him to have exactly similar uniforms made for them all, so that, at any rate, no one would know one to be different from another, and to provide similar horses for all, and then he would go thither. Even so it came to pass. Then the ten went. But before they arrived at the town, he said to them: 'Indeed, you don't know why we are going thither; we are going to be put to death; but I tell you not to be in any wise afraid. This king will give you the word of command when we enter: "Milutin (such was the boy's name), dismount!" Then you must all dismount so that no one is behindhand, but all alike, and at once. Then he will say: "Milutin, go into the house!"--all go into the house. "Milutin, shut the door!"--all off to shut it. "Milutin, take your seat at table!"--all do it at once. "Milutin, go to bed!"--all off to bed at once.' Even so it was. Thus the king could in no wise recognise him, and did not venture to slaughter them, but ordered his servant to conceal himself under a bed, and listen which spoke most wisely, and put a mark upon him. Now they all lay down, and began to converse as to what would come out of this. Milutin then said: 'Doubtless, till now he has not recognised me, and will ride after me, and will overtake us; but never mind that, only kneel down and pray to God. Then notice well: if I first emit fire out of my mouth, kill yourselves; but if he emits it first, have no fear whatever; this signifies to you that human flesh will seethe in human blood.' The man under the bed heard this speech, and cut off a piece from the heel of his boot. Morning arrived, and Milutin told them that each must look well at his clothes: maybe there would be some mark on someone's uniform. But all at once he observed that just his boot-heel had been cut off, and said: All give me your boots, that I may cut off each of the heels just as I have mine cut off.' Now the king came to summon them: 'Milutin, come to breakfast!' and they all went at once. And the king saw that they all had a similar mark, and, therefore, did not know which to put to death. Then he reprimanded the servant. Now said the king: 'Milutin, go home!' and they all went homeward at once. But erelong the king recognised Milutin by his horse--for he had the horse from the count--and overtook him. They immediately knelt down, as he had previously bidden them, and he began first to fight on horseback, but nothing came of it. Then they both dismounted from their horses, and fought thus, each leaping against the other so that the earth quaked under them. Thus they fought terribly for some time. But all at once they observed that the king emitted fire out of his mouth, and then Milutin afterwards. Then the king spat pure fire out of his mouth at Milutin, and Milutin also spat fire. The two fought on in this frightful manner; but suddenly Milutin overcame the king, threw him down, cut off his head, and carried it home to the count. Now all was merriment, and Milutin married the count's daughter, took possession of the realm of the king whom he had slain, and there was a grand festival. That's the end.

The text came from:

Wratislaw, A. H. Sixty Folk-Tales From Exclusively Slavonic Sources. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, & Company, 1890.

Available from

 Favorite Folktales from Around the World by Jane Yolen

Best-Loved Folktales of the World by Joanna Cole

Russian Fairy Tales by Post Wheeler Logo

©Heidi Anne Heiner, SurLaLune Fairy Tales
Page last updated September 18, 2006 Logo