A Fairy-tale

: Fables For Children, Stories For Children, Natural Science Stori

About Ivan the Fool and His Two Brothers, Semen the Warrior and

Taras the Paunch, and His Dumb Sister Malanya, and About the Old

Devil and the Three Young Devils


In a certain kingdom, in a certain realm, there lived a rich peasant. He

had three sons, Semen the Warrior, Taras the Paunch, and Ivan the Fool,

and a daughter Malanya, the dumb old maid.

Semen the Warrior went to war, to serve the king; Taras the Paunch went

to a merchant in the city, to sell wares; but Ivan the Fool and the girl

remained at home, to work and hump their backs.

Semen the Warrior earned a high rank and an estate, and married a lord's

daughter. His salary was big, and his estate was large, but still he

could not make both ends meet: whatever he collected, his wife scattered

as though from a sleeve, and they had no money.

Semen the Warrior came to his estate, to collect the revenue. His clerk

said to him:

"Where shall it come from? We have neither cattle, nor tools: neither

horses, nor cows, nor plough, nor harrow. Everything has to be

provided, then there will be an income."

And Semen the Warrior went to his father:

"You are rich, father," he said, "and you have not given me anything.

Cut off a third and I will transfer it to my estate."

And the old man said:

"You have brought nothing to my house, why should I give you a third? It

will be unfair to Ivan and to the girl."

But Semen said:

"But he is a fool, and she is a dumb old maid. What do they need?"

And the old man said:

"As Ivan says so it shall be!"

But Ivan said:

"All right, let him have it!"

So Semen the Warrior took his third from the house, transferred it to

his estate, and again went away to serve the king.

Taras the Paunch, too, earned much money,--and married a merchant woman.

Still he did not have enough, and he came to his father, and said:

"Give me my part!"

The old man did not want to give Taras his part:

"You," he said, "have brought nothing to the house, and everything in

the house has been earned by Ivan. I cannot be unfair to him and to the


But Taras said:

"What does he want it for? He is a fool. He cannot marry, for no one

will have him; and the dumb girl does not need anything, either. Give

me," he said, "half of the grain, Ivan! I will not take your tools, and

of your animals I want only the gray stallion,--you cannot plough with


Ivan laughed.

"All right," he said, "I will earn it again."

So Taras, too, received his part. Taras took the grain to town, and

drove off the gray stallion, and Ivan was left with one old mare, and he

went on farming and supporting his father and his mother.


The old devil was vexed because the brothers had not quarrelled in

dividing up, but had parted in love. And so he called up three young


"You see," he said, "there are three brothers, Semen the Warrior, Taras

the Paunch, and Ivan the Fool. They ought to be quarrelling, but,

instead, they live peacefully; they exchange with each other bread and

salt. The fool has spoiled all my business. Go all three of you.--get

hold of them, and mix them up in such a way that they shall tear out one

another's eyes. Can you do it?"

"We can," they said.

"How are you going to do it?"

"We will do it like this," they said: "First we will ruin them, so that

they will have nothing to eat; then we will throw them all in a heap, so

that they will quarrel together."

"Very well," he said. "I see that you know your business. Go, and do not

return to me before you have muddled all three, or else I will flay all

three of you."

The three devils all went to a swamp, and considered how to take hold of

the matter: they quarrelled and quarrelled, for they wanted each of them

to get the easiest job, and finally they decided to cast lots for each

man. If one of them got through first, he was to come and help the

others. The devils cast lots, and set a time when they were to meet

again in the swamp, in order to find out who was through, and who needed


When the time came, the devils gathered in the swamp. They began to

talk about their affairs. The first devil, Semen the Warrior's, began to


"My affair," he said, "is progressing. To-morrow my Semen will go to his


His comrades asked him how he did it.

"In the first place," he said, "I brought such bravery over Semen that

he promised his king to conquer the whole world, and the king made him a

commander and sent him out to fight the King of India. They came

together for a fight. But that very night I wet all his powder, and I

went over to the King of India and made an endless number of soldiers

for him out of straw. When Semen's soldiers saw the straw soldiers

walking upon them on all sides, they lost their courage. Semen commanded

them to fire their cannon and their guns, but they could not fire them.

Semen's soldiers were frightened and ran away like sheep. And the King

of India vanquished them. Semen is disgraced,--they have taken his

estate from him, and to-morrow he is to be beheaded. I have only one

day's work left to do: to let him out of the prison, so that he can run

home. To-morrow I shall be through with him, so tell me which of you I

am to aid!"

Then the other devil, Taras's, began to speak:

"I do not need any help," he said, "for my affair is also progressing

nicely,--Taras will not live another week. In the first place, I have

raised a belly on him, and made him envious. He is so envious of other

people's property that, no matter what he sees, he wants to buy it. He

has bought up an endless lot of things and spent all his money on them

and is still buying. He now buys on other people's money. He has quite a

lot on his shoulders, and is so entangled that he will never free

himself. In a week the time will come for him to pay, and I will change

all his wares into manure,--and he will not be able to pay his debts,

and will go to his father's."

They began to ask the third devil, Ivan's.

"How is your business?"

"I must say, my business is not progressing at all. The first thing I

did was to spit into his kvas jug, so as to give him a belly-ache, and I

went to his field and made the soil so hard that he should not be able

to overcome it. I thought that he would never plough it up, but he, the

fool, came with his plough and began to tear up the soil. His belly-ache

made him groan, but he stuck to his ploughing. I broke one plough of

his, but he went home, fixed another plough, wrapped new leg-rags on

him, and started once more to plough. I crept under the earth, and tried

to hold the ploughshare, but I could not do it,--he pressed so hard on

the plough; the ploughshares are sharp, and he has cut up my hands. He

has ploughed up nearly the whole of it,--only a small strip is left.

Come and help me, brothers, or else, if we do not overpower him, all our

labours will be lost. If the fool is left and continues to farm, they

will have no want, for he will feed them all."

Semen's devil promised to come on the morrow to help him, and thereupon

the devils departed.


Ivan ploughed up all the fallow field, and only one strip was left. His

belly ached, and yet he had to plough. He straightened out the lines,

turned over the plough, and went to the field. He had just made one

furrow, and was coming back, when something pulled at the plough as

though it had caught in a root. It was the devil that had twined his

legs about the plough-head and was holding it fast.

"What in the world is that?" thought Ivan. "There were no roots here

before, but now there are."

Ivan stuck his hand down in the furrow, and felt something soft. He

grabbed it and pulled it out. It was as black as a root, but something

was moving on it. He took a glance at it, and, behold, it was a live


"I declare," he said, "it is a nasty thing!" And Ivan swung him and was

about to strike him against the plough-handle; but the devil began to


"Do not beat me," he said, "and I will do for you anything you wish."

"What will you do for me?"

"Say what you want!"

Ivan scratched himself.

"My belly aches,--can you cure me?"

"I can," he said.

"Very well, cure me!"

The devil bent down to the furrow, scratched awhile in it, pulled out a

few roots,--three of them in a bunch,--and gave them to Ivan.

"Here," he said, "is a root, which, if you swallow, will make your ache

go away at once."

Ivan took the roots, tore them up, and swallowed one. His belly-ache

stopped at once.

Then the devil began to beg again:

"Let me go, now, and I will slip through the earth, and will not come up


"All right," he said, "God be with you!"

And the moment Ivan mentioned God's name, the devil bolted through the

earth, as a stone plumps into the water, and only a hole was left. Ivan

put the remaining two roots in his cap, and started to finish his work.

He ploughed up the strip, turned over the plough, and went home. He

unhitched the horse, came to the house, and there found his eldest

brother, Semen the Warrior, with his wife, eating supper. His estate had

been taken from him, and he had with difficulty escaped from prison and

come to his father's to live.

Semen saw Ivan, and, "I have come to live with you," he said. "Feed me

and my wife until I find a new place!"

"All right," he said, "stay here!"

Ivan wanted to sit down on a bench, but the lady did not like the smell

of Ivan. So she said to her husband:

"I cannot eat supper with a stinking peasant."

"All right," he said, "I have to go anyway to pasture the mare for the


Ivan took some bread and his caftan, and went out to herd his mare.


That night Semen's devil got through with his work and by agreement went

to find Ivan's devil, to help to make an end of the fool. He came to the

field and looked for him everywhere, but found only the hole.

"Something has evidently gone wrong with my comrade," he thought,--"I

must take his place. The ploughing is done,--I shall have to catch him

in the mowing time."

The devil went to the meadows and sent a flood on the mowing so that it

was all covered with mud. Ivan returned in the morning from the night

watch, whetted his scythe, and went out to mow the meadows. He came, and

began to mow: he swung the scythe once, and a second time, and it grew

dull and would not cut,--it was necessary to grind it. Ivan worked hard

and in vain.

"No," he said, "I will go home, and will bring the grindstone with me,

and a round loaf. If I have to stay here for a week, I will not give up

until I mow it all."

When the devil heard it he thought:

"This fool is stiff-necked,--I cannot get at him. I must try something


Ivan came back, ground his scythe, and began to mow. The devil crept

into the grass and began to catch the scythe by the snath-end and to

stick the point into the ground. It went hard with Ivan, but he finished

the mowing, and there was left only one scrubby place in the swamp. The

devil crawled into the swamp and thought:

"If I get both my paws cut, I will not let him mow it."

Ivan went into the swamp; the grass was not dense, but he found it hard

to move the scythe. Ivan grew angry and began to swing the scythe with

all his might. The devil gave in; he had hardly time to get away,--he

saw that matters were in bad shape, so he hid in a bush. Ivan swung the

scythe with all his might and struck the bush, and cut off half of the

devil's tail. Ivan finished the mowing, told the girl to rake it up, and

himself went to cut the rye.

He went out with a round knife, but the bobtailed devil had been there

before him and had so mixed up the rye that he could not cut it with the

round knife. Ivan went back, took the sickle, and began to cut it; he

cut all the rye.

"Now I must go to the oats," he said.

The bobtailed devil heard it, and thought:

"I could not cope with him on the rye, but I will get the better of him

in the oats,--just let the morning come."

The devil ran in the morning to the oats-field, but the oats were all

cut down. Ivan had cut them in the night, to keep them from dropping the


The devil grew angry:

"The fool has cut me all up, and has worn me out. I have not seen such

trouble even in war-time. The accursed one does not sleep,--I cannot

keep up with him. I will go now to the ricks, and will rot them all."

And the devil went to the rye-rick, climbed between the sheaves, and

began to rot them: he warmed them up, and himself grew warm and fell


Ivan hitched his mare, and went with the girl to haul away the ricks. He

drove up to one and began to throw the sheaves into the cart. He had

just put two sheaves in when he stuck his fork straight into the devil's

back; he raised it, and, behold, on the prongs was a live devil, and a

bobtailed one at that, and he was writhing and twisting, and trying to

get off.

"I declare," he said, "it is a nasty thing! Are you here again?"

"I am a different devil," he said. "My brother was here before. I was

with your brother Semen."

"I do not care who you are," he replied, "you will catch it, too."

He wanted to strike him against the ground, but the devil began to beg


"Let me go, and I will not do it again, and I will do for you anything

you please."

"What can you do?"

"I can make soldiers for you from anything."

"What good are they?"

"You can turn them to any use you please: they will do anything."

"Can they play music?"

"They can."

"All right, make them for me!"

And the devil said:

"Take a sheaf of rye, strike the lower end against the ground, and say:

'By my master's command not a sheaf shall you stand, but as many straws

as there are so many soldiers there be.'"

Ivan took the sheaf, shook it against the ground, and spoke as the devil

told him to. And the sheaf fell to pieces, and the straws were changed

into soldiers, and in front a drummer was drumming, and a trumpeter

blowing the trumpet. Ivan laughed.

"I declare," he said, "it is clever. This is nice to amuse the girls


"Let me go now," said the devil.

"No," he said, "I will do that with threshed straw, and I will not let

full ears waste for nothing. I will thresh them first."

So the devil said:

"Say, 'As many soldiers, so many straws there be! With my master's

command again a sheaf it shall stand.'"

Ivan said this, and the sheaf was as before. And the devil begged him


"Let me go now!"

"All right!" Ivan caught him on the cart-hurdle, held him down with his

hand, and pulled him off the fork. "God be with you!" he said.

The moment he said, "God be with you," the devil bolted through the

earth, as a stone plumps into the water, and only a hole was left.

Ivan went home, and there he found his second brother. Taras and his

wife were sitting and eating supper. Taras the Paunch had not calculated

right, and so he ran away from his debts and came to his father's. When

he saw Ivan, he said:

"Ivan, feed me and my wife until I go back to trading!"

"All right," he said, "stay with us!"

Ivan took off his caftan, and seated himself at the table.

But the merchant's wife said:

"I cannot eat with a fool. He stinks of sweat."

So Taras the Paunch said:

"Ivan, you do not smell right, so go and eat in the vestibule!"

"All right," he said, and, taking bread, he went out. "It is just

right," he said, "for it is time for me to go and pasture the mare for

the night."


That night Taras's devil got through with his job, and he went by

agreement to help out his comrades,--to get the best of Ivan the Fool.

He came to the field and tried to find his comrades, but all he saw was

a hole in the ground; he went to the meadows, and found a tail in the

swamp, and in the rye stubbles he found another hole.

"Well," he thought, "evidently some misfortune has befallen my comrades;

I must take their place, and go for the fool."

The devil went forth to find Ivan. But Ivan was through with the field,

and was chopping wood in the forest.

The brothers were not comfortable living together, and they had ordered

the fool to cut timber with which to build them new huts.

The devil ran to the woods, climbed into the branches, and did not let

Ivan fell the trees. Ivan chopped the tree in the right way, so that it

might fall in a clear place; he tried to make it fall, but it came down

the wrong way, and fell where it had no business to fall, and got caught

in the branches. Ivan made himself a lever with his axe, began to turn

the tree, and barely brought it down. Ivan went to chop a second tree,

and the same thing happened. He worked and worked at it, and brought it

down. He started on a third tree, and again the same happened.

Ivan had expected to cut half a hundred trunks, and before he had

chopped ten it was getting dark. Ivan was worn out. Vapours rose from

him as though a mist were going through the woods, but he would not give

up. He chopped down another tree, and his back began to ache so much

that he could not work: he stuck the axe in the wood, and sat down to

rest himself.

The devil saw that Ivan had stopped, and was glad:

"Well," he thought, "he has worn himself out, and he will stop soon. I

will myself take a rest," and he sat astride a bough, and was happy.

But Ivan got up, pulled out his axe, swung with all his might, and hit

the tree so hard from the other side that it cracked and came down with

a crash. The devil had not expected it and had no time to straighten out

his legs. The bough broke and caught the devil's hand. Ivan began to

trim, and behold, there was a live devil. Ivan was surprised.

"I declare," he said, "you are a nasty thing! Are you here again?"

"I am not the same," he said. "I was with your brother Taras."

"I do not care who you are,--you will fare the same way." Ivan swung his

axe, and wanted to crush him with the back of the axe.

The devil began to beg him:

"Do not kill me,--I will do anything you please for you."

"What can you do?"

"I can make as much money for you as you wish."

"All right, make it for me!"

And the devil taught him how to do it.

"Take some oak leaves from this tree," he said, "and rub them in your

hands. The gold will fall to the ground."

Ivan took some leaves and rubbed them,--and the gold began to fall.

"This is nice to have," he said, "when you are out celebrating with the


"Let me go now!" said the devil.

"All right!" Ivan took his lever, and freed the devil. "God be with

you," he said, and the moment he mentioned God's name, the devil bolted

through the earth, as a stone plumps into the water, and only a hole was



The brothers built themselves houses, and began to live each by himself.

But Ivan got through with his field work, and brewed some beer and

invited his brothers to celebrate with him. They would not be Ivan's


"We have never seen a peasant celebration," they said.

Ivan treated the peasants and their wives, and himself drank until he

was drunk, and he went out into the street to the khorovod. He went up

to the women, and told them to praise him.

"I will give you what you have not seen in all your lives."

The women laughed, and praised him. When they got through, they said:

"Well, let us have it!"

"I will bring it to you at once," he said.

He picked up the seed-basket and ran into the woods. The women laughed:

"What a fool he is!" And they forgot about him, when, behold, he was

running toward them, and carrying the basket full of something.

"Shall I let you have it?"


Ivan picked up a handful of gold and threw it to the women. O Lord, how

they darted for the money! The peasants rushed out and began to tear it

out of the hands of the women. They almost crushed an old woman to

death. Ivan laughed.

"Oh, you fools," he said, "why did you crush that old woman? Be more

gentle, and I will give you some more." He began to scatter more gold.

People ran up, and Ivan scattered the whole basketful. They began to ask

for more. But Ivan said:

"That is all. I will give you more some other time. Now let us have

music! Sing songs!"

The women started a song.

"I do not like your kind of songs," he said.

"What kind is better?"

"I will show you in a minute," he said. He went to the threshing-floor,

pulled out a sheaf, straightened it up, placed it on end, and struck it

against the ground.

"At your master's command not a sheaf shall you stand, each straw a

soldier shall be."

The sheaf flew to pieces, and out came the soldiers, and the drums began

to beat and the trumpets to sound. Ivan told the soldiers to play songs,

and went into the street with them. The people were surprised. The

soldiers played songs, and then Ivan took them back to the

threshing-floor, and told nobody to follow him. He changed the soldiers

back into a sheaf, and threw it on the loft. He went home and went to

sleep behind the partition.


On the next morning his eldest brother, Semen the Warrior, heard of it,

and he went to see Ivan.

"Reveal to me," he said, "where did you find those soldiers, and where

did you take them to?"

"What is that to you?" he said.

"What a question! With soldiers anything may be done. You can get a

kingdom for yourself."

Ivan was surprised.

"Indeed? Why did you not tell me so long ago?" he said. "I will make as

many for you as you please. Luckily the girl and I have threshed a lot

of straw."

Ivan took his brother to the threshing-floor, and said:

"Look here! I will make them for you, but you take them away, or else,

if we have to feed them, they will ruin the village in one day."

Semen the Warrior promised that he would take the soldiers away, and

Ivan began to make them. He struck a sheaf against the floor, there was

a company; he struck another, there was a second, and he made such a lot

of them that they took up the whole field.

"Well, will that do?"

Semen was happy, and said:

"It will do. Thank you, Ivan."

"All right," he said. "If you need more, come to me, and I will make you

more. There is plenty of straw to-day."

Semen the Warrior at once attended to the army, collected it as was

proper, and went forth to fight.

No sooner had Semen the Warrior left, than Taras the Paunch came. He,

too, had heard of the evening's affair, and he began to beg his brother:

"Reveal to me, where do you get the gold money from? If I had such free

money, I would with it gather in all the money of the whole world."

Ivan was surprised.

"Indeed? You ought to have told me so long ago," he said. "I will rub up

for you as much as you want."

His brother was glad:

"Give me at least three seed-baskets full!"

"All right," he said, "let us go to the woods! But hitch up the horse,

or you will not be able to carry it away."

They went to the woods, and Ivan began to rub the oak leaves. He rubbed

up a large heap.

"Will that do, eh?"

Taras was happy.

"It will do for awhile," he said. "Thank you, Ivan."

"You are welcome. If you need more, come to me, and I will rub up some

more,--there are plenty of leaves left."

Taras the Paunch gathered a whole wagon-load of money, and went away to

trade with it.

Both brothers left the home. And Semen went out to fight, and Taras to

trade. And Semen the Warrior conquered a whole kingdom for himself,

while Taras the Paunch made a big heap of money by trading.

The brothers met, and they revealed to one another where Semen got the

soldiers, and Taras the money.

Semen the Warrior said to his brother:

"I have conquered a kingdom for myself, and I lead a good life, only I

have not enough money to feed my soldiers with."

And Taras the Paunch said:

"And I have earned a whole mound of money, but here is the trouble: I

have nobody to guard the money."

So Semen the Warrior said:

"Let us go to our brother! I will tell him to make me more soldiers, and

I will give them to you to guard your money; and you tell him to rub me

more money with which to feed the soldiers."

And they went to Ivan. When they came to him, Semen said:

"I have not enough soldiers, brother. Make me some more soldiers,--if

you have to work over two stacks."

Ivan shook his head.

"I will not make you any soldiers, for nothing in the world."

"But you promised you would."

"So I did, but I will not make them for you."

"Why, you fool, won't you make them?"

"Because your soldiers have killed a man. The other day I was ploughing

in the field, when I saw a woman driving with a coffin in the road, and

weeping all the time. I asked her who had died, and she said, 'Semen's

soldiers have killed my husband in a war.' I thought that the soldiers

would make music, and there they have killed a man. I will give you no


And he stuck to it, and made no soldiers for him.

Then Taras the Paunch began to beg Ivan to make him more gold money. But

Ivan shook his head.

"I will not rub any, for nothing in the world."

"But you promised you would."

"So I did, but I will not do it."

"Why, you fool, will you not do it?"

"Because your gold coins have taken away Mikhaylovna's cow."

"How so?"

"They just did. Mikhaylovna had a cow, whose milk the children sipped,

but the other day the children came to me to ask for some milk. I said

to them: 'Where is your cow?' And they answered: 'Taras the Paunch's

clerk came, and he gave mother three gold pieces, and she gave him the

cow, and now we have no milk to sip.' I thought you wanted to play with

the gold pieces, and you take the cow away from the children. I will not

give you any more."

And the fool stuck to it, and did not give him any. So the brothers went


They went away, and they wondered how they might mend matters. Then

Semen said:

"This is what we shall do. You give me money to feed the soldiers with,

and I will give you half my kingdom with the soldiers to guard your

money." Taras agreed to it. The brothers divided up, and both became

kings, and rich men.


But Ivan remained at home, supporting father and mother, and working the

field with the dumb girl.

One day Ivan's watch-dog grew sick: he had the mange and was dying. Ivan

was sorry for him, and he took some bread from the dumb girl, put it in

his hat, and took it out and threw it to the dog. But the cap was torn,

and with the bread one of the roots fell out. The old dog swallowed it

with the bread. And no sooner had he swallowed it than he jumped up,

began to play and to bark, and wagged his tail,--he was well again.

When his father and his mother saw that, they were surprised.

"With what did you cure the dog?"

And Ivan said to them:

"I had two roots with which to cure all diseases, and he swallowed one."

It happened that at that time the king's daughter grew ill, and the king

proclaimed in all the towns and villages that he would reward him who

should cure her, and that if it should be an unmarried man, he should

have his daughter for a wife. The same was also proclaimed in Ivan's


Father and mother called Ivan, and said to him:

"Have you heard what the king has proclaimed? You said that you had a

root, so go and cure the king's daughter. You will get a fortune for the

rest of your life."

"All right," he said. And he got ready to go. He was dressed up, and

went out on the porch, and saw a beggar woman with a twisted arm.

"I have heard that you can cure," she said. "Cure my arm, for I cannot

dress myself."

And Ivan said:

"All right!" He took the root, gave it to the beggar woman, and told her

to swallow it.

She swallowed it, and was cured at once and could wave her arm. Ivan's

parents came out to see him off on his way to the king, and when they

heard that he had given away the last root and had nothing left with

which to cure the king's daughter, they began to upbraid him.

"You have taken pity on the beggar woman, but you have no pity on the

king's daughter."

But he hitched his horse, threw a little straw into the hamper, and was

getting ready to drive away.

"Where are you going, fool?"

"To cure the king's daughter."

"But you have nothing to cure her with!"

"All right," he said, and drove away.

He came to the king's palace, and the moment he stepped on the porch,

the king's daughter was cured.

The king rejoiced, and sent for Ivan. He had him all dressed up:

"Be my son-in-law!" he said.

"All right," he said.

And Ivan married the king's daughter. The king died soon after, and Ivan

became king. Thus all three brothers were kings.


The three brothers were reigning.

The elder brother, Semen the Warrior, lived well. With his straw

soldiers he got him real soldiers. He commanded his people to furnish a

soldier to each ten homes, and every such soldier had to be tall of

stature, and white of body, and clean of face. And he gathered a great

many such soldiers and taught them all what to do. And if any one acted

contrary to his will, he at once sent his soldiers against that person,

and did as he pleased. And all began to be afraid of him.

He had an easy life. Whatever he wished for, or his eyes fell upon, was

his. He would send out his soldiers, and they would take away and bring

to him whatever he needed.

Taras the Paunch, too, lived well. The money which he had received from

Ivan he had not spent, but he had increased it greatly. He, too, had

good order in his kingdom. The money he kept in coffers, and exacted

more money from the people. He exacted money from each soul for walking

past, and driving past, and for bast shoes, and leg-rags, and

shoe-laces. And no matter what he wished, he had; for money they brought

him everything, and they went to work for him, because everybody needs


Nor did Ivan the Fool live badly. As soon as he had buried his

father-in-law, he took off his royal garments and gave them to his wife

to put away in the coffer. He put on his old hempen shirt and trousers,

and his bast shoes, and began to work.

"I do not feel well," he said. "My belly is growing larger, and I cannot

eat, nor sleep."

He brought his parents and the dumb girl, and began to work again.

People said to him:

"But you are a king!"

"All right," he said, "but a king, too, has to eat."

The minister came to him, and said:

"We have no money with which to pay salaries."

"All right," he said, "if you have none, pay no salaries!"

"But they will stop serving you."

"All right," he said, "Let them stop serving! They will have more time

for work. Let them haul manure. They have not hauled any for a long


People came to Ivan to have a case tried. One said:

"He stole money from me."

But Ivan replied:

"All right, evidently he needed it."

All saw that Ivan was a fool. His wife said to him:

"They say about you that you are a fool."

"All right," he said.

Ivan's wife, too, was a fool, and she thought and thought.

"Why should I go against my husband?" she said. "The thread belongs

where the needle is."

She took off her regal garments, put them in a coffer, and went to the

dumb girl to learn to work. She learned, and began to help her husband.

All the wise men left Ivan's kingdom, and only the fools were left.

Nobody had any money. They lived and worked and fed themselves and all

good people.


The old devil waited and waited for some news from the young devils

about how they had destroyed the three brothers, but none came. He went

to find out for himself: he looked everywhere for the three, but found

only three holes.

"Well," he thought, "evidently they did not get the best of them. I

shall have to try it myself."

He went to find the brothers, but they were no longer in their old

places. He found them in different kingdoms. All three were living and

reigning there. That vexed the old devil.

"I shall have to do the work myself," he said.

First of all he went to King Semen. He did not go to him in his own

form, but in the shape of a general. He went to him, and said:

"I have heard that you, King Semen, are a great warrior. I have had good

instruction in this business, and I want to serve you."

King Semen began to ask him questions, and he saw that he was a clever

man, and so received him into his service.

The old general began to teach King Semen how to gather a great army.

"In the first place," he said, "you must collect more soldiers, for too

many people in your kingdom are walking about idly. You must shave the

heads of all the young men without exception, and then you will have an

army which will be five times as large as it is now. In the second

place, you must introduce new guns and cannon. I will get you the kind

of guns that fire one hundred bullets at once, as though pouring out

pease. And I will get you cannon that burn with their fire: whether a

man, or a horse, or a wall,--they burn everything."

King Semen listened to his new general, and ordered all the young men

without exception to be drafted as soldiers, and started new factories.

He had a lot of new guns and cannon made, and at once started a war

against a neighbouring king. The moment the enemy's army came out

against him, he ordered his soldiers to fire at them with bullets and to

burn them with the cannon fire. He at once maimed and burnt one-half the

army. The neighbouring king became frightened, and he surrendered and

gave up his kingdom to him. King Semen was happy.

"Now I will vanquish the King of India," he said.

But the King of India heard of King Semen, and adopted all his

inventions and added a few of his own. The King of India drafted not

only all the young men, but he also made all the unmarried women serve

as soldiers, and so he had even more soldiers than King Semen. He

adopted all of King Semen's guns and cannon, and introduced flying in

the air and throwing explosive bombs from above.

King Semen went out to make war on the King of India. He thought that he

would conquer him as he had conquered before; but the scythe was cutting

too fine,--the King of India did not give Semen's army a chance to fire

a single shot, for he sent his women into the air, to throw explosive

bombs on Semen's army. The women began to pour the bombs on Semen's

army, like borax on cockroaches, and the whole army ran away, and King

Semen was left alone. The King of India took possession of the whole of

Semen's kingdom, and Semen the Warrior ran whither his eyes took him.

The old devil had done up this brother, and he made for King Taras. He

took the shape of a merchant and settled in Taras's kingdom. He started

an establishment, and began to issue money. The merchant paid high

prices for everything, and the whole nation rushed to the merchant to

get his money. And the people had so much money that they paid all their

back taxes and paid on time all the taxes as they fell due. King Taras

was happy.

"Thanks to the merchant," he thought, "I shall now have more money than

ever, and my life will improve."

And King Taras fell on new plans. He began to build himself a new

palace: he commanded the people to haul lumber and stone, and to come to

work, and offered high prices for everything. King Taras thought that as

before the people would rush to work for him. But, behold, all the

lumber and stone was being hauled to the merchant, and only the

labourers were rushing to the king.

King Taras offered higher prices, but the merchant went higher still.

King Taras had much money, but the merchant had more still, and the

merchant could offer better pay than the king. The royal palace came to

a standstill,--it could not be built.

King Taras wanted to get a garden laid out. When the fall came, King

Taras proclaimed that he wanted people to come and set out trees for

him; but nobody came, as they were all digging a pond for the merchant.

Winter came. King Taras wanted to buy sable furs for a new coat, and he

sent out men to buy them. The messenger came back, and said that there

were no sables,--that all the furs were in the merchant's possession, as

he had offered a higher price, and that he had made himself a sable rug.

King Taras wanted to have some stallions. He sent messengers to buy them

for him; but they came back, and said that the merchant had all the good

stallions, and they were hauling water and filling up the pond.

All the business of the king came to a stop. Men would not do anything

for him, but worked only for the merchant; all he received was the

merchant's money, for taxes.

And the king collected such a mass of money that he did not know what to

do with it, and his life grew bad. The king stopped planning things, and

only thought of how he might pass his life peacefully, but he could not

do so. He was oppressed in everything. His cooks, and his coachmen, and

his servants began to leave him for the merchant. And he began to suffer

for lack of food. He would send the women to market to buy provisions,

but there was nothing there, for the merchant bought up everything, and

all he received was money for taxes.

King Taras grew angry and sent the merchant abroad; but the merchant

settled at the border and continued to do his work: as before, people

dragged for the merchant's money all the things from the king to him.

The king was in a bad plight: he did not eat for days at a time, and the

rumour was spread that the merchant was boasting that he was going to

buy the king himself with his money. King Taras lost his courage, and

did not know what to do.

Semen the Warrior came to him, and said:

"Support me, for the King of India has vanquished me."

But Taras himself was pinched.

"I have not eaten myself for two days," he said.


The old devil had done up the two brothers, and now went to Ivan. The

old devil took the shape of a general, and he came to Ivan and tried to

persuade him to provide himself with an army.

"It will not do for a king to live without an army," he said. "Just

command me, and I will gather soldiers from among your people, and will

get you up an army."

Ivan took his advice.

"All right," he said, "get me up an army: teach them to play good

music,--I like that."

The old devil started to go over the kingdom, to gather volunteers. He

said that they should go and get their crowns shaved, for which they

would get a bottle of vodka each, and a red cap.

The fools laughed at him.

"We have all the liquor we want," they said, "for we distil it

ourselves, and as for caps, our women will make us any we want, even

motley ones, with tassels at that."

Not one of them would go. The old devil went to Ivan and said:

"Your fools will not go of their own will; you will have to force them."

"All right," he said, "drive them by force!"

And so the old devil announced that all the fools were to inscribe

themselves as soldiers, and that Ivan would execute those who would not


The fools came to the general and said:

"You say that the king will have us killed if we do not become soldiers,

but you do not tell us what we shall have to do as soldiers. They say

that soldiers, too, are killed."

"Yes, that cannot be helped."

When the fools heard that, they became stubborn.

"We will not go," they said. "If so, let us be killed at home! Death

cannot be escaped anyway."

"Fools that you are!" said the old devil. "A soldier may be killed or

not, but if you do not go, King Ivan will certainly have you killed."

The fools considered the matter, and went to see Ivan the Fool.

"Your general has come," they said, "and tells us all to turn soldiers.

'If you become soldiers,' he says, 'you may be killed, or not, but if

you do not become soldiers King Ivan will certainly put you to death.'

Is that true?"

Ivan began to laugh.

"How can I, one man, have you all put to death? If I were not a fool, I

should explain that to you, but as it is, I do not understand it


"If so," they said, "we shall not become soldiers."

"All right," he said, "don't."

The fools went to the general and refused to become soldiers.

The old devil saw that his business did not work, so he went to the King

of Cockroachland, and got into his favour.

"Let us go," he said, "and wage war on King Ivan, and vanquish him. He

has no money, but he has plenty of grain, and cattle, and all kinds of


The King of Cockroachland went out to make war: he had gathered a large

army, and collected guns and cannon, and left his borders, to enter

Ivan's kingdom.

People came to Ivan and said:

"The King of Cockroachland is coming against us."

"All right," he said, "let him come."

The King of Cockroachland crossed the border, and sent the

advance-guard to find Ivan's army. They looked and looked for it, and

could not find it. They thought that they might wait for it to show up.

But they heard nothing about it,--there was no army to fight.

The King of Cockroachland sent out his men to take possession of the

villages. The soldiers came to one village,--and there the fools jumped

out to look at the soldiers and to marvel at them. The soldiers began to

take away the grain and the cattle: the fools gave it all up, and did

not resist. The soldiers went to the next village, and the same

happened. The soldiers walked for a day or two, and everywhere the same

happened. They gave up all they had, and nobody resisted, and they

invited the soldiers to come and live with them:

"If you, dear people," they said, "have not enough to live on in your

country, come and settle among us."

The soldiers walked and walked, but no army was to be found; everywhere

people were living, and feeding themselves and other people, and they

did not resist, but invited them to come and live with them.

The soldiers felt bad, and they came back to the King of Cockroachland.

"We cannot fight here," they said, "so take us to some other place: war

would be a good thing, but this is as though we were to cut soup. We

cannot fight here."

The King of Cockroachland grew wroth, and commanded his soldiers to

march through the whole kingdom, and destroy villages and houses, and

burn the grain and kill the cattle.

"If you do not obey my command," he said, "I shall have you all


The soldiers became frightened, and began to carry out the king's

command. They started to burn the houses and the grain, and to kill the

cattle. And still the fools did not resist, but only wept. The old men

wept, and the old women wept, and the children wept.

"Why do you offend us? Why do you destroy the property? If you need it,

take it along!"

The soldiers felt ashamed. They did not go any farther, and the whole

army ran away.


The old devil went away,--he could not get at Ivan by means of the

soldiers. The old devil changed into a clean-looking gentleman, and went

to live in Ivan's kingdom: he wished to get at him by means of money, as

he had done with Taras the Paunch.

"I want to do you good," he said, "and to teach you what is good and

proper. I will build a house in your country, and will start an


"All right," he said, "stay here!"

The clean-looking gentleman stayed overnight, and the following morning

he took a large bag of gold to the market-square, and a sheet of paper,

and said:

"You are all of you living like pigs. I will teach you how to live.

Build me a house according to this plan! You work, and I will show you

how, and will pay gold money to you."

And he showed them the gold. The fools were astounded: they had no such

a thing as money, and only exchanged things among themselves, or paid

with work. They marvelled at the gold and said:

"They are nice things."

And for these gold things they began to give him what they had and to

work for him. The old devil rejoiced and thought:

"My affair is proceeding favourably. I will now ruin Ivan completely, as

I have ruined Taras, and will buy him up, guts and all."

As soon as the fools had any gold, they gave it all away to their women

for necklaces, and their girls wove it into their braids, and the

children began to play in the streets with those pretty things. When all

had enough of it, they refused to get any more. The clean-looking

gentleman's palace was not half done, and the grain and the cattle were

not yet attended to for the year. And the gentleman demanded that they

should go and work for him, and haul his grain, and drive his cattle; he

promised them much gold for everything and for all work.

But no one came to work, and they brought nothing to him. Only now and

then a boy or girl would run in to exchange an egg for a gold coin;

otherwise nobody came, and he had nothing to eat. The clean-looking

gentleman was starved, and he went to the village to buy something to

eat: he went into one yard, and offered a gold coin for a chicken, but

the woman would not take it.

"I have too many of them as it is," she said.

He went to a homeless woman, to buy a herring of her, and offered her a

gold coin.

"I do not want it, dear man," she said. "I have no children, and so

there is nobody to play with it; I myself have three of these for show."

He went to a peasant to buy bread of him, but the peasant, too, would

not take the money.

"I do not want it," he said. "If you want bread, for Christ's sake,

wait, and I will have my wife cut you off a piece."

The devil just spit out and ran away from the peasant. Not only would he

not take anything for Christ's sake, but it was worse than cutting him

even to hear that word.

And so he did not get any bread. Everywhere it was the same; no matter

where the devil went, they gave him nothing for money, but said:

"Bring us something else, or come and work for it, or take it for

Christ's sake!"

But the devil had nothing but money. He did not like to work, and for

Christ's sake he could not take anything. The old devil grew angry.

"What else do you want, if I give you money? You can buy anything for

money, or hire a labourer."

The fools paid no attention to him.

"No," they said, "we do not want it. We have no taxes and no wages to

pay, so what do we want with the money?"

The old devil went to bed without eating supper.

This affair reached the ears of Ivan the Fool. They went to ask him:

"What shall we do? A clean-looking gentleman has appeared among us: he

is fond of eating and drinking, and does not like to work, and does not

beg for Christ's sake, but only offers us gold pieces. So long as we did

not have enough of them, we gave him everything, but now we do not give

him any more. What shall we do with him? We are afraid that he will


Ivan listened to what they had to say.

"All right," he said, "we shall have to feed him. Let him go from farm

to farm as a shepherd!"

The old devil could not help himself, and he began to go from farm to

farm. The turn came to Ivan's farm. The old devil came to dinner, and

the dumb girl was just fixing it. Those who were lazy used to deceive

her. Without having worked they came to dinner earlier and ate up all

the porridge. And so the dumb girl contrived to tell the

good-for-nothing by their hands: if one had calluses, she seated him at

the table, but if not, she gave him what was left of the dinner. The old

devil climbed behind the table; but the dumb girl took hold of his

hands, and there were no calluses; the hands were clean and smooth, and

the nails long.

The dumb girl bawled, and pulled the devil out from behind the table.

Ivan's wife said to him:

"Don't take it amiss, clean gentleman! My sister-in-law will not let a

man without calluses sit down at the table. Wait awhile! Let the people

eat first, and then you will get what is left."

The old devil was insulted, because at the king's house they would feed

him with the swine. He said to Ivan:

"What a fool's law you have in your country to let all men work with

their hands! You have invented that in your stupidity. Do men work with

their hands only? How do you suppose clever people work?"

But Ivan said:

"How can we fools know? We labour mostly with our hands and with our


"That is so, because you are fools. I will teach you," he said, "how to

work with your heads. You will see that with your heads you can work

faster than with your hands."

Ivan marvelled.

"Indeed," he said, "we are called fools for good reason."

And the old devil said:

"But it is not easy to work with the head. You do not give me anything

to eat because I have no calluses on my hands, and you do not know that

it is a hundred times harder to work with the head. At times it just

makes the head burst."

Ivan fell to musing.

"But why do you torture yourself so much, my dear? It is no small matter

to have your head burst. You had better do some easy work,--with your

hands and back."

And the devil said:

"The reason I torture myself is because I pity you fools. If I did not

torture myself, you would remain fools to the end of your days. I have

worked with my head, and now I will teach you, too."

Ivan marvelled.

"Teach us," he said, "for now and then the hands get tired, and it would

be nice to use the head instead."

The devil promised to teach him.

And Ivan proclaimed throughout his kingdom that a clean-looking man had

appeared who would teach people how to work with their heads, that they

could work more with their heads than with their hands, and that they

should come and learn.

In Ivan's kingdom there was a high tower, and a straight staircase led

up to it, and at the top there was a spy-room. Ivan took the gentleman

there so that he might see better.

The gentleman stood up on the tower and began to speak from it. The

fools gathered around to look at him. The fools thought that he would

show them in fact how to work with the head instead of the hands. But

the old devil taught them only in words how to live without working.

The fools did not understand a word. They looked and looked and went

away, each to his work.

The old devil stood on the tower a day, and a second day, and kept

talking. He wanted to eat; but the fools did not have enough sense to

send some bread up to the tower. They thought that if he could work

better with his head than with his hands, he would somehow earn bread

for himself with his head. The old devil stood another day in the

tower-room, and kept talking all the time. And the people came up and

looked, and looked and went away.

Then Ivan asked:

"Well, has the gentleman begun to work with his head?"

"Not yet," people said, "he is still babbling."

The old devil stood another day on the tower and began to weaken; he

tottered and struck his head against a post. One of the fools saw that,

and told Ivan's wife about it, and she ran to her husband in the field.

"Come, let us go and see," she said. "The gentleman is beginning to work

with his head."

Ivan was surprised.

"Indeed?" he said. He turned in the horse, and went to the tower. When

he came up to it, the old devil was weakened from hunger and tottering

from side to side and knocking his head against the posts. Just as Ivan

came up, the devil stumbled and fell and rattled down the stairs, head

foremost: he counted all the steps.

"Well," said Ivan, "the clean-looking gentleman told the truth when he

said that at times the head bursts. This is worse than calluses: such

works will leave bumps on the head."

The old devil came down the whole staircase and struck his head against

the ground. Ivan wanted to go and see how much work he had done, but

suddenly the earth gave way, and the old devil went through the earth,

and nothing but a hole was left.

Ivan scratched himself.

"I declare," he said, "it is a nasty thing! It is again he. He must be

the father of those others. What a big fellow he is!"

Ivan is still living, and people are all the time rushing to his

kingdom, and his brothers, too, came to him, and he is feeding them all.

If any one comes and says: "Feed me!" he replies:

"All right, stay here, we have plenty of everything."

They have but one custom in his country, and that is, if one has

calluses on his hands, he may sit down at the table, and if he has not,

he gets the remnants.