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Painting by Victor Vasnetsov

 

The Tsarevnas of the Underground Kingdom
(Tsarevna = Russian word for princess)

Once there was an old man and his wife, who had three sons.

The old couple felt it was time to have a few grandchildren running around the house, so they told Gregory, the eldest son, to go out and find a wife. Now Gregory was quite happy living at home and did not really want to marry, but in those days children usually did as they were told.

So off went Gregory, not looking very hard, I'm afraid. Being a somewhat shy lad, Gregory walked quickly through the town and out again the other side, hoping that no one had noticed him. As he passed out through the gates of the old town some giggling girls passed him by. He tried his best to appear unconcerned, but as soon as they were out of sight he took to his heels.

On a lonely stretch of road outside the town he ran into a fearsome dragon. Terrified, he turned to run the other way, but the dragon stood in front of him and said in a polite voice:

'Don't be frightened, I won't do you any harm. May I ask where you are going?'

After a few moments of not being able to say anything, Gregory at last stuttered out: ' Not at all. I'm going back home. My parents want me to get married, but I can't seem to find the right woman.'

The dragon answered: 'Come with me, and I'll put you to the test. If you pass it, you will find a wife.'

Although the dragon had been extremely polite, there was something in his tone that told Gregory it would not be a good idea to refuse. After a while they came to a large stone of black marble.

The dragon said: 'If you manage to move this stone, underneath you will find what you seek.'


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(eleven pages in all)