Apples of Youth and the Water of Life

Many, many years ago there was an older Tsar who had three grown up sons. The youngest son's name was Ivan. The Tsar was very old and could barely see. One of the merchant who visited his kingdom recently told him that he heard that in a foreign kingdom there was a one-of-a-kind apple tree that produce golden apples of eternal youth. If the old Tsar would eat one of those apples he would turn young again. The merchant also said that the owner of those apples would never sell them to anyone for any money. The Tsar called his sons over and told them, "My dear sons, my body strength is now declining so as my vision and hearing ability. I need your help. I will grant a half of my kingdom to the one who delivers me the wonderful apples of eternal Youth.” The eldest son Tsarevich (Prince) Fedor replied, "Father, since I am your eldest son, I shell go on this mission and do not worry, I deliver you many of those wonderful apples."

Tsarevich Fedor rode through many fields, meadows and countless forests until he faced a huge rock in the center of the crossroads. There was a warning carved on that rock, which said, "Whoever goes right shell find himself alive but no horse. Whoever goes left shell die, but the horse will be saved. Whoever goes straight shell meet his bride." Fedor thought it over for a few seconds, chose the third option and went straight. And he went straight ahead. A few miles after, the young Tsarevich saw a beautiful maiden who was already waiting for him in front of the marble castle. "Oh, young handsome prince, I am happy to welcome you to my castle, please let me show you my hospitality and respect. Would you please join me and my maids for dinner?” As soon as Fedor saw the maiden's hospitality he forgot what he was sent for and stayed in the castle. No one ever heard from prince Fedor again. When his father Tsar lost his hope to see Fedor, he sent the second eldest son Vasilyi to get the precious fruit of life. But the exact same thing happened to Vasilyi as well. ."

Then it was the youngest son's turn and Ivan went to find the apples and his elder brothers. He was the last hope that the old Tsar had so he found the best and strongest horse he could find in his kingdom and gave his blessings. After a long time or a short one, Ivan faced the same rock that his brothers saw on their way, which said, "Whoever goes right shell find himself alive but no horse. Whoever goes left shell die, but the horse will be saved. Whoever goes straight shell meet his bride." “I am here not to look for love or pleasures. I choose to save my horse and go left,” thought Ivan and took a left turn. After a few miles of riding, Ivan spotted a hut that was turning around on the chicken legs. It was a small log cabin with a single window. When the brave prince went inside he met Baba Yaga, and old Witch. "Ugh," she said, "I sense the Russian soul. It's been so long since I had a visitor here. Are you looking for adventure here or looking to avoid one?” said Baba Yaga. "You lived until the old age, but did not learn to greed and feed the guest first and ask the questions later," replied Ivan Tsarevich. The Baba Yaga did what Ivan asked her to and started listening to the young man's story. After Ivan finished, the old Witch said, “You, brave young knight, have a long journey in front of you. I know where those apples grow. You can find them in my niec's kingdom, who is more powerful than me. Take my fast magic horse and ride straight to my sister, she will give you a good advice than me," said Baba Yaga. Ivan Tsarevich thanked Baba Yaga for her hospitality and was back on the road to meet the Baba Yaga's sister. As soon as Ivan Tzarevich arrived to her hut, the woman who was even older than the first Baba Yaga thought that it was her sister with her magic horse came to visit so she stepped out to the porch to meet her. "Ugh," she said, “I sense the Russian soul. It's been a long time when I had someone to visit me here.” Ivan Tsarevich told the second Witch his story, who advised the Russian prince to switch his sister's horse to her own one that is stronger and runs even faster. Ivan thanked the old woman and rode off on her horse next morning straight to her youngest sister. The third Baba Yaga was just as nice and kind as her two sisters. She told Ivan Tzarevich that the mighty Blue-eyed maiden who poses the precious apples is her daughter. Her kingdom is surrounded by a thick and tall stone wall. The kind old woman advised Ivan to ride her horse there at night. Her horse is the only one that is capable of leaping over those tall walls. “Once inside, go straight to the garden where you find the apples, but do not take any more than three apples," instructed Ivan Baba Yaga. And then she continued, “While my beautiful daughter Sineglazka is sleeping, don't go into her chambers, but leave." Prince Ivan thanked the third sister and rode off her horse straight to the castle of her beautiful daughter."

He arrived late at night and did what Baba Yaga told him to. However, Ivan wanted to see the beautiful maiden warrior and went inside the castle, where Sineglazka was sleeping. Ivan could not take his eyes off the beautiful maiden. He spent so much time in the castle that be the time he came out, it was light and sunny. The guards woke up and spotted the young Ivan. They seized him and brought before Sineglazka for justice. While investigating Ivan Sineglazka fell in love with the handsome young man and they got married on the same day. Next morning Sineglazka asked Ivan to return back to his kingdom and deliver the gifts to his father. She also said that she will go to search for him if he does not return in three months. When Ivan rode upon the flat rock with the engravings that was sitting on the ground, he thought of his missing brothers and decided to find and save them. He took the road that went straight and promised a bride. After a long time, or maybe a short one, Ivan had reached the castle inhabited by maidens, entered it and found there both of his brothers who were in prison underground.”

They rode many days and nights until their horses exhausted. While Ivan Tsarevich was asleep, his elder brothers made a plan to get rid of him, take the Sineglazka's gifts and present them to the father. Vasilyi and Fedor took the apples and threw their youngest brother into a deep river. The old father was very happy to see his missing sons being back alive and well. He ate the apples and become young and healthy again. In a meanwhile, Sineglazka was worried about her beloved husband since three months are long gone, but Ivan was not back yet. She gathered her warriors and went right to the gate of her father-in-law's kingdom. Then she demanded the Tsar to show her his son Ivan otherwise she would attack and burn his kingdom down to the ground. The Tsar was frightened by the words of mighty blue-eyed beauty and ordered his elder sons to go and find their brother. Fedor and Vasilyi fell to their knees and confessed in everything they did to Ivan. As soon as the tsar heard their story he became very furious and threw them both out of his kingdom.

Meanwhile, the youngest of Baba Yaga's sisters came to the river where Ivan was thrown by his brothers. She spotted the young man and dragged him out of the water. Ivan spent three days at her hut laying down on his back while old woman took care of him and helped to get well again. On the fourth morning, the young prince thanked Baba Yaga again and took off. He arrived to his father's kingdom right on time and met Sineglazka with her army at the gate. She was about to attack his father's kingdom. Ivan and Sineglazka were together again, their united their kingdoms and lived happily ever after.

Random House / Grandfather Frost / Alaska Gallery

Russian American Company