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220 The Prince and His Uncle 123. There lived and dwelt this king, and he had an adolescent son. The prince was in every way good, good-looking and of a good disposition. But the father wasn’t so. Greed kept tormenting him to get more work out of his peasants and take in more rents. Once, he saw this old man with some sables and martens and beavers and foxes. “Wait right there, old man! Where are you from?” “I’m from such and such a village, Father, but I am now serving the old leshii, the spirit of the forest.” “And how do you catch these creatures?” “Well, the old leshii sets the traps. The beast isn’t too clever and falls into it.” “Listen, old man, I’ll give you plenty of vodka and money. Just show me where you set these traps.” The old man was tempted, and showed him. The king ordered them to capture the forest spirit and chain him up in an iron tower, and he then set his own traps in the forest reserves. So the leshii sat there in the iron pillar and looked out the window, and that pillar stood in the garden. The prince came out with his minders , with the trusted servants, to stroll about the garden. He walked past that tower, and the old leshii man shouted to him, “Oh royal child! Let me out. I shall be of use to you.” “But how am I supposed to let you out?” “Go to your mother and say to her: ‘Dearest Mother! Search for lice on my head!’ Then lay your head down on her knees. She’ll start searching around your head, and you seize the moment to take the key out of her pocket, and then let me out.” The prince did just that. He got the key from his mother’s pocket, ran to the garden, made himself an arrow, placed it on a taut bow, and let it fly far, far away. And then he shouted for his nannies and nurses to catch the arrow. They ran off in all directions, and at this time the prince opened the iron tower and freed the old leshii man. The leshii-man set off to tear out the king’s traps! The king saw that no beasts were being caught any more, got angry, and flew off to his wife. The Prince and His Uncle h 221 Why had she handed over that key and let that leshii-man go? And he summoned his boyars, his generals, and his counselors to see how they would judge the matter. Should her head be taken off on the block, or should she be sent into exile? Things were going badly for the prince. He pitied his own mother, and admitted to his father it was his fault. Things had happened in such and such a way. The king was much aggrieved. What should he do with his son? He couldn’t execute him, and so he was sentenced. He was to go out in all four directions, to all the north winds, into all the winter snowstorms, to all the autumnal windstorms. They gave him a backpack and one“uncle” to serve him. So the prince and his“uncle”went out into the open steppe. They went near or far, low or high, and they caught sight of a well. “Go get some water!” the prince said to the old man. “I won’t go,” the “uncle” replied. They went on farther. They walked and walked, and there was another well.“Go, bring some water here! I want a drink,” the king’s son asked the “uncle” for a second time.“I won’t go,” the“uncle” said. So they walked on and on, and there was a third well, but again the “uncle” wouldn’t go. So the prince went for the water himself. He let himself down into the well, and the “uncle” popped the lid on and said,“I won’t let you out! You be the servant, and I’ll be the prince.” There was nothing to be done, so the prince agreed and signed a note for him with his own blood. Then they exchanged clothes and set off farther. So they came to another country. They went to the tsar’s palace, the “uncle” in front and the prince in the rear. The “uncle” began living at that tsar’s as his...


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