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317 Dawn, Evening, and Midnight 140. In a certain country there lived and dwelt a king. He had three daughters of indescribable beauty. The king guarded them more than his own eyes. He built underground chambers and put them there like birds in a cage, so that no wild winds would blow on them, nor would the bright sun burn them with its rays. Once somehow, the princesses read in a particular book that there was a marvelous bright world, and when the king came to visit them, they began asking him tearfully: “Oh Sovereign and our batiushka! Let us look at the bright earth and walk about in a green garden!” The king tried to dissuade them, but they wouldn’t listen. And the more he refused, the more they insisted. There was nothing to be done; the king agreed to their incessant request. So the beautiful princesses went into the garden to stroll. They saw the beautiful red sun and the trees and flowers, and rejoiced that the world was open to them. They ran about the garden and amused themselves, enjoying every little grass, when suddenly they were caught up by a fierce whirlwind and carried far, far away—no one knew where. Their nurses and their nannies were greatly alarmed, and ran to the king to report. The king immediately sent out his trusted servants in all directions. He promised a great reward to whoever chanced on their trail. The servants rode and rode, but they learned nothing, and they came back with just what they had ridden out. The king summoned a big council, asked his closest boyars whether one of them wouldn’t undertake to find his daughters. Whichever one would do this could marry the princess of his choice, and he’d share in a rich dowry for all his life. He asked once, but the boyars were silent. He asked a second time, but they didn’t respond. A third time, and no one uttered even half a word! The king burst forth with bitter tears:“Clearly, I have no friends, no defenders!” And he ordered a call sent forth throughout all the kingdom: Could anyone from among the common folk be found for such a deed? Now at that very same time, there lived and dwelt in a certain village a poor widow, and she had three sons. Mighty bogatyrs, they had all been born the same night: the oldest about evening, the middle one at midnight, and the youngest at dawn’s first light.And therefore they called 318 h Dawn, Evening, and Midnight them Evening, Midnight, and Dawn. When the king’s call reached them, they straightaway got their mother’s blessing, got ready for their journey, and set off for the capital city. They came to the king, bowed down low to him, and spoke: “Rule for many years, Sovereign! We have come to you not to feast, but to fulfill a task. Permit us to go out and search for the princesses.” “Greetings to you, good youths! And what would you be called?” “We are three brothers: Dawn, Evening, and Midnight.” “And what may I give you for your trip?” “Oh Sovereign! We need nothing, only don’t abandon our little mother . Watch over her in her poverty and old age.” The king brought the old woman and housed her in his palace and ordered that she be fed and given drink from his table, and dressed and given shoes from his stores. So the good youths set out on their journey, their way. They rode for a month, and a second, and a third, and then they rode into a broad and empty steppe. Beyond the step was a dense forest, and next to that forest stood a little hut. They knocked at a window—no reply. They entered through the door—there was no one in the hut. “Well, brothers, we’ll stay here for a time and rest up from the road.”They undressed, prayed to God, and lay down to sleep. In the morning, the youngest brother, Dawn, said to his oldest brother, Evening, “We’ll go out hunting, and you stay here at home and prepare dinner.” The oldest brother agreed. Alongside the hut was a shed full of sheep and he, not giving it much thought, took the very best ram, butchered it, cleaned it, and roasted it for dinner. He prepared everything as was necessary and lay down on the...


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