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334 The Flying Ship 144. There were this old man and his wife, and they had three sons. Two were clever, but the third was a fool. The woman loved the first two and kept them dressed cleanly, but the third was always dressed poorly and walked about only in a dirty black shirt. They heard that a paper had come from the tsar:“Whoever builds a ship that can fly, I shall marry to the tsarevna.” The older brothers made up their minds to go seek their fortunes, and asked the old couple for their blessing. Their mother outfitted them for the road, loaded them up with white flat cakes with various meat stuffings, a flask of vodka, then she saw them off down the road and way. When he saw this, the fool began begging them to let him go, too. His mother tried to dissuade him from going:“How could you, fool! Why, wolves would eat you!” But the fool kept on the same note:“I’ll go, I’ll go.” So the woman saw that there was no way out, and she gave him some burnt flat cakes and a flask of water, and then she saw him off the premises. The fool walked and walked, and then he met this old man. They exchanged greetings. The old man asked the fool, “Where are you going?” “The tsar promised to marry his daughter to anyone who could make a flying ship.” “Can you perchance make such a ship?” “No, I don’t know how!” “Then why are you going?” “God only knows.” “Well, if that’s the way it is, sit down here.We’ll rest together and have a bite to eat. Take out what you have in that bag.” “What’s in here is something I’m ashamed to show people.” “Never mind, take it out. Whatever God gave you will be what we’ll gnaw on.” The fool opened his bag, and he couldn’t believe his eyes: There, instead of those burnt flat cakes, were white rolls and various relishes. He gave some to the old man.“Do you see,” the old man said to him,“see how God rewards fools! Even though your own mother doesn’t love you, and The Flying Ship h 335 you’re not gifted . . . . Now let’s drink some vodka.” And there turned out to be vodka rather than water in the flask. They drank and ate, and then the old man said to the fool, “Listen now, go into the forest and go up to the first tree, cross yourself three times, and strike the tree with your axe. Then fall face down on the ground and wait until you are awakened. Then you’ll see in front of you a ready-made ship. Get in and fly wherever you have to, and along the way pick up everyone you meet.” The fool thanked the old man, took his leave of him, and set off for the forest. He went up to the first tree, did everything just as he had been told to do. He crossed himself three times, struck the tree with his axe, and fell face down onto the ground and fell asleep. After some little time, somebody began waking him up. The fool woke up and saw a ready-made ship. He didn’t think long but got in it, and the ship flew off through the air. He flew and flew, and then looked down. A man was lying down on the road with his ear to the damp earth. “Good health, Uncle!” “Good health, you beggar!” “What are you doing?” “I’m listening to what’s going on in the other world.” “Get in my ship with me!” He didn’t want to argue, so he got in the ship, and they flew off farther. They flew and they flew, and then they saw a man walking on one leg, with the other leg tied up to his ear. “Good health, Uncle! Why are you hopping along on one leg?” “Well, if I were to untie the other, then in one step I’d step across the entire world.” “Get in with us!” He got in, and they flew on. They flew and flew, and saw a man standing there aiming a rife, but at what? At the unknown! “Good health, Uncle! What are you aiming at? There’s not even a bird to be seen!” “Would I really...


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