The Norka - Edited by Andrew Lang
ONCE upon a time there lived a King and Queen. They had three
sons, two of them with their wits about them, but the third a
simpleton. Now the King had a deer park in which were quantities
of wild animals of different kinds. Into that park there used to
come a huge beast--Norka was its name--and do fearful mischief,
devouring some of the animals every night. The King did all he
could, but he was unable to destroy it. So at last he called his
sons together and said, `Whoever will destroy the Norka, to him
will I give the half of my kingdom.'
Well, the eldest son undertook the task. As soon as it was night,
he took his weapons and set out. But before he reached the park,
he went into a traktir (or tavern), and there he spent the whole
night in revelry. When he came to his senses it was too late; the
day had already dawned. He felt himself disgraced in the eyes of
his father, but there was no help for it. The next day the second
son went, and did just the same. Their father scolded them both
soundly, and there was an end of it.
Well, on the third day the youngest son undertook the task.
They all laughed him to scorn, because he was so stupid, feeling
sure he wouldn't do anything. But he took his arms, and went
straight into the park, and sat down on the grass in such a position
that the moment he went asleep his weapons would prick him, and
he would awake.
Presently the midnight hour sounded. The earth began to
shake, and the Norka came rushing up, and burst right through
the fence into the park, so huge was it. The Prince pulled himself
together, leapt to his feet, crossed himself, and went straight at the
beast. It fled back, and the Prince ran after it. But he soon saw
that he couldn't catch it on foot, so he hastened to the stable, laid
his hands on the best horse there, and set off in pursuit. Presently
he came up with the beast, and they began a fight. They fought
and fought; the Prince gave the beast three wounds. At last they
were both utterly exhausted, so they lay down to take a short rest.
But the moment the Prince closed his eyes, up jumped the beast
and took to flight. The Prince's horse awoke him; up he jumped
in a moment, and set off again in pursuit, caught up the beast, and
again began fighting with it. Again the Prince gave the beast
three wounds, and then he and the beast lay down again to rest.
Thereupon away fled the beast as before. The Prince caught it up,
and again gave it three wounds. But all of a sudden, just as the
Prince began chasing it for the fourth time, the beast fled to a great
white stone, tilted it up, and escaped into the other world, crying
out to the Prince: `Then only will you overcome me, when you
The Prince went home, told his father all that had happened,
and asked him to have a leather rope plaited, long enough to reach
to the other world. His father ordered this to be done. When the
rope was made, the Prince called for his brothers, and he and they,
having taken servants with them, and everything that was needed
for a whole year, set out for the place where the beast had disappeared
under the stone. When they got there, they built a palace
on the spot, and lived in it for some time. But when everything
was ready, the youngest brother said to the others: `Now, brothers,
who is going to lift this stone?'
Neither of them could so much as stir it, but as soon as he
touched it, away it flew to a distance, though it was ever so big--
big as a hill. And when he had flung the stone aside, he spoke a
second time to his brothers, saying:
`Who is going into the other world, to overcome the Norka?'
Neither of them offered to do so. Then he laughed at them for
being such cowards, and said:
`Well, brothers, farewell! Lower me into the other world, and
don't go away from here, but as soon as the cord is jerked, pull it
His brothers lowered him accordingly, and when he had
reached the other world, underneath the earth, he went on his way.
He walked and walked. Presently he espied a horse with rich
trappings, and it said to him:
`Hail, Prince Ivan! Long have I awaited thee!'
He mounted the horse and rode on--rode and rode, until he saw
standing before him a palace made of copper. He entered the
courtyard, tied up his horse, and went indoors. In one of the rooms
a dinner was laid out. He sat down and dined, and then went into
a bedroom. There he found a bed, on which he lay down to rest.
Presently there came in a lady, more beautiful than can be imagined
anywhere but in a fairy tale, who said:
`Thou who art in my house, name thyself! If thou art an old
man, thou shalt be my father; if a middle-aged man, my brother;
but if a young man, thou shalt be my husband dear. And if thou
art a woman, and an old one, thou shalt be my grandmother; if
middle-aged, my mother; and if a girl, thou shalt be my own
Thereupon he came forth. And when she saw him she was
delighted with him, and said:
`Wherefore, O Prince Ivan--my husband dear shalt thou be!--
wherefore hast thou come hither?'
Then he told her all that had happened, and she said:
`That beast which thou wishest to overcome is my brother.
He is staying just now with my second sister, who lives not far from
here in a silver palace. I bound up three of the wounds which thou
didst give him.'
Well, after this they drank, and enjoyed themselves, and held
sweet converse together, and then the Prince took leave of her, and
went on to the second sister, the one who lived in the silver palace,
and with her also he stayed awhile. She told him that her brother
Norka was then at her youngest sister's. So he went on to the
youngest sister, who lived in a golden palace. She told him that
her brother was at that time asleep on the blue sea, and she gave
him a sword of steel and a draught of the Water of Strength, and
she told him to cut off her brother's head at a single stroke. And
when he had heard these things, he went his way.
And when the Prince came to the blue sea, he looked--there
slept the Norka on a stone in the middle of the sea; and when it
snored, the water was agitated for seven miles around. The Prince
crossed himself, went up to it, and smote it on the head with his
sword. The head jumped off, saying the while, `Well, I'm done
for now!' and rolled far away into the sea.
After killing the beast, the Prince went back again, picking up
all the three sisters by the way, with the intention of taking them
out into the upper world: for they all loved him and would not be
separated from him. Each of them turned her palace into an egg
--for they were all enchantresses--and they taught him how to
turn the eggs into palaces, and back again, and they handed over
the eggs to him. And then they all went to the place from which
they had to be hoisted into the upper world. And when they came
to where the rope was, the Prince took hold of it and made the
maidens fast to it. Then he jerked away at the rope and his
brothers began to haul it up. And when they had hauled it up,
and had set eyes on the wondrous maidens, they went aside and
said: `Let's lower the rope, pull our brother part of the way up,
and then cut the rope. Perhaps he'll be killed; but then if he isn't,
he'll never give us these beauties as wives.'
So when they had agreed on this, they lowered the rope. But
their brother was no fool; he guessed what they were at, so he
fastened the rope to a stone, and then gave it a pull. His brothers
hoisted the stone to a great height, and then cut the rope. Down
fell the stone and broke in pieces; the Prince poured forth tears
and went away. Well, he walked and walked. Presently a storm
arose; the lightning flashed, the thunder roared, the rain fell in
torrents. He went up to a tree in order to take shelter under it,
and on that tree he saw some young birds which were being
thoroughly drenched. So he took off his coat and covered them
over with it, and he himself sat down under the tree. Presently
there came flying a bird--such a big one that the light was blotted
out by it. It had been dark there before, but now it became darker
still. Now this was the mother of those small birds which the
Prince had covered up. And when the bird had come flying up,
she perceived that her little ones were covered over, and she said,
`Who has wrapped up my nestlings?' and presently, seeing the
Prince, she added: `Didst thou do that? Thanks! In return, ask
of me anything thou desirest. I will do anything for thee.'
`Then carry me into the other world,' he replied.
`Make me a large vessel with a partition in the middle,' she
said; `catch all sorts of game, and put them into one half of it,
and into the other half pour water; so that there may be meat and
drink for me.'
All this the Prince did. Then the bird--having taken the
vessel on her back, with the Prince sitting in the middle of it--
began to fly. And after flying some distance she brought him to
his journey's end, took leave of him, and flew away back. But he
went to the house of a certain tailor, and engaged himself as his
servant. So much the worse for wear was he, so thoroughly had he
altered in appearance, that nobody would have suspected him of
being a Prince.
Having entered into the service of this master, the Prince began
to ask what was going on in that country. And his master replied:
`Our two Princes--for the third one has disappeared--have brought
away brides from the other world, and want to marry them, but
those brides refuse. For they insist on having all their wedding-
clothes made for them first, exactly like those which they used to
have in the other world, and that without being measured for them.
The King has called all the workmen together, but not one of them
will undertake to do it.'
The Prince, having heard all this, said, `Go to the King, master,
and tell him that you will provide everything that's in your line.'
`However can I undertake to make clothes of that sort? I work
for quite common folks,' says his master.
`Go along, master! I will answer for everything,' says the
So the tailor went. The King was delighted that at least one
good workman had been found, and gave him as much money as
ever he wanted. When his tailor had settled everything, he went
home. And the Prince said to him:
`Now then, pray to God, and lie down to sleep; to-morrow all
will be ready.' And the tailor followed his lad's advice, and went
Midnight sounded. The Prince arose, went out of the city into
the fields, took out of his pocket the eggs which the maidens had
given him, and, as they had taught him, turned them into three
palaces. Into each of these he entered, took the maidens' robes,
went out again, turned the palaces back into eggs, and went home.
And when he got there he hung up the robes on the wall, and lay
down to sleep.
Early in the morning his master awoke, and behold! there
hung such robes as he had never seen before, all shining with gold
and silver and precious stones. He was delighted, and he seized
them and carried them off to the King. When the Princesses saw
that the clothes were those which had been theirs in the other
world, they guessed that Prince Ivan was in this world, so they
exchanged glances with each other, but they held their peace.
And the master, having handed over the clothes, went home, but
he no longer found his dear journeyman there. For the Prince had
gone to a shoemaker's, and him too he sent to work for the King;
and in the same way he went the round of all the artificers, and
they all proffered him thanks, inasmuch as through him they were
enriched by the King.
By the time the princely workman had gone the round of all
the artificers, the Princesses had received what they had asked for;
all their clothes were just like what they had been in the other
world. Then they wept bitterly because the Prince had not come,
and it was impossible for them to hold out any longer; it was
necessary that they should be married. But when they were ready
for the wedding, the youngest bride said to the King:
`Allow me, my father, to go and give alms to the beggars.'
He gave her leave, and she went and began bestowing alms
upon them, and examining them closely. And when she had
come to one of them, and was going to give him some money, she
caught sight of the ring which she had given to the Prince in the
other world, and her sisters' rings too--for it really was he. So
she seized him by the hand, and brought him into the hall, and
said to the King:
`Here is he who brought us out of the other world. His
brothers forbade us to say that he was alive, threatening to slay us
if we did.'
Then the King was wroth with those sons, and punished them
as he thought best. And afterwards three weddings were celebrated.