Continuing where we left off last week, Prince Ivan gets himself a beautiful Princess but still has some unfinished business left….
The grey wolf, the shape shifter, turned himself into a horse with the golden mane. Together, Ivan and he sought an audience with Tsar Afron. On seeing them, the Tsar said, “Ah...Prince Ivan, so you have brought me the horse. Now I will keep my part of the bargain,” and he handed over the firebird in its golden cage.
Ivan took the bird, thanked the Tsar and left the castle. Back at the blue forest, he found Princess Yelena and the real golden horse where he had hidden them. Along with the princess, Ivan raced through the forest on the horse, holding the prized possession of the firebird. At last, he had succeeded in his mission. His father was going to be so happy!
Meanwhile, Tsar Afron tried to mount his golden horse but fell off as it suddenly turned into a grey wolf! Everyone screamed in shock and in the melee, the grey wolf slunk away. Soon he caught up with Ivan in the forest. “Dear dear wolf! I can’t thank you enough,” said Ivan who got off his horse and hugged the big grey creature. “I guess it’s goodbye, now... I shall miss you, you know.”
“Who knows, I may need to help you again... But we part now,” said the grey wolf and retreated into the blue forest. Ivan and Yelena rode on for many days. One evening, they reached a meadow by a stream. “Let’s rest here for the night,” said Ivan and they went to sleep under a large tree.
The long journey had worn them out that they did not hear the clippety clop of the horses that approached. It was the other two princes, Ivan’s elder brothers who had been on the same mission as him — to find the firebird.
“What! Our little Ivan has got the firebird, looks like!” whispered the first brother.
“And add to it a beautiful maiden and a golden horse…How smart can he get?” laughed the second one.
“Not so smart…” whispered the elder prince as he drew his sword. Killing the sleeping Ivan, he grabbed a frightened Yelena who had now woken up. “Not a word you will utter!” said the Prince as he put her on the golden horse along with the cage carrying the firebird. And they left for their father’s castle.
Crows gathered around the dead prince squawking loudly. But out of nowhere appeared the grey wolf once more and caught hold of a chick in its mighty paw. And he told the mother bird “If you want your little one back, you must rush at once and fetch me some sparkling water and some still water.” The crow agreed and flew to do his bidding. Soon she was back with the two waters. The wolf poured the still water on Ivan’s wounds and they healed. He then sprinkled the sparkling water on the Prince’s face and there he was, springing back to life! “Have I been sleeping long?” asked he.
“Ah yes… a deep sleep... so much so your brothers killed you and made off with the Princess, the horse and the firebird,” said the wolf. “Quickly now, climb on my back and we’ll catch up with them!” The grey wolf raced through the meadow with Ivan on his back and soon caught up with the two princes.
The grey wolf threw himself upon the evil brothers and tore them to pieces. He then scattered all their body parts in the corn fields. “It’s goodbye now, Dear Prince Ivan and Yelena, I hope I’ve served you well and you will remember me kindly,” said the wolf as he turned towards the forests. Ivan and Yelena thanked the wolf and took leave. Together, they rode on the golden horse towards Ivan’s father’s castle.
Tsar Berendey was delighted when his youngest son returned with the firebird, which glowed in its beautiful cage. Prince Ivan truthfully related all his adventures and how the grey wolf had helped him and saved his life. The Tsar mourned the death of his two older sons. But the gloom was lifted with the wedding of Prince Ivan with the beautiful Yelena. And they all lived happily ever after.