A Story From: Russia
Read Time: ["3 to 5mins"]
For Ages: 8 to 10yrs., 12 to 14yrs.
ONCE in western Siberia there lived a great Tsar. While he had many subjects and large herds, he had but one daughter and her name was Altyn-Aryg. When the Tsar grew old, he said to his wife, a woman as old as he, “We have no sons and my strength is leaving me. A daughter cannot govern such a numerous people and will not be able to look after so many cattle.”
Overhearing this, his daughter stepped forward and said, “Father, why can’t I rule the people and manage the whole herd?”
“The task is too great for you,” said he.
“If,” said the maiden, “you have decided not to give me my people and my herd, I cannot live here anymore. I am leaving.”
Altyn-Aryg’s parents pleaded with her to stay, but her heart was set. Before she left, her father gave her his sword, saying he sorely hoped she would never need to use it.
The maiden traveled for a long time. One day, she arrived at a certain kingdom where she learned of a terrible monster called the Snake Prince. The Snake Price was terrifying the peole of the area. His mouth was so huge that his lower jaw lay on the ground while the upper jaw brushed the sky. When the monster took over a territory, all the people who survived became his slaves and had to pay tribute by giving him the best of their harvest and most of their wealth besides. Tsars of nearby lands feared the monster might sweep them away, too, and wept, and paid him tribute also.
“Where does this Snake Prince live?” asked the Tsar’s daughter.
“Why would you want to know?” she was asked.
“I have come a long way and will go further. I must find and kill the Snake Prince. If he is fated to die, he will die. If I am fated to die, I will die.”
And so the maiden was directed to an uninhabited valley. The land where the Snake Prince lived was truly a wasteland – anything alive had already escaped if it could. No birds flit about in the skies; no insects scurried along on the ground. In this dry desert was where she found the enormous Snake Prince.
The Tsar’s daughter walked inside the giant jaws of the snake. Inside the belly of the beast she saw many living persons as well as birds and beasts. Reaching the Snake Prince’s heart, she turned to the heroes within and said, “How could one kill him?”
One of them said, “Lady, if we could kill him we would; we have tried and cannot.”
The girl called for a sword and a hero handed her one. She struck at the Snake Prince’s heart but did not kill him because the sword broke. She took many swords and all of them broke. She realized the heroes must have lost courage since all their swords were unbroken. Taking out her own father’s sword, she cried aloud to the heroes, “See what will be!” and struck the monster’s heart with all her might.
With these words the Snake Prince died.
The other humans rejoiced and escaped from his jaws, the birds flew away and the wild beasts ran off. When the heroes came out they cheered the tsar’s daughter and said, “You saved us all! We will pay you as we paid the Snake Prince.”
The maiden answered, “There is no need to pay tribute. Go and resume your former lives. But those who wish to follow me may return with me to my land.”
And so the Tsar’s daughter took many herdsmen and their cattle with her and returned to the home of her parents. Her father immediately issued a feast to celebrate his daughter’s return. He said, “Where have you been, my daughter?”
She related how she had slain the Snake Prince and had brought back the new herdsmen and their cattle. Praising her highly, the tsar said, “It is well that you used your strength to free the heroes and beasts and birds. I give you now my people and my herds. I know my time is soon at hand.”
As so the Tsar’s daughter received her father’s full inheritance, and when he died she became the ruler of the land.
If You Like This Story You Will Love:
Siberian and other Folk-Tales: Primitive Literature of the Empire of the Tsars, by C. Fillingham Coxwell, published by C. W. Daniel Company, London, 1925, pp. 300-301. Retold by Elaine L. Lindy ©2007. All rights reserved.
The story, "Altyn Aryg" is from the Altai (Altay) people, a Turkic formerly-nomadic people who inhabit a very mountainous region of western Siberia, located North of Kazakhstan.