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Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin (1878—1942)  Koschei the Deathless  Illustration for the Russian fairy tale
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Title: Koschei the Deathless
Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin (1878—1942)
Koschei the Deathless
Illustration for the Russian fairy tale "Marya Morevna"

The Death of Koschei the Deathless or Marya Morevna is a Russian fairy tale collected by Alexander Afanasyev in Narodnye russkie skazki and included by Andrew Lang in The Red Fairy Book.
Prince Ivan had three sisters: Princess Marya, Princess Olga, and Princess Anna. When his parents were dying, they told him to marry off his sisters to their first wooers, and not keep them by him. So when a falcon transformed into a man to woo Marya, and she consented, he agreed to the marriage; and then Olga's to a transforming eagle, and Anna's to a raven.

Prince Ivan grew lonely and went to visit his sisters, except that on the way, he found an army slaughtered by the Princess Marya Morevna, and met her. They fell in love and went to her kingdom, but she went off to war and forbid him to go into a certain closet. He went in and found Koschei the Deathless there, who begged for water. Prince Ivan gave him three bucketfuls, and Koschei broke the chains and swore Ivan would never see Marya Morevna again.

Ivan set out after her. He found the castle of the Falcon, who asked him to leave his silver spoon for them to remember him by; then that of the Eagle, who asked him to leave his silver fork; then that of the Raven, who asked him to leave his silver snuff-box. Then he found the castle Marya Morevna was. Four times, he tried to flee with her, but Koschei caught him each one; the first three times, for each bucket of water Prince Ivan had given him, he let him go, but the fourth, he chopped Prince Ivan to pieces and threw him, sealed in a barrel, into the sea. At the castles, the silver things grew tarnished, and his brothers-in-law came for him. The Eagle found the barrel, the Falcon fetched the Water of Life, and the Raven the Water of Death. They put the pieces together, and the Water of Death reattached them and the Water of Life restored them.

Prince Ivan found Marya Morevna again, and asked her to discover how Koschei found the horse he had ridden on to catch them. Koschei tells her that he got it by watching Baba Yaga's horses for three days. Marya Morevna stole the handkerchief he used to get to Baba Yaga's house and gave it to Prince Ivan. Waving it three times over the fiery river produced a bridge. On the way, he decided to eat a wild bird's chick, a piece of honeycomb, and a lion cub, but refrained each time when the wild bird, the bees, and the lioness pleaded with him and promised to make return.

At Baba Yaga's, she took him into her service, but her horses fled the next morning over the meadows. The wild bird came up to him in the evening, and sent him to her house. Baba Yaga scolded her horses, which answered that birds came and pecked their eyes out when they tried to flee. She told them to try the forest the next day. They fled the next morning, but in the evening, the lioness told Prince Ivan to go back, and the mares were back. Baba Yaga told the mares to try the sea the next day, but the bees stung them until they had to come back.

In the night, Prince Ivan got up and stole a sorry colt from the stable. He rode to the fiery river and waved the handkerchief three times for a bridge. When he had ridden over, he waved it two times, which kept a bridge, but one so thin that when Baba Yaga crossed it to chase him, she fell and died.

He returned to Marya Morevna, and they fled. Koschei chased after them, but when he caught them, the horse crushed his head in, and they burned the body. Ivan's sisters and brothers-in-law rejoiced over his bride, and they held a wedding feast before returning to their own countries.

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Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin (1878—1942)  Red Rider  Illustration for the book Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin (1878—1942)  Koschei the Deathless  Illustration for the Russian fairy tale Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin (1878—1942)  Illustration for the Russian fairy tale
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