There are a vast number of different versions of this tale of the Russian Firebird. Of the ones I have viewed I have chosen “The Wolf and the Firebird Fairy Tale” as this was the one I enjoyed the most. I hope you will also enjoy this French version of the Russian Fairy tale, ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
So! Are you sitting comfortably? Then we shall begin!! ….
The Wolf and The Firebird Fairy Tale
Once upon a time there was a tsar who was the proud owner of an orchard of golden apples. One day he discovered a mysterious thief was sneaking in under the cover of darkness and stealing his golden apples! He was so distressed that he lost his appetite and he tasked his three sons to take it in turns to stand guard in his orchard and catch the thief. Two sons were lazy, worthless men who made no effort to stay awake and simply slept all night. But the third son, Prince Ivan, being a conscientious son, allowed himself no such luxuries. Consequently it was he who saw the orchard light up with an ever-brightening, glowing light which revealed a beautiful golden firebird pecking happily at the golden apples. Prince Ivan made a valiant attempt to capture the firebird but to no avail and it flew away leaving only a single tail feather in his hand.
The following morning the Prince explained everything to his father, Tsar Berendey, showing him the tail feather to prove his story. Determined to catch this golden firebird the tsar sent all three of his sons out on horseback in three different directions to track it down and bring it to him.
Prince Ivan eventually arrived at a “crossroads” in a field containing a pillar with an inscription on it offering him three options: : "Whosoever goes from this pillar on the road straight before him will be cold and hungry. "Whosoever goes to the right side will be safe and sound, but his horse will be killed. And whosoever goes to the left side will be killed himself, but his horse will be safe and sound." Prince Ivan opted to go right on the basis he could always get another horse and continue on his quest.
But to his horror a huge magical gray wolf appeared in his path, attacking and killing his horse before running away. However riddled with guilt and seeing the Prince was very sad the wolf returned and said to him "Why, you could have ridden even on your good horse for three years and never found the Firebird for only I know where it lives. I ate your horse, so now I will serve you faithfully and well. Get on my back and hold on tight."
On reaching a fortress the grey wolf said to the Prince, "Listen to me, and remember what I say. Climb over the wall and do not be afraid; all the guards are asleep. In the attic you will see a small window; in the window hangs a golden cage, and in that cage is the Firebird. Take the bird and hide it under your coat; but be sure not to touch the cage."
Prince Ivan did as the wolf had told him but on seeing the cage forgot the wolf’s warning. As soon as he touched the cage he set off alarms all around the fortress and he was unceremoniously hauled up in front of a furious Tsar Afron. “You should have come to me and asked me for the Firebird and I would have given it to you out of respect for your father. But now I shall see to it that all the world knows of your behaviour! And in order to earn my forgiveness you will have to enter my service. A certain Tsar Kusman has a horse with a golden mane. Bring that horse to me, and I will give you the Firebird and the cage."
Angry though the wolf was that he had been disobeyed he forgave the Prince and took him to his destination, issuing another warning on their arrival. "Climb over the wall; do not be afraid, the guards are asleep. Go to the stable and bring out the horse. But be sure not to touch the bridle you will see hanging there."
But once again Prince Ivan could not resist temptation and the whole scenario repeated itself, this time with Tsar Kusman. "To attempt to steal a horse shows little wisdom! Even a peasant would not try to do that. But I will let you off, Prince Ivan, if you agree to enter my service. A certain tsar named Dalmat has a daughter, the beautiful Helen. Carry her off and bring her to me, and then I will give you the golden-maned horse and the golden bridle."
Once again, albeit reluctantly, the wolf forgave Prince Ivan and took him on his back to the fortress of Tsar Dalmat. However this time he insisted that he, himself would carry out the task and ordered the Prince to head back to Tsar Afron assuring him he would catch him up. Having seized the Princess the wolf paused only to tell Prince Ivan also to jump on his back so he could carry them both, and in due time they returned back to Tsar Kusman’s fortress.
However Prince Ivan was very sad, not wishing to part with either the horse with the golden mane or the Princess. So the wolf said to him, "I will see to it that you are not parted from her. We will hide her somewhere, then I will turn myself into the beautiful Princess Helen, and you can lead me to the tsar."
The tsar was over the moon with his new wife and gave the Prince the horse with the golden mane and the bridle, not realising that he was going to collect the real princess and ride away with her on the golden maned horse. The realisation hit the tsar full on when he lay down on the marital bed and discovered a huge grey wolf lying next to him!!
In the meantime the Prince and Princess had arrived at the fortress of tsar Afron and once again Prince Ivan was sad not wishing to lose the golden maned horse in exchange for the firebird. So once more the magical wolf took charge and turned himself into the horse with the golden mane. Tsar Afron was over the moon and Prince Ivan, the Princess Helen and the caged firebird rode away to Ivan’s homeland astride the horse with the golden mane. Tsar Afron was not so lucky discovering the trickery only when his golden maned horse turned into a huge grey wolf as he tried to mount it! Terrified he fell from its back and the wolf made good his escape.
On seeing the wolf again Prince Ivan bowed low to it three times in great respect and in thanks for all it had done in making his dreams come true. However the wolf warned him cryptically, "Do not bid goodbye forever to me. I shall yet be of service to you."
As Ivan and Helen and the horse with the golden mane were sleeping, not far from Ivan’s home, his two brothers chanced upon them and filled with jealousy at his success and their failure plotted to kill him and claim the fruits of his success for themselves, and to win favour with their father. As Ivan lay dead the grey wolf appeared alongside him healing his wounds with still water and bringing him back to life with sparkling water.
"I have had such a deep sleep," he yawned.
"Yes, you were sleeping very soundly," the grey wolf said. "But for me you would never have awakened. Your own brothers killed you and carried off all you had gained. Now get on my back, quick!"
On catching up with the brothers the magical grey wolf killed them both and one last time Prince Ivan thanked him again and bowed respectfully three times to him, before saying good bye forever, and returning home to his father Tsar Berendey with the firebird, the princess and the golden maned horse and its bridle. He told everything to his father who was delighted to see them and although he naturally mourned for his two lost sons he gained great comfort from the wedding to Princess Helen of his remaining son Prince Ivan….and they all lived happily ever after!