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Tsarevna Gorbona

Once upon a time there lived Tsar Ivan. The Tsar was young but unmarried: he couldn't find his happiness in any way.

One night he happened to have an amazing dream. The young Tsar was greatly surprised. As if he found himself in the kingdom where lots of birds were singing their songs sonorously and the sun was shining brightly. And then from the skies the birds sang, «We know where your happiness is waiting for you».

And then the Sun whispered him, «I really know where your happiness is, too»

«And where on earth is my happiness?» asked the Tsar the birds and the Sun.

«Lulled by the skies it lies on the Earth», was the answer.

On getting up in the morning the Tsar made up his mind to look for that unknown kingdom by all means. When the Tsar's ministers were informed about his decision, they began to dissuade him from his decision.

«Why should you, Master of the fields, meadows and woods get ready for such a far-away trip? One would not always meet his happiness on the way but evil… you only speak of it and it's here and by all means! «asked the Tsar's ministers.

But the young Tsar didn't follow anybody's advice, saddled his favourite horse and rode out into the picturesque countryside.

He had been riding along the road for several days when it once brought him to the thick forest.

While straying through that gloomy forest Ivan felt terrible weariness and his horse became exhausted as well. By the end of the third day when the cold northern sun was setting behind the skyline, a woodland scenery, a glade appeared in front of him. There was a ramshackle hut there, the hut that was buried up to its windows in the thick grass.

Being very glad to see a human dwelling, the Tsar dismounted, held his horse by the bridle and went up to the hut. But before he had time to knock at the door which sunk to one side,when the shutters opened wide and a beautiful young girl looked out of the window.

«What's your name? «asked her the charmed Tsar.

„I am Tsarevna Gorbona, Hunchback“, she answered.

«Tsarevna? cried the tsar being wonder -struck. He didn't expect the hostess of the hut to be Tsarevna!

„Yes, a real Tsarevna“ confirmed Tsarevna her words pointing to the golden crown lying on the window -sill.

„It's very difficult to wear the crown from morning till night. Therefore I took it off. And you come in, don't stand on the threshold, step over it“, invited the hostess.

In the house Ivan saw an earthenware stove, a wooden armchair, a peuter mortar, an old broom and a black cat. But the Tsar wasn't surprised and said to Tsarevna Gorbona,

„Be my wife, Tsarevna!“

Gorbona agreed quickly-and immediately his swift horse took at a mad pace the Tsar and Tsarevna to Ivan's kingdom. In a flash they rushed there without getting tired at all as if the way home was at a very short distance. And again the Tsar wasn't astonished.

However the old ministers, true statesmen of the young Tsar met him and were astonished when they saw Tsarevna. «The tsar's bride is a hunchback! «cried they out. And the Tsar was like a behind man: he didn't see anything and didn't want to listen to his servants.

Besides the wedding-day was already fixed. Very soon Hunchback will become a real Tsarina. What would happen to the kingdom then, nobody knew?

But Tsarina gave orders leftward and rightward and showed her uncertain and obstinate temper. Tsar Ivan only smiled as if it wasn't his business to reign the enchanted kingdom wisely.

Then one night when there were only three days left before the wedding-day, the Tsar's gardener who suffered from insomnia saw Tsarevna Hunchback slinking in the kingdom park. Her steps were careful but quick. High-ranking persons didn't have to step like that. She passed the rosariums of the upper park, then fountains and swimming-pools of the middle one, deftly rounded the green meadow of the lower perk and disappeared no one knew where.

The gardener decided to report everything to the ministers at the palace. Old statesmen heard the gardener out, held the meeting of Privy Council and decided to spy upon Tsarevna constantly especially after midnight.

The next day as soon as the big palace clock stroke twelve informing the palace that the enchanted kingdom was sleeping, the golden door, leading to Tsarevna's bed-room creaked. And from the darkness appeared Hunchback,wrapped herself up by a long cloack.

After looking around she tiptoed to the park leaving the palace and all the time looking back cautiously. Some Tsar's ministers followed Tsarina keeping close to her at a short distance.

Following the Tsar's bride on her heels, the ministers entered the thick forest. In pitch darkness they stumbled on thorny bushes and rotten stubs, they powdered their way with salt, very coarse salt so that afterward to find their way back.

Soon all of them came up to the ramshackle hut brightened by the Moon.

As soon as the Tsar's bride flinged the rickety door open, the Moon rolled behind the cloud and still duskiness wrapped up the forest. The ministers sticked their frozen noses to the window. After entering the hut Tsarevna took off her warm cloak and kindled the firewood in the hot stove.

„And it was the reason why we had followed Tsarevna on her heels working our way through the thick forest, wasn't it?“ said the amazed Tsar's ministers.

But suddenly something unprecedented happened: Tsarevna grasped at her hair with her own hands and at once took her load off her shoulders, pulled her hump, which hung behind her back, on the head's place. And saw the ministers that it wasn't a hump at all but one more head-a frightful and old-womanish one.

True Tsar's servants though frightened so much remained to see what would follow next.

Having seated herself in the arm-chair Gorbona shut her eyes,yawned broadly with her toothless mouth as if she fell asleep, a black cat jumped upon her knees, mewed and rubbed against her hands.

Just at that moment Gorbona's hands became dry, wrinkled and leaving her body she began flying all over the hut.

After flying swiftly round her household, touching the mortar, the broom some dried up grass, Gorbona's hands started towards the stove. Not being afraid to be burnt, they flew into the fire and turned upside-down some live coals. The hands found six letters In the ashes and laid them out on the table under a lighted splinter. Suddenly the hands began trembling. And their crooked fingers clanched into a fist. At the next moment the hands angrily caught the letters off the table and threw them back into the stove.

The Tsar's bride is not at all our Tsarevna but a real witch, «were struck dumb the ministers. It's necessary to warn the Tsar! «.And they began to wait Gorbona to wake up.

She had awoke long before she heard the first cocks' singing, though she didn't like to rise at cock-crow. She instantly pushed the witch's head behind her back but another one Tsarevna pulled upon her neck.

On their arrival at the palace along the salt covered road, the Tsar's ministers woke him up and told him about the nightly transformation of the Tsar's bride. Ivan didn't believe those strange stories, he suddenly came to conclusion that his old advisers took an instantaneous dislike to the future Tsarina and tried to break the engagement.

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