In a certain village there once lived a peasant who had three sons, two of them clever young men, and the third, whose name was Emelya, a fool. The father had a long life and lived to a vast old age, and there came a day when he called his three sons to his side and said: "My dear children, I feel that I won't be with you long, so I leave you my house and what livestock I have to be divided equally amongst you, and also some money, a hundred rubles for each of you." Soon after that the father died, and the sons laid him to rest as it behooved them to and settled down to as happy a life as ever they had had before. One day Emelya's two clever brothers bethought them of going into town to trade and also to buy a number of things, and they said to Emelya: "Listen, fool, we are going into town to trade and taking your hundred rubles along with our own money. We'll go halves with you on the profits and we'll buy you a red caftan, a red hat and a pair of red boots. As for you, you're to stay at home, and if our wives and your sisters-in- law ask you to do anything, you are to do it." And Emelya, who very much wanted to get the red caftan, red hat and red boots, said that he would do whatever was asked of him. The two brothers rode away, and the fool stayed at home with his sisters-in-law.
Some time passed, and one day, and a cold day it was, for it was winter, the sisters-in-law told him to fetch some water. But the fool, who was lying on top of the stove, said: "And what are you here for?" "What do you mean, fool?" the sisters-in-law shouted. "There's a terrible frost out, and it's a man has to fetch the water!" "I don't much feel like doing it," Emelya said. "Oh, you don't, do you!" they cried. "You'll want to eat, won't you, and how can we cook anything without water!" And they added: "Very well, then, we'll tell your brothers when they come back with the red caftan and the other things not to give you anything." Hearing this and being very eager to get the caftan, hat and boots, Emelya felt that there was nothing for it but to fetch the water, and so he climbed down from the stove and began to dress. He pulled on his felt boots and his coat, and, taking along two pails and an axe, went down to the river. He was there soon, for the river was not far from the village, and once there began cutting a hole in the ice. He made a great big one, and, scooping up two pailfuls of water, set the pails down on the ice and himself stood there and stared at the water. And what did he see but a huge pike swimming in it. Now, foolish as he was, Emelya had the good sense to try and catch the pike, and so he started edging slowly up to the hole. He got very close to it, and then
out shot his arm and there was the pike in his hands! He put it in his bosom and was about to go home when the pike said: "Wait, fool! What have you caught me for?" "What a question!" said Emelya. "I am going to take you home and ask my sisters-in-law to cook you for our dinner." "Don't do it, fool! Let me go, and I'll make you rich." But Emelya would not believe the pike and clutched it fast. "Look here, fool," the pike said, "you must do as I ask. Put me back in the water, and I'll make your every wish come true." Hearing this and being very lazy, the fool was overjoyed. "If the pike makes my every wish come true, I'll never have to do any more work," said he to himself, "it'll all be done for me." And to the pike: "Very well, do as you promise, and I'll let you go." "Don't you worry, I'll keep my promise, just put me back in the water," the pike said. But the fool insisted that it do as it had said first.
Seeing that he was loath to let it go, the pike said: "If you want me to make your wish come true, you must tell me what your wish is." "I want my pails to go uphill all by themselves without spilling a drop of water," Emelya said. "It won't get spilled, never fear," said the pike. "You have only to say 'By the will of the pike do as I like!' and then add 'Off you go up the hill, pails, all by yourselves!' and it will be done." "By the will of the pike do as I like!" Emelya said, and he added: "Off you go up the hill, pails, all by yourselves!" And lo and behold!—the pails turned and marched up the hill together with the yoke. Seeing this, Emelya was much surprised. "Will all be done as I wish in just this same way?" he asked. "Yes, if only you don't forget the words I told you to say," the pike replied. So Emelya slipped the pike back into the water and himself walked after his pails. Seeing him, the villagers stopped short and stood there marvelling. "What's this!" said they. "The pails are walking uphill all by themselves." But Emelya said not a word and went after the pails into his house. The pails jumped up on a bench, and Emelya climbed up on the stove again.
Some time passed, and his sisters-in-law said to Emelya: "Why do you lie there, Emelya? Why don't you go and chop some wood?" "What are you here for?" Emelya said. "What do you mean!" they cried. "It's wintertime, and if you don't chop some wood you'll be the one to freeze." "I don't feel like chopping wood," Emelya said. "You don't, do you!" said they. "Well, freeze away, then. And don't forget that if you don't do as we say we'll tell your brothers not to give you the red caftan, hat and boots." Emelya, who very much wanted to get them, knew that the wood would have to be chopped, but as he was very lazy and loath to leave the stove top, he said half under his breath:
"By the will of the pike do as I like! Go and chop some wood, axe, and you, logs, come into the hut and jump into the stove." And lo!—the axe whisked from under the bench and into the yard and began chopping the wood, and the logs marched into the hut and jumped into the stove all by themselves. The sisters-in-law stood there, their mouths open in surprise. And so it went. Every time Emelya was asked to chop some wood, the axe would do it for him.
Some time passed, and his sisters-in-law said to Emelya: "We have run out of firewood, Emelya. Go to the forest and cut some." "And what are you here for?" Emelya said. "What do you mean!" they said. "The forest is far away, and it's wintertime and much too cold for us to go there." "Well, I don't feel like going there either," Emelya said. "Oh, you don't, do you! Well, then, you'll just have to freeze. And when your brothers come home, we'll tell them not to give you anything: not the red caftan, nor the red hat and boots." And Emelya, who was very eager to get the caftan, hat and boots, felt that there was nothing for it but to go to the forest for the wood. So down he climbed from the stove and began to dress.
He put on his coat and felt boots, went out into the yard, dragged the sledge out of the shed, and, taking a length of rope and an axe, got into the sledge and told his sisters-in-law to open the gate. Seeing him in the sledge but with no horse harnessed to it, the sisters-in-law were quite taken aback. "What are you doing in the sledge, fool, why haven't you harnessed the horse!" they cried. "I don't need any horse, just you open the gate," Emelya told them. The sisters-in-law opened the gate, and he said half under his breath: "By the will of the pike do as I like! Off you go to the forest, sledge!" And no sooner were the words out of his mouth than the sledge drove out through the gate. Seeing it, the villagers stopped short and stood there marvelling, for it could not have moved any faster had two horses been harnessed to it!
Now, the road to the forest ran through a town, and as the fool did not know that he had to call out to warn the passers-by to get out of his way, he knocked down many. But though the townsfolk ran after him they could not catch him up.
He left the town behind him, and, coming to the forest, stopped the sledge, climbed out of it and said: "By the will of the pike do as I like! Cut some wood, axe, and you, logs, climb into the sledge one by one and bind yourselves together!" And no sooner were the words out of his mouth than the axe began cutting the wood, and the logs dropped into the sledge one by one and bound themselves together. When the sledge was full, he bade the axe make a cudgel for him, and when it had done so, he climbed on top of the load of wood and cried: "By the
will of the pike do as I like! Off you go home, sledge, by yourself!" And the sledge rode off very fast indeed. It rode into the town where Emelya had knocked down many people, and there were the townsfolk ready and waiting for him. They seized him, pulled him out of the sledge and began beating him. And Emelya, seeing the plight he was in, said half under his breath: "By the will of the pike do as I like! Come, cudgel, give them a good walloping!" And the cudgel sprang up and laid to, right and left. The townsfolk took to their heels, and Emelya sped home in the sledge, and when the cudgel had beaten up all it could get at, it skipped down the road after him. And Emelya got home, stepped into the hut and climbed up on the stove again.
Emelya now became the talk of the town. And it wasn't so much because he had knocked down a great number of people, but because he had ridden in a sledge with no horse harnessed to it. At long last the king himself came to hear about him, and, being eager to see him, sent one of his officers and a number of soldiers to fetch him. The officer set out at once and soon came to the road Emelya had taken when he went to the forest for wood. This brought him to Emelya's village where he at once summoned the elder and told him that he had been sent there by the king to fetch Emelya and bring him to the palace. The elder showed him Emelya's house, and the officer came inside and looked about him. "Where is the fool?" he asked. And Emelya, lying on the stove top, said: "What do you want him for?" "Never mind. Put your things on quickly and I'll take you to the king's palace." "Why should I go there?" Emelya said. Hearing him speak so discourteously, the officer flew into a temper and slapped Emelya, and Emelya, who did not like it at all, said half under his breath: "By the will of the pike, do as I like! Come, cudgel, give them a good walloping!" And out the cudgel jumped and beat the officer and his men to within an inch of their lives. The officer fled, and as soon as he was back in town it was reported to the king what the fool had done. The king found it hard to believe that the fool could have got the better of so many men, but he called one of the wisest men in the kingdom and sent him to fetch Emelya, by a ruse if need be. The man set out at once and as soon as he came to Emelya's village, sent for the elder and said: ' The king bids me fetch the fool to the palace. Tell whoever he lives with that I wish to see them at once." The elder hastened to do as he was told and was soon back with Emelya's sisters-in-law. "What is it that the fool likes best?" the wise man asked. Said the sisters-in-law: "He likes to be asked whatever one wants him to do again and again, gracious sir, and only then will he do it. There is nothing to be gained by being rough with him, but a kind word will go a long way." Bidding the two women
not to tell Emelya that he had spoken to them, the man bought a bagful of raisins, prunes and figs and went to see him. He came into the house and up to the stove and asked Emelya why he was lying there. He then gave him the bag of sweets and begged him to go to the king's palace with him. "I'm all right where I am!" Emelya said. "It's nice and warm here." "Please, Emelya, come with me, you will like it in the palace," the man said. "I don't much feel like it!" said Emelya. "Now, Emelya, please do come!" said the man again. "The king will have a red caftan and hat made for you, and a pair of red boots too." Tempted, Emelya said: "Very well, then. Only you must go on alone and I will follow by and by." The man pressed him no more, and, stepping away from the stove, asked of the sisters-in-law in a whisper: "He is not trying to fool me, is he?" The sisters-in-law assured him that he was not, and the man left their house and set out for the palace.
As for Emelya, he lay on the stove a little while longer, and, saying with a sigh, "To go to see the king—what a bother!" added, "By the will of the pike do as I like! Off you go to the palace, stove!" And lo!—the hut began to creak, and off the stove whipped out of the hut and through the gate and so fast did it go that no one could have caught up with it. Emelya soon overtook the man who had been sent to fetch him, and they arrived at the palace together.
Seeing the fool waiting outside on top of the stove, the king came out of the palace with all his ministers to get a good look at him. "Why did you knock down so many people when you went to the forest for the wood?" he asked. "It wasn't my fault," Emelya said. "They shouldn't have got in my way." He glanced at the palace, and whom should he see standing at one of the windows looking out at him but the king's daughter. She was very beautiful, and Emelya said half under his breath: "By the will of the pike do as I like! Let that lovely maid fall in love with me!" And no sooner were the words out of his mouth than the king's daughter fell madly in love with him. "By the will of the pike do as I like! Off you go home, stove!" Emelya said. And off the stove made straight for Emelya's village. It whisked into his house and stood where it had stood before.
After that all went well for a time with Emelya, but not so well with the king, for his daughter was head over ears in love and she begged him to let her marry Emelya. This made the king very angry, but he did not know how he was to get Emelya back to the palace. He asked his ministers what they thought he should do, and they told him to send after him the officer who had failed to fetch him the first time. The officer was summoned, and the king said to him: "I sent you to fetch the fool once, my friend, and you failed to do it. So I am sending you
after him again that you may prove your worth. If you succeed, I shall reward you; if you fail, I shall punish you." The officer set out at once for Emelya's village. And no sooner was he there than he sent for the elder and said: "Here is some money for you. Buy whatever you need to make a good meal. Tomorrow you are to invite Emelya to dinner in your house and to ply him with drink till he is so drunk that he will drop off to sleep."
Knowing that the officer had been sent by the king, the elder had no choice but to obey him. He bought everything he had been asked to and invited Emelya to dinner. Emelya said he would come, and, when told about it by the elder, the officer was well pleased. On the following day Emelya came to the elder's house and was plied with food and with so much drink that he was soon quite drunk and fell fast asleep. The officer at once bound him and had him put in a coach, and then, getting into the coach himself, drove straight to the palace with him. The ministers informed the king about his arrival, and the king at once ordered a large barrel bound with iron hoops to be brought. This was done, and, seeing that everything was ready, the king had Emelya and the princess put in the barrel which was then tarred and sealed and cast in the sea.
The barrel bumped along on the waves, and many hours passed before Emelya woke. Seeing that there was darkness all about him and thinking himself to be quite alone, he called out in a loud voice: "Where am I?" "You are in a barrel, Emelya, and I am here with you," the princess said. "And who may you be?" Emelya asked. "I am the king's daughter." And she told him why she had been put in the barrel together with him and begged him to get them out of it. "I am all right where I am, it's nice and warm here," Emelya said. "Please, Emelya, take pity on me, don't make me cry," the princess said. "Surely you can get us out of this barrel." "I don't know about that," said Emelya, "I don't much feel like it." "Oh, please, you must not let me die, Emelya!" And Emelya, who was touched by her tears and entreaties, said: "Very well, I'll do as you ask." And he added half under his breath: "By the will of the pike, do as I like! Come, Î sea, cast this barrel on to the shore, the closer to our own realm the better! And you, barrel, break open as soon as you are on dry land!"
And no sooner had he uttered these words than the sea rose in waves and the barrel was cast out on to dry land where it broke into pieces. Emelya and the princess walked along the shore and saw that they were on a beautiful island where grew many fruit trees. The princess liked it all very much, but said: "Where are we going to live, Emelya? There is nothing here, not even a hut." "Don't ask too much of
me," Emelya said. "Please, Emelya, why don’t you have a little house built? It might rain, and we don't want to get wet, do we!" said the princess, who knew that he could do anything if only he wanted to. "I don't feel like it." Emelya said. But she began pleading with him, and so touched was he that he knew he had to do as she asked. He walked a few steps away from her and said: "By the will of the pike do as I like! Let a palace more beautiful than the king's and filled with courtiers and servants arise on this island, and a crystal bridge too." And no sooner were the words out of his mouth than a huge palace and a crystal bridge rose up before him. Emelya and the princess came into the palace and found it to be richly decorated and teeming with people of all stations who waited to do Emelya's bidding. And Emelya, who saw that he alone of them all was both homely and a fool, was filled with a great urge to do something about it. "By the will of the pike do as I like!" said he. "I wish to become tall and handsome, and clever too, more handsome and clever than anyone!" And before the words were out of his mouth he became so handsome and so clever that everyone marvelled at the change in him.
After that Emelya sent a servant to the king to invite him and his ministers to his, Emelya's palace. The man crossed the crystal bridge and made his way to the king's palace, and when the king's ministers had ushered him into the king's presence, said: "My master has sent me to ask you to dine with him, Your Majesty." "Who is your master?" the king demanded. But the man, who had been told by Emelya to keep this a secret, said: "That is something no one knows. But when you have joined him he will tell you all you wish to know." The king, who was curious to find out who it was that had invited him to dine, told Emelya's servant that his master could expect him shortly, and as soon as the man had left, set out after him with his princes and ministers. And by the time Emelya learned that his invitation had been accepted, they were halfway across the crystal bridge.
The king rode up to Emelya's palace, and Emelya came out to meet him. He embraced him, led him into the palace, and, seating him and his princes and ministers at oaken tables covered with embroidered cloths, bade them taste of the many fine dishes and drink of the ale and mead. They ate and drank and made merry, and when they rose from their seats, Emelya asked of the king whether he knew who he was. But as Emelya was now so very handsome and dressed so very richly the king could not recognize him and said so. "Do you not recall, Your Majesty, how Emelya the Fool came to your palace on top of a stove and how you had him put in a tarred barrel together with your daughter and cast in the sea? Well, I am that very Emelya!" The king,
frightened, stood there, not knowing what to say or do, and Emelya went after the princess and led her into his presence. The king could hardly believe his eyes. "I have done you much harm," said he, "and in order to atone for it am ready to give you my daughter in marriage." This made Emelya very happy. He thanked the king over and over again, and as everything had been put in readiness for the wedding, it was celebrated the very same day in great style. And on the following day Emelya held a grand feast to which he invited all the ministers, while vats filled with wine and mead were set out by him for the ordinary folk. The merrymaking went on for many days, and when it was over, the king offered to give up both his crown and his throne to Emelya. But this Emelya refused, and the king went back to his own realm and left him in his palace where he lived for many long years without a care in the world.