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Kotyhoroshko, a Ukrainian fairy tale


There lived a man who had a wife and seven children  six sons and one daughter. One day, the sons said to their sister, We are going to do the plowing at that new field today. Bring us lunch.

But where is that field? I dont know.

Well cut a furrow right from our house to that field. You just walk along it and it will take you to the field where well be working.

And they left.

But the Serpent that lived in the vicinity, smoothed the furrow and cut a new one that led straight to his palace in the forest. When the lunch time came, the girl put the food for her brothers into the basket and went out.

She saw the furrow and followed it straight to the Serpents palace where he grabbed her and pulled her in.

The young men came back home in the evening and complained to their mother,

We worked so hard all day long and nobody brought us any food.

What do you mean, nobody brought you food? Olenka filled a basket with food and took it to you at lunchtime. She did not come back but I thought shed return with you. Did she get lost?

She must have. Lets go and look for her, the brothers said.

They saw the furrow that began right near their house and followed it, and thus they came to the Serpents palace. The Serpent was not at home and their sister came out to meet her brothers.

My dear brothers, you must hide somewhere  the Serpent is coming home any moment now. If he sees you, hell kill you!

The moment she said that, the Serpent landed in the yard.

Ah, I smell and see humans! Well, boys, have you come with peace or with battle on your minds?

No peace with you, the brothers, exclaimed, well do battle with you!

All right then! Lets go to the threshing floor to fight there!

The threshing floor of the Serpent was made of iron.

The battle did not last long. The Serpent easily overwhelmed the young men, then picked them up, more dead than alive, and threw them into the dark dungeon.

The man and his wife, whose sons and daughters disappeared, hoped they would turn up some day, but they did not.

Once, the woman went to the river to do the laundry. On her way there, she saw a pea rolling down the road. She picked it up, wiped it  and as she suddenly felt hungry, she ate it.

Nine months later, she gave birth to a son. The boy was named Kotyhoroshko, that is, Rolling Pea.

The boy grew up very fast, and though he was only several years old he was as tall as a grown-up man.

Once, he and his father were digging a hole in the ground to sink a well there. At some depth, they came to a huge rock. The man ran to fetch his neighbors to help lift the rock. But Kotyhoroshko, unaided, pulled the rock out of the ground and hurled it out of the way.

When his father returned with the neighbors, they were all extremely amazed to see what Kotyhoroshko had done. They were much frightened too by the supernatural strength of the young boy, and even thought they should kill the boy before he turned into a giant. But Kotyhoroshko guessed what they were thinking and he picked up that rock and threw it into the air to show he was strong enough to deal with them all. The men ran away even more scared than they had been.

Kotyhoroshko and his father went on digging the hole. Soon they unearthed a big piece of metal. Kotyhoroshko picked it up and hid in a safe place.

Once, Kotyhoroshko asked, I heard that I had brothers and sisters. Where are they and what happened to them?

Yes, son, you had six brothers and one sister, but they had disappeared.

So, Ill go and find them!

The man and his wife began to plead with him not to go,

Weve lost all our children, we dont want to lose you! You are the only one that we have!

Ill go anyway. They are my blood brothers and sister, and I want to find out what happened to them. If they are alive, Ill bring them back.

Then he took that chunk of metal he had dug up sinking the well, and took it to the blacksmith.

Make a good mace for me out of this metal, will you?

The blacksmith made a mace so big and heavy that it took several men to carry it out of the smithy.

Kotyhoroshko picked it up, wielded it and then threw it into the air.

Ill go and have a good sleep. When you hear the mace coming back, wake me up.

On the thirteenth day, the man and his wife heard a distant rumble  the mace was coming back. They woke Kotyhoroshko up. He ran out of the house, saw the mace hurtling through the air and put out a finger. The mace hit the finger and broke apart.

No, its no good. I cant go in search of my brothers and sister with a mace like that. I must have a better one.

He took the broken pieces to the blacksmith and asked to have a bigger and stronger mace made. The blacksmith worked hard and made a bigger and stronger mace.

Kotyhoroshko picked it up, swirled it and hurled it into the air. Then he went back to his house. On the thirteenth day, a great noise was heard  the mace was coming back. Kotyhoroshko was alerted. He rushed out of the house, saw the mace hurtling through the air and put out a finger. The mace hit the finger but this time did not break into pieces  only its handle became a little bent.

Now its good enough to take with me on my quest. Mother, bake bread, make biscuits for me, and Ill go.

When the bread and biscuits were ready, he put them into a big pouch, said goodbye and left.

For the direction to go he chose the traces of the furrow that after all these years still could be discerned on the ground. It led him to the forest. He kept on walking through the forest until he saw a big house surrounded by a fence. He went through the gate into the yard of the house. There was no one around but then he spotted a girl who was his sister Olena.

Good day to you, young lady.

Good day to you, young man. What has brought you here? Do you know that the Serpent lives here? If he sees you, hell kill and eat you!

Well see about that, maybe he wont kill me! And who are you? And what are you doing here?

In my family there were six brothers, and I, the only daughter. The Serpent carried me off and my six brothers who came to rescue me perished.

In a battle?

No, not in a battle. The Serpent overwhelmed them and threw them into the dark dungeon, and I think they died there and turned into dust.

Well, then Ive come to rescue you.

You will fail. My brothers who were six in number, failed to do that, and you are all alone! said Olena.

Well see, said Kotyhoroshko.

And he sat by the window to wait for the Serpent.

He did not have to wait long. The Serpent arrived and the moment he stepped into the house, he said, Aha, I smell the smell of a human!

Theres not only the smell  heres me, Kotyhoroshko, whos come to pay you a visit!

On what business? Have you come in peace or to do battle?

No peace with you! Ive come to do battle with you!

All right then. Lets go to the threshing floor and do battle there!

Lets go!

When they came to the iron-threshing floor, the Serpent said,

I give you the right to strike first!

No, you strike first, says Kotyhoroshko.

The Serpent delivered his mighty blow and Kotyhoroshko sank up to his ankles into the iron floor. Kotyhoroshko pulled himself out, swung his mace and struck the Serpent on the head. The Serpent sunk up to his knees into the iron floor, but the Serpent managed to pull himself out and struck Kotyhoroshko so hard that Kotyhoroshko sunk up to his knees into the iron floor. Kotyhoroshko pulled himself out and his first blow drove the Serpent into the iron floor up to his waist, and his next blow killed the Serpent.

Then Kotyhoroshko went to the dungeon, descended deep under the ground and broke the locks on the door. When he opened the door, he saw the six brothers who were barely alive. He led them out of the dungeon, and all of them, together with their sister Olena headed back home.

Kotyhoroshko did not tell them who he was. When the brothers who were still weak, wanted to sit down to rest, they found a good resting place under a huge oak. Kotyhoroshko, who was also tired after his fierce battle with the Serpent, fell asleep.

While he was sleeping, the six brothers talked among themselves, saying,

When we get back, people will laugh at us  how come, you six strong men could not kill the Serpent and this one boy did it! And also, he will take all the Serpents treasures for himself!

They held council for a long time, and then decided to tie Kotyhoroshko with ropes to the tree so tight that he would not be able to free himself. He is so fast asleep he will not wake up while were tying him, and then itll be too late. Wild beasts will come and tear him apart.

They tied Kotyhoroshko to the tree and left.

Kotyhoroshko was so fast asleep that he did not wake up when he was being tied to that tree. He slept all day long, and then all night long, and when he woke up he discovered that he was lashed to the tree. He wrenched away so hard that he uprooted the tree and pulled it out of the ground. Then he carried the tree on his back all the way home.

When he came close, he heard the six brothers talking to their mother,

Did you have any other children besides us?

Yes, I did! I had a son, named Kotyhoroshko. He has left to look for you and rescue you!

So it was our brother whom we tied up to the tree! they cried out. We must go back and untie him!

Kotyhoroshko got angry when he heard this and hurled the oak at the house almost ruining it.

Thats for treating me so bad, brothers! Stay here and Ill go out into the world.

And he left, his mace over his shoulder.

He had many adventures in the world, fought evil magicians. He punished those who betrayed him, and awarded those who were loyal to him. He rescued a princess and her father, the king, gave her away in marriage to Kotyhoroshko in appreciation of the great feats of valor that he performed.

Kotyhoroshko married the princess  and they lived happily ever after.


Art by Oleksandr Melnyk

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