In days gone by there was a King who had three sons. When his sons came of age the King called them to him and said, “My dear lads, I want you to get married so that I may see your little ones, my grand-children, before I die.”
And his sons replied, “Very well, Father, give us your blessing. Who do you want us to marry?”
“Each of you must take an arrow, go out into the green meadow and shoot it. Where the arrows fall, there shall your destiny be.”
So the sons bowed to their father, and each of them took an arrow and went out into the green meadow, where they drew their bows and let fly their arrows.
The arrow of the eldest son fell in the courtyard of a nobleman, and the nobleman’s daughter picked it up. The arrow of the middle son fell in the yard of a merchant, and the merchant’s daughter picked it up. But the arrow of the youngest son, Prince Ivan, flew up and away he knew not where. He walked on and on in search of it, and at last he came to a marsh, where what should he see but a frog sitting on a leaf with the arrow in its mouth. Prince Ivan said to it, “Frog, frog, give me back my arrow.”
And the frog replied, “Marry me!”
“How can I marry a frog?”
“Marry me, for it is your destiny.”
Prince Ivan was sadly disappointed, but what could he do? He picked up the frog and brought it home. The King celebrated three weddings: his eldest son was married to the nobleman’s daughter, his middle son to the merchant’s daughter, and poor Prince Ivan to the frog.
One day the King called his sons and said, “I want to see which of your wives is most skilled with her needle. Let them each sew me a shirt by tomorrow morning.”
The sons bowed to their father and went out. Prince Ivan went home and sat in a corner, looking very sad. The frog hopped about on the floor and said to him, “Why
are you so sad, Prince Ivan? Are you in trouble?”
“My father wants you to sew him a shirt by tomorrow morning.”
Said the frog, “Don’t be downhearted, Prince Ivan. Go to bed; night is the mother of counsel.” So Prince Ivan went to bed, and the frog hopped out on to the doorstep, cast off her frog skin, and turned into Vasilisa the Wise, a maiden fair beyond compare. She clapped her hands and cried, “Maids and nurses, get ready, work steady! By tomorrow morning sew me a shirt like the one my own father used to wear!”
When Prince Ivan awoke the next morning, the frog was hopping about on the floor again, and on the table, wrapped up in a linen towel, the shirt lay. Prince Ivan was delighted. He picked up the shirt and took it to his father. He found the King receiving gifts from his other sons. When the eldest laid out his shirt, the King said, “This shirt will do for one of my servants.” When the middle son laid out his shirt, the King said, “This one is good only for the bath-house.” Prince Ivan laid out his shirt, handsomely embroidered in gold and silver. The King took one look at it and said, “Now this is a shirt indeed! I shall wear it on the best occasions.”
The two elder brothers went home and said to each other, “It looks as though we had laughed at Prince Ivan’s wife for nothing – it seems she is not a frog, but a sorceress.”
Again the King called his sons. “Let your wives bake me bread by tomorrow morning,” he said. I want to know which one cooks the best.”
Prince Ivan came home looking very sad again. The frog said to him, “Why are you so sad, Prince?”
“The King wants you to bake bread for him by tomorrow morning,” replied her husband.
“Don’t be downhearted, Prince Ivan.