There lived in a village a son with his mother, and the mother was a very old woman. The son was called Ivan Fool. They lived in a poor little cottage with one window, and in such poverty that besides dry bread they ate almost nothing, and sometimes they had not even the dry bread. The mother would sit and spin, and Ivan Fool would lie on the stove, roll in the ashes, and never wipe his nose.
His mother would say to him time and again: "Ivan, you are sitting there with your nose unwiped. Why not go somewhere, even to die public house? Some kind man may come along and take you to work. You would have even a bit of bread, while at home here we have nothing to keep us alive."
"Very well, I'll go," said Ivan. He rose up and went to the public house. On the way a man met him. "Where are you going, Ivan?"
"I am out to get hired."
"Come, work for me; I'll give you such and such wages, and other things too."
Ivan agreed. He went to work.
The man had a dog with whelps. One of the whelps pleased Ivan greatly, and he trained it. A year passed, and the time came to pay wages for the work. The man was giving Ivan money, but he answered: "I may do without the money if you give me that whelp of yours that I trained."
The man was glad that he did not have to pay money, and gave Ivan the whelp.
Ivan went home; and when his mother found what he had done, she began to cry: "We had nothing to eat, and now there is another life to support."
Ivan said nothing, sat on the stove with unwiped nose, rolling in the ashes, and the whelp with him.
Some time passed. Then his mother said again: "Why are you sitting there so long? Go to the public house and see if another good man will come along and hire you."
"Very well, I'll go," said Ivan. He took his dog with him and started.
A man met him on the road.
"Where are you going, Ivan?"
"To find service," he said.
"Come, work for me."
"Very well," said Ivan.
They agreed, and Ivan went to work again. That man had a cat with kittens. One of the kittens pleased Ivan, and he trained it. The time came for Ivan's payment. Ivan said to the man: "I may do without the money if you give me the kitten I trained."
"If you'll have it," said the man.
Now Ivan went home. His mother cried more than ever. "We had nothing to eat, and now we must support two animals too!"
It was bitter for Ivan to hear this. He took his dog and cat and went out into the field where a fire was burning. It was an awful pile of wood. When he drew nearer he saw that a snake was squirming in it, burning on hot coals.
The snake screamed to him in a human voice: "Oh, save me! I will reward you a lot for saving for my life."
Ivan took a stick and raised the snake out of the fire. When he had thrown it out, it was not a snake that stood before him, but a pretty young woman. She said, "Thank you. I will reward you a lot for it. Here is what to do: We will go to my mother. She will offer you copper money. But do not take it, for it is coals, and not money. She will offer you silver coin, but do not take that either, for they will be chips and not silver. She will bring out to you gold, but do not take even that, for instead of gold it is potsherds and broken bricks. But ask of her the ring with twelve screws. It will be hard for her to give it, but be firm, for she will give it for my sake."
All happened as she said. Though the old woman grew angry, she gave Ivan the ring. He thanked her and left. Soon he walked along through the field, thinking, "What shall I do with this ring?" He was looking at it when that same pretty woman caught up with him and said: "Ivan, whatever you wish, you can have. Only stand in the evening on the threshold, loosen all the twelve screws, and before you twelve thousand men will appear. Whatever you wish, command - and all will be done."
Ivan went home, said nothing to his mother, sat down on the stove and lay in the ashes with unwiped nose. Evening came. Then they lay down to sleep. Ivan waited for the hour, went onto the threshold, unscrewed the twelve screws, and twelve thousand men stood before him. "You are our master, we are your men. Say what you desire."
Ivan said to them: "Make a stately house here and a fine bed for my mother and one for me to sleep in, and a few servants for us also."
"All will be done," said the men and set to work.
Ivan woke up next morning, and found himself sleeping in a good, firm bed that did not squeek. A couple of servants waited on his amazed mother. Ivan thought, "This is good." He looked in the mirror, and saw he was clean shaved and did not look bad.
The tsar lived in the same town as Ivan and his mother. After he woke up he saw a stately, new house had been built at some distance from his palace, and wondered how it had been built so fast and who owned it. "Let the owner come to me," he said.
His servants soon told Ivan to come. He said: "You can tell him that this is the home of the mother of Ivan. If the tsar wants to see us, let him come and visit us."
The tsar came to their home, and he and Ivan became acquainted. After that Ivan went to the tsar to repay the visit. The tsar had a most beautiful young daughter, and she brought refreshments to Ivan. Right there she pleased him greatly, and he begged the tsar to give her in marriage to him.
The tsar hesitated: "I could do that after you do something for me, Ivan. My daughter must marry someone who is not of the common people, but if you can arrange for geese and swans to swim in the river here, and apple trees that bear ripe apples all around this city out of season, my daughter shall be yours. If not, blame yourself."
"Agreed," said Ivan. "Make ready the wedding tomorrow." With that he departed.
In the evening, when all had lain down to sleep, he stood on the threshold, unscrewed all the screws in the ring, and at once twelve thousand men stood before him.
"I want this and this and that," he said, and explained it well.
"Ail right," they said. "We'll do what we can."
In the morning the tsar woke up, went to the window; but sprang back - for in the river were geese and swans and other rare birds. Around the city were many apple trees and other fruit trees and berry bushes. But all of them were naked.
"Well," thought the tsar, "my trick seems to have succeeded since they do not bear fruits. But to be doubly sure we will prepare our daughter for the wedding in case they should bear fruit during the day."
They arrayed the daughter and drove to church. When they were driving from the palace, buds began to come out on the apple trees. When they were crossing the bridge, the apple trees were coming into leaf. When they were driving up to the church, white blossoms were bursting forth on the trees, and when the time came to go into the church for the ceremony, their servants and other people gave them ripe apples also. Then the wedding had to get started. Afterwards they started to celebrate the wedding. It was a feast that lasted for three days and three nights.
Some time after they had become man and wife, Ivan's wife began to tease him. "Tell me, did you do all that?" she said, and pointed to the apple trees and the other fruit trees and berry bushes that had sprung up in one night and day, and even out of season.
Ivan would not tell her for a long time; but he loved her very much and she begged very hard, so he said: "I have a ring . . . " Soon he had told her how to use it too.
After some more time one of their servants pleased the wife a lot. He was a fine-looking, shapely, strong fellow. She conspired with him to rob her husband, take his ring, and then she and the servant would go to live beyond the sea.
As soon as evening came she took out the ring quietly, stood on the threshold, and soon the twelve thousand men stood before her. She said: "Take this house and carry it beyond the sea, with all that is in it. At the same time let the old cabin stand on this spot with my husband and his mother in it."
"All will be done as you say," said the many men.
Next morning Ivan woke up on a mat of bark. He was covered with a ragged coat. There was not a sign of their house. He began to cry bitterly and went to his father-in-law to ask him what to do. But the tsar said, "What son-in-law would come to me without breeches on? Imposter!" Ivan was walled up in a stone pillar. But his cat and dog did not leave him; they were there too and dug out a hole. Through the hole they gave food to Ivan.
But one day they thought: "Why do we sit here, dog and cat, with folded hands? Let 's run beyond the sea and get the ring."
As they decided to do that, they did it. They swam through the sea and found their former home. The tsar's daughter was walking in the garden with the servant, laughing at her husband.
"Stay her while I go to the chamber and get the ring," said the cat to the dog and went looking for the ring. On the stove was a glass box, and in the box the ring.
The cat was delighted. "I'll get the ring tonight, when others don't see me, and then for home!"
When all had lain down, the cat sprang on to the stove and threw down the glass box. It fell and was broken. She caught the ring in her mouth and ran to the dog.
""I have the ring. Now if we could only get home quickly," she said.
They swam through the sea a long time. The dog was growing weak. The cat saw this, and said, "Lean on me; you are tired." The minute she said this the ring fell out of her mouth into the water. What was to be done? They swam to shore and wept. Meanwhile they grew hungry. The cat ran along the shore catching little fish thrown up by the waves. All at once the cat cried out: "Dog, come here quickly! I have found the ring! I caught a fish, began to eat it, and in the fish was the ring."
Now they were both very glad, ran to Ivan and brought him the ring.
Ivan waited until evening, unscrewed all the twelve screws, and twelve thousand men stood before him.
"Break this stone pillar and bring my house back from beyond the sea, with everyone sleeping there, and everything in it."
Straightway all was done. In the morning Ivan went to his father-in-law. The tsar met him, seated him in well, and said: "I'm glad to see you, dear son-in-law! Have you been away in some business? And have you heard how some barelegged fellow came to me and called himself my son-in-law? I had him walled up in a stone pillar. He has perished there, I'm sure. - " "I have tried to sort out a pressing problem," said Ivan. "You may decide how it must be dealt with: A husband had a wife, and while he was living she found a sweetheart for herself; she robbed her husband, and went away with the sweetheart beyond the sea; and now she is with that man. What should be done with that wife?"
"Tie them both to the tails of horses, and let the horses loose in the open field."
"All right," said Ivan. "Now come with me as a guest; I will show you something alarming."
They went to Ivan's house, and found the tsar's daughter and the servant still sleeping there. "I can see why you asked my advice and let me pass the judgement first," said the tsar.
Ivan afterwards married that beautiful young woman that he had saved from the fire, and they began to live and win wealth.
(Curtin 1921, 137-48. Abridged)