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The Tale of the Silver Saucer and the Russet Apple

 

There lived once upon a time a peasant and his wife, and they had three daughters, each one more beautiful than the one before. The two elder daughters were lazy and vain, they lolled about and made themselves pretty the whole day long; but Aliona the youngest one was modest and kind. She was also the prettiest of the three. She did all the heavy work in the house, tidied up and cooked the dinner, weeded the vegetable garden, and drew the water. She was sweet and gentle both with her parents and with other people. She was her father’s and mother’s favourite, and this made the other sisters jealous.
One day both father and mother went to the fields. An old woman came up to the house and begged a loaf of bread.
The elder girls would not speak to her, but Aliona gave her a nice fat potato cake, the sort they call a ‘kalach’ in Russia, and saw her to the gate.
“Thank you, my girl,” the old woman said. “In return for your kindness I will give you a bit of advice. When your father goes to the fair and asks you what would like him to bring you, ask him to buy you a silver saucer and a russet apple. For the fun of it, roll the apple on the saucer and say:


“Roll apple, roll
On the silver saucer
Show me on the saucer
The cities and the fields
The forests and the seas
And the tall mountains
And the beauty of the skies.”


“And should you ever be in trouble, my girl, you can count on me. Remember; I live on the edge of a dark forest and it takes exactly three days and three nights to get to my hut.” After saying this she went away.
Whether a short time or a long time after that, the father decided to go to the fair. He asked his daughters:
“What would you like me to bring you?”
One daughter said:
“Father, buy me some bright cotton cloth for a dress.”
The other said:
“Buy me some patterned silk a skirt.”
But Aliona asked:
“Dearest father, bring me a silver saucer and a russet apple.”
Their father promised to do as they wished and drove away.
When he returned he brought the present for his daughters: bright cotton for a dress and patterned silk for a skirt for the elder daughter. And a silver saucer and russed apple for Aliona.
The elder girls gloated over their present and laughed at Aliona, wondering what she would do with a silver saucer and a russet apple.
Aliona did not eat the apple; she sat down in a corner, and rolled it on the saucer and whispered to it the words the old woman had told her:


“Roll apple, roll
On the silver saucer
Show me on the saucer
The cities and the fields
The forests and the seas
And the tall mountains
And the beauty of the skies.”


The apple rolled over the silver saucer and-lo and behold-there the saucer could be seen great cities, villages nestling in the fields, ships on the seas; and the high mountains and the blue skies and the bright sun and the pale moo were there too, with the stars chasing one another-and all so beautiful you couldn’t describe it, even in fairy tale.
The sisters gazed at the picture with envy and tried to tempt Aliona into exchanging the saucer and the apple for the presents their father had brought them. But nothing would persuade her to part with her treasures.
Then they decided to get the saucer and the apple by fair means or foul.
“Darling Aliona,” they whispered, “let us go to the wood and gather strawberries.”
In all innocence, Aliona agreed to go with them, gave the saucer and the apple to her father, and went to the wood with her sisters. She walked and walked, gathering strawberries all the way, and the sisters enticed her farther and farther on. When she was deep in the heart of the wood, they pounced on her and killed her and buried her under birch tree. When they came home at night, they said to their father and mother:
“Aliona ran away from us and disappeared. We searched the whole forest for her but we couldn’t find her. The wolves must have caught her.”
Their father and mother wept bitterly, but the sisters kept asking their father to give them the saucer and the apple.
“No,” the father said, “I shall never give them to you,”
He put them into a chest and locked it.
Some time went by. One day a shepherd was following his flock on the path through the wood. One of the sheep remained behind and hid among the trees. The shepherd went back to find her. Deep in the heart of the wood he saw a slender, graceful white birch tree and under it a mound with red and blue flowers growing over it and reed waving above it. He cut off the reed, and made a pipe and oh what magic! The pipe began to sing all by itself:


“Play, play, little shepherd,
Play softly,
Play gently,
Alas, I was killed
And buried under the birch tree
For the sake of the silver saucer,
For the sake of the russet apple.”


The shepherd came to the village and the pipe went on singing. The people gathered around and could not help but wonder and question the shepherd.
“Dear friends,” he said, “I don’t understand it myself. I was looking for a stray sheep and found the mound, the flowers and the reed. I cut off the reed and made a pipe and the pipe began to sing.”
Aliona’s father and mother happened to be passing by and they heard the shepherd’s words. The mother seized the pipe and heard it sing:


“Play, play, darling Mother,
Play softly,
Play gently,
Alas, I was killed
And buried under the birch tree
For the sake of the silver saucer,
For the sake of the russet apple.”


The hearts of both parents shrank in anguish when they heard these words.
“Take use to the spot where you found the reed,” they said to the shepherd.
They followed him to the forest and others went with them. They found the mound with the red and blue flowers. They dug it up and there lay Aliona. They recognized their favourite daughter and wept bitter tears over her.
“But who could have killed her?” they asked again and again.
The father took the reed pipe and it began to sing:


“Play, play, Father dear,
Play softly,
Play gently,
My sisters lured me into the forest
And killed me there
And buried me under the birch tree
All to get the silver saucer
And to get the russet apple.
Go now through the forest, Father dear,
Far, far, to the other end of the forest,
Where you will find a thatched cottage
And a kind old woman living in it.
She will give you some fresh water in a jar.
Sprinkle me with it
And I will wake from this heavy slumber,
From this sleep of death.”


The father and mother went to the other end of the forest. They walked exactly three days and three nights and came to the little hut. An old woman came out on the porch. They asked her for some fresh water.
“I will help Aliona,” the old woman replied, “because she has a kind heart,” She gave them a jar of fresh water and told them: “Put a handful of God’s earth into the jar-without it the water will have no power.
The parents thanked the old woman and started on the homeward journey.
They came to the village, put a handful of earth into the jar with the water as the woman had told them, took the wicked sisters with them, and made their way to the forest. The crowd followed them. When they came to the forest, the father sprinkled his daughter with the water-and Aliona came to life.
The wicked sisters watched with horror, their faces turned ashen with fear, and then they confessed their wickedness. The village people seized them, tied ropes round them, and brought them back to the village. There they decided to punish them   with the severest of all punishments-to banish them for ever from their native land.
As for Aliona, she returned to live with her parents and they loved her more than ever before.

 

Copyright © 2006 Russian Fairy Tales

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