Story of Prince Peter with the Golden Keys, and the Princess Magilene

The Russian Garland March 29, 2015
8 min read
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In France there once lived a high-born Prince named Volchvan, with his wife Petronida; and they had an only son named Peter. Now, Prince Peter had in his youth a great inclination for knightly prowess and deeds of war; and, when he came of age, he sighed after nothing so much as chivalrous feats. But it happened that at this time a knight named Ruiganduis arrived there from the kingdom of Naples, who, observing Peter’s bravery, said: “Prince Peter, there is a King in Naples who has a beautiful daughter named Magilene, and this King rewards richly all those knights who do battle in behalf of his daughter.”

Then Peter went to his father and mother and begged for their blessing that he might travel to the kingdom of Naples to learn there knightly feats, but especially to see the beauty of the King’s daughter Magilene. So they dismissed Prince Peter with great sorrow, exhorting him to make friendship with good men only; then, giving him three golden rings with precious stones and a gold chain, they dismissed him in peace.

When Prince Peter arrived at the kingdom of Naples, he ordered a skilful workman to make him a coat-of-mail and a helmet, and to fasten to this two golden keys; then he rode to the tournament-lists, where the King and his knights were assembled. There he gave his name as Peter with the Golden Keys, and he placed himself behind the knights. First rode forth Sir Andrei Skrintor, and against him appeared the son of the King of England; and Andrei struck Henry so hard a blow that he was well-nigh thrown from his horse; whereupon Landiot, the King’s son, rode out and overthrew Andrei Skrintor. When Prince Peter saw this he rode at Landiot, and cried with a loud voice: “Long life and happiness to their Majesties and the beautiful Princess Magilene!” and he rode at Landiot so furiously that he threw both him and his steed to the ground, and thrust the lance through his heart. Peter was praised by the King for this exploit, and still more by the Princess Magilene and all present, and he became the foremost of the King’s knights.

When the Princess Magilene beheld the valour and handsome appearance of Prince Peter she fell in love with him, and resolved to be his wife. She told her wish to her waiting-maid, and from that time Prince Peter visited the beautiful King’s daughter daily, and gave her the three golden rings, in token of his love, and rode with her out of the city.

And they rode off upon their goodly steeds, taking with them a quantity of gold and silver, and they journeyed on and on the whole night. Then Prince Peter came to an impenetrable forest, stretching among the mountains as far as the seacoast, where they stopped to rest; and the King’s daughter threw herself on the grass, from weariness, and fell asleep. But Prince Peter sat beside her and watched her while she slept. Then he observed a knot in a golden clasp, and unfastening it, he found the three rings which he had given her. He laid them on the grass, and, as chance would have it, a black raven flew past, picked up the rings and flew with them on to a tree. Peter climbed up the tree to catch the bird; but, as he was just about to seize it, the raven flew into another tree, and so from one tree to another, and then over the sea, and let fall the rings into the water, and itself lighted upon an island. Away ran Prince Peter after the raven to the seashore, and looked about till he found a small fishing boat to row to the island, but having no oars, he was obliged to paddle along with his hands. On a sudden a violent wind arose, and carried him out on to the open sea. When Peter saw that he was far from land, he well-nigh despaired of being saved, and exclaimed, with sighs and tears: “Alas! woe is me, the most miserable of men! Why did I take the rings out of their place of safety? I have destroyed all my joy; I have carried off the fair Princess, and left her forsaken in a pathless wood. Wild beasts will tear her to pieces, or she will lose her way and die of hunger. Murderer that I am, that have shed innocent blood!” And with that he began to sink in the waves.

Now it happened that a ship from Turkey came sailing by, and when the sailors saw a man sinking in the sea they picked him up and took him half-dead on board their ship. Then they sailed on until they arrived at the city of Alexandria, where they sold Peter to the Turkish Pasha. But the Pasha sent Prince Peter as a present to the Sultan of Turkey, who, when he saw his discreet behaviour, and handsome mien, made Peter a great senator, and his uprightness and gracious behaviour won for him the love of everyone.

When the Princess Magilene awoke from her sleep in the wood, she looked around on all sides, but nowhere beheld Prince Peter: she wept with grief and despair, and fell upon the ground. At length she arose, went into the wood, and cried aloud with all her strength: “Noble Prince Peter, whither are you gone?” And thus she wandered about for a long time, and met a nun, and begged for her dark dress, giving her in exchange her light-coloured one. At length she came to a harbour, where she hired a ship from the country in which Peter’s father lived. There she dwelt with a noble lady named Susanna; she chose a spot among the mountains for a harbour, and built a convent, to which she gave the name of Saint Peter and Paul, and established an hospital for the reception of strangers. Thus Magilene became celebrated by her piety and goodness. Then came Peter’s father and mother to visit her, and brought her three rings, saying their cook had bought a fish, inside which these rings were found; but, as they had given them to their son Peter, they feared that he had been drowned at sea, and they wept bitterly.

After Prince Peter had lived for a long time at the Court of the Turkish Sultan, he expressed a wish to travel to his native country. So the Sultan dismissed him with great presents, giving him much gold and silver and costly jewels. Then Peter hired a French ship, bought fourteen casks, put at the bottom of them some salt, then laid over this gold and silver, and on this more salt, and told the sailors that the casks contained only salt. He sailed with a favourable wind to his native country, and anchored at an island, not far from the country of France, for Prince Peter suffered from sea sickness. Then he wandered about on the shore, and lost his way in the island; he lay down and fell fast asleep. The sailors sought for him everywhere for a long time, calling him by name; but not finding him, they went on their way. At length they came to the convent, and there deposited the casks of salt; and once when there was a want of salt in the convent, Magilene ordered the casks to be opened and found in them innumerable treasures.

Prince Peter was found by some other sailors upon the island, and carried to this convent, where he was placed in Magilene’s hospital and there he remained for more than a month, but did not recognize Magilene, for her face was concealed by a black veil. And Peter wept every day.

One day Magilene came to the hospital, saw Peter weeping, and asked him the cause of his tears; and he related to her exactly all his adventures. Then Magilene knew him again, and sent to inform his father Volchvan and his mother, Petronida, that their son was safe and well. Soon came the father and mother to the convent, and the King’s daughter received them attired in princely robes. When Prince Peter saw his parents he fell at their feet, embraced them, and wept, and they wept with him. But Prince Peter stood up, took them by the hands, kissed them, and said: “My lord and father, and you my mother, this maiden is the daughter of the great King of Naples, to sue for whom I wandered so far.” Then they were married, and lived happily ever after.

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