Once upon a time there lived an old man named Abrosim, with his old wife Fetinia: they were in great poverty and want, and had a son named Ivanushka, who was fifteen years of age. One day the old man Abrosim brought home a crust of bread for his wife and son to eat; but hardly had he begun to cut the bread than Krutchina (Sorrow) sprang from behind the stove, snatched the crust out of his hands and ran back. At this the old man bowed low to Krutchina, and begged her to give him back the bread as he and his wife had nothing to eat. Old Krutchina answered: “I will not give you back the bread; but I will give you instead a duck, which lays a golden egg every day.”
“Well and good,” said Abrosim; “at all events I shall go to bed without a supper to-night; only do not deceive me, and tell me where I shall find the duck.”
“Early in the morning, as soon as you are up,” replied Krutchina, “go into the town and there you will see a duck in a pond; catch it and bring it home with you.” When Abrosim heard this, he laid himself down to sleep.
Next morning the old man rose early, went to the town, and was overjoyed when he really saw a duck in the pond: so he began to call it, and soon caught it, took it home with him, and gave it to Fetinia. The old wife handled the duck and said she was going to lay an egg. They were now both in great delight, and, putting the duck in a bowl, they covered it with a sieve. After waiting an hour, they peeped gently under the sieve and saw to their joy that the duck had laid a golden egg. Then they let her run about a little on the floor; and the old man took the egg to town to sell it; and he sold the egg for a hundred roubles, took the money, went to market, bought all kinds of vegetables, and returned home.
The next day the duck laid another egg, and Abrosim sold this also; and in this way the duck went on, laying a golden egg every day, and the old man in a short time grew very rich. Then he built himself a grand house, and a great number of shops, and bought wares of all sorts, and set up in trade.
Now, Fetinia had struck up a secret friendship with a young shopman, who did not care for the old woman, but persuaded her he did to make her give him money. And one day, when Abrosim was gone out to buy some new wares, the shopman called to gossip with Fetinia, when by chance he espied the duck; and, taking her up, he saw written under her wing in golden letters: “Whoso eats this duck will become a Tsar.” The man said nothing of this to Fetinia, but begged and entreated her for love’s sake to roast the duck. Fetinia told him she could not kill the duck, for all their good luck depended upon her. Still the shopman entreated the old woman only the more urgently to kill and cook the duck; until at length, overcome by his soft words and entreaties, Fetinia consented, killed the duck and popped her into the stove. Then the shopman took his leave, promising soon to come back and Fetinia also went into the town.
Just at this time Ivanushka returned home, and being very hungry, he looked about everywhere for something to eat; when by good luck he espied in the stove the roast duck; so he took her out, ate her to the very bones, and then returned to his work. Presently after, the shopman came in, and calling Fetinia, begged her to take out the roast duck. Fetinia ran to the oven, and when she saw that the duck was no longer there she was in a great fright, and told the shopman that the duck had vanished. Thereat the man was angry with her, and said: “I’ll answer for it you have eaten the duck yourself!” And so saying he left the house in a pet.
At night Abrosim and his son Ivanushka came home, and, looking in vain for the duck, he asked his wife what had become of her. Fetinia replied that she knew nothing of the duck; but Ivanushka said: “My father and benefactor, when I came home to dinner, my mother was not there; so, looking into the oven, and seeing a roast duck, I took it out and ate it up; but, indeed, I know not whether it was our duck or a strange one.”
Then Abrosim flew into a rage with his wife, and beat her till she was half-dead, and hunted his son out of the house.
Little Ivan betook himself to the road, and walked on and on, following the way his eyes led him. And he journeyed for ten days and ten nights, until at length he came to a great city; and as he was entering the gates, he saw a crowd of people assembled, holding a moot; for their Tsar was dead, and they did not know whom to choose to rule over them. Then they agreed that whoever first passed through the city gates should be elected Tsar.
Now just at this time it happened that Little Ivan came through the city gates, whereupon all the people cried with one voice: “Here comes our Tsar!” and the Elders of the people took Ivanushka by the arms, and brought him into the royal apartments, clad him in the Tsar’s robes, seated him on the Tsar’s throne, made their obeisance to him as their sovereign Tsar, and waited to receive his commands. Ivanushka fancied it was all a dream; but when he collected himself, he saw that he was in reality a Tsar. Then he rejoiced with his whole heart, and began to rule over the people, and appointed various officers. Amongst others he chose one named Luga, and calling him, spoke as follows: “My faithful servant and brave knight Luga, render me one service; travel to my native country, go straight to the King, greet him for me, and beg of him to deliver up to me the merchant Abrosim and his wife; if he gives them up, bring them hither; but if he refuses, threaten him that I will lay waste his kingdom with fire and sword, and make him prisoner.”
When the servant Luga arrived at Ivanushka’s native country he went to the Tsar, and asked him to give up Abrosim and Fetinia. The Tsar knew that Abrosim was a rich merchant living in his city, and was not willing to let him go; nevertheless, when he reflected that Ivanushka’s kingdom was a large and powerful one, fearing to offend him, he handed over Abrosim and Fetinia. And Luga received them from the Tsar, and returned with them to his own kingdom. When he brought them before Ivanushka, the Tsar said: “True it is, my father, you drove me from your home; I therefore now receive you into mine: live with me happily, you and my mother, to the end of your days.”
Abrosim and Fetinia were overjoyed that their son had become a great Tsar, and they lived with him many years, and then died. Ivanushka sat upon the throne for thirty years, in health and happiness, and his subjects loved him truly to the last hour of his life.