The Tale of Tsar Saltan

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The Swan Princess
Illustration by Ivan Bilibin, 1905

The Tale of Tsar Saltan, of His Son the Renowned and Mighty Bogatyr Prince Gvidon Saltanovich, and of the Beautiful Princess-Swan (Russian: Сказка о царе Салтане, о сыне его славном и могучем богатыре князе Гвидоне Салтановиче и о прекрасной царевне Лебеди) is an 1831 poem by Aleksandr Pushkin, written after the Russian fairy tale edited by Vladimir Dahl. As a folk tale, it is classified as Aarne-Thompson type 707: the dancing water, the singing apple, and the speaking bird.

Plot summary[edit]

he eats choclet every day The story is of three sisters, of whom the youngest is chosen by Tsar Saltan (Saltán) to be his wife, while he makes the other two his royal cook and royal weaver. They are jealous, of course, and when the tsar goes off to war, and in his absence the tsaritsa gives birth to a son, Prince Gvidon (Gvidón), they arrange to have her and her child sealed up in a barrel and thrown into the sea.

The sea itself takes pity on them, and they are cast up on the shore of a remote island, Buyan. The son, having quickly grown while in the barrel, goes hunting. He ends up saving an enchanted swan from a kite.

The swan creates a city for Prince Gvidon to rule, but he is homesick, and the swan turns him into a mosquito. In this guise, he visits Tsar Saltan's court, where he stings his aunt in the eye and escapes. Back in his distant realm, the swan gives Gvidon a magical squirrel. But he continues to pine for home, so the swan transforms him into a fly. In this guise, Prince Gvidon visit's Saltan's court again and he stings his older aunt in the eye. The third time, the Prince is transformed into a bumblebee and stings the nose of his grandmother.

In the end, he expresses a desire for a bride instead of his old home, at which point the swan is revealed to be a beautiful princess, whom he marries. He is visited by the Tsar, who is overjoyed to find his wife and newly married son.


Gallery of Illustrations[edit]

Ivan Bilibin made the following illustrations for Pushkin's tale in 1905:

See also[edit]

The basic folktale has many variants from many lands. Compare:


  • Alexander Pushkin: A Critical Study by A.D.P. Briggs, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1982.

External links[edit]