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 that was published in a book of Russian fairy tales edited by Vladimir Dahl. As a folk tale it is classified as Aarne-Thompson type 707 for its dancing water, singing apple and speaking bird.

Synopsis[edit]

The story is about three sisters. The youngest is chosen by Tsar Saltan (Saltán) to be his wife. He orders the other two sisters to be his royal cook and weaver. They become jealous of their younger sister. When the tsar goes off to war, the tsaritsa gives birth to a son, Prince Gvidon (Gvidón.) The older sisters arrange to have the tsaritsa and the child sealed in a barrel and thrown into the sea.

The sea takes pity on them and casts them 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 bird.

The swan creates a city for Prince Gvidon to rule, but he is homesick, so the swan turns him into a mosquito to help him. In this guise, he visits Tsar Saltan's court, where he stings his aunt in the eye and escapes. Back in his realm, the swan gives Gvidon a magical squirrel. But he continues to pine for home, so the swan transforms him again, this time into a fly. In this guise Prince Gvidon visits 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, The Prince 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 newly married son and daughter-in-law.

Adaptations[edit]

Gallery of Illustrations[edit]

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

See also[edit]

This basic folktale has variants from many lands. Compare:

External links[edit]