Go I Know Not Whither and Fetch I Know Not What

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Illustration by Ivan Bilibin

Go I Know Not Whither and Fetch I Know Not What (Russian: Пойди туда, не знаю куда, принеси то, не знаю что, translit. Poydi tuda, ne znau cuda, prinesi to, ne znau chto) is a Russian fairy tale collected by Alexander Afanasyev in Narodnye russkie skazki.

Synopsis[edit]

A royal hunter shoots a bird; wounded, it begs him not to kill it but to take it home, and when it goes to sleep, strike its head. He does so, and the bird becomes a beautiful woman. She proposes that they marry, and they do. After the marriage, she sees how hard he has to hunt, and tells him to borrow one or two hundred rubles. He does so, and then buys silks with them. She conjures two spirits and sets them to make a marvelous carpet. Then she gives the carpet to her husband and tells him to accept whatever price he is given. The merchants do not know how much to pay for it, and finally the king's steward buys it for ten thousand rubles. The king sees it and gives the steward twenty-five thousand for it.

The steward goes to the hunter's house to get another, and sees his wife. He falls madly in love with her, and the king sees it. The steward tells him why, and the king goes himself and see the hunter's wife. He decides that he should marry her instead and demands the steward devise a way to be rid of the husband. The steward, with a stranger's advice, has him sent to the land of the dead to ask of the former King's behavior, in the hope that he never returns. The hunter being told of this, tells his wife. She gives him a magic ring and says that he must take the king's steward with him as witness, to prove that he really has visited the Underworld. He does. After their returning and seeing how the King's father were punished by the devils for his sins, the hunter thinks he fulfilled his duty, but the King becomes angry and just sends him back home. But who really gets the anger of the monarch, is the steward, who is ordered again to find another way to let the hunter disappear, or else get executed. The man asks again for advice by the stranger and he/she tells him to catch a large man-eating magical cat called Bajun who lives on an iron column in the thrice tenth kingdom. But against all their evil plans, the hunter catches the beast, with the help of his wife.

The king is enraged with the steward, who again goes to the same stranger. This time, the steward tells the king to send the hunter to "go I know not whither and bring back I know not what." The wife conjures spirits and all the beasts and birds to see if they know how to "go I know not whither and bring back I know not what." Then she goes out to sea and summons all the fish. But none of them can help her, so she gives him a ball, which if rolled before him would lead him where he needs to go, and a handkerchief, with directions to wipe his face with it whenever he washed. He leaves. The king sends a carriage for his "wife". She turns back into a bird and leaves.

Her husband finally comes to "Baba Yaga". She gives him food and lets him rest; then she brings him water to wash. He wipes his face not with their towel but his handkerchief. She recognizes it as their sister's. She questions him, and he tells his story. The old witch, who had never heard of something like that, knows an old frog who she thinks may know something.

The old witch gives him a jug to carry the frog, which can't walk fast enough. He does so, and the frog directs him to a river, where it tells him to get on it, and swells large enough to carry him across. There, it directs him to listen to the old men who will arrive soon. He does, and hears them summon "Shmat Razum" to serve them. Then the old men leave, and he hears Shmat Razum lament how they treated him. The men asks Shmat Razum to serve the hunter instead, and Shmat Razum agrees.

Shmat Razum carries him back. The hunter stops at a golden arbor, where he meets three merchants. With Shmat Razum's directions, he exchanges his servant for three marvels, which could summon up a garden, a fleet of ships, and an army. But after a day, Shmat Razum returns to the hunter.

In his own country, the hunter has Shmat Razum build a castle. His wife returns to him there. The former king of the country sees the castle and marches against the hunter. The new king, with the help of his wife, summons the fleet and the army. They defeat the other king and the hunter is chosen as the king in his place.

Cultural references[edit]

In modern Russian, the phrase Poydi tuda, ne znaju kuda, prinesi to, ne znaju chto (Russian: Пойди туда, не знаю куда, принеси то, не знаю что - Go I Know Not Whither and Fetch I Know Not What) refers (usually with irony) to a poorly defined or impossible task.

The satirical poem "The Tale of Fedot the Strelets" by Leonid Filatov, written in early 1985, is based on the tale's storyline. An earlier, although less known story has been written by Vladimir Dal, called "The story of Ivan the young sergeant".

In Swedish author Maria Gripe's novel Agnes Cecilia - en sällsam historia, a copy of Narodnye russkie skazki repeatedly falls from its shelf, opening to the page containing the phrase.