King Kojata

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King Kojata or The Unlooked for Prince or Prince Unexpected is a Slavonic fairy tale. Andrew Lang included the Russian version King Kojata, in The Green Fairy Book. A. H. Wratislaw collected a Polish variant Prince Unexpected in his Sixty Folk-Tales from Exclusively Slavonic Sources, number 17. A shorter, also Polish version, The Unlooked for Prince, was collected by Louis Léger in Contes Populaires Slaves and included by Andrew Lang in The Grey Fairy Book. Josef Baudiš published Czech version in English, named Kojata, in his book of Czech folk tales The Key of Gold in 1917 (reprinted 1922). Another version of the tale, titled Kojata, appears in A Book of Wizards by Ruth Manning-Sanders.


A king and a queen had no children. One day, the king was travelling (hunting to forget his childlessness in the Polish, inspecting his country in the Russian), and grew thirsty. He found a spring with a cup floating in it. Trying to grab the cup did not succeed; it always evaded his hands. When he dropped to drink directly, a creature in the well (the King Kostiei in Polish,) grabbed his beard and would not free him until he promised to give it something: in Polish, the most precious thing in his palace, which was not there when he left it; in the Russian, something he knew nothing about, and which he would find on his return home.

He promised. On his return, he found his wife had a son. He told no one of the exchange, but when the prince was grown, an old man appeared to him in the woods and told him to tell his father to make good on his bargain. When he told the king, the king told him the truth. The prince set out to pay it.

He came to a lake where thirty ducks (Russian) or twelve geese (Polish) were swimming, and where there were clothes on the shore. He took one. The birds came ashore, changed into women, and dressed themselves, except the one whose dress he had. That one, as a bird, looked about, and begged the prince to give her back her clothing. He did so. She was grateful, told him that she was the youngest daughter of the man he had been promised to, and promised to aid him. She told him that when he reached her father, he was to approach him on his knees, without any fear.

He obeyed her, although her father gave fearful yells. When he had nearly reached him, her father laughed and said it was well that he had not been frightened. In the morning, he ordered the prince to build him a marble palace in a day. He went to his room, the daughter came to him as a bee, and promised to do it for him, and the next day, the palace was built. The next day, he demanded that the prince pick out his youngest daughter from her sisters. She told him she would be the one with the ladybug on her eyelid (Polish) or fly on her cheek (Russian), and he was able to find her. The third day, he told the prince to make him a pair of boots. The prince was no shoemaker, and the youngest daughter told him that they must flee. She spat on the ground (Polish) or breathed on the window and made frost (Russian), and they fled. When the servants came for the prince, the spit or frost answered for them. Finally, he ordered the door broken, which revealed their flight.

The servants chased them. The maiden turned herself into a river, the prince into the bridge, and put three roads into the forest over the bridge. The servants, not knowing which way to go, turned back. Her father told them that they had been the bridge and river. When the servants returned, the maiden turned herself and the prince into a dense forest, with many paths, and the servants became lost and could not find them. When they returned, her father decided to chase them himself. The maiden said that he could go no further than the first church. She demanded his cross. With it, she made herself a church and the prince a priest. Her father demanded if the priest had seen them, and he said that they had passed and had sent their greetings. Her father had to turn back.

The shorter Polish version ends here.

In the Russian and the longer Polish variants, they came to a town. The prince insisted on going to see it. She warned him that the king and queen would lead out a little child, but he must not kiss it, or he would forget her. She turned into a milestone to await him, but he kissed the child and forgot her. She turned herself into a flower to be trampled. An old man transplanted her, and found that whenever he left, the housework was done. A witch advised him to wait and throw a cloth over whatever moved. This revealed her, and he told that the prince was to marry. She went to the feast and got the cook to let her make the wedding cake. When it was cut, two doves flew out, and one of them begged the other to not abandon it, as the prince had abandoned the maiden. The prince got up at once, found her, found his horse, and rode off with her to his father's kingdom.

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