The Tale of Tsar Saltan

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The Tale of Tsar Saltan
The mythical island of Buyan.
Folk tale
NameThe Tale of Tsar Saltan
Aarne-Thompson groupingATU 707 (The Dancing Water, the Singing Apple, and the Speaking Bird; The Bird of Truth, or The Three Golden Children, or The Three Golden Sons)
Published inСказка о царе Салтане (1831), by Александр Сергеевич Пушкин (Alexander Pushkin)
RelatedThe Dancing Water, the Singing Apple, and the Speaking Bird
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», tr. Skazka o tsare Saltane, o syne yevo slavnom i moguchem bogatyre knyaze Gvidone Saltanoviche i o prekrasnoy tsarevne Lebedi About this soundlisten ) is an 1831 fairy tale in verse by Alexander Pushkin. As a folk tale it is classified as Aarne–Thompson type 707 for it being a variation of The Dancing Water, the Singing Apple, and the Speaking Bird.[1]


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.


The tale was given in prose form by American journalist Post Wheeler, in his book Russian Wonder Tales.[2]


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:


  1. ^ Johns, Andreas. Baba Yaga: The Ambiguous Mother and Witch of the Russian Folktale. New York: Peter Lang Publishing Inc. 2010. p. 244. ISBN 978-0-8204-6769-6
  2. ^ Wheeler, Post. Russian wonder tales: with a foreword on the Russian skazki. London: A. & C. Black. 1917. pp. 3-27.
  3. ^ "Russian animation in letters and figures | Films | «THE TALE ABOUT TSAR SALTAN»".
  4. ^ "The Tale of Tsar Saltan" – via
  5. ^ "Russian animation in letters and figures | Films | «A TALE OF TSAR SALTAN»".

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Mazon, André. "Le Tsar Saltan". In: Revue des études slaves, tome 17, fascicule 1-2, 1937. pp. 5-17. [DOI: Le Tsar Saltan []