A Russian fairy tale: Tori and the firebird


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Once upon a time, there was a princess named Tori, who lived in the small but happy Russian kingdom of Zakabyakino.  There, she was engaged in learning about the art of taming the zhar-ptitsa, which happened to live in her kingdom but was very rare and wild, but enormously valuable for its feathers, which the tamer of the bird could cultivate.  Somehow, the talent to find and feel where the zhar-ptitsa was had been passed down to Tori through the generations.

After she had learned all she could about the zhar-ptitsa, the royal family, including the prince she was  to be wed to in some years’ time,  asked her to stay and establish her career by looking after the zhar-ptitsa in their realm, but Tori felt that she could not find it there, that it had flown away, to the south, and that staying in the kingdom to look for it would dull her skills and make her unhappy, although she knew she would be surrounded by family.

So, painfully, Princess Tori parted ways with the family, and with the kingdom, and headed south on her own, in a magical Japanese carriage (the kind that has brakes, not the other kind).  Before she left, she asked the prince to join her, because, she knew, whenever she found the zhar-ptitsa, she would be happy to be near the magical beast, but that she would still be alone, and that the bird would sense the sorrow and feast on the ill will Tori’s soul, leaving a shell of her.  The only way to ensure this was if the prince was nearby.

The prince had his own duties in Zakabyakino, including caring for the royal family and working on his own royal responsibilities- taming the [<p style="text-align: center;"> Source. </p>

Once upon a time, there was a princess named Tori, who lived in the small but happy Russian kingdom of Zakabyakino.  There, she was engaged in learning about the art of taming the zhar-ptitsa, which happened to live in her kingdom but was very rare and wild, but enormously valuable for its feathers, which the tamer of the bird could cultivate.  Somehow, the talent to find and feel where the zhar-ptitsa was had been passed down to Tori through the generations.

After she had learned all she could about the zhar-ptitsa, the royal family, including the prince she was  to be wed to in some years’ time,  asked her to stay and establish her career by looking after the zhar-ptitsa in their realm, but Tori felt that she could not find it there, that it had flown away, to the south, and that staying in the kingdom to look for it would dull her skills and make her unhappy, although she knew she would be surrounded by family.

So, painfully, Princess Tori parted ways with the family, and with the kingdom, and headed south on her own, in a magical Japanese carriage (the kind that has brakes, not the other kind).  Before she left, she asked the prince to join her, because, she knew, whenever she found the zhar-ptitsa, she would be happy to be near the magical beast, but that she would still be alone, and that the bird would sense the sorrow and feast on the ill will Tori’s soul, leaving a shell of her.  The only way to ensure this was if the prince was nearby.

The prince had his own duties in Zakabyakino, including caring for the royal family and working on his own royal responsibilities- taming the](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vodyanoy) that lived in the small rivers and wells around the kingdom.  However, with pain in his heart, he also agreed to follow Tori to wherever she happened to find the zhar-ptitsa.

It had turned out that the bird had fled to the capital, Old Muscovy, and had alighted there and delighted the citizens with its dazzling displays of fire, and had been turning their hearts to greed and lust for the bird’s feathers.   Tori, drawn by the bird, also settled in Muscovy, larger and grander and more full of glitter and magic than any city she had seen before.

The first month, without her prince, who was still battling the vodiniye in Zakabyakino, was an impossible for Tori.  She cried every night, alone in her spacious royal quarters, having never lived on her own, always in the comfort and warmth of the royal family to catch her if she fell.  Before, she had slept, knowing that her parents and those of the prince’s were a heartbeat away.  Now, she slept alone with a large, dull branch under her bed in case an intruder came, for Muscovy was wild and full of rifraff in those days.

During the days, she cared for and tracked the firebird, and it grew tame with her embrace and came to love only her, trusting her with its large dawn-colored feathers, which Tori sold and made into clothing for herself.  During the nights, she lay awake, waiting for bands of brigands to shank her.

After six months’ time,  she came to love Muscovy-its splendid government buildings, gleaming with the reflection of the Moskva River, the hearty feasts that other royalty put on, lasting well into the night and filled with discussion, and the constant museums and spectacles she attended, dressed in her finest, night in and night out.   After a year, she had adjusted to Muscovy, just in time to be married to the prince.

Their wedding in the neighboring city to Zakabyakino had been a grand affair, and with much hesitation himself, the prince joined her in Muscovy, the surrounding swamps having no end of vodiniye for him to battle.   The first several months for him without family were immensely difficult as well, and Tori tried to soothe him as best she could, but eventually, he came to love Muscovy as well, for his own reasons.

Tori and the prince lived in Muscovy happily, she with the zhar-ptitsa, he with the never-ending work with domoviye, and all was well in their small, humble kingdom.  In the meantime, they constantly visited Zakabyakino, missing their royal relations terribly.

After a year of living this way, they became weary of the travel involved between the two cities (for everyone knows that Russian roads are the worst.)  They also missed their family horribly and, as delightful as it was for them to live as a pair, away from the world, the time would come, they knew, when they would want to be around the compound, in case they decided to expand their own small family .  But, they assured the royal family, that wouldn’t happen for quite a while, because they wanted to make sure that the medical system for childbirth advanced a few hundred years to the point where epidurals were invented.

However, when Tori tried to urge the firebird to come back to Zakabyakino, she knew that it wouldn’t budge, and that no firebird would come again to the kingdom.  And Tori had grown as attached to the firebird as it had to her, meaning that, were she to go back, she wouldn’t be able to continue her responsibilities.  And the prince had become so skilled at fighting the domoviye that he had been offered an increase in responsibilities, which he delighted in.

So, it appeared that Tori and her prince were stuck.  Stuck with the glitter and glamour of the Muscovy that they had come to love as their own, but away from their family due to their callings in life and the simple abundance that Muscovy had to offer and the difficulty with which these callings could be obtained in Zakabyakino. And the royal family wasn’t growing any younger, you know.

They sought out advice, but there was so much conflicting opinion that they were sorry they had asked.  Instead, they decided, they would go to the far-away exotic kingdom of  the Mughals, where they wouldn’t have to make any decisions and would probably get malaria and die anyway.

As we leave them for a minute, they are hastily preparing for their trip.