There’s a king with three sons. They’re all getting old enough to marry, and he says: “Go and take these arrows and shoot them off and wherever they land, there you’ll find your bride.”
The oldest one shoots an arrow and he goes and it lands in the court of a rich landowner. He marries the daughter.
The second oldest one shoots an arrow and it lands in the court of another wealthy prince.
The youngest one shoots an arrow and it lands in a swamp. He goes to the swamp and he looks and finally finds the arrow, and it’s by a little frog. The frog talks to him and says, “I’m a princess!” He is disappointed, but being duty-bound, he brings the frog back and they get married.
They go to a dinner where all the sons bring their wives. Using magic because it’s at night, the frog comes to the party and she’s the most charming person, and completely outshines the other two brides. She also does this special dance — the other two brides and the other brothers are astounded and confused.
The youngest brother goes back home and he sees the frog there, and he kills it but it messes up the curse on the frog — basically, she was cursed by this immortal evil person (kashey bezsmertny – informant’s note: “looks like Skeletor”). She used to be a princess but she was turned into a frog, but at night, she can be her normal self. The curse would’ve been over after that night, but because the prince destroyed her frog form, he messed it up and she was stuck in limbo.
So, the prince finds out that he has to defeat the immortal evil person in order to get her back. Kashey bezsmertny is at the end of the earth — on his quest to reach him and defeat him, he befriends several animals including a bird, a squirrel and a horse. Each time he befriends this animal, he helps the troubled animal and earns their gratitude and debt. He ends up facing kashey bezsmertny and able to defeat him, but only with the help of his animal friends, as it turns out. The princess returns to her form and they live happily ever after.
The informant heard this story when he was a child from watching a cartoon, but he also read it in storybooks. There are many variations of this story, which clearly follows Vladimir Propp’s fairy tale type model. The story apparently takes different iterations within Russian culture and varies between different cultures.
I spoke to my informant during an on-campus event.
Given that non-modern Russian culture was feudalistic, the idea of succession and success were both very important to families, especially families with multiple sons, who had to get married and start new lives elsewhere. For that reason, that’s why the idea that the father sends the sons out to get brides is so interesting to me — other iterations have the mothers sending the sons out, or the sons seeking adventure on their own.
For a slightly different version of this same story, see “The Frog.”