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A tale of Sadko

In the great Russian city of Novgorod lived a poor musician named Sadko who was a master of playing the dulcimer (Russian: gusli). Sadko was an orphan and made his living out of playing and singing at other people’s weddings, feasts and celebrations. However, there were no celebrations recently in his neighborhood and poor Sadko had to find another way to earn for his living. The musician did not know what to do, so he went to the Lake with his instrument and started playing and singing just for his own entertainment. As soon as he finished, the Water Elf jumped out of the lake and said, "Thank you, dear Sadko. Today I had a big feast on the bottom of my lake and all my guests were very pleased by your performance. I would like to reward you by telling you a secret that may change your life." And the lake beast told him that a gold fish lives on the bottom his lake and whoever manages to catch and it will become young again.

The next time when Sadko was invited to play at the wedding of the wealthy merchant, his guests started challenging each other who among them is the most wealthy and who has more land and property in their possession. They saw Sadko and asked to join them. He replied to them that he was not a wealthy man, but he knew one secret that is worth more than gold. And Sadko told the merchants the story of the Water Elf. The merchant’s guest started laughing at Sadko’s story and did not believe him. Before leaving the feast, the wealthiest and oldest merchant offered the musician a deal that if he will catch and deliver this magic gold fish to his house, he will grant Sadko everything he has.One evening, after trying to catch the gold fish for more than a month, Sadko finally managed to it and quickly became one of the richest men in Novgorod. He built a huge marble house with massive colons, married a lovely and kind maiden named Lubava, and became the most honorable merchant of all.

One day when Sadko’s ships were returning back home full of precious cargo from abroad, the crew realized that something was holding the ships from underneath and all of the crew’s effort to move them were in vain. Sadko knew that the powerful Sea Tsar – Morskoy Tsar – wanted to get some sort of ransom from Sadko. The Musician ordered his crew to dump a hundred pounds of gold into the sea hoping that this would be enough to please the Sea Tsar. But it did not help a bit. Sadko then decided to meet the Sea Tsar in person and find out how to please him. Sadko bravely jumped down into the water and found himself at Sea Tsar’s palace. Tsar Morskoy offered Sadko to play his magic dulcimer for him and his guests. All guests and the Sea Tsar himself were very pleased with Sadko’s play. When Sadko finished playing his first song, the same Water Elf approached Sadko and whispered to his ear to stop playing because it was causing a great storm on the sea above and ships were sinking bringing death to many of his people. As soon as Sadko heard this news, he immediately started plucking off all of the strings on his beloved dulcimer one by one until the instrument was destroyed and it was possible to continue playing. The Water Elf also warned Sadko that the Sea Tsar had plans to make the musician to stay in his kingdom forever and marry one of his maids. The Water Elf advised Sadko to choose the last girl in line since it was Elf’s sister who could assist the merchant to return home safely.

Sadko followed the Elf’s instructions and chose the last maiden named River Volkhva. Next morning when Sadko woke up, he found himself at the shore of that River that flow near Great Russian City of Novgorod. He safely returned home and was comforted by his wife Lubava, who was overjoyed to see her husband alive and well. And Sadko and Lubava lived happily ever after.


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