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The Tale of the Golden Cockerel

 


-Modern Version-

A long, long time ago there was an old widowed Tsar named Dadon. He had two grown up sons but no friend left in his neighborhoods. When the Tsar was younger, he used to attack his neighbors for land, servants, goods and gold. However, when the tsar started getting older and lost his strength and power, his neighbors started attacking him back more notoriously than he did. The old tsar was so much in fear of his neighbors from all sides that he lost his appetite and sleep. Dadon called his sons and all his senior advisors in hope to find a solution, but all suggestions failed to work. 

Suddenly, a wise man who was also an astrologist and a wizard appeared out of nowhere. He had a very special present for the tsar. The wizard unveiled his cage and presented his gift to the tsar. It was a bird, a cockerel that was gold from its crest to its tail. The astrologist said to the tsar, “This is not an ordinary bird. It will protect you and your kingdom well. You shell order your guards to put it on the highest point of your kingdom. When there is no thread from anywhere, my bird will stay calm, but when there is a stranger, enemy or thief, it will fly down to warn you.” The Tsar thanked the wise man for his great and precious gift and promised to fulfill any of the astrologist wishes as his payback. The old wizard did not have any specific wishes at the moment, but said when the time will come, he will ask the tsar then. As soon as the old wizard said that, he disappeared just as fast as he showed up. The Tsar immediately ordered to put the magic bird on the very top of his castle’ roof and got some peace. The tsar could enjoy his food again since he had a nice guard now watching after his entire kingdom. 

One day, the cockerel came to life, flew down to the tsar and warned him of the upcoming danger. And indeed, the enemy army was moving toward the Tsar Dadon’s kingdom. The Tsar was ready this time. He gathered his army that defeated the enemy within three days. Two years past and the golden bird sat still. Suddenly, the cockerel started singing and warning the tsar again. This time the thread was coming from the east since the cockerel was pointing to the East. Dadon rushed to put his army together that was led by his older son. They heard nothing for a few days, but then the bird was pointing danger from the East again. The Tsar gathered his second army and sent his youngest son to lead it. The second army had the same exact fate as the first one. It went to fight the enemy but never did come back and the rooster was sitting still again for seven days. One day, the bird started singing pointing the same danger coming from the East. The Tsar gathered his third army and went to lead it into the fight. They rode for seven days straight until the tsar’s men got tired and hungry. There was no enemy on their way, no army, not even a single body. Suddenly, Dadon spotted a silk tent down near the forest. When the tsar and his army approached the tent, Dadon saw the tragic scene of both of his sons lying dead on the ground. It was not an enemy army that destroyed them, but instead they killed each other. The tsar was shocked and started crying in grief. Suddenly, the tent opened and a stunning eastern beauty was revealed inside. She was more beautiful than a pan could describe. She was dressed in the eastern clothes with a silver moon shining under her long black like raven locks.

As soon as the Tsar saw her, he went speechless and forgot the tragic death of his two sons on the spot. Next, The Queen of Shamakhan took the tsar’s hand and invited him inside the tent. There she was treating her guest well with finest eastern food and wines. And the tsar got easily trapped by the queen’s irresistible charm. When it was time for him to return back to his kingdom, Dadon proposed to the Queen of Shamakhan and brought her along to his palace. The crowds gathered around to greet their tsar and the lovely young maiden who was about to be their new queen. Suddenly, the wizard appeared in front of the royal carriage in order to let Dadon know that he had a wish now that Dadon promised to fulfill as a payback for his gift. The tsar let the wise man speak, but as soon as he found out his wish, Dadon got very mad and disappointed. The astrologist did not have any other wish, rather than marrying Queen of Shamakhan. He offered the tsar to grant her to the wizard as a payback his favor. The tsar got so angry that he hit the man with a stake and accidentally killed the wise man on the spot. The wicked Queen was just smiling in the back. The same very moment the wizard fell on the ground dead, the golden cockerel landed on the tsar’s bold head. Before anyone noticed or saw the bird pecked Dadon’ head. A few seconds later, the tsar fell dead as well and no one was able to explain why. The mysterious queen suddenly disappeared and no one saw where she went.

 

 

-Original Version by Alexander Pushkin-

Sometime long, long ago,
in a kingdom you wouldn't know,
lived Tsar Dadon the Glorious
who began his reign in a notorious
way by invading his neighbors,
destroying their homes and their labors.
Later, though, nearing old age
his life entered a new phase, 
and the tsar wanted peace.
But now his enemies unleashed
barrage of their own attacks.
The tsar was hardly able to relax
before he needed to protect his borders

from the armies and marauders.

A fine war machine he did preserve
and his generals would serve
him well, but now he would need
an astute strategy to succeed.
You see, if his army guarded the south,
the foe took an eastern route.
Defend that flank, and the next guest
would emerge from the sea. Never a rest!

In private the tsar would weep,
cutting into his dignity, and his sleep.
In such fear, it's hardly a life,
so he turned to another for advice.
He summoned an old soothsayer,
a eunuch, an astrologer,
and sent a courier to get the man.
Soon the eunuch arrived, and with great elan,
lifted from a sack a cockerel of gold.
To the tsar this is what he told:

"On a high spire place this bird
so he can be seen and heard.
There my cockerel, golden from head to tail,
will help protect the city without fail.
If things are quiet for miles around
the rooster will sit quietly, not a sound.
But if unwelcome strangers do appear,
if the horror of war approaches near,
then the bird will size up the enemy force,
and map out its expected course.
Boldly the rooster
will cry out, flutter
its wings, stiffen its red comb,
eyes fixed on the danger, away from home."

The tsar, elated, bid the sage farewell,
promising to fulfill
any desire the man might have.
The sage was quiet, call it savvy,
as he would wait for events to unfold,
while dreaming of fortunes untold.

And so the cockerel from his high perch,
for the enemy would diligently search.
The minute he sensed danger,
like a trustworthy farm rooster
at daybreak, he would come to life. Turning
in that direction, while confirming
his suspicions, he'd cry, "Kiri-ku-ku!
Careful, they are coming for you!"

Soon the enemies day and night
lost their will to fight.
Their forces, regardless of number,
by Dadon were ripped asunder. 
Two years passed in peace,
and the cockerel stood at ease.
Then the tsar was awakened from his sleep
by loud voices and shuffling feet.

"Sir! Father of our nation!"
began a general's exclamation.
"Sir, wake up! There's trouble!"
"What is it, people?"
the tsar said, breaking a yawn.
"What's the matter? What's wrong?"
"Sir, the bird has a threat in focus.
He's giving us notice
that evil winds are blowing near.
People are on edge, our fate's unclear."

The tsar looked at the agitated bird,
and saw that it was pointed eastward.
"Hurry, no time to waste!
To your horses! Make haste!"
The tsar sent an army to the east,
his oldest son he chose to lead.
The cockerel soon stood quietly,
and Dadon waited patiently
in the solemn city. Soon came day eight,
still no news on the army's fate.
If a savage battle occurred,
would he have heard?

Then the cockerel cried out again,
and the tsar rounded up more men.
He sent his other son - he had but two -
to investigate and perhaps rescue
his first brave unit. The cockerel
quieted again and time crawled
in the city for the next eight days,
people worried, their thoughts strayed.

Then the rooster cried out again.
The tsar ordered a third set of men
and led it himself to the east,
uncertain if he could help in the least.
Traveling day and night,
his army tired quickly. Neither a fight,
nor camps, nor battlefields,
nor burial mounds in hills
did Dadon and his troops encounter.
"What's going on?" he would wonder.

Now it was the eighth day ahead,
and into the hills the army was led.
Between two majestic hills,
the verdant meadow seemed unduly still.
Further down, a silk tent was seen.
And in a tight ravine ...
lay the tsar's first two armies, perished.

To the tent Dadon rushed
and witnessed a sight he feared:
at the door, his two sons dear,
without their helmets or armor,
lay motionless, not a stir.
Each had driven a lethal blade
into the other. Their horses in the glade,
meanwhile, roamed on trampled grass,
over blood-stained sward they'd pass.
The tsar wailed, "Oh, the horror!
My sons! Both my warriors
caught in a trap. Oh, the misery!
Death come soon unto me!"

Everyone grieved behind the tsar.
Hills and valleys, near and far,
it seemed, with pent
up sorrow moaned, as well. Suddenly the tent
opened ... and a stunning beauty was seen.
Her name was the Shamakha Queen.
Her radiance, like the new day's dawn,
quietly wrapped itself around Dadon.
Like a nightbird's song is stifled by sunrise,
the tsar was speechless, peering into her eyes.
It was here he forgot at once
the tragic death of his two sons.

She led the tsar inside the tent
of silk. Her skin's sweet scent,
her bewitching smile, her figure's allure,
were heaven-sent, the tsar was sure.
At the table she gave him a seat,
the finest food she served to eat.
On a brocade bed he rested,
captured by her beauty, arrested
by her charm. For a week exactly
he was hers completely, seemingly
trapped under the maiden's spell.
And he feasted like a king, as well!
Eventually, though, he needed to go back
to his kingdom. So with the army intact,
they returned to their more familiar haven,
together with the lovely young maiden.

Truths and falsehoods were rife
as the city before them sprang to life.
In their carriages, Dadon and the queen
were followed by the masses. What a scene!
Dadon greeted all, even tossed
a few coins to the crowd. Then he noticed
a man with a strange hat on.

It was the eunuch. "Welcome, Tsar Dadon!"
to his majesty the sage bellowed.
"Ah, greetings my dear fellow,"
the tsar replied, "what do you say?
Can I throw a little your way?"
"Yes, sir," replied the wise man.
"Indeed, it is time to settle the best we can.
Remember you said you'd acquire
and grant me anything I desire.
Well, there is something I've seen.
I want her, the Shamakha Queen!"

The tsar was shocked.
"Surely you jest," he mocked.
"Has the devil gotten to you?
How could such thoughts accrue
in your head?! I gave you my word,
of course, but such rubbish I've never heard.
Your request needs to be within reason.
And why the maiden?
Is this some kind of test?
From you I'd take almost any request.
Take money, or the title of a noble.
Take a horse from the royal stable.
Take half my empire."
"My dear tsar, all I desire
is the maiden I've seen,
the Shamakha Queen."

The tsar spat in disgust.
"Such evil, this is hardly fitting. Enough!
You won't receive a thing,
sinner, except for perhaps suffering.
Be off! Take the old goat away.
You're lucky you're still alive today."
The old man started to argue,
but such acts you don't do
with the tsar, who hit him with his staff
across the lips; the eunuch fell flat.

He died on the spot, before a whole city
shuddering. But the beauty
seemed to giggle at the whole affair;
for the sage's fate she didn't care.
The tsar, although shaken,
looked lovingly at the maiden.
They began to head towards town,
when from above they heard a faint sound.

The whole capital looked on
as the cockerel headed toward Dadon.
Like a shot he flew down,
landing on the tsar's crown.
He fluttered wildly, pecking into his head,
and flew off ... It can be said
that from the carriage the tsar fell.
Exactly what killed him, no one could tell.
Mysteriously, the queen disappeared.
It's as if she were never there.