Once upon a time there was a king who could talk to animals. It’s been a long time ago, but in this story you understand how it all went. One day a king was visited by an old woman. She said to the king, “If you eat this snake, you will be able to talk to animals.”
The king agreed, so he said to his cook Yirik, “Prepare this fish for me, but don’t eat it, or I’ll have to cut your head off.”
The cook Yirik thought that was a bit of an odd order from the king. What cook doesn’t taste what he makes? When Yirik opened the basket, he immediately saw that it was a snake and not a fish. But he prepared it and when he thought it was done, he took a piece in his mouth to taste it. Immediately afterwards he heard the conversation between two flies in his kitchen. And when he went to get eggs, he heard the conversation between two chickens. So now Yirik understood the king’s mystery.
The next day, the king asked Yirik to go horseriding with him. While riding this horse, Yirik heard one horse say to another, “I’m so glad I don’t have to carry that old bag of hay, I’m so glad I can go out with this fresh young man.” He meant Yirik, of course, who couldn’t help but smile. But the king could hear the horses too, so Yirik understood that he had to hold back.
“Why are you laughing?” the king asked. Yirik replied, “Look there, it seems that the birds are arguing over something.”
The king and Yirik heard the birds arguing over a golden hair. It wasn’t just any golden hair, it glittered in many tones of gold in the daylight. The hair must have belonged to a princess. The king was of course aware that Yirik had also eaten a piece of the snake. So he said, “I should cut your head off, but I won’t, because your new job is to find the girl with the golden hair and then take her with you to marry me.”
Yirik had no idea who the golden-haired woman was, but said he would find her for the king. The next day he set out with his horse, but he had no idea where to look for her. He arrived late at a place where robbers had built a campfire. The campfire was close to an anthill, where the panicked ants tried to get away. Yirik put out the fire and the ants thanked him for his help. “If you ever need our help, just call us and we’ll be there for you,” they said.
Further on, Yirik encountered young ravens in the park that lay along the forest path. “Help us!” asked the young birds. “Our parents threw us out of the nest to take care of ourselves, but we are starving. Do you have something to eat for us?” Yirik gave the little food he had left to the birds. “Thank you Yirik,” said the birds, we will not forget that you gave us your last bit of food. If you ever need our help, call us, and we’ll help you.”
He continued his journey and at one point Yirik was standing on the shore. There he saw two fishermen arguing over a gold fish. The two of them had caught it, but they both wanted to keep it to themselves. Yirik walked over to them and said, “Fishermen, sell the fish to me and then you can share the money. Then you don’t have to argue about it.”
The fishermen were very happy with this solution. When Yirik told them about the golden hair, the fishermen said that the golden hair must belong to Princess Zlatovlaska. She lived on an island with eleven sisters and her father, the king. The fishermen wanted to take him there as thanks for his help. The king was willing to receive Yirik. Then Yirik told that his king wanted to marry Princess Zlatovlaska. The king said, “I see no objection to the marriage, but there are three tasks I want you to perform before I hand over my princess.”
The next day Yirik started with the first assignment. The king said, “My daughter has lost a precious pearl necklace in the tall grass. Your job is to find all the pearls and bring them back to me before sunset.”
Yirik went to the pasture and seeing how wide and how thick it was, he knew it was going to be an impossible task. But he started his search anyway. While doing that, he told himself that he would never make it without the help of the ants. And there the ants appeared and they helped him find the pearls until they were all there.
The king was surprised and happy to count all the pearls. Now he came up with another task for the next day. He told Yirik that his daughter Zlatovlaska had lost a gold ring when she bathed in the sea. “Find me this ring,” was the king’s second command. Yirik asked the gold fish for help and it immediately came to look for the ring with other gold fish. They found the ring and gave it to Yirik, who gave it to the king the same day.
The king had to admit that two of the three tasks had been successfully completed, and now the third task followed. He told Yirik to fill two jars, one with the Water of Death and one with the Water of Life. Yirik had no idea what the king meant by this, but asked the young ravens if they knew what it was. The ravens knew that, and they would even fill the pitchers for him. And they did.
As Yirik was walking through the woods with the two pitchers, he came across a large spider web. There was a big ugly spider in the middle and it was holding a dead fly. Yirik threw a drop of the Water of Death on the spider and it died instantly. Then he threw a drop of the Water of Life on the fly and the fly immediately recovered and flew happily and free again.
“Thank you Yirik,” said the fly, “and if you ever need my help, I’ll find you and help you!”
When Yirik returned to the king’s castle and handed over the two pitchers, the king said, “Very good Yirik, I see you have completed all three tasks. Now you must choose from my twelve daughters, which one is Zlatovlaska. If you guess who she is, you may take her to your king and she will marry him.”
Yirik was taken to a large hall, where twelve princesses stood in a row. All of them wore a veil that covered the whole body. Yirik could not see in any way which princess Zlatovlaska would be. Then the fly flew in, and it said to Yirik, “Have no fear, for I know exactly who Princess Zlatovlaska is.”
So Yirik went past the princesses, and when the fly told him which princess it was, he said to the king, “This is her, this is Princess Zlatovlaska.”
“You guessed right,” said the king.
Then Zlatovlaska removed her veil and her beautiful hair tumbled down her feet like a golden waterfall. Yirik was blown away by her beauty. The king prepared Zlatovlaska for her journey and gave her the two precious pitchers of water. Yirik brought her safely to his master. The king was more than happy to see the princess. He hopped around praising Yirik for bringing his beautiful bride. Then the king said, “Yirik, you have brought me the most beautiful bride on earth. Therefore I will not cut off your head, but you will be killed by my sword, and I will provide an honorable and proper burial.” Immediately afterwards the king stabbed him to death.
Zlatovlaska asked the king to leave her alone with Yirik for a moment. The king, who was madly in love with her, could not refuse her. Then she sprinkled some Water of Death on Yirik first. The wound healed as if it had never been there. It made him even more beautiful and gave him a glow of eternal youth. Then she sprinkled him some of the Water of Life and Yirik came back to life.
When the king saw how beautiful and youthful Yirik stood before him again, he said to the princess Zlatovlaska: “I want this too! I want to be made handsome and young again!”
Then he plunged his sword into himself. The princess Zlatovlaska took her bottle with the Water of Life, but nothing helped. The last drop fell from the bottle, but it still didn’t help. Then the princess turned her head to Yirik and she said with a smile, “Oh my gosh, maybe I should have used the Death Water bottle first. One she put a few drops on the king and he looked young and handsome. But there was no more Water and Life. So the king was buried.
The people thought that there should be a new king, and since Princess Zlatovlaska was to be the new queen, she had to say who should be the new king. She chose Yirik and the people immediately agreed, because Yirik would be a handsome king.
Yirik and Zlatovlaska got married immediately, and they lived a very long and very happy life.