Russia: The Two Friends

This story is part of the Russian Folktales unit. Story source: Russian Fairy Tales by W. R. S. Ralston (1887).

The Two Friends

In the days of old there lived in a certain village two young men. They were great friends, went to besyedas together, in fact, regarded each other as brothers. And they made this mutual agreement: whichever of the two should marry first was to invite his comrade to his wedding. And it was not to make any difference whether he was alive or dead.

About a year after this one of the young men fell ill and died.

A few months later his comrade took it into his head to get married. So he collected all his kinsmen, and set off to fetch his bride.

Now it happened that they drove past the graveyard, and the bridegroom recalled his friend to mind, and remembered his old agreement. So he had the horses stopped, saying: “I’m going to my comrade’s grave. I shall ask him to come and enjoy himself at my wedding. A right trusty friend was he to me.”

So he went to the grave and began to call aloud: “Comrade dear! I invite thee to my wedding.”

Suddenly the grave yawned, the dead man arose, and said: “Thanks be to thee, brother, that thou hast fulfilled thy promise. And now, that we may profit by this happy chance, enter my abode. Let us quaff a glass apiece of grateful drink.”

“I’d have gone, only the marriage procession is stopping outside; all the folks are waiting for me.”

“Eh, brother!” replied the dead man, “surely it won’t take long to toss off a glass!”

The bridegroom jumped into the grave. The dead man poured him out a cup of liquor. He drank it off—and a hundred years passed away.

“Quaff another cup, dear friend!” said the dead man.

He drank a second cup—two hundred years passed away.

“Now, comrade dear, quaff a third cup!” said the dead man, “and then go, in God’s name, and celebrate thy marriage!”

He drank the third cup—three hundred years passed away.

The dead man took leave of his comrade. The coffin lid fell; the grave closed.

The bridegroom looked around. Where the graveyard had been, was now a piece of waste ground. No road was to be seen, no kinsmen, no horses. All around grew nettles and tall grass.

He ran to the village—but the village was not what it used to be. The houses were different; the people were all strangers to him. He went to the priest’s—but the priest was not the one who used to be there—and told him about everything that had happened. The priest searched through the church-books, and found that, three hundred years before, this occurrence had taken place: a bridegroom had gone to the graveyard on his wedding-day, and had disappeared. And his bride, after some time had passed by, had married another man.

Next: The Shroud

(500 words)