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A Byelorussian folk tale

Within-and-Without-Wears-His-Coat-Wrong-Side-Out

Within-And-Without-Wears-His-Coat-Wrong-Side-Out

Translated by Irina Zheleznova
freebooksforkids.net
Illustrated by V. Milashevsky

Once upon a time there lived a tsar who was also a sorcerer, and he sent out a call throughout his tsardom, telling all and sundry that whoever succeeded in hiding from him would get half his tsardom.

A youth named Within-and-Without-Wears-His-Coat-Wrong-Side-Out took up the challenge. He came to the palace and said to the tsar:

“I shall hide so that you will never find me.”

“Very well,” said the tsar. “If you succeed, you’ll get half my tsardom; if not, you’ll have your head cut off. Sign there, please.”

Within-And-Without-Wears-His-Coat-Wrong-Side-Out

Within-and-Without signed his name and set to the business of hiding himself. Before the tsar he stood, a handsome youth; across the courtyard he ran, a black sable; under the gate he crawled, a white ermine; over the field he streaked, a grey rabbit.

Within-And-Without-Wears-His-Coat-Wrong-Side-Out

He went where his feet took him, and he found himself in the thrice-nine tsardom. Now, in that tsardom there was a large green meadow, and as soon as he reached it he turned into three different flowers.

Within-And-Without-Wears-His-Coat-Wrong-Side-Out

On the following morning the tsar rose, looked in his book of magic and said:

“Before me he stood, a handsome youth; across the courtyard he ran, a black sable; under the gate he crawled, a white ermine; over the field he streaked, a grey rabbit. To a large meadow he came in the thrice-nine tsardom and he turned into three different flowers.”

And the tsar called his servants and bade them go to that tsardom and fetch him the three flowers.

Off went the servants, and whether they were long on the way or not, no one knows, but they reached the meadow at last, plucked the three flowers, wrapped them in a kerchief and brought them to the tsar.

Within-And-Without-Wears-His-Coat-Wrong-Side-Out

The tsar unwrapped the flowers and. burst out laughing.

“Well, now, Wrong-Side-Out, have you been able to hide from me” asked he.

Wrong-Side-Out turned back into a man.

“Please, tsar, allow me to hide myself once more,” he begged.

“Go ahead!”

Before the tsar stood Wrong-Side-Out, a handsome youth; across the yard he ran, a black sable; under the gate he crawled, a white ermine; over the field he streaked, a grey rabbit.

He went where his feet took him, and he found himself beyond the thrice-nine lands in the thrice-ten tsardom.

Now, in that tsardom there was a large swamp, with a patch of moss on top of it and a lake beneath it. So Wrong-Side-Out made his way to the swamp, waded through it, turned into a perch, and, gliding down to the lake bottom, lay there very quietly.

On the following morning the tsar rose, looked in the book of magic and said:

“Before me he stood, a handsome youth; across the courtyard he ran, a black sable; under the gate he crawled, a white ermine; over the field he streaked, a grey rabbit. He ran beyond the thrice-nine lands to the thrice-ten tsardom and he hid there in a moss-grown swamp in the guise of a perch.”

And the tsar bade his servants go to the thrice-ten tsardom, clear the swamp of some of the moss and catch the perch.

The servants did as he told them to.

They cleared the swamp, and then they cast a net in the lake and caught the perch. They wrapped it in a kerchief and brought it to the tsar.

Within-And-Without-Wears-His-Coat-Wrong-Side-Out

“Well, now, have you been able to hide from me a second time” laughed the tsar.

Wrong-Side-Out turned back into a man.

“Please allow me to hide one last time,” begged he.

“Go ahead!”

Before the tsar stood Wrong-Side-Out, a handsome youth; across the courtyard he ran, a black sable; under the gate he crawled, a white ermine; over the field he streaked, a grey rabbit.

He went where his feet took him, and he ran for the thrice-ten tsardom and never stopped till he reached an oak-tree whose roots burrowed into the ground and whose crown pierced the sky.

He climbed the tree, turned into a needle, hid himself under the bark and sat there very quietly.

By and by Nagai the Bird came flying up. It perched on the oak-tree and it knew at once that there was a man hiding under the bark.

“Who’s there” asked Nagai the Bird.

“Me!” Wrong-Side-Out replied.

“How did you get there”

“I keep trying to hide from the tsar,” Wrong-Side-Out explained, “but he being a sorcerer, I haven’t been able to do it so far.”

“Do you want me to hide you”

“Please do, my good and kind bird. I shall be grateful to you for the rest of my life!”

Nagai the Bird turned Wrong-Side-Out into a feather, put the feather under her wing, took it to the tsar’s chamber and slipped it in the sleeping tsar’s bosom.

Within-And-Without-Wears-His-Coat-Wrong-Side-Out

On the following morning the tsar rose, washed, and, glancing in his book of magic, said:

“Before me he stood, a handsome youth; across the yard he ran, a black sable; under the gate he crawled, a white ermine; over the field he streaked, a grey rabbit. He ran to the thrice-ten tsardom and he never stopped till he reached an oak-tree with its roots in the ground and its crown in the sky. He climbed the
tree, turned into a needle, got under the bark, and there he sits.”

And the tsar bade his servants cut down the oak-tree, chop it up into logs and burn it.

Within-And-Without-Wears-His-Coat-Wrong-Side-Out

The servants did as he told them to but they did not find Wrong-Side-Out. So they came to the tsar and told him so.

“What, he’s not there, you say” roared the tsar, his temper rising. “It can’t be!”

“Can’t it now! Well, he isn’t, and there’s nothing we can do about it,” the servants said.

Within-And-Without-Wears-His-Coat-Wrong-Side-Out

The tsar stepped out into the courtyard.

“Come, Wrong-Side-Out, show yourself!” he called.

“No, I won’t, not until you tell all your generals to come here!” Wrong-Side-Out called back.

The tsar heard him but could not tell where his voice was coming from. He went here and he went there, he looked everywhere, but it was as if Wrong-Side-Out had vanished into thin air. There was no help for it, so the tsar got together all his generals, stepped out into the yard and called again:

“Come, Wrong-Side-Out, show yourself!”

“No, I won’t,” came Wrong-Side-Out’s reply, “not until you make out a ukase, giving one half of your tsardom to me, and sign your name to it. With all your generals present and watching, mind, I don’t want you to fool me!”

The tsar hated having to give up half his tsardom, but there was no help for it, so he made out a ukase and signed it, with all his generals there watching him do it, and no sooner did he stamp it with his seal than, lo and behold! — a feather came floating out from his bosom. Down to the ground it fluttered,
and it turned into a tall and handsome youth.

“Here I am!” said Wrong-Side-Out.

And he snatched up the ukase and slipped it in his pocket.

And that was the end of that, for the tsar had been taught his lesson and never played hide-and-seek with anyone any more.

Within-And-Without-Wears-His-Coat-Wrong-Side-Out

Author: Byelorussian Folk Tale; illustrated by Milashevsky V.

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