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1867 (pub): Forty-One Boys

The following description of a Russian folk-tale was first presented in English by William Ralston Shedden Ralston in 1880:

One of the Skazkas [Russian folk-tales] relates how a certain old couple, who had no children, were advised to get a number of eggs from the village — one from each house — and to place them under a sitting hen. From the forty-one eggs thus obtained and treated are born as many boys, all but one of whom develop into strong men, but the forty-first long remains a poor weak creature, a kind of "Hop-o'-my-thumb." They all set forth to seek brides, and eventually marry the forty-one daughters of a Baba Yaga. On the wedding night she intends to kill her sons-in-law; but they, acting on the advice of him who had been the weakling of their party, but who has become a mighty hero, exchange clothes with their brides before "lying down to sleep." Accordingly the Baba Yaga's "trusty servants" cut off the heads of her daughters instead of those of her sons-in-law. Those youths arise, stick the heads of their brides on iron spikes all round the house, and gallop away. When the Baba Yaga awakes in the morning, looks out of the window, and sees her daughters' heads on their spikes, she flies into a passion, calls for "her burning shield," sets off in pursuit of her sons-in-law, and "begins burning up everything on all four sides with her shield." A magic, bridge-creating kerchief, however, enables the fugitives to escape from their irritated mother-in-law.

This tale was translated from the Russian folk and fairy tales collection of Alexander Afanasyev, published in eight volumes from 1855-1867. This is from volume vii, and is tale no. 30.