From: Adriana Kamenetsky
----- Original Message -----From: Adriana KamenetskyTo: juliet sanchesSent: Thursday, January 18, 2001 11:15 AMSubject: Russian Firebird Legend
Russian Firebird Legend Once upon a time in a small village in medieval Russia, there lived a soft-spoken orphan girl named Maryushka. Her reputation as a talented embroiderer was becoming known in villages and towns farther and farther away, and yet her love for her needlework was such that she sold to those who most appreciated it. Those who were poor but treated her work with respect and admiration were asked only a few kopeks, and those who were wealthy often paid more. She was always content with what she received, knowing that her creations were in the hands of people who treasured them.
As her fame spread, merchants, who had never seen such beautiful embroidery, traveled from beyond the seas to ask to buy her work. They also brought her lovely beads and silken threads to use in her needlework. On top of all of this, the merchants promised her fame and fortune if she would only go away with them and work for them in their own cities. Her answer was alway the same. " I do not need riches, and I wish never to leave the dear village where I was born. But of course I will sell my work to all who find it beautiful." Although the merchants were disappointed in her answer, when they returned to their homes, they spread the word of her marvelous embroidery and her loyal character.
Word of this lovely maiden spread to the ends of the earth, eventually reaching the ears of the evil sorcerer, Kaschei the Immortal. He became obsessed with the desire to seek her and possess her for his own kingdom, so he took the form of a handsome young man and flew over the deep oceans, the tall mountains and the impassable forests until he reached her.
In finding her at home, he bowed low as was the custom in those days, and asked to see the needlework which had made her so renowned. She brought out many different items, such as shirts, blouses, towels, handkerchiefs, shawls and table linens, each more beautiful than the other. "Gospodin," she said, "even if you have no money to spare, you may take what pleases you and pay me later. If my work does not find favor with you, please give me counsel, and I shall do my best to prepare what you would like."
Her kind words and his realization that her artistry was even greater than any that he could create as a sorcerer enraged him. He assumed his most cunning tone, and uttered:
"Come with me Maryushka, and I will make you Queen. You will reside in perpetual ease and glory in a palace of precious jewels. You will eat off silver and gold and sleep in eiderdown.Your life will be filled with the music of birds of paradise and the gardens in which you walk will be sweet from the exotic blossoms of flowers and fruits."
"Speak not so, dear lord, of wealth unknown to me. The music of the voices of my neighbors and the aromas of bread baking in my oven would be more pleasant to me than all the strange marvels you describe. Never could I leave the village where I was born and where my parents lie buried. These fields and woods bring me joy, just as my embroidery brings joy to my neighbors. I could never embroider for you alone."
Kaschei became even more furious at this response. His visage suddenly became distorted with anger and he replied, "Because my offer is so unpleasant to you, a bird you shall be and no more a fair maiden."
In an instant a colorful Firebird fluttered its wings and flew off from where Maryushka had just stood. Kaschei the Evil transformed himself into a great black falcon and soared off into the sky to capture the Firebird. With his sharp talons he caught her and carried her high above the clouds. As she realized that those steel claws were taking her away and her chances of returning to her village were gone, she decided to leave a lasting memory of herself in the land she loved.
She shed her brilliant plummage, feather upon feather floating down upon the forests and meadows. As her feathers fell, Maryushka's strength left her, and she died in the black Falcon's talons. But her feathers continued to live. Even now they can be found upon the ground, their brilliance undiminished. Of course, they are not ordinary feathers, but immortal and magic ones that can only be seen by those who love beauty and who seek to make beauty for others.
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