Finist the Falcon

.. taken with permission from the book “The Princess Who Wept Pearls.”

Once upon a time there was an old man who had three daughters. The eldest daughter and the middle daughter never thought about anything except clothes and how beautiful they’d look if they could only buy a new this or that. Mary; the youngest daughter, did all the housework and felt happy just as she was. Not that she wasn’t pretty. Her dark brows arched over the beautiful eyes of a falcon, and ample brown hair flowed down to her waist.

One day the father had to go to the fair. He asked his daughters what presents they’d like.

“I would like some crimson silk to make myself a new sarafan, “said the eldest daughter.

“I want a new sarafan too, “said the middle daughter. “Please buy me some turquoise silk, father.”

“And you, little one, what do you want? “the father asked Mary. “I want a feather of Finist the Bright Falcon,” she replied.

The father was very surprised, but he did not say anything. He got into his cart and set off. He bought two rolls of silk for his eldest daughters, but the could not find a feather of Finist the Bright Falcon anywhere.

When he got back, he gave his eldest daughters their presents. They were both very happy.

“There you are, my dears. I have brought what you asked for. But Mary, I could not find a feather of Finist the Bright Falcon anywhere,” he added, turning to his youngest, favorite daughter.

“Never mind,” said Mary. “Maybe it will turn up some other time.”

The elder sisters worked away, cutting out their patterns, sewing their hems, stopping from time to time to make fun of their little sister. She just pretended not to hear.

One day their father had to go to the fair a second time. “Well, daughters, what would you like me to buy you this time?”

The eldest daughters each asked for a silk shawl. Mary asked for a feather of Finist the Bright Falcon.

The father got into his cart and set off. He bought two beautiful shawls but, though he looked high and low, he could not find a feather of Finist the Bright Falcon anywhere.

“I’m sorry; little one,” he said when he got back. “I looked everywhere, but no one had any falcon feathers at all.”

A few months later he had to go to the fair yet a third time. “What would you like, my daughters?”

“Golden earrings!” his two eldest daughters answered together. “I’d like a feather from Finist the Bright Falcon,” said Mary.

The father finished his business at the fair, bought his eldest daughters their earrings and began asking everyone if they knew where he could buy a feather of Finist the Bright Falcon. No one had even heard of such a thing. Sadly, wearily, he climbed into his cart.

Just outside of town he met an old man carrying a little box. “What have you got there, grandfather?”

“A feather of Finist the Bright Falcon,” came the simple replay. “How much do you want for it?”

” Give me a thousand.”

The father happily gave him the thousand rubles and rode back home with a light heart.

His daughters met him at the gate. He gave the two eldest their earrings. Then he gave Mary the little box.

“There, little one. Look what I found!”

Mary threw herself into his arms, took the box, hugged it to her breast and kissed it.

After supper they all went to their own rooms. Mary opened the box, threw the feather to the ground and said:

“Finist, Bright Falcon! Come to me! Come to me my love!”

She looked up and there stood a handsome young Prince. At first she felt quite frightened. Then he talked gently to her. Soon she felt happier than she’d ever felt in her life. After a few minutes her sisters heard them and called out, “What’s going on in there, Mary? Who are you talking to?”

“I’m just talking to myself,” she answered.

“We’ll come and join you then.”

The Prince jumped up, stamped against the floor and became a feather once again. She put the feather away in the box and opened the door. Her sisters searched under the bed, peered into the dresser wardrobe and generally turned the whole room upside down. No one was to be found. As soon as they left, the feather turned back into a Prince.

At dawn Mary opened the window. Finist kissed her and said, “My love, I will fly in at your window every night. Just call me. If you ever need any new dresses or anything, just step outside and wave the feather over your right shoulder. You will find everything you wish right there. When you have finished with them, wave the feather over your left shoulder and they will disappear again.”

He kissed her once more, turned into a bright falcon and flew back to the dark forest. Mary watched until he disappeared from sight, shut the window and lay down to sleep.

From then on Finist came to visit her every night.

On Sunday her sisters started getting ready to go to church. They put on their golden earrings, their new sarafans, and their silk shawls. Then they began making fun of their little sister again.

“Well, what are you going to put on for church? You never have anything nice to wear. You’ll just have to stay at home and talk to that feather of yours.”

“Yes,” said Mary. “I’m quite happy at home.”

The elder sisters set off in their smart clothes. Mary sat at her window and watched everyone go by.

When everyone was gone, she stepped outside, looked around again to make sure no one was there, and waved her feather over her right shoulder. In the twinkling of an eye, there appeared a coach made of crystal, six fine horses, servants dressed in gold braid, a beautiful dress, and all kinds of fine jewelry, made of precious gems. She dressed, took her seat in the carriage and galloped to church. Everyone there stared at her in wonder. They could not take their eyes off of her.

“It must be some Princess from beyond the thrice-ninth land, from the thrice- tenth kingdom,” they whispered.

When the service was almost over, she slipped out of the door and galloped off. Everyone rushed out to see where she’d gone. They were too late. Even the dust from her carriage had already settled.

Mary got back and waved the feather over her left shoulder. Her servants undressed her, the carriage vanished, and everything was the same as before. When the sisters came back, Mary was sitting quietly at the window. She was watching people pass by on their way back from church.

“Mary, you have no idea what you’ve missed!” they exclaimed. “We’ve seen the most beautiful lady. She looked like a Princess from beyond the thrice-ninth-land, from the thrice-tenth kingdom. There she was, big as life, sitting in our own little church. You never saw so many jewels and pearls! And all you’ve done all morning is sit at home twiddling your thumbs.”

“You’ve told me about the Princess, that’s just as good as seeing her.”

The same thing happened on the next Sunday, and the Sunday after that. Mary fooled the whole village, and her family as well. On the third Sunday, though, she made a mistake. She forgot to take out one diamond hairpin.

Her elder sisters came back and started telling her about the Princess. Then they saw the diamond hairpin.

“Mary!” they shouted. “What’s that pin in your hair? The Princess had one just like it. Where on earth did you find it?”

Mary ran upstairs and hid in her room. She couldn’t think what to say. After that her sisters never gave her a moment’s peace.

They followed her around all day, watching her out of the corners of their eyes and whispering to each other. Mary, just smiled to herself and kept her mouth shut.

One night the elder sisters stood and listened outside Mary’s door. They heard her talking with Finist.

“Father,” they shouted out. “Our sister’s got a young man in her room.” The father went up to look. Finist turned into a feather and Mary hid him away in her box. Her father didn’t find anyone there.

“What’s the matter with you?” he shouted furiously at the elder sisters. “Why do you have to start telling lies about Mary? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!”

After that the elder sisters watched Mary more closely than ever. Three times they saw Finist fly in at her window. Then they had an idea. Next evening, just after sunset, they fetched a ladder, climbed up to Mary’s window and lined the inside of the frame with sharp, jagged knives and rusty nails. Then they sat down and waited to see what would happen.

That night Finist couldn’t get in. He struggled and struggled. He tore his wings and cut a great gash in his chest.

“Good-bye Mary! God be with you, my love!” he called out. “If you want me, you must walk to the other end of the earth, beyond the thrice-ninth land to the thrice-tenth kingdom. Before you find me, you’ll wear out three iron staffs, tread down three pairs of iron shoes, and swallow three stones loaves.”

Mary heard him through her sleep. She tried and tried to wake up, but she couldn’t. When she did wake up, it was morning. The sun was high in the sky and she hadn’t seen a sign of Finist the Bright Falcon. Then she looked at window.

There were rusty nails and sharp, jagged knives all the way around the frame. Drops of blood were dripping onto the ledge. She closed her eyes and threw up her hands in horror.

“My sweetheart! What’s happened? What have they done to you?” That day and the next day Mary didn’t stop crying. She didn’t sleep at night. She just sat by the window and waited. She went out a few times and waved her feather in the air but nothing happened. There wasn’t a sign of Finist or any of his servants.

In the end she went to her father with tears in her eyes and said: “Dearest father, let me go on a journey. If I stay alive, I’ll come back to you. If I die, then that’s how it was fated.”

Her father was very sad, but he let her go. She went to the blacksmith’s and had him forge three iron staffs and three pairs of iron shoes. She took three stone loaves. She slipped one pair of iron shoes onto her feet, took one iron staff in her hand and set off. She went the way Finist used to fly in the mornings.

She made her way through dark forests. She walked across deserts and sinking sands. She climbed over high, high mountains. She crossed deep, fast flowing rivers. I don’t know how long she walked. Each mountain she climbed was higher than the one before. Each forest she came to was thicker and darker. She wore out one iron staff and trod down one pair of iron shoes. She was just eating the last crumbs of a stone loaf when she came to a clearing. In front of her was a hut. It stood on chicken’s legs and turned round and round in circles.

“Stay still, little hut. Turn your back to the forest and your door towards me. I’m hungry. I want to come in.”

The hut spun round till its door was right in front of her. She went in. There on the floor lay Baba-Yaga. Her bony legs stretched right to the far corner. Her lips rested on a shelf on the wall. Her nose almost touched the ceiling.

“Foo, foo, foo!” snorted Baba-Yaga. “In the old days your never so much as glimpsed a Russian soul in these parts. Now I can see them and hear them and smell them and they even walk into my hut. Where are you going to, my pretty girl? What are you looking for? Or what is it you’re running away from?”

“Grandmother, I once had a friend. His name was Finist the Bright Falcon. He had bright, bright feathers and I was going to marry him. Then my sisters hurt him and he flew away. I’m trying to find him again.”

“Well, my girl, you’ve got a lot further to go yet. Finist the Bright Falcon lives at the other end of the earth, beyond the thrice-ninth land in the thrice-tenh kingdom. He’s engaged to be married to a Princess. But I’ll help you as much as I can.”

She brought Mary some food and drink and then put her to bed. Next morning she woke her before sunrise, gave her a silver distaff and golden spindle and said: “Here’s a present for you. It spins pure gold. Now you must go and see my elder sister. She’ll be able to help you, too. But listen now. When you come to Finist’s Kingdom, just sit by the shore and start spinning. Soon his Princess will come out for a walk. She’ll want to buy the distaff and spindle. You must give them to her. Say the only thing you want is to see Finist the Bright Falcon.”

Baba-Yaga threw a ball down the path and told Mary to follow it wherever it went.

Mary thanked the old woman and set off after the ball. She walked through the dark forest. The trees grew taller and taller and closer together. Their tops seemed to touch the sky. Mary wore out another iron staff and trod down another pair of iron shoes. She’d just finished her second stone loaf when she found the ball had stopped in a clearing. In front of her was a hut. I stood on chicken’s legs and turned round and round in circles.

“Stay still, little hut. Turn your back to the forest and your door towards me. I’m hungry. I want to come in.”

The hut spun round till its door was right in front of her. She went in. There on the floor lay Baba-Yaga. Her bony legs stretched right to the far corner. Her lips rested on a shelf on the wall. Her nose almost touched the ceiling.

“Foo, foo, foo!” snorted Baba-Yaga. “In the old days you never so much as glimpsed at a Russian soul in these parts. Now I can see them and hear them and smell them and they even walk into my hut. Where are you going to, my pretty girl? What are you looking for? Or what is it you’re running away from?

“Grandmother, I once had a friend. His name was Finist the Bright Falcon. He had bright, bright feathers and I was going to marry him. Then my sisters hurt him and he flew away. I’m trying to find him again.”

“Dear, oh dear!” said Baba-Yaga. “I’ve never heard such a story. And your Finist’s about to get married. Today’s the party for the bride and her friends. Still, I can help you a little.”

She brought Mary some food and drink and then put her to bed. Next morning she woke her before the sunrise, gave her a golden egg on a silver saucer and said: “Here’s a present for you. Spin the egg once round the saucer and another golden egg drops into your hand. Now you must go and see my other sister. She’ll be able to help you, too. But listen now. When you come to Finist’s Kingdom, just sit by the shore and start playing with your egg and saucer. Soon his bride will come out for a walk. She’ll want to buy the egg and saucer you must give them to her. Say the only thing you want is to see Finist the Bright Falcon.”

Mary said goodbye and set off after her little ball. She walked on further through the dark forest. It grew denser and denser, darker and darker. Soon she wore out her last iron staff, trod down her last pair of iron shoes, and finished her last stone loaf. Then her ball stopped by little hut in a clearing. It stood on chicken’s legs and turned round and round in circles.

“Stay still, little hut. Turn your back to the forest and your door towards me. I’m hungry. I want to come in.”

The hut spun round till its door was right in front of her. She went in. There on the floor lay Baba-Yaga. Her bony legs stretched right to the far corner. Her lips rested on a shelf on the wall. Her nose almost touched the ceiling.

“Foo, foo, foo!” snorted Baba-Yaga. “In the old days you never so much as glimpsed a Russian soul in these parts. Now I can see them and hear them and smell them and they even walk into my hut. Where are you going to, my pretty girl? What are you looking for? Or what is it you’re running away from?”

“Grandmother, I once had a friend. His name was Finist the Bright Falcon. He had bright, bright feathers and I was going to marry him. Then my sisters hurt him and he flew away. I’m trying to find him again.”

“You poor darling.” said Baba-Yaga. “Finist the bright Falcon’s already married. He’s married a Princess. But never mind. I’ll help you as much as I can”. She brought Mary some food and drink and then put her to bed. Next morning she woke her before sunrise, gave her a golden embroidery frame and needle and said:

“Here’s a present for you. You just hold the frame and the needle sews away by itself. When you come to Finist’s Kingdom, just sit by the shore and start sewing. Soon his wife will come out for a walk. She’ll want to buy the embroidery frame and needle. You must give them to her. Say the only thing you want is to see Finist the Bright Falcon.”

Mary burst out crying, thanked the old woman and set off after her ball. The forest grew thinner and thinner. After awhile she came to the sea. In the distance there were white towers and golden domes that blazed like fire. “This must be Finist’s Kingdom.” she thought. She sat down on the sand, got out her silver distaff and golden spindle and began spinning. A crowd of people gathered to watch. They’d never seen anyone spin pure gold.

Then the Princess came along with a whole train of maids and servants. She went straight up to Mary and said:

“How much do you want for your distaff and spindle?

“Let me see Finist the Bright Falcon tonight,” answered Mary, “and I’ll give them to you free.”

The Princess nearly got very angry indeed. Then she thought what fun it would be to have such a wonderful toy.

“All right then. Give me your distaff and spindle, and tonight you can have a look at Finist the Bright Falcon.”

The Princess took the distaff and spindle back home with her. That evening she mixed a sleeping potion into Finist’s wine. After he’d gone to bed, she sent one of her servants to take Mary into his room.

Mary stood by his bed and cried: Finist, Finist Bright Falcon! It’s me! It’s Mary! I’ve worn out three iron staffs. I’ve trodden down three pairs of iron shoes. I’ve eaten three stone loaves. Now I’ve found you at last. Wake up!” Finist the Bright Falcon hardly stirred.

Next morning the Princess came in and shooed Mary away. Finist woke up and said: “I feel like I’ve been sleeping for days. There was some woman here in the room. She was talking to me and crying. I kept trying to wake up but I couldn’t. It was horrible.”

“You must have been dreaming” answered the Princess. “No one can get in here at night.”

That afternoon Mary sat down on the shore and began playing with her golden egg and saucer. Soon the Princess came along.

“Ooh! Mary! How much will you sell that for?”

“It’s too precious to sell. I can only give it to you. All want is to see Finist the Bright Falcon once more.”

The Princess agreed at once. She was afraid Mary might change her mind. In the evening she gave Finist another sleeping potion.

Mary stayed all night in his room. She wept and wept. “Wake up Finist! It’s Mary! Wake up! I’ve worn out three iron staffs. I’ve trodden down three pairs of iron shoes. I’ve eaten three stone loaves. Now I’ve found you at last. Finist! Wake up!”

Finist the Bright Flacon hardly stirred.

Next morning the Princess came in and shooed Mary away. Finist woke up and said: “Feel like I’ve been sleeping for days. There was some woman in the room again. She was talking to me and crying. I tried and tried to wake up but I couldn’t. It was horrible.”

“Nonsense!” said the Princess. “You must have been dreaming again. How can anyone get in here at night?”

That afternoon Mary sat down by the sea feeling sadder than ever. She was holding the golden embroidery frame in one hand. The needle sewed away by itself. A crowd of people were watching. Along came the Princess.

“Ooh! Mary! How much will you sell that for?”

“I only want one thing,” answered Mary. “I want to see Finist the Bright Falcon tonight.” The Princess went back to her palace with the golden embroidery frame and needle. In the evening she gave Finist his sleeping potion. She waited till he was fast asleep and let Mary into his room.

Mary stood by his bed again and wept.

“Wake up, Finist! It’s Mary! Wake up! I’ve worn out three iron staffs. I’ve trodden down three pairs of iron shoes. I’ve eaten three stone loaves. Now I’ve found you at last. Finist! Wake up!

She threw her arms around him. One of her tears fell on his cheek and burnt him, and he woke up. He opened his eyes and saw who she was. At once he felt happier than he’d ever felt in his life.

Mary told him her whole story from beginning to end. She told him about her sisters. She told him about her journey, about the wonderful presents she’d been given and the iron staffs and shoes she’d worn out. She told him how she’d had to bargain with his wife.

After that Finist loved her even more. He kissed her sweet lips and went straight out to call a conference of all his nobles, all his counselors, and everyone else in the Kingdom. He told them all that had happened.

“Now what do you think? Which should I stay with, the one who bought me, or the one who sold me? The one who walked through forests, climbed mountains, forded rivers and crossed deserts to see me again, or the one who sold me for a few toys?”

All the nobles, all the counselors, and everyone else in the Kingdom thought for a moment. Then they answered in one voice:

The one who walked through forests and crossed deserts and sinking sands. The one who climbed steep mountains and forded deep rivers.” Finist the Bright Falcon did as they said. Trumpets trumpeted, cannons boomed, a huge feast was prepared, and they were married. And as far as I know, they lived happily forever after.

Special thanks to Linda Pritzker whom I met in New York City last year. She honored me with permission to bring her story to you, here on my blog.

When I started reading the book I couldn’t put it down as the story flowed within me so naturally as if I was there. It transported me once again to the imaginary world of fantasy, where I saw myself as a little girl, fascinated with stories that my parents used to tell me. I felt even happier when I recognized some stories which I’d first heard in my native language which was just added to the magic. I do believe that stories told to us as children have a huge effect and influence on a person, even in one’s adult life!

My intention to share this book with you is to stimulate and inspire so that we may continue the legacy of telling stories to our children. In this book there are collections of Faerie Tales from around the world … with an interpretation, should you choose to indulge in it.

“Story telling is a natural way to meet that imagination, stimulate it and guide it as it slowly knits itself together with life on earth. Movies and cartoons in the ways that they leave nothing to the imagination, rob the child of his own developing capacity to imagine.”

The dream that you don’t fight for can haunt you for the rest of your life.
From Robots, the movie.

59 comments

  1. Thank you so much for your opinion on Finist the Falcon Rhônya Holman! I totally agree with you. It is great to see a fresh outlook on this and I look forward to more.

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