Go I Know Not Whither and Fetch I Know Not What

Go I Know Not Whither and Fetch I Know Not What

Go I Know Not Whither and Fetch I Know Not What is a Russian fairy tale collected by Alexander Afanasyev in "Narodnye russkie skazki".


A royal hunter shot a bird; wounded, it begged him not to kill it but to take it home, and when it went to sleep, strike its head. He did so, and the bird became a beautiful woman. She proposed that they marry, and they did. After the marriage, she saw how hard he had to hunt, and told him to borrow one or two hundred rubles. He did so, and then bought silks with them. She conjured two spirits and set them to make a marvelous carpet. Then she gave the carpet to her husband and told him to accept whatever price he was given. The merchants did not know how much to pay for it, and finally the king's steward bought it for ten thousand rubles. The king saw it and gave the steward twenty-five thousand for it.

The steward went to the hunter's house to get another, and saw his wife. He fell madly in love with her, and the king saw it. The steward told him why, and the king went himself and saw the hunter's wife. He decided that he should marry her instead and demanded the steward devise a way to be rid of the husband. The steward, with Baba Yaga's advice, had him sent to sea in a rotten ship, with a bad crew, to catch the stag with golden horns in the thrice tenth kingdom. The hunter being told of this, told his wife. She conjured up the stag and had him take it on the ship, sail out for five days and turn back.

The king was enraged with the steward, who again went to Baba Yaga. This time, the steward had the king send him to "go I know not whither and bring back I know not what." The wife's conjured spirits could not help her. She told him to ask for gold from the king and gave him a ball, which if rolled before him would led him where he needed to go, and a handkerchief, with directions to wipe his face with it whenever he washed. He left. The king sent a carriage for his wife. She turned back into a bird and left.

Her husband finally came to a castle. They gave him food and let him rest; then they brought him water to wash. He wiped his face not with their towel but his handkerchief. They recognized it as their sister's. They brought their mother, who also recognized it; she questioned him, and he told his story. She summoned all the beasts and birds to see if they knew how to "go I know not whither and bring back I know not what." Then she went out to sea with him and summoned all the fish. Last of all to arrive, a limping frog knew.

The woman gave him a jug to carry the frog, which could not walk that fast. He did, and the frog directed him to a river, where it told him to get on it, and swelled large enough to carry him across. There, it directed him to listen to two old men who would arrive. He did, and heard them summon "Shmat Razum" to serve them. Then the old men left, and he heard Shmat Razum lament how they treated him. The man asked Shmat Razum to serve him instead, and he agreed.

Shmat Razum carried him back. He stopped at a golden arbor, where he met three merchants. At Shmat Razum's directions, he exchanged his servant for three marvels: they could summon up a garden, a fleet of ships, and an army. But after a day, Shmat Razum returned to the hunter.

In his own country, the hunter had Shmat Razum build a castle. His wife returned to him there. The king saw the castle and marched against him. He summoned the fleet and the army and defeated the king, and was chosen king in his place.

Cultural references

In modern Russian, the phrase Poydi tuda, ne znayu kuda, prinesi to, ne znayu chto ( _ru. Пойди туда, не знаю куда, принеси то, не знаю что - Go I Know Not Whither and Fetch I Know Not What) refers (usually with irony) to a poorly defined task.

Satirical poem The Tale of Fedot the Strelets by Leonid Filatov, written in early 1985, is based on the tale storyline.

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