Seven Simeons

Long ago, in the land of Russia, there lived an old peasant called Simeon and his wife. They always had dearly longed to have children; one day, the peasant’s wife presented him with seven sons.

The poor man was so overwhelmed at having such a large family all at once that he did not know what to call them; he gave them all the name of Simeon, too.

Many years passed, and the old couple died, but the seven boys grew into fine young men. They stayed together on the little farm, and it prospered.

One day while they were working in the fields, the Czar of the land came riding up, accompanied by his courtiers. Seeing the seven men working so hard, he called to them.

“What is your name?” he asked the first lad.

“Simeon Simeonovich, your Imperial Highness,” the lad replied. “And these are my brothers.”

“What is your name?” the Czar asked of the next brother.

“Simeon Simeonovich,” was the reply.

“And your name?” the Czar asked the third, fourth, and fifth brother.

The Czar was most surprised to learn that all seven brothers had the same name.

“You must come with me to my palace,” said the Czar. “I need fine lads like your- selves in my service.”

All seven Simeons left their farm there and went with the Czar to his palace.

“We must find a trade for you,” said the Czar. “Farming is all very well, but you must have other trades.”

“If it please, your royal highness,” replied the first Simeon. “We already have other trades. I will build you an iron tower that will reach the heavens.”

The second Simeon stepped forward.

“When my brother has built the tower, I will stand on top of it and let you know what is happening in all the surrounding countries.”

The third Simeon bowed to the Czar and said:

“I will forge an axe, cut a tree in the Imperial forest, and fashion it into a ship.”

“I will command that ship,” said the fourth Simeon.

The Czar turned to the fifth brother.

“What of you, Simeon?” he asked.

“I will fashion a gun, which has never been seen before,” replied the lad. “With this gun, I can shoot any bird that flies.”

The sixth brother Simeon said: “I am the fastest runner in your kingdom, and I will retrieve any bird that my brother shoots before it can touch the ground.”

The seventh and last Simeon then spoke:

“I need neither art nor craft, your Imperial Majesty. I have valuable skills. I am a thief.”

“A thief,” cried the Czar. “I banish all thieves from my kingdom.”

“I am no ordinary thief,” replied the lad.

“Then you must prove that you are as you claim,” said the Czar. “For many years, I have sought the hand of the fair Princess Helena, who lives in a far land. You are no ordinary thief if you can steal the princess and bring her to me for my wife.”

“I go at once, your Imperial Majesty. I only ask that my brothers should help me.”

The mighty Czar consented, and the seven Simeons began their task.

The first Simeon began to build his tower, and when it was halfway to the sky, the second Simeon climbed it and at once spied the beautiful Princess Helena. He reported to the Czar.

“The fair lady lives nine and twenty countries from here. She sits at the window of a tall palace.”

“Bring her to me,” the Czar commanded.

The third Simeon made an axe, chopped down a tree, and fashioned a sturdy ship that the fourth Simeon would command. The fifth brother forged a gun, and the seventh made friends with a stray black cat that he found wandering in the palace courtyard.

When the ship was ready, the seven brothers set sail for the land where Princess Helena lived; they came to the strange shore after many days.

When they had cast anchor, the seventh Simeon, the thief, went ashore with his black cat to spy out the land.

Princess Helena, at the window of her palace, spied on the thief and, not having seen a cat before, thought it to be some strange dog. She sent a servant at once to the thief to ask what kind of dog he had with him and if he would sell the peculiar animal.

The thief said he could not sell his cat at any price, but he would gladly take the cat to the princess so that she may hold and stroke him.

Princess Helena was so taken by the black cat that she bade the thief enter the palace.

“It is not a dog, your high- ness,” said the thief when he was brought before the princess.

“It is a cat; they are common in the land I come from.”

“How beautiful it is,” said the princess as she stroked its silken fur.

“I will bring him to you daily so that you may play,” said the thief.

The princess grew to love the black cat, and the thief took the cat to the palace for seven days. On the seventh day, while the princess played with the cat, the brother Simeon said:

“I have journeyed here in a beautiful wooden ship loaded with treasures that would overshadow any the princess has ever seen.”

The princess was curious and wanted to visit the thief’s ship.

She gathered her court and all her attendants with her, and they went down to where the ship was anchored.

“None but you may look upon the treasure,” said the thief to the princess, so Helena bid her courtiers wait on the shore while she went aboard the ship with the thief. They went below the decks, and at once, the other six brothers Simeon, leapt from their hiding places and set the sails.

When the princess felt the ship move, she ran back on deck and saw the shore of her land falling far behind.

“You have tricked me,” she cried.

She then changed into a beautiful white swan and flew high about the ship’s masts before any of the brothers could stop her.

At once, the fifth brother, Simeon, brought out his great gun and shot the swan with its magic bullet.

The swan fell back towards the deck of the ship. The sixth brother darted forward and caught the bird before it touched the ground.

At once, the swan turned back into the fair Princess Helena.

Meanwhile, the princess’s soldiers had set out in a fleet of ships to pursue the brothers’ boat. As they approached, the fourth Simeon grasped the boat and dragged it beneath the waters.

Thinking that the ship had sunk, the princess’s fleet turned back to the shore, sure that all had drowned.

When darkness fell, the brothers’ ship rose from the water and set sail back to the land of the Czar.

As soon as Princess Helena met the Czar, she fell in love with him, and they were married at once.

The grateful Czar made the seven Simeons dukes, and they lived in riches and honour for the rest of their days.

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