Once upon a time there was a King named Berendei. He had three sons. The youngest was called Ivan.
And the King had a beautiful garden with an apple-tree in it that bore golden apples.
One day the King found that somebody was stealing his golden apples. The King was very unhappy about this. He sent watchmen into the garden, but they were unable to catch the thief.
The King was so grieved that he could not touch food or drink. His sons tried to cheer him. "Do not grieve, Father dear," they said, "we shall keep watch over the garden ourselves."
The eldest son said: "Today it is my turn to keep watch."
And he went into the garden. He walked about all evening but saw no one, so he flung himself down on the soft grass and went to sleep.
In the morning the King said to him: "Have you brought me good news? Have you discovered who the thief is?"
"No, Father. I did not close my eyes all night, but I saw no one."
The next night the middle son went out to keep watch, and he, too, went to sleep. On the next morning he said he had seen no thief.
It was now the youngest son's turn to go and keep watch. When Prince Ivan went to watch his father's garden he did not so much as sit down, let alone lie down. If he felt hat he was getting sleepy, he would wash his face in dew and become wide awake at once.
And in the dead of night what should he see but a light shining in the garden. It got brighter and brighter and lit up everything around. And there on the apple-tree sat the Fire-Bird pecking at the golden apples.
Prince Ivan crept up to the tree and caught the bird by the tail. But the Fire-Bird wriggled free and flew away, leaving a feather from its tail in the Prince's hand.
Next morning Prince Ivan went to his father.
"Well, son, have you caught the thief?" asked the King.
"Dear Father," said Prince Ivan, "I have not caught him, but I have discovered who he is. See, he has sent you this feather as a keepsake. The Fire-Bird is the thief, Father."
The King took the feather, and from that time he cheered up and began to eat and drink again. But one fine day he fell to thinking about the Fire-Bird.