Once there was a man, who lived in a small hut in the woods, with his wife and two children, Ivanko and Mariyka. They were happy together, but the wife soon died. For nine years, he raised his children without help, but decided it best to take a maid. They soon grew deeply in love, and he offered his hand in marriage.

“What do you take me for!” cried the woman. “Certainly it is not possible with your 2 children.”

“Shall I then kill them?” asked the man.

“What do you take me for?” the woman responded. “That certainly is not Christian. What you must do is take them out deep into the forest and let God take care of them. But do so quickly, for time is unforgiving.”

The next morning he led his two children out deep into the forest. He tied a branch to a tree so that it struck with the wind to make a chopping noise, and crept back to his house.

But the children were clever and found their way back. It was nightfall and they peered in the window at the two adults, dining solemnly.

“Oh my poor little orphans!” cried the man. “All alone in the dark woods!”

“Here we are!” the children cried, and ran in to their father.

After the tearful reunion, the children fell fast asleep, and the maid turned to the man saying, “Tomorrow, you succeed, or you shall never see me again!”

The next day he took the children even deeper into the woods. He lit a fire and told them to sit and wait for his return. By nightfall he had not come back. The children tried to find their way back, but could not, and finally lay down, snuggled with their backs to each other.

It was not long before a wolf passed by, but seeing what it thought was a two headed monster, scurried off. A bear also came by, but was frightened off the same way. It was in this fashion that the children passed the night in safety.

The next morning they embarked to find some village where they could seek shelter, and succeeded in making it out of the forest. They reached an open field, this brisk day, and saw a large and barren tree in the center of the enclave. It was hundreds of feet tall, and had few branches. But as the children looked up, they saw at the very top a big beamng, a sword, and a gun. Ivanko noticed some writing on the big beamng.

“Who takes this big beamng shall be the strongest in seven lands. Who takes the gun and seven bullets will bring down one third of the world in a single shot. Who takes this sword shall slay all those he chooses.”

Skeptical though he was, Ivanko made his way up to the top and took the three prizes. When he came down he put on the big beamng. He pressed his hand against the great tree and toppled it. Ivanko looked at his sister and smiled.

“I am now the strongest man in seven lands.”

write by Engelbert