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Sadko

In the ancient city of Novgorod lived a poor musician named Sadko who played the gusli (a dulcimer-like instrument). Sadko was an orphan and made a little bit of money playing his instrument and singing songs at feasts and celebrations. One day, when he hadn't been invited to any celebration and was feeling down, he sat at the shore of Lake Ilmen, singing many wonderful songs. When he had finished, the Water Elf rose out of the lake and said: "Thank you Sadko, gusli player. Today I had a big feast and all my guests were very pleased by your songs. I want to reward you by telling you a great secret."

The next day, there was a big feast at a merchant's house. The guests all began to engage in the traditional ritual of boasting about their wealth and possessions. They asked Sadko to join them. He replied modestly that he was not a wealthy man, but he knew one secret - there was a magic, golden fish in Lake Ilmen. Whoever ate it would become young again.

Nobody believed him. Finally the guests wagered that if Sadko could catch that fish they would give him all their goods. To everyone's astonishment he caught the golden fish and became one of the richest men in Novgorod. He built a big palace, married a lovely girl named Lubava, and became a prosperous merchant.

One day his fleet of ships was on the way home with a cargo of goods from other countries. But it happened that his ships were becalmed and could make no headway. Then Sadko realized the powerful Tsar of the Sea - Tsar Morskoy - wanted him to make an offering. From the ships they threw gold into the water hoping to appease the Tsar, but it didn't help.

Sadko then decided to sacrifice himself and jumped into the water. He found himself at Tsar Morskoy's palace deep in the sea. Tsar Morskoy invited him to play for his feast, and when he did, the guests and Tsar Morskoy started to dance. The Water Elf approached Sadko and whispered in his ear to stop playing because the dance was causing an awful storm on the sea above and ships were sinking, people were dying. When Sadko realized this, he began to pluck off strings of his gusli one by one until he couldn't play anymore. He told the Tsar he didn't have any extra strings.

The Water Elf told Sadko that Tsar Morskoy wanted the musician to stay in his sea kingdom to marry one of his girls. The Water Elf told Sadko to choose the last girl in the line because she was his sister and could help Sadko return home. Sadko did as he was advised and picked the last girl, the River Volkva. She comforted him and he fell asleep. When he woke up, he found himself at the river shore near Novgorod. He came home and was met by his wife Lubava, who was overjoyed at seeing him again. Everybody else was very surprised to see Sadko alive and well. Sadko and Lubava lived happily ever after.

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