Read this fairytale substituting “Ivan” for “PhD-student”, “Tsar” for PhD-advisor, “Firebird” for tenure, and “Gray Wolf” for the pitfalls of academic life. Don’t forget that this is a fairytale and in real life by far not all Prince Ivans marry the princess and life happily ever after. Not to mention that Elena the Fair may also be on the PhD job market and then they would have the Two Hero Problem. [I’m not even beginning to say anything about the gender politics of fairytales]. The crossroads is the “what now” moment after your PhD where all possible roads lead to problems.
Which head to slay first: PhD student adventures
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Ivan Tsarevich, the Firebird, and the Gray Wolf
(translation of a classic Russian fairytale edited by Anna Anashikina, reposted from http://www.therussianstore.com/blog/the-tale-of-ivan-tsarevich-the-firebird-and-the-gray-wolf/)
A Very long time ago in a certain kingdom there reigned a Tsar who had three sons, the first was Dimitriy Tsarevich, the second – Vassiliy Tsarevich, and the third – Ivan Tsarevich. The Tsar had a magnificent orchard, where grew his favorite magic apple-tree with golden apples. However every night a Firebird fell into the habit of flying on that apple-tree and tear away few apples. Its feathers were red-and-gold, and bright as a fire, her eyes were like Eastern crystals.
The Tsar ordered each of his sons to catch the Firebird alive and promised a half of the kingdom for that. The two elder brothers fell asleep while watching. On the third night the youngest son, Ivan, went to the orchard. He saw the Firebird, crept to it and grabbed it by the tail. But the Firebird managed to get free, leaving to Ivan only a bright tail feather. Since then the Firebird stopped visiting the orchard, but the Tsar ordered his three sons to find and bring him the Firebird alive for the half of the kingdom. All three sons saddled their horses and rode their ways.
Ivan rode far away and get to an open field, where he saw a sign-post with the following words: “If you go to straight, you will be cold and hungry; if you go to the right, you will be alive and healthy but loose your horse; if you go to the left, you will be dead but the horse will be alive and healthy.” Ivan Tsarevich decided to go to the right, he rode two days and on the third day he met a big Gray Wolf, who tore the Ivan’s horse in pieces.
Ivan walked all day long, he was very tired, and suddenly the Gray Wolf overtook him. The Gray Wolf felt sorry for Ivan and offered his assistance of taking him to his destination, since he killed Ivan’s horse.
Ivan Tsarevich got on the back of the Gray Wolf and they were on their way to a kingdom where the Firebird lived. The Tsar of that kingdom after listening to Ivan’s wish to take away the Firebird, agreed to give his Firebird to Ivan in exchange for a golden-crested horse from the neighboring kingdom. The Tsar who was the master of the golden-crested horse agreed to give away his horse in exchange for a beautiful Elena the Fair, who was the daughter of the next kingdom Tsar. However, with help of the Gray Wolf, Ivan managed to get the Firebird for his father, and the wonderful horse and Elena the Fair for himself.
When they came to the border of Ivan’s father kingdom, Ivan and Elena said good-bye to the Gray Wolf and stopped to rest. While they were sleeping, Ivan’s two elder brothers, returning from their unsuccessful expedition, came across the two and killed Ivan. They threatened Elena to kill her as well if she will tell anyone what had happened.
Ivan Tsarevich laid dead for thirty days until the Gray Wolf found him. The Gray Wolf got water of death and water of life and revived Ivan. Ivan got to his home palace on the back of the Gray Wolf just at the wedding day of his brother Vassiliy Tsarevich and Elena the Fair. There Ivan, with help of Elena, told his father what had happened to him. The Tsar got so furious with his elder sons that he threw them to prison.
Ivan Tsarevich and Elena the Fair married, inherited the kingdom and lived in love for many years.