A tsar hears that his precious fruits are being stolen nightly by a Firebird, and tells his sons whomever brings him the bird will be his heir. Only the youngest, given his turn to stand watch, remains awake and manages to drive off the bird and win a feather from it. The older brothers set out to retrieve it, find a stone warning of the perils ahead, and decide to stay where they are. Ivan follows them and chooses a path. On it, a wolf eats his horse and offers him aid. It gives him directions on how to steal the Firebird, but he disobeys and is captured, and sent off to steal a magic flying horse for the tsar he tried to rob. The wolf gives him directions on how to get the horse, but he disobeys and is caught again and is sent to kidnap Helena the Beautiful. He succeeds in carrying her off. With the wolf's help, he brings her and then the magic horse to the tsar who demanded them, but then steals back the girl and the horse, along with the Firebird, before leaving.
His brothers found him sleeping on his return. They kill him and walk off with the Firebird, the horse, and Helena the Beautiful. The wolf revives Ivan, and he returns to his father, whereupon Helena the Beautiful tells all that happened, and the brothers are thrown into prison and Helena and Ivan marry.
Full text here. It inspired the ballet "The Firebird" with music composed by Igor Stravinsky. Compare The Fire-Bird, the Horse of Power, and the Princess Vasilissa.
- Abduction Is Love: The wolf forcibly takes Helena and she weeps over it until she sees Ivan.
- Androcles' Lion: The wolf.
- At the Crossroads: Where the princes find the stone and decide whether to continue.
- Cain and Abel
- "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: The owners of the Firebird and the magic horse tell Ivan that they would have happily given him the animals out of respect for his father if he had just asked them.
- Distressed Dude
- Love at First Sight: Shortly after abduction, even.
- The Not-Love Interest: Let's face it, the wolf has a lot more interaction with Ivan than Helena does and he keeps on saving Ivan even when you wouldn't blame him for giving up on him as a lost cause.
- Sibling Triangle
- Single Woman Seeks Good Man: She prefers the man who tried.
- Talking Animal: As usual for Russian fairytales, the wolf is able to talk without explanation.
- Threshold Guardians: The warning stone drives off the older brothers; only Ivan is brave enough to continue.
- Too Dumb to Live: Ivan, would it hurt you to listen to the wolf who isn't even under any obligation to help you?
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: The wolf is able to take on the forms of Helena and the horse.
- You Have Waited Long Enough: Helena is told she must marry
- Youngest Child Wins