Once upon a time there was a peasant family that owned one wheat field. One morning they found that during the night, someone had been trampling around in the field and ruining the wheat. The two elder brothers stood guard during the next two nights, but because of storms and cold winds they left the field, and in the morning it was trampled down even more. On the third night the youngest brother Ivan, whom everyone thought was the fool in the family, managed to catch the wonderful mare that had been destroying the field.
The mare begged him to let her go and in exchange gave Ivan two golden-maned steeds of unheard-of beauty and a small humpbacked pony who would be Ivan's best friend. When the time came, Ivan and his brothers went to the fair to sell the two fine older horses. On the way Ivan found a shiny feather from a firebird and kept it, despite his pony's warning not to touch it.
At the fair, the tsar himself fell in love with the horses and bought them. But they broke free from their bridles and went back to Ivan. So the tsar offered him job at the tsar's stable. The royal chamberlain, whose duties as head stableman had been given to Ivan, was angry at Ivan and spied on him. The chamberlain found out about the feather of the firebird and told the tsar. The tsar commanded Ivan to bring him the firebird herself or lose his head. With the help of the humpbacked pony, Ivan caught the rare bird and brought it to the tsar. The chamberlain was more incensed and jealous than ever.
Several weeks later the chamberlain told the tsar that in a faraway kingdom there lived a tsar-maiden of stunning beauty. He also said that Ivan boasted he could get that beautiful maiden. The tsar summoned Ivan and ordered him to find her. Ivan and the humpbacked pony succeeded. The tsar fell in love with her and proposed to her. She answered that she would marry him if he could bring her a ring she had lost. Ivan was sent to search for the ring.
On the way he helped a huge monster whale and the grateful whale retrieved the ring from the bottom of the ocean. The tsar-maiden, however, was not satisfied and told the tsar he was too old for her. To regain his youth, he would have to dip himself in three cauldrons of boiling water, boiling milk and ice cold water. Next day the tsar ordered Ivan to jump into the cauldrons to test the magic. Ivan was frightened, but the pony helped him again. Ivan emerged from the last cauldron as an extremely handsome young man. This encouraged the tsar to jump in the water, but he was boiled alive. Ivan and the tsar-maiden married, ruled the kingdom, and lived happily after that.