At our weekly storytelling workshops via Zoom, we often explore stories that can help us navigate our own lives. 

In one session, we discussed the Russian fairy tale of Prince Ivan and the Firebird. In this tale, Prince Ivan was sent to look for a Firebird. After a very long time, the Prince came to a fork in the road, where a signpost read: "Whosoever goes from this pillar on the road straight before him will be cold and hungry. Whosoever goes to the right side will be safe and sound, but his horse will be killed. And whosoever goes to the left side will be killed himself, but his horse will be safe and sound."

After much thought, the Prince decided to take the right side. Soon a wolf appeared and devoured his horse. Feeling indebted to the Prince, the wolf decided to take the prince on his back to the Firebird.

Is the story saying that the prince made the right choice: to seek his soul or ‘inner wolf’, even though this may be hard and frightening? Perhaps, the wolf in this story symbolises the best, strongest, most truthful part of oneself. And the horse symbolises convention and safety.

In the discussion, our members pondered the meaning of the story and the options life brings.

One member said: “But there are always more than two options. Sometimes we have to look for new possibilities. The prince could have refused to make this choice and gone back the way he came.”

To which someone responded: “That’s true but it’s a different story. It deserves its own story – a story about how people often feel trapped by the assumption that there are only a couple of options.”  

In times like these, it can be hard to suppose that we have many options. But perhaps, by freeing our hearts and minds, we can find possibilities that we had never dared to hope might be there.

You can read a version of Prince Ivan and the Firebird story here.

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