We feel grateful to be making our home in the historic Loveless Building– originally called the Studio Building, designed by Arthur L. Loveless (1873-1971) & built in 1930 as a place for Seattle artists to live and work. In 1931, the Russian Samovar (the original tenant of the space we occupy) commissioned the muralist Vladimir Shkurkin to paint the murals we enjoy to this day– depicting the story of a tsar, three sisters & of course, a swan-turned-princess.


the tale of tsar saltan by a.s. pushkin

translated from the russian

by Louis Zellikoff

Three fair maidens, late one night,

Sat and spun by candlelight.  

"Were our tsar to marry me,"

said the eldest of the three,

"I would cook and I would bake–

Oh, what royal feasts I'd make."

Said the second of the three:

"Were our tsar to marry me,

I would weave a cloth of gold

Fair and wondrous to behold."

But the youngest of the three

Murmured: "if he married me–

I would give our tsar and heir

Handsome, brave, beyond compare."


At these words their chamber door

Gently creaked– and lo, before

These three maidens' very eyes

Stood their tsar, to their surprise.

He had listened by their gate

Whither he'd been led by fate,

And the words that he heard last

Made his heart with love beat fast.

"Greetings, maiden fair," said he–

"My tsaritsa you shall be,

And, ere next September's done,

See that you bear me a son.

As for you, fair sisters two, 

Leave your home without ado;

Leave your home and follow me

And my bride that is to be.

Royal weaver, YOU I'll make,

YOU as royal cook I'll take."


nile's digest rendition

of the tale of tsar saltan

Three girls are hanging out one night, talking about the hottest boy in town– the tsar.

The oldest says, "If he'd marry me, I'd cook him the greatest meals."

"If he married me, I'd weave him the finest robes," says the middle sister.

"If he marries me, I'll give him a son and heir," says the youngest. (She hasn't yet decided on a profession, so I guess she offers what she can).

Lo and behold Tsar Saltan, like some creeper, is right outside the window, listening in.

"Babies?!" he says. "I'm in! Grab your sisters and we'll all live at the palace, happily ever after."

But they don't, because, you know, Russian fairytales. The elder sisters get jealous because while they're working their tails off, their younger sister is getting all the glory. So this royal cook and weaver, as well as their mother, the sly deceiver, conspire to oust the young queen from the kingdom– by locking her and her new son in a barrel, pushing it to sea.

This is when stuff gets really weird; the sea takes pity on the exiles and washes them onto a magic island and the son grows up super fast, springing out of the barrel fully grown in a matter of days.

One day, while off hunting to provide for he and his mother, he shoots down a kite (a type of hawk) that was attacking a swan. This grateful swan swears to help the prince with anything he desires, and to be reunited with his father is the prince's only wish. (I don't know, I probably would want a nice steak or something after that voyage and growing six feet in height).

Immediately the swan presents a beautiful city for the prince to rule over, crowning him Prince Guidon. Guidon creates grand and wondrous feasts and intrigues in attempt to impress merchants as they travel through, hoping word about this great new city and prince will make its way to the king.

To learn how his father responds to the great stories, magically, Prince Guidon follows the merchants by transforming into a mosquito and other flying and stinging creatures. And while Tsar Saltan is intrigued and interested in visiting his mysterious neighbor, he's continually dissuaded by his advisors, the royal cook and weaver, and their mother, sly deceiver. In rages, the prince stings and maims his aunts and grandmother in turns.

Eventually, after capturing a squirrel who eats golden acorns and barfs emeralds, gathering thirty-three brave and shining knights, and marrying the swan who turns out to be a princess, Tsar Saltan does come for a visit, and the entire family is happily reunited once again (except for the cook and weaver, and their mother, sly deceiver, who are disfigured and in indentured servitude).