Once upon a time there lived a wealthy merchant, who had three beautiful daughters. Once he decided to do business overseas. He called for the daughters and asked what gifts should he bring them. The elder asked for the golden crown with precious gems that could produce light and the second wanted a dressing table with a mirror which added to the person's beauty. The merchant knew these would be difficult to obtain, but within his means. The younger, named Nastenka (a diminutive form of the given name Anastasia), asked for the most beautiful scarlet flower in the world. The merchant did not know where he could find such a flower, but promised not to disappoint.
Everything went well. The merchant bought all gifts, except for the scarlet flower. He saw many scarlet flowers, but not the most beautiful one. On the way home he was attacked by robbers, fled into the woods and became lost. When he awoke the next morning he saw a splendid palace "in flame, silver and gold". He walked inside, marveling at the splendor, but the palace was seemingly empty. Spread before him was a luxurious feast, and he sat down and ate. When he walked out to the garden he saw the most beautiful scarlet flower, and knew it was the one his daughter desired. Upon picking it, the terrible Beast of the Forest leapt out and confronted the merchant, asking him why he dared pick the scarlet flower, the one joy of the beast's life. The beast demanded that the merchant repay him and forfeit his life. The merchant begged for mercy and to be returned to his daughters. The beast allowed this on the one condition that within the next three days one of his daughters would willingly take her father's place and live with the beast, or the merchant's life would be forfeit. The beast gave the merchant a ring, and the girl that put it on the littlest finger of her right hand would be transported to the palace. Then the beast magically transported the merchant home, with all his wealth and treasures restored.