Stories of Ilya Muromets: Russian Knight & Bogatyr

Who is Ilya Bogatyr?

Ilya Muromets is a famous Russian folklore hero, known since the time of the Kievan Rus period, nearly 1000 years ago. The folk tales of Ilya Muromets describe him as being born from lowly peasants, and he himself suffered from illness that kept him bed ridden until the age of 33.

Ilya Muromets: Russian Knight & Bogatyr

At that time however, his illness was treated by passing pilgrims that also gave him great strength. This allowed Ilya to become a man of valor and spread his legend throughout the Slavic lands.

Ilya Mūromets And Svyatogór The Knight

From the famous city of Múrom, out of the village of Karachárovo, the valiant, doughty youth Ilyá Múromets, the son of Iván, set out far into the open fields.

The valiant champion met on his way the mighty knight Svyatogór; and the good youth was afraid of him; the old Cossack, Ilyá Múromets, was afraid of Svyatogór the knight.

So he set his horse to browse and himself mounted a thick grey oak to avoid Svyatogór the knight.

Svyatogór the knight arrived under that same stout oak, put up his white linen tent, and took his wife out of his pocket. She spread out the chequered table-cloths and put sugary food and honeyed drink for him to eat.

Svyatogór ate until he was sated, and drank until he was satisfied, and lay down to repose.

Then the wife of the knight observed Ilyá up in the grey oak, and spoke to him in this wise:

“Hail, valiant and brave youth; climb down from the grey oak. If you do not climb down from the grey oak, you will arouse Svyatogór the knight, and he will give you to a speedy death.”

So Ilyá Múromets was afraid of Svyatogór, and slid down from the grey oak.

And again she spoke in this wise:

“Come and do fornication with me, good youth. If you do not, I will arouse Svyatogor the knight, and he will give you to speedy death.”

So he did as he was bidden and went with her into the pocket ot Svyatogór.

Svyatogór arose trom a sound sleep, saddled his horse, and went to the Holy Mountains. Then his horse began to sink fast into the earth, until the knight dug his spurs into his horse’s fat haunches.

Then the horse spoke with a human voice:

“I have carried you Svyatogor the knight and your young wife, but I cannot carry two knights and your young wite as well.”

So then Svyatogór put his hand into the depths of his pocket, took his young wife out, and discovered Ilyá Muromets.

How did you get into the depths of my pocket ?

Your young wife forced me in there; she threatened my life.

And Ilyá Múromets told Svyatogór the knight how he had fallen into the depths of the pocket.

So Svyatogór took his young wite, cut oft her unruly head, broke up her white body into four parts, and scattered them on the bare fields.

Then Ilyá and Svyatogór made themselves sworn brothers, and they set out to the Holy Mountains.

They came to a deep tomb, and the tomb was decked with red-gold. Svyatogór the knight lay down in that tomb as if it had been built for him.

“Cover me over with boards, my sworn brother,” he said.

And, as Ilyá covered him over with boards, the boards by Divine grace grew as they were required.

“Uncover me, my sworn brother.”

But llyá Múromets had not the strength to uncover him; so he began to break the boards with his sword, and wherever he brandished his sword, hoops arose in way.

“Take my sword, my sworn brother!”

And Ilyá took the sword, but had not the strength to lift it up.

“Come, my sworn brother, I will give you strength.”

Ilyá then went into the pit and Svyatogór breathed on him with his knightly breath. Then Ilyá took that sword, and wherever he made a stroke, iron hoops arose around.

“Come to me a second time, my sworn brother; I will give you more strength.”

Ilyá Múromets said at once:

“If I come down to you again, then our mother the grey earth will not be able to bear it: I have enough strength.”

But Svyatogór answered:

“If you had come down again I should have breathed on you with a fatal breath, and you would have lain down to sleep beside me.”

So there Svyatogór the knight remains to this day.

The Story Of The Brave And Doughty Knight Ilya Muromets And The Nightingale Robber

Once in the famous city of Múrom in the village of Karachárovo, a peasant lived who was called Iván Timoféyevich; he had one beloved son, Ilyá Múromets.

And he sat down in a house as a stay-at-home for thirty years, and after the thirty years had gone by he began to walk on his feet mightily, and he gained great strength.

Then he made himself the trappings of war and a lance of steel, and got himself a good steed, a knightly horse; he then went up to his mother and father and asked their blessing.

“Ye, my masters, my mother and father, let me go into the famous city of Kíev, to pray to God and to do homage to our prince at Kiév.”

The mother and father gave him their blessing, and made him swear a mighty oath, and they enjoined a mighty service upon him. And they spake in this wise:

“Do you go straight to the city of Kiev, straight to the city of Chernigov, and on your journeying do no one any hurt, spill no Christian blood vainly.”

Ilyá Múromets took the blessing of his father and mother, prayed to God, bade farewell to his father and mother, and set forth on his way and road.

And he journeyed far in the dark woods, and lighted on a camp of robbers. Those robbers saw Ilyá Múromets, and were envious in their robber-like hearts for his knightly horse, and began to speak amongst themselves how they might take that horse; for steeds so fine were not seen in those parts, and now some unknown man was passing by on one.

So they set on lyá Müromets, ten at once and then by twenties. And llyá Múromets stopped his knightly horse, took a tempered dart and set it on his strong bow. He let the tempered dart fall on the earth, and it tore into the earth fifty feet.

And seeing this, the robbers were afraid, and collected in a circle, fell on their knees and prayed him:

“Master, our father, youth mighty of prowess, we are guilty in thine eyes; and, for this our guilt, as it pleaseth thee, infict on us a fine as much as is fit, whether it be coloured clothes or droves of horses.”

Ilyá smiled at them and said:

“I need no garments, but, if you wish to enjoy your life, henceforth take no more hazards.”

And llyá Múromets set out on the road to Kíev. When he came under the walls of the city of Sébezh he saw three Tsarévichi from foreign parts, who had a host of thirty thousand men; they wished to capture the city of Sebezh and to take the sar of Sebezh prisoner.

So llyà Müromets set out after the three Tsarèvichi, and he pursued them down to the seashore and slew all the rest of the army, but captured the Tsarévichi alive and returned to the city of Sébezh, and the citizens saw him and gave news of this to their Tsar.

When he arrived at the city of Chernigov, under the walls ot the city of Chernigov there was a Saracen host too many to count besieging the city of Chernigov: they were going to sack it and to set God’s churches aflame, and to take captive the Prince, the Duke of Chernigov.

And at that mighty host and fray, llya Muromets was afraid, but he placed himself at the will of the Saviour, and thought how he would sacrifice his head for the Christian faith. Then Ilyá Múromets began to lay low the Saracen host with his lance of steel, and he routed all of the pagan host and took the Tsarévich of the Saracens captive and led him into the city of Chernígov.

As he entered, all the citizens of the city of Chernígov met him and gave him honour, and the Prince and Duke of Chernígov himself came out to receive the doughty youth with honour and to give thanks to the Lord God for sending such unexpected succour to the city and not letting them all perish help- lessly before the mighty Saracen host.

They received him into their palace and they gave him a great feast, and set him on his way.

Ilyá Múromets went to the city of Kíev straight from Chernígov on the road by the village of Kutúzovo, which the Nightingale Robber had been oppressing for thirty years, not letting any man pass, whether on horseback or on foot, and assailing them not with any weapon, but only with his robber’s whistle.

Ilyá Múromets rode into the open field and saw the scattered bones of knight and warriors. He rode over them and arrived at the Bryánski woods, the miry swamp, to the hazel-tree bridges, and to the Smoródina river.

The Nightingale Robber heard his end approaching, and felt a foreboding of a terrible ill; and before Ilyá Múromets had advanced twenty versts, he whistled with his powerful robber’s whistle.

But the valorous heart of Ilyá was not afraid, and before ever he had advanced ten versts more the Nightingale Robber whistled more terribly than before, and the horse of Ilyá Múromets stumbled at the sound.

At last Ilyá arrived at the nest, which was spread above twelve oaks, and the Nightingale Robber was sitting in the nest, saw the white Russian knight approaching, and began to whistle with all of his might, essaying to smite Ilyá Múromets to death.

llyá Múromets took out his strong bow, put a tempered dart to it, and shot it at the nest of the Nightingale Robber; it fell into his right eye and went beyond.

And the Robber-Nightingale fell down from his nest like a sheaf of oats. llyå Müromets took the Robber-Nightingale, tied him strongly to his steel stirrup and rode to the famous city of Kiev.

On his way he passed the palace of the Nightingale Robber, and as soon as he came up to the Robber’s palace the windows were opened and out of these windows the Nightingale Robber’s three daughters were looking.

The youngest daughter saw him, and cried out to her sisters:

“Here is our father coming back with booty: he is bringing us a man tied to his steel stirrup”

But the elder sister looked out and cried bitterly:

“That is not our father; some unknown man is coming along and is dragging our father after him.”

Then they cried out to their husbands:

“Masters, do ye go and meet that man and slay him for the slaying ofour father, lest our name be disgraced.”

Then their husbands, mighty warriors, set out to face the white Kussian knight. They had good horses, sharp lances, and they wished to hoist Ilya aloft on their lances.

The Nightingale Robber saw them, and said:

“My beloved sons, do not dishonour nor take such a bold knight, and so all receive your death from him; it would be better to ask his forgiveness in humbleness and to ask him into my house to have a goblet of green wine.”

So at the invitation of the sons-in-law, Ilyá returned home and received no evil of them.

The eldest daughter raised an iron storm-board of chains for him to stumble against; but Ilyá saw her on the gates, struck at her with his lance, and he smote her to death.

When Ilyá arrived at the city of Kíev, he went straight to the Prince’s courtyard, entered the white stone palace, prayed to God and did homage to the Prince. The Prince of Kiev asked him:

“Say, doughty youth, how do they call thee ? Of what city art thou?

And llyà Muromets returned answer:

“My lord, they call me lyushka, and by my father’s name Ivánov; live in the city of Múrom in the village of Karacharovo.”

Then the Prince asked him:

“By what road didst thou come ?”

“From Múrom by the city of Chernígov, and under the walls of Chernigov I routed a Saracen host too many to count, and I relieved the city of Chernigov. And from there went straight and I took the mighty Nightingale Robber alive and dragged him along at my steel stirrup.”

Then the Prince was angry and said:

“Why art thou telling such tales ?”

When the knights Alyósha Popóvich and Dobrýnya Nikitich heard this, they dashed out to look, and assured the Prince that this was really so.

Then the Prince bade a goblet of green wine be given to the doughty youth. The Prince, however, wished to hear the whistle of the Robber-Nightingale.

llyá Múromets put the Prince and Princess into a sable shuba, seized them under the arm, called in the Nightingale Robber and bade him whistle like a nightingale with only half his whistle.

But the Nightingale Robber whistled with all his robber’s whistle, and he deafened all of the knights, so that they fell to the ground, and as a punishment for this was slain by llya Muromets.

lyá Muromets swore blood brotherhood with Dobrynya Nikitich, then they saddled their good horses and rode forth on the open fhelds and they journeyed on for about three months and found no opponent worthy of their steel: they had only gone in the open field.

Then they met a passer-by, a beggar singing psalms.

His shirt weighed fifteen pud, and his hat ten pud, and his stick was ten sazhéns long.

llyá Müromets set on him with his horse, and was going to try his mighty strength on him.

Then the passing beggar saw llyá Múromets and said:

“Hail, Ilyá Múromets! Do you recollect ? I learned my letters with you in the same school, and now you are setting your horse on me, who am only a beggar as though I were an enemy, and you do not know that a very great misfortune has befallen the city of Kiev.”

The infidel knight, the mighty man, the dishonourable ldolishche, has arrived. His head is as big as a beer cauldron, and his shoulders a sazhén broad. There is a span length between his brows, and between his ears there is a tempered dart. And he eats an ox at a time and he drinks a cask at a time.

The Prince of Kíev is very aggrieved with you that you have left him in such straits.”

So Ilyá Múromets changed into the beggar’s dress and rode straight back to the palace of the Prince, and cried out in a knightly voice:

Hail to thee, Prince of Kiev, give me, a wandering beggar, alms.

And the Prince saw him and spoke in this wise:

“Come into my palace, beggar. I will give you food and drink and will give you gold on your way.”

So the beggar went into the palace and stood at the stove and looked round.

Idolishche asked to eat, so they brought him an entire toasted ox and he ate it to the bones then ldolishche asked for drink, so they brought him a cauldron of beer; and twenty men had to bring it in. And he held it up to his ears and drank it all through.

Ilyá Múromets said:

“My father had a gluttonous mare; it guzzled until its breath failed.

Idolishche could not stand this affront, and said:

“Hail, wandering beggar! Do you dare me ? I could take you in my hands; if it had been Ilyá Múromets I would even have braved him.”

“Well,” said Ilyá Múromets, “that is the kind of man he was!”

And he took off his cap and struck Idolishche lightly on the head, and he nearly knocked through the walls of the palace, took Idolishche’s trunk and flung it out.

And in return the Prince honoured Ilyá Múromets, praised him highly, and placed him amongst the mighty knights of his court.

Atlas Mythica

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