Alyosha Popovich

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Strong bogatyr Alyosha Popovich. Lubok.
Bogatyrs (1898) by Viktor Vasnetsov with Alyosha Popovich on the right hand side.

Alyosha Popovich (Russian: Алё́ша Попо́вич, literally Alexey, son of the priest), is a folk hero of Kievan Rus, a bogatyr (i.e., a medieval knight-errant). He is the youngest of the three main bogatyrs, the other two being Dobrynya Nikitich and Ilya Muromets. All three are represented together at Vasnetsov's famous painting Bogatyrs.

In Byliny (oral stories) he is described as a crafty priest's son who wins by tricking and outsmarting his foes. He is known for his agility, slyness, and craftiness. Alyosha Popovich is fun-loving, sometimes being depicted as a "mocker of women," and may occasionally be a liar and a cheat.[1] He defeated the dragon Tugarin Zmeyevich by trickery. In later versions the dragon was transformed into the figure of a Mongol Khan.

Alyosha Popovich and Tugarin[edit]

In this bylina Alyosha Popovich and his servant, Yekim, set out for Kiev to meet King Vladimir. When they arrive at Kiev, Prince Vladimir is having a feast. Prince Vladimir offers Alyosha Popovich to sit next to him, but Alyosha Popovich refuses and decides to take the lowest place in the social hierarchy by sitting next to the stove.[2] At the feast, the monster Tugarin insults the Prince by sitting between Vladimir and his wife. Tugarin also does not pray to God and gorges himself at the feast. Alyosha Popovich, who is disgusted with the way Tugarin is acting, insults the creature with stories about the deaths of a dog and a cow.[3] Tugarin is provoked by these stories and throws a dagger at Alyosha Popovich. Then, Alyosha Popovich accepts Tugarin's challenge to fight. The battle takes place in an open field, and when Alyosha Popovich arrives, Tugarin is already flying in the sky on his wings made of paper. Alyosha Popovich prays for rain, and Tugarin falls to the ground because his paper wings get wet. Finally, Alyosha Popovich knocks Tugarin's head off with his staff, sticks it on a spear, cuts his body into small pieces, and presents it to Prince Vladimir's court.[4]

Soviet (Russian) historian Boris Rybakov wrote that this bylina reflected the victory of Vladimir Monomakh over Polovetsian commander Tugorkhan.[5]

Alyosha Popovich in fiction[edit]

Alyosha Popovich is the member of Vladimir Monomakh's armed force in Vadim Nikolayev's historical novel Bogatyr's Armed Force of Monomakh. Rus' in the Fire! The author of the annotation wrote that epic heroes are fighting here with real enemies of Russian Land, not with mythical monsters.[6]

References[edit]

  • Bailey, James; Tatyana Ivanova (1998). An Anthology of Russian Folk Epics. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc. ISBN 0-585-26579-8. 

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Bailey, p. 121.
  2. ^ Bailey, pp. 121-122.
  3. ^ Bailey, p. 122.
  4. ^ Bailey, pp. 122-129.
  5. ^ (Russian) B. A. Rybakov. The World of History. First Centuries of Russian History. Moscow, 1987. P. 196.
  6. ^ (Russian) Vadim Nikolayev. Bogatyr's Armed Force of Monomakh

This article incorporates material from the public domain 1906 Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary.