Dobrynya Nikitich (Russian: Добры́ня Ники́тич) is one of the most popular bogatyrs (epic knights) from the Rus' folklore. Albeit fictional, this character is based on a real warlord Dobrynya, who led the armies of Svyatoslav the Great and tutored his son Vladimir the Fair Sun.
Many byliny center on Dobrynya completing tasks set him by prince Vladimir. Dobrynya is often portrayed as being close to the royal family, undertaking sensitive and diplomatic missions. As a courtier, Dobrynya seems to be a representative of the noble class of warriors. He is a professional archer, swimmer, and wrestler. He plays the gusli, plays tafl, and is known for his courtesy and cunning.
Dobrynya and the Dragon
The bylina starts with Dobrynya's mother telling Dobryana to avoid the Saracen Mountains, to not trample on baby dragons, to not rescue Russian captives, and to not bathe in the Puchai River. Dobrynya disobeys his mother and does all four things.
When he bathed in the Puchai River, he encountered a dragon (sometimes identified as the three-headed Zmey Gorynych). Dobrynya could not defend himself, thinking he would die. Dobrynya then discovers "a hat of the Greek land" and uses it to defeat the dragon.
The dragon plead for Dobrynya to not kill him, and the two made a nonaggression pact. The dragon then flied off and captured Zabava Putyatishna, the niece of Prince Vladimir.
When Dobrynya arrived at Kiev, Prince Vladimir requested him to rescue his niece. He then went off Saracen Mountains to free his niece and fight the dragon.
Dobrynya fought the dragon for three days. On the third day he wanted to give up and leave, but a voice from Heaven tells to fight for three more hours. Dobrynya eventually kills the dragon in three hours.
The dragon's blood did not seep through the ground, and Dobrynya was stuck in it for three days. A voice from Heaven eventually told him to stick a spear in the ground and say an incantation. The blood was then swallowed by the earth, and Zabava was rescued.
Since Dobrynya is a peasant, he could not marry Zabava and gave her to Alyosha Popovich. Dobrynya encountered a polyanitsa, Nastasia, and marries her instead.
Appearances in classical culture
- Viktor Vasnetsov's famous painting Bogatyrs (1898) features Dobrynya Nikitich alongside fellow folk heroes, Ilya Muromets and Alyosha Popovich.
- In 1901, composer Alexander Grechaninov wrote an opera titled Dobrynya Nikitich.
Appearances in modern popular culture
- In 2015, Russian police gifted the French police a dog named after the folk hero Dobrynya in solidarity after the loss of a special French police dog in a raid following the November 13th attacks in Paris.
- In 2006, an animated feature film, Dobrynya Nikitich and Zmey Gorynych featured the bogatyr's exploits.
- Dobrynya Nikitich is the uncle of the great prince Vladimir I in Victor Porotnikov's historical dilogie (Dobrynya Nikitich. For Russian Land!, 2012; Bloody Christening «with the Fire and the Sword», 2013). Dobrynya Nikitich was also a member of Vladimir II Monomakh's armed force in the novel Bogatyr's Armed Force of Monomakh. Rus' in the Fire! (2014), written by Vadim Nikolayev.
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- Bailey, James; Tatyana Ivanova (1998). An Anthology of Russian Folk Epics. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc. ISBN 0-585-26579-8.
- Bailey, p. 81.
- Bailey, p. 82.
- Bailey, pp. 81–97.
- (Russian) Victor Porotnikov. Dobrynya Nikitich. For Russian Land!
- (Russian) Victor Porotnikov. Bloody Christening «with the Fire and the Sword»
- (Russian) Vadim Nikolayev. Bogatyr's Armed Force of Monomakh