Countess Natalya "Natasha" Ilyinichna Rostova (born 1792, according to the book; Russian: Наталья "Наташа" Ильинична Ростова, Natal'ja "Nataša" Il'inična Rostova, named Natasha Rostova in the Rosemary Edmonds version) is a central fictional character in Leo Tolstoy's novel War and Peace.
At the start of the novel in 1805, Natasha is a 12-year-old girl, the daughter of Count Ilya Rostov and Countess Natalya Rostova. She has fallen in love with young Prince Boris Drubetskoy, who lives with his mother in the Rostov estate. She becomes close friends with Count Pierre Bezukhov, who frequently visits the Rostovs. When Boris leaves to pursue a career in the staff of General Mikhail Kutuzov, their friendship evaporates, and at her first ball, Pierre introduces her to Prince Andrei Bolkonsky. They fall in love and become engaged, but Andrei's father objects to the match. He forces Andrei to postpone the marriage for a year, during which he serves as a staff officer on the Polish border. A visit to Andrei's father ends in a falling-out between Natasha and Princess Marya, Andrey's sister. During Andrei's absence, Prince Anatole Kuragin takes advantage of the situation by courting Natasha, even though he is already married. She succumbs to his charms, and tries to elope with Kuragin. Although this is thwarted by Natasha's cousin Sonya, Natasha hastily writes to Princess Marya, breaking off the engagement. After her plan to elope is ruined, Natasha attempts suicide. She is rescued by the doctor before she dies.
As Napoleon advances in Russia, the Rostovs are forced to evacuate their estate and retreat to their Moscow residence. When the Rostovs plan to evacuate Moscow, her parents use the carts for transportation of the wounded soldiers, and Natasha discovers that Andrei is among the wounded soldiers. She devotes all her time to nursing him.
After the French forces depart Moscow, Natasha again meets Andrei's sister Marya and together they nurse Andrei until he dies. They are reunited with Pierre, whose estranged wife Helene has died. Natasha and Pierre fall in love. Eventually, they marry and have four children.
The character of Natasha Rostova is difficult to portray on film or television, because she ages from a 13-year-old girl in book one to a 28-year-old mother of four at the end of the novel. Several actresses have portrayed Natasha Rostova to critical acclaim.
In 1956, Audrey Hepburn was cast as Natasha in King Vidor's War and Peace. She was nominated for a BAFTA Award for best British actress and for a Golden Globe Award for best actress in a drama production. Moreover, Harlow Robinson writes that Hepburn "makes a visually compelling Natasha...".
Other performances include those of Morag Hood in the 1972 BBC miniseries with Anthony Hopkins as Pierre, Lyudmila Savelyeva in Sergei Bondarchuk's adaptation, Clémence Poésy in the 2007 miniseries and Phillipa Soo in the New York musical adaptation, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.
The Encyclopedia of Literature remarks that Natasha "is undoubtedly Tolstoy's ideal woman," while the Academic American Encyclopedia describes her as "the embodiment of impulsiveness and spontaneity...". On the other hand, the transformation of her character towards the end of the novel from a joyous, spirited 'waif-like' beauty into a plump, rather slatternly woman who is only interested in her husband and children, has been criticized. Dorothea Barrett compares this to the description of a matronly Dinah Morris at the end of Adam Bede, which she calls 'inappropriate, almost humiliating'.
- Harlow Robinson, Russians in Hollywood, Hollywood's Russians: Biography of an Image (UPNE, 2007), 163.
- The Annual Register; World Events: World Events (St. Martin's Press, 1973), 449.
- Kenneth White Munden, The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States (University of California Press, 1971), 1191.
- Joseph Twadell Shipley, Encyclopedia of Literature (Philosophical Library, 1946), 833.
- Academic American Encyclopedia (Aretê Pub. Co., 1980), 25.
- Daniel Lattin, "Natasha Rostova vs. Anna Karenina: A Comparison of Falls from Grace"
- Andrew Kaufman, Oprah's Book Club, "Finding Inspiration in Tolstoy's War and Peace".
- Valeria Sobol, Columbia University, "Reading the Invisible: The Mind, the Body and the Medical Examiner in Lev Tolstoy's Anna Karenina"
- "Natasha Rostova (Character) from Voyna i mir (1967)," The Internet Movie Database