Nikita the Tanner

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A wood engraving of the legend of Nikita

Nikita the Tanner, Nikita Kozhemyaka (Russian: Никита Кожемяка) or Mykyta Kozhumyaka (Ukrainian: Мики́та Кожум'я́ка), is an East Slavic folk hero (bogatyr), a character from a legend. In some sources he is called Kyrylo the Tanner (Ukrainian: Кирило Кожум'я́ка) (Russian: Кирилл Кожемяка)[1] or Elijah the Tailor (Russian: Илья Швец, Ukrainian: Ілля Швець). The oldest prototype on it could be found in Laurentian Chronicle.

The legend[edit]

The fairy tale of Nikita tells that a dragon, Zmey Gorynych, used to attack the lands of Rus and take beautiful girls as prisoners. One day he even kidnapped the daughter of the Kievan prince. To find out the dragon's weakness, the woman pretended to fall in love him. Gorynych revealed her there's only one person in the world that can defeat him: a tanner from Kiev, Nikita. The princess told these news to her pigeon, who alerted her father, the prince. The prince went to the tanner's house to ask for help. It took the prince a while to persuade Nikita into fighting, and the bogatyr refused the wealth and power that the prince offered him. Eventually, the prince gathered hundreds of children in front of Nikita's house, and they begged the bogatyr to save them from Gorynych's attacks. Only then Nikita agreed to fight.

Nikita then went to Gorynych's lair, and, after a long earth-shattering fight, had the dragon heavily beaten with his heavy wooden club. Frightened, the dragon offered Nikita to become allies and rule the world together. Nikita demanded that they plow the border of their halves of the world, then used the dragon instead of a plowing horse. After they plowed the furrow across the whole world, Nikita demanded that they plow further to divide the sea as well. The foolish Gorynych obeyed and drowned in the ocean.

In media[edit]

  • Kashchey the Immortal (1945), Sergei Stolyarov as Nikita. The film is loosely inspired by the legend and combines characters from various Russian folk tales.
  • Nikita Kozhemyaka (animated short film, 1965) - replaces the dragon with a nomadic horde.
  • Nikita Kozhemyaka (animated short, 2008) - an episode in the Mountain of Gems series of shorts, a relatively faithful, albeit comical, adaptation of the legend.
  • Nikita Kozhemyaka (animated feature film, 2016) - very loosely inspired by the legend; the main protagonist is Nikita's baby son.

See also[edit]



  • Warner, Elizabeth (2002). Russian myths, illustrated. Legendary past. British Museum. p. 80. ISBN 9780714127439.
  • Haney, Jack V. (1999). Russian Wondertales: Tales of heroes and villains. M.E. Sharpe. p. 135. ISBN 9781563244896.
  • A poem "Mykyta Kozhem'jaka" by Oleksandr Oles' (in Ukrainian)