St. John's Eve (short story)

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"St. John's Eve"
AuthorNikolai Gogol
Original title"Вечер накануне Ивана Купала"
TranslatorIsabel Florence Hapgood
CountryRussian Empire
SeriesEvenings on a Farm Near Dikanka
Published inOtechestvennye Zapiski
Publication typeliterary magazine
Media typePrint (periodical)
Publication dateFebruary–March 1830
Published in English1886
Preceded by"The Fair at Sorochyntsi"
Followed by"May Night"

"St. John's Eve" (Russian: Вечер накануне Ивана Купала; translit. Vecher nakanune Ivana Kupala) is the second tale in the collection Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka by Nikolai Gogol.[1] It was first published in 1830 in the literary Russian periodical Otechestvennye Zapiski in February and March issues, and in the book form in 1831.

Plot summary[edit]

This story is retold by Rudy Panko from Foma Grigorievich, the sexton of the Dikanka church. Rudy was in the middle of reading the story to the reader, when Foma butts in and demands to tell it his way. His grandfather used to live in an old village not far from Dikanka that no longer exists. There lived a Cossack named Korzh, his daughter Pidorka and his worker Petro. Petro and Pidorka fall in love, but Korzh catches them one day kissing and is about to whip Petro for this, but stops when his son Ivas pleads for his father to not beat the worker. Korzh instead takes him outside and tells him to never come to his home again, putting the lovers into despair. Petro wants to do whatever he can to get her, and meets up with Basavriuk, a local stranger who frequents the village and many believe to be the devil himself. Basavriuk tells Petro to meet him in Bear’s Ravine and he’ll show him where treasure is in order to get back Pidorka.

He has to find a fern that blooms on Kupala Night, a folk legend not based in fact. Basavriuk tells Petro to pluck the flower he finds, and a witch appears who hands him a spade. When he finds the treasure with the spade, he cannot open it until he sheds blood, which he agrees to do until he finds that they captured Ivas in order to acquire it. He refuses at first but in a fury of uncertainty lops off the child’s head and gets the gold. He falls asleep for two days and when he awakens he sees the gold but cannot remember how he got it. After they are married, things go downhill and Petro becomes increasingly distant and insane, thinking all the time that he has forgotten something. Eventually, after a time, Pidorka is convinced to visit the witch at Bear’s Ravine for help, and brings her home. Petro then remembers, upon seeing her, what happened and tosses an axe at the witch, who disappears. Ivas appears at the door with blood all over him and Petro is carried away by the devil. All that remains is a pile of ashes where he once stood and the gold has turned into pieces of broken pottery.

After this, Basavriuk begins to appear in the village again and Pidorka goes on a pilgrimage. Foma’s grandfather’s aunt still had problems with the devil however; a party is ruined when a roast lamb comes alive, a chalice bows to his grandfather and a bowl begins to dance. Even after sprinkling the entire area with holy water the tavern is still possessed, so the village becomes abandoned.


This short story was famously the main inspiration for the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky's tone poem, Night on Bald Mountain, made known to the wider international audience by its use in Disney's Fantasia.

The story was adapted in an eponymous Ukrainian SSR movie directed by Yuri Ilyenko and featuring Larisa Kadochnikova and Boris Khmelnitsky in lead roles that was released in the Soviet Union in February 1969.


  1. ^ Susanne Fusso; Priscilla Meyer; Nikolaĭ Vasil (1992). Essays on Gogol: Logos and the Russian Word. Northwestern University Press. ISBN 0-8101-1191-8.

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