The Death of Koschei the Deathless
The Death of Koschei the Deathless or Marya Morevna is a Russian fairy tale collected by Alexander Afanasyev in Narodnye russkie skazki and included by Andrew Lang in The Red Fairy Book. The character Koschei is an evil immortal man who menaces young women with his magic.
Ivan Tsarevitch had three sisters, the first was Princess Marya, the second was Princess Olga, the third was Princess Anna. After his parents die and sisters get married to three wizards, he leaves his home in search of his sisters. He meets Marya Morevna, the beautiful warrior princess, and gets married to her. After a while she announces she is going to go to war and tells Ivan not to open the door of the dungeon in the castle they live in while she will be away. Overcome by the desire to know what the dungeon holds, he opens the door soon after her departure and finds Koschei, chained and emaciated. Koschei asks Ivan to bring him some water; Ivan does so. After Koschei drinks twelve buckets of water, his magic powers return to him, he tears his chains and disappears. Soon after Ivan finds out that Koschei took Marya Morevna away, and chases him. When he gets him for the first time, Koschei tells Ivan to let him go, but Ivan doesn't give in, and Koschei kills him, puts his remains into a barrel and throws it into the sea. Ivan is revived by his sisters' husbands, powerful wizards, who can transform into birds of prey. They tell him Koschei has a magic horse and Ivan should go to Baba Yaga to get one too, or else he won't be able to defeat Koschei. After Ivan stands Yaga's tests and gets the horse, he fights with Koschei, kills him and burns his body. Marya Morevna returns to Ivan, and they celebrate his victory with his sisters and their husbands.
Peter Morwood wrote an expanded version of this tale in the novel Prince Ivan, the first volume of his Russian Tales series.
Gene Wolfe retold this as "The Death of Koshchei the Deathless", published in the anthology Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears and reprinted in his collection Strange Travelers.
Catherynne M. Valente released a novel based on the story, titled "Deathless" in 2011.
In the 7th Sea tabletop role-playing game setting, Koshchei Molhynia Pietrov, aka Koshchei the Undying is an enigmatic Boyar who entered into a strange contract with the Baba-Yaga-esque Ussuran patron spirit in order to receive a form of immortality. In contrast to the usual myth, he is portrayed in a sympathetic light and seems to be intended to serve (similarly to the Kami, Togashi in the Legend of the Five Rings RPG by the same publishers) as a source of adventure hooks and occasionally a Donor (fairy tale) to whom it is perilous in the extreme to apply.
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