Ilya Muromets

Ilya Muromets (Russian: Илья́ Му́ромец, literally, "Elijah of Murom") is a Kiev Rus mythical hero. He is celebrated in numerous "byliny" (folk epic poems). Along with Dobrynya Nikitich and Alyosha Popovich he is regarded as the greatest of all the legendary "bogatyrs" (i.e., medieval Russian knights-errant). (The three of them are represented together at Vasnetsov's famous painting "Богатыри", as illustrated to the right.)

Ilya in "byliny"

According to legends, Ilya, the son of a farmer, was born in the village of Karacharovo, near Murom. He suffered serious illness in his youth and was unable to walk until the age of 33 (till then he was laid on a Russian Oven), when he was miraculously healed by two pilgrims. He was then given super-human strength by a dying knight, Svyatogor, and set out to liberate the city of Kiev from Idolishche to serve Prince Vladimir the Fair Sun ("Vladimir Krasnoye Solnyshko"). Along the way he single-handedly defended the city of Chernigov from invasion by the Tatars and was offered knighthood by the local ruler, but Ilya declined to stay. In the forests of Bryansk he then killed the forest-dwelling monster Nightingale the Robber ("Solovei-Razboinik"), who could murder travellers with his powerful whistle.

In Kiev, Ilya was made chief "bogatyr" by Prince Vladimir and he defended Rus from numerous attacks by the steppe people, including Kalin, the (mythical) tsar of Golden Horde. Generous and simple-minded but also temperamental, Ilya once went on a rampage and destroyed all the church steeples in Kiev after Prince Vladimir had failed to invite him to a celebration. He was soon appeased when Vladimir sent for him.

Legendary stature

Ilya Muromets's name became a synonym of an outstanding physical and spiritual power and integrity, dedicated to the protection of the Homeland and People and over time has become a hero of numerous movies, pictures, monuments, cartoons and anecdotes. He is the only epic hero canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church.

Although the remains of Ilya Muromets are supposedly stored in Kiev Pecherski Monastery, his character probably does not represent a unique historical persona, but rather a fusion of multiple real or fictional heroes from vastly different epochs. Thus, Ilya supposedly served Prince Vladimir of Kiev (years of rule: 980-1015); he fought Batu Khan, the founder of Golden Horde (c. 1205-1255); he saved "Constantine the God-Loving", the tsar of Constantinople, from a monster (there were a number of Byzantine emperors named Constantine, none of them contemporaries of Prince Vladimir or Batu Khan, and the one most likely to be called "God-loving" was Constantine XI, 1405-1453).

Ilya Muromets depictions

* Viktor Vasnetsov's 1898 painting "Bogatyrs" (center figure).
* Reinhold Glière's 1911 Symphony No 3 (Ilya Muromets) in B minor, op. 42
* Ilya Muromets is depicted on the 1913 Russian stamp.
* Viktor Vasnetsov's 1914 painting "Ilya Muromets".
* Aleksandr Ptushko's 1956 film "Ilya Muromets".
* Vladimir Toropchin's animated feature, "Ilya Muromets and Nightingale the Robber", released on July 7, 2007. []


* [ Encyclopedia Mythica]
* [ Russian Fairy Tales]
* [ The evolution of Christianity]

External links

* [ Pictures of Muromets] (in Russian)
* [ Gliere and his Third Symphony Ilya Murometz]

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