An extract from bylina ‘Ilya Muromets and Nightingale the Robber’
Wonderful stories about the deeds of the extraordinary heroes of epic poems — bogatyrs — were handed down from generation to generation for many centuries in ancient Russia. Russian bogatyrs are famous for their incredible strength and patriotism; they always seek to protect their native land and restore justice. These stories used to be so popular that they evolved into a new genre — bylina (a Russian epic). However, stories about bogatyrs are known to and understood by everyone to this day and sometimes they serve as a basis for new fiction.
Ilya Muromets is one of the most popular epic heroes. He is a symbol of an ideal warrior and bogatyr. Unlike most characters from similar stories, Ilya wasn’t born a hero. On the contrary, he was born in a typical village to a peasant family and was disabled from birth, spending thirty years on a Russian stove, unable to move. When he was healed, however, he also acquired enormous strength, typical of bogatyrs. From that very day, he always strived to use his strength for the benefit of the people. This was why he left his village and went to Kiev — he wanted to serve his country.
His encounter with Nightingale the Robber was his first challenge and his first heroic deed. Nightingale the Robber (Solovei-Razboinik) was a mythical forest-dwelling monster from Russian epic tales who lived on a tree and intimidated people and animals. However, he did not attack, nor did he rob them. He hid in dense wood off the beaten path. His weapon was a deafening and, quite literally, deathly whistle, which made mountains tremble and caused trees to fall. He was especially frightening because he was blocking off the road to Kiev, which used to be the most direct and convenient, but became overgrown and untrodden — until Ilya Muromets needed to travel to Kiev, that is.
Ilya was the only person who was not afraid of the Nightingale’s whistle and fearlessness was precisely what was required to defeat the villain. No fight took place, Ilya simply shot an arrow from his bow. The Nightingale was defeated, though not dead. Ilya took him as a trophy to Kiev, where he showed him to the Prince to prove his strength.
The antagonism between Ilya and Nightingale is emphasized in this three-dimensional mosaic by the choice of materials for the background: what seems like an artificial pile-upof bull quartz crystals in pegmatite, in fact, occurs naturally. The symbol of nature — Nightingale the Robber — is portrayed in a garish shirt made of the same pegmatite (also known as graphic granite).
If we have a closer look at the main protagonist, Ilya Muromets, his time-stained chainmail bearing the evidence of many battles is a showcase of exquisite workmanshipbecause of the hard but extremely fragile nature of hematite (whose name originates from the Greek word for ‘blood’), which in Russian is often referred to as ‘blood stone’.
From the city of Murom,
From the village of Karacharovo,
Rode a daring and stout good youth.
He attended matins in Murom,
He wanted to be in time for vespers in the
capital city of Kiev.
Ilya urged on his bogatyr’s good steed,
He rode along the straight-traveled road.
His bogatyr’s good steed
Jumped from mountain to mountain
And bounded from hill to hill,
It leaped across small streams and lakes
Nightingale whistles like a nightingale,
He screams, the villain robber, like a wild animal.
And from the whistle of a nightingale,
And from the scream of a wild animal
All the grasses and meadows become entangled,
All the azure flowers lose their petals
All the dark woods bend down to the earth. <...>
Then the old Cossack Ilya Muromets
Took his taut supple bow,
He took it in his white hands,
He stretched the silken string,
He laid on a tempered arrow,
Then he shot it at Nightingale the Robber,
He knocked out Nightingale’s right eye and temple,
He dropped Nightingale to the dampearth,
He tied him to his right steel stirrup,
He carried him through the famous open field.
Ilya Muromets and Nightingale the Robber
Alexey Antonov’s Studio
Design: Timofey Paus
Craftsmen: Evgeny Vaskov, Sergey Cherkasov
Bronze work: Anastasia Mirkuryeva
Jeweller: Pavel Vetrov
Materials: quartz rock, chalcedony, pyrite, hematite (blood stone), jasper, pegmatite, lazurite, fossilized wood, tiger’s eye, gold, silver
Dimensions: 53 × 80 × 47 cm