An extract from a collection of folk songs compiled by P. N. Rybnikov
Bylinas and songs about Svyatogor are some of the earliest in Russian folklore; they appeared even before Christianity was adopted in Russia. Svyatogor, an ancient Russian mountain-dwelling bogatyr, is portrayed as a warrior of impressive stature and enormous strength. Sometimes his overwhelming strength feels more like a burden to him; surviving bylinas describe his appearance rather than his actual heroic deeds.
His name emphasizes that he lives high upin the mountains. Perceptions of his appearance were formed back in the days when heroic strength was associated predominantly with great height and supernatural strength. Svyatogor’s immense strength exceeds all possible human limits and possession of this strength is all that matters. He is capable of doing any kind of glorious deed but in fact, his acts of heroism are not reflected in bylinas.
At first sight, Mikula Selyaninovich seems to be the antithesis of Svyatogor. He is a ploughman who travels on foot with nothing but a saddlebag. Mikula outdoes Svyatogor in just one way — with his unique agricultural skills that enable him to lift the bag with the ‘worldly burden’, of which the mountain-dwelling bogatyr is incapable.
This ‘worldly burden’ is the key to understanding Svyatogor’s image and the most popular bylina about him. Svyatogor lives in the mountains, while his counterpart is used to the plains and open fields, and what the ploughman, Mikula, can do, is impossible to achieve for the celestial bogatyr. It is interesting that Mikula’s down-to-earth qualities were much more understandable for the people than Svyatogor’s supernatural strength.
A team of craftsmen tried to depict the opposition of the two folklore characters. In addition to the great choice of materials for Svyatogor’s garment, which features meticulous carving of his chain mail made of pyrite, the basis of the sculpture deserves special attention. The fairy-tale ambiance is achieved mostly through the combination of grass-covered mounds made of various shades of nephrite and a block of chalcedony with a thin crust of green crystals.
The bogatyr who is higher than the forest,
And whose head reaches the moving clouds,
Svyatogor set off on a journey along a wide road
And came across a stranger.
He urged his horse to catch upwith the stranger,
But he couldn’t.
He went at a trot — the stranger was ahead.
He went slowly — but the stranger was still ahead.
Then the bogatyr said,
‘Hey, stranger, slow down a little,
I cannot catch upwith you on my fine horse!’
The stranger stopped,
Took a bag off his shoulder
And put it on the dampearth
Bogatyr Svyatogor said,
‘What’s in your bag?’
‘Lift it from the ground and you will see’.
Svyatogor dismounted his horse,
Gripped the bag with his hand, but could not move it;
He tried lifting it with both hands —
But he could only gaspfor air
And sank into the ground to his knees.
Then the bogatyr asked,
‘What’s in your bag?
I have enormous strength,
But cannot lift the bag!’
‘In my bag I have the weight of the earth.’
‘Who are you and what is your name,
And your father’s name?’
‘I am Mikulushka Selyaninovich!’
Svyatogor and Mikula
Alexey Antonov’s Studio
Design: Ivan Golubev
Craftsmen: Faris Khayrlanamov, Nikolay Skripin, Igor Golokhvastov
Bronze work: Anastasia Mirkuryeva
Jeweller: Pavel Vetrov
Materials: pyrite, chalcedony, jasper, lazurite, quartz rock, nephrite, fossilized wood, crystal, Shaytan perelivt, dolerite, bronze, gold and silver
Dimensions: 62 × 60 × 40 cm