Sixty Folk-Tales From Exclusively Slavonic Sources by A. H. Wratislaw
XXXIV. Ilya of Murom and Nightingale the Robber
XXXIV. Ilya of Murom and Nightingale the Robber
IN the famous city of Murom, in the village of Karatcharof, lived a peasant, Ivan Timofeewitch. He had an only child, Ilya Murometz. He sat as children do for thirty years, and when thirty years had passed, he began to walk firmly on his feet, became conscious of vast strength, made himself a warrior's equipment and a steel spear, and saddled a good horse, worthy of a hero. He went to his father and mother, and begged their blessing. 'My honoured father and mother, let me go to the famous city of Kief to perform my devotions to God, and to kneel to the Prince of Kief.' His father and mother gave him their blessing, laid upon him serious injunctions, and spoke to this effect: 'Ride straight to the city of Kief; straight to the city of Chernigof, and on your road do no injury, shed no Christian blood causelessly.' Ivan Murometz received the blessing of his father and mother, prayed to God, took leave of his father and mother, and started on his journey.
He travelled far on into the gloomy forest, until he came to a robbers' camp. The robbers espied Ilya Murometz, and their robber hearts burned for his heroic horse, and they began to talk together about taking his horse from him, for they were not wont to see such horses anywhere, and now an unknown man was riding on so good a horse. And they arose to assail Ilya Murometz by tens and twenties. Ilya Murometz halted his heroic horse, and took out of his quiver an arrow of guelder-rosewood, and placed it on his tough bow. He shot the arrow of guelder-rosewood along the ground, and it penetrated to the distance of a fathom slanting. Seeing this, the robbers were terrified, collected into an orb, fell on their knees, and said: You are our lord and father, valiant and good youth! We are guilty before you; take for such a fault as ours as much as you please of coloured raiment and herds of horses.' Ilya smiled and said: 'I've nowhere to put it; but if you wish to live, don't venture any further!' and rode on his way to the famous city of Kief.
He rode on to the city of Chernigof, and under that city of Chernigof were standing armies of heathen innumerable, and they were besieging the city of Chernigof, and wanted to destroy it and ravage the churches of God therein, and to take into captivity the Prince and Duke of Chernigof himself. Ilya Murometz was terrified at this great force; nevertheless, he committed himself to the Lord God, his Creator, and determined to risk his head for the Christian faith. Ilya Murometz began to slaughter the heathen forces with his steel spear, and defeated all the pagan power, and took captive the heathen prince, and led him into the city of Chernigof. The citizens came out of the city of Chernigof to meet him with honour; the Prince and Duke of Chernigof came himself. They received the good youth with honour, and gave thanks to the Lord God, because the Lord unexpectedly sent deliverance to the city, and caused them not all to perish in vain at the hands of such a heathen host. They received him into their houses, made him a great entertainment, and let him proceed on his journey.
Ilya Murometz rode off towards the city of Kief by the direct road from Chernigof, which had been beset for full thirty years by Nightingale the robber, who allowed neither horseman nor foot-traveller to pass, and slew them not by any weapon, but by his robber whistling. Out rode Ilya Murometz into the open country, and espied the tracks of horses, and rode on upon them, and arrived at the Branskian forest, at the muddy swamps, at the bridges of guelder-rosewood, and at the river Smorodinka. Nightingale the robber forboded his end and a great misfortune, and before Ilya Murometz approached within twenty versts, began to whistle vigorously with his robber whistling; but the hero's heart was not terrified. Then, before he approached within ten versts, he began to whistle still more violently, and from this whistling Ilya Murometz's horse tottered under him. Ilya Murometz rode up to the nest itself, which was constructed upon twelve oaks. Nightingale the robber espied the hero of Holy Russia, whistled with all his might, and wanted to smite Ilya Murometz to death.
Ilya Murometz took down his tough bow, placed on it an arrow of guelder-rosewood, shot it at Nightingale's nest, struck his right eye and knocked it out. Nightingale the robber tumbled down like a sack of oats. Ilya Murometz took Nightingale the robber, bound him fast to his steel stirrup, and rode on towards the famous city of Kief. On the way stood a mansion belonging to Nightingale the robber, and when Ilya Murometz came opposite the robber's mansion, the windows thereof were open, and at these windows the robber's three daughters were looking out. The youngest daughter saw him, and cried to her sisters: 'There's our father outside coming with booty, and leading to us a man bound to his steel stirrup.' But the eldest daughter looked, and began to weep bitterly. That isn't our father coming: it's an unknown man coming, and leading our father.' They began to scream to their husbands: 'Our dear husbands! ride and meet the man, and take our father from him; do not let our family be put to such contempt.' Their husbands, strong heroes, rode against the hero of Holy Russia; their horses were good, their spears were sharp, and they were about to receive Ilya on their spears. Nightingale the robber espied this, and said to them: 'My dear sons-in-law, do not cause yourselves to be put to shame, and do not provoke so mighty a hero; rather with humility entreat him to drink a cup of green wine in my house.' At the request of the sons-in-law, Ilya turned into the house, not knowing their villainy. The eldest daughter raised on chains an iron slab, which was placed over the door, in order to crush him. But Ilya observed her at the door, struck her with his spear, and smote her to death.
When Ilya Murometz arrived at Kief city, he rode straight to the prince's palace, and entered the house, which was of white stone, prayed to God, and knelt to the prince. The Prince of Kief asked him: 'Tell me, good youth, how men name you, and of what city you are a native?' Ilya Murometz made reply: 'My lord, men call me Little Ilya, but by my father's family I am an Ivanof; a native of the city of Murom, of the village of Karatcharof.' The prince inquired: 'By what road did you ride from Murom?' 'By that of Chernigof, and under the walls of Chernigof I defeated an innumerable heathen host, and delivered the city of Chernigof. Thence I proceeded by the direct road, and took captive the mighty hero, Nightingale the robber, and led him hither with me bound to my steel stirrup.' The prince, becoming angry, said: 'What a lie you are telling!' When the heroes, Alesha Popovitch and Dobrynya Nikititch, heard this, they flew to look, and assured the prince that it really was so. The prince ordered a cup of green wine to be brought to the good youth. The prince had a wish to listen to the robber's whistling. Ilya enveloped the prince and princess in a sable mantle, placed them beneath his arms, summoned Nightingale, and commanded him to give the Nightingale whistle with half strength. But Nightingale the robber whistled with his full robber whistle, and deafened the heroes, so that they fell on the floor. For this Ilya Murometz slew him.
Ilya Murometz made a brotherhood with Dobrynya Nikititch. They saddled their good steeds, and rode into the open country to seek adventures; and they rode full three months without finding any adversary. But they rode on in the open country; there came a wandering beggar: the ragged dress upon his back weighed fifty poods, his hat nine poods, his staff was ten fathoms long. Ilya Murometz began to urge his horse toward him, and was about to match his heroic strength with him. The wandering beggar recognised Ilya Murometz, and said 'Oh! you are Ilya Murometz. If you remember, we learnt to read and write together at one school, and now you are urging your horse against a poor cripple like me, as against an enemy. But this you don't know, that in the famous city of Kief a great misfortune has happened. An infidel, a mighty hero, the unclean Idolishtcha, has arrived. His head is as big as a beer caldron, his shoulders are a fathom broad, the distance between his eyebrows is a span, that between his ears is an arrow of guelder-rosewood; he eats an ox at a time, and drinks a caldron at a draught; and the Prince of Kief is very grieved about you, because you have left him in such perplexity.' Clothing himself in the beggar's dress, Ilya Murometz went straight to the prince's court, and cried with heroic voice: 'Oh, is it you, Prince of Kief? Send me an alms, wandering beggar that I am.' The prince saw him, and spake as follows: 'Come into the palace to me, beggar; I will give you your fill of food and drink, and gold for your journey.' And the beggar entered the palace and stood by the stove; he looked on at what was occurring. Idolishtcha asked for something to eat. They brought him a whole ox roasted, and he ate it up, bones and all. Idolishtcha asked for something to drink. They brought him a caldron of beer, carried by twenty men; he took it up by the handles, and drank it all up. Ilya Murometz said: 'My father had a greedy mare; she over-ate herself and died.' Idolishtcha didn't stand that, and said: 'Oh, it's you, wandering beggar! Why do you insult me? It's nothing to me to take you up in my hands. Nay, what are you? If such an one as Ilya Murometz was among you, I'd make a fight of it even with him.' 'Then here's such an one as he,' said Ilya Murometz, and, taking off his hat, struck him gently on the head with it.--But he broke through the wall of the house, took the corpse of Idolishtcha, and threw it out by the rent. For this the prince honoured Ilya Murometz with great commendations, and placed him on the list of mighty heroes.
The text came from:
Wratislaw, A. H. Sixty Folk-Tales From Exclusively Slavonic Sources. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, & Company, 1890.