The Firebird, a creature of Slavic mythology

The Firebird (Slavic mythology) according to its legend, is a magical bird that shines brightly in distant lands, it is also said to be a blessing as well as a curse for whoever manages to capture it. In today’s article we will expose in detail the whole story behind this mythological creature.

pájaro de fuego (mitología eslava)

Legend of the Firebird (Slavic mythology)

The legend begins with one of Russia’s most acclaimed and courageous hunters, known as Ivan Tsarevich. He had no opponent when it came to going deep into the forests, walking the most difficult paths and climbing the most dangerous cliffs.One day, this hunter decided to hunt in a forest without foliage that he himself did not know. During his walk he had to slide down a rocky wall that ended in a clear waterfall. Zarevich was about to collect some of this water when he noticed in the distance an apple tree full of golden apples, and on one of the branches of this tree he noticed a bird with a plumage of various fiery shades. The hunter prepared his bow and arrow to give a lethal shot to the animal, however, it had enough time to fly away to avoid a fatal wound.

Despite this, the date struck before the bird fled, and to the hunter’s surprise, the bird could talk. It begged for his life, saying that he would be rewarded for it, told him to take its feathers and that if he was ever in danger he could shake them and it would come to his call, and he accepted what the bird told him and set it free. Then he went to the side of the rock where something was being celebrated, and when he reached the place he was enraptured by what was happening. In a landscape with nothing around, there was an enclosure surrounded by high walls, where some petrified knights were marching, and at the same time he observed how the doors of the enclosure opened and a group of young girls singing came out of them. One of them was so beautiful that the hunter felt the desire to meet her. As soon as the girl saw him pale, she warned him to run away from there, since that was the place of the demons of the sorcerer Kasvhei and if they saw him they would soon turn him into a statue.Zarhevich was not afraid, he himself told the girl that he was a prince, son of the Tsar, and then asked her name. However, the young woman had to move quickly with her companions to enter the castle again, but before the doors closed she whispered that they called her Tsarevna.Once the doors were closed the hunter thought only of seeing Tsarevna again, but he did not know how to do it. When night fell he took courage and knocked at the gates of the enclosure, for a short time in the sky began to resound thunder and lightning illuminated it. From the earth, snarling demons began to emerge and approached the Zarevich. Suddenly, a flash of lightning illuminated the darkness and revealed a figure, it was the sorcerer Kasvhei.

pájaro de fuego (mitología eslava)
The evil sorcerer raised his arms while reciting a chant and the demons were getting closer and closer to the hunter, he began to feel his limbs stiffen, he was becoming a statue. Filled with anguish, Ivan took out the feather the bird had given him and shook it. In a matter of seconds a bright spot appeared in the sky, approaching little by little causing the demons to retreat by stealth.The moment the bright spot materialized into the firebird (Slavic mythology), the demons covered their eyes and took cover as they growled. Suddenly, the ground began to tremble and the demonic horde that surrounded it opened up, and the wind died down and the clouds moved away to reveal the light of the firmament. There was no one around Zarévich, not even the wizard, but he knew that the wizard was still alive and he had to find him. The fire bird approached the hunter and told him that the wizard’s soul was under the apple tree, inside the roots of the tree he could glimpse a silver egg where the wizard’s soul resided, Ivan took the egg and when he took it out he threw it to the ground, from this impacted a cloud of black smoke and fire arose, this time the wizard had been defeated.

pájaro de fuego (mitología eslava)When Kasvhei died, the castle walls collapsed, the statue men came back to life and the maidens were free to return to their loved ones. Likewise, Tsarevna went in search of Ivan and when they met the lovers swore eternal love to each other while the bird of flight flew through the skies singing a beautiful melody.

Origin

The origin of the firebird (Slavic mythology) is lost in time, it is not known with certainty at what time in Russian history this legend was given, however, over the years it has had changes where it is revealed that the bird not only brings blessings to whoever captures it, but also suffers serious consequences. In this sense, there is a second legend in which the hunter is still the czar’s son, but in his journey through the forest he finds a feather of the firebird on the ground, so he decides to give it to him so he can recognize him. However, the tsar himself, grateful for the offering, ordered him to look for the bird, if he could not bring it back then he was to die.The young archer asked the tsar to scatter a hundred bags of corn on the meadow during the night and the next morning the young man set off in search of the bird. Getting down from his horse, the hunter climbed a tree and waited for the bird to appear. It did not take long when the bird pruned itself under the oak tree to eat.
At that instant the horse acted to seize the firebird while its master descended with three ropes to tie it up. Once he managed to catch the bird he took it to his tsar who was surprised by his action, However, now that he saw that he was able to complete the task, he ordered him to look for his beloved, and if he did not comply with the order he would die by his sword.The hunter asked the tsar to endow him with a silver tent and the most delicious food, the tsar complied with the request and the young man did not take long to leave for the country where the princess was. Upon arrival, the castle was across the sea, so the archer began to set up the tent, and from her bedroom the princess could see something sparkling on the shore of the sea, she left the castle and in a rowboat headed towards the shining thing. Upon reaching the shore the archer invited her to a meal and wine, the princess accepted out of curiosity. The wine did not take long to take effect and the young girl was already asleep, while she was in such a state the hunter took her to his kingdom, the tsar could not be happier, he asked the bells to ring with joy, which woke up the princess without knowing where she was. The tsar explained that she was far from home and that she would now be his wife.The young woman, full of disgust, told him that she could not marry anyone without her wedding dress, which was under a stone in the middle of the sea. Following such a request the tsar again ordered the hunter to go for the garment and that he would kill him if he did not return with it.


Again the young man set out with the steed and when they reached the seashore they saw a giant crab, the steed approached to kill it but the animal begged for its life saying that it would do anything for both of them. Then the steed asked him to go to the bottom of the sea to look for the princess’s dress. The crab nodded his head and sank into the water, after a few hours he returned with a chest containing the dress.Back at the castle, the princess was not pleased, she asked to kill the one who had kidnapped her by putting him in boiled water. The young man was imprisoned while the cauldron was being prepared, as a last wish he begged the Tsar to let him say goodbye to his horse, he granted it. While they were in the cell the steed told him not to worry that everything was going to be all right for him, that before they threw him out he should jump of his own free will.The hunter was taken to the cauldron and the mime was thrown into the water, twice he dived in and when he came out he had changed, he was now a little younger and handsome. The tsar impressed wanted to be next and threw himself into the water, but something happened, he was not rejuvenated but burned to death. After this the tsar was buried and the archer was crowned the new tsar and married the princess.

Appearance and characteristics of the Firebird

Within Slavic mythology, the firebird is described as a large bird with majestic feathers that glow brightly emitting red, orange and yellow light, just as a bonfire does after the turbulent flame has passed. These feathers never cease to glow and cannot be removed, and it is said that with just one feather one can illuminate a room immersed in darkness.


In some descriptions this bird is depicted as a small fire-colored hawk, with a crest on its head and tail feathers with glowing “eyes”. Despite being a mythological bird with extreme beauty, it is also dangerous and shows no signs of sympathy.

Artistic representations

The firebird (Slavic mythology) is a creature that has been depicted throughout the history of mankind, likewise there are also different versions of this bird in other mythologies. Certainly, this beautiful and lethal bird bears much resemblance to the well-known phoenix, especially for the color of its plumage.as is well known, the phoenix is an animal that has appeared in many mythologies, including Chinese mythology, but with different colors in its plumage. It is for this reason, that the firebird of Russian legends is often associated with this bird, however, only in appearance, since the phoenix reincarnates from its own ashes, while the one of Slavic mythology does not.In the following sections we will expose in detail about the different stories and works that have arisen in the world around this mythological creature.

Works of art

Among the most outstanding works of art that have been born from this legend is the musical work of “The Firebird”.At first, this work was born from a Russian tale for children, written by Igor Stravinski in 1910 when he was only 28 years old. This same writer also composed the composition for the orchestra and for the ballet, whose music was made by the author at the request of Diagilev due to the delay in its realization by the Russian composer Anatol Liadov. This work had a great historical importance, not only for the first demonstration of the composer, but also for the beginning of the collaborations between Diagilev and Stravinski that resulted in recognized works such as Petrushka (ballet in one act and four scenes, with music by Stravinski, and accompanied in the realization of the libretto by Alexandre Benois) and The Rite of Spring (music by Stravinski). This work is set in the sixties, and its scenes almost always take place on a rooftop of a building in Manhattan, in modern New York City. Those were hard times for everyone, America shaken by the Vietnam War and the death of hundreds of thousands of young people who had just begun to live. The so-called Cold War was coming to a head with the missile crisis and it seemed like the end of the world was coming, and in parallel to these early events, citizens of color were fighting for more rights and an end to racial segregation. The American dream was fading. Meanwhile, in Europe, citizens were falling into resignation due to the inertia of the times and the younger generations were asking to be heard. Illusions were left in the past, the present was a horrible thing to believe and the future was uncertain. On the other hand, a wave of rebellion against injustice was beginning to rise and the echo of “let’s make love and not war” was reaching the ends of the earth.


The hippy movement grew more and more and spread throughout America, adding among its followers intellectuals and artists from all over the world and from different manifestations. At the same time, in France there was the outbreak of the student revolutions in the year 68, an epic that would leave a mark in history as a warning to the young generations, while all these revolutions were happening, art was making its way through the barricades, voices began to rise, writers joined Jean Paul Sartre at the head, visual artists gave a cry in the Salon de Mayo and musicians joined to form one of the most transcendental movements of the twentieth century. The birth of the Beatles and the musical compositions of John Lennon and Paul McCartney were responsible for unleashing a true musical revolution, which would later be joined by the Rolling Stones, among others. Musical comedy joined them in the making of topical plays and Broadway became the platform of the new times, the musicals Jersey Boys, Hairspray, Wicked and Hair made history. Many references of everything that happened during this period have been used for the cinema. However, in this opportunity, the creator of this work shows another point of view where dance will be the protagonist. The urban and modern atmosphere will not overshadow this time the pointe shoe, which will give a new impulse to the interpretation of modern melodies. The pirouettes of classical ballet are combined with the acrobatics and movements of hip hop to bring us a young and renewed dance.

Literary works

Usually, the presence of the firebird (Slavic mythology) in fairy tales symbolizes a difficult quest.This search usually begins when he finds the lost tail feather, this is the moment when the hero sets out to find and capture this bird alive, sometimes this desire comes from the protagonist’s own will, while other times it is an order given by a king, this creature in the tales is seen as a wonderful bird, but as the story unfolds, the hero increasingly regrets having found the feather. The tales that unfold around this mythological bird usually follow the fairy tale scheme where its feather announces a hard journey, with magical helpers who are found along the way and contribute to the journey to capture the bird, and return from the distant land with the prize.different versions have been made about the firebird, since in the beginning this legend was told orally. One of the versions that exist is that of Ivan Tsarevich and the gray wolf. On the other hand, another well-known version is that of Suzanne Massie where the author rewrites the story of the Firebird. In this story, the protagonist is an orphan girl full of kindness named Maryushka who lives in a small village, and people from all over came to her to buy her embroidery, including some merchants who approached her and asked her to go to work with them. However, the young girl said that all her designs would be sold to anyone who thought her work was beautiful, but that there was no way she would ever leave the place where she was born. To the girl’s bad luck, one day the evil sorcerer Kaschei the Immortal arrives who had learned of young Maryushka’s beautiful needlework so he decides to pay her a visit disguised as a handsome young man.