Friday, December 01, 2006

Bird Friday!

This is a famous illustration of the mythical Firebird or "Zhar- ptitsa" by the famous Russian illustrator of children's books, Ivan Bilibin.

Here is a site that has many links to Russian folklore.

"In Russian folklore the Firebird (Zhar-ptitsa) is a miraculous bird. Its feathers shine like silver and gold, its eyes sparkle like crystals, and it is usually been seen sitting on a golden perch. At midnight this bird comes to gardens and fields and illuminates the night as brightly as a thousand lights; just one feather from its tail could light up a dark room. The Firebird eats golden apples which give any who eat them youth, beauty and immortality; when the bird sings, pearls would fall from its beak. The Firebird's chants can heal the sick and return the vision to the blind." [Encyclopedia Mythica]

Here is a Russian version of the Fire Bird story as a play from They have on-line Russian classics.

The SurLaLune Fairy Tale Page has this English version of a Zhar-ptitsa story:

Tsarevitch Ivan, the Fire Bird and the Gray Wolf
IN a certain far-away Tsardom not in this Empire, there lived a Tsar named Vyslav, who had three sons: the first Tsarevitch Dimitri, the second Tsarevitch Vasilii and the third Tsarevitch Ivan.
The Tsar had a walled garden, so rich and beautiful that in no kingdom of the world was there a more splendid one. Many rare trees grew in it whose fruits were precious jewels, and the rarest of all was an apple tree whose apples were of pure gold, and this the Tsar loved best of all. [the rest]
Here is another Zhar-ptitsa story fromSurLaLune:
The Fire-Bird, the Horse of Power, and the Princess Vasilissa
(A Russian Tale)
ONCE upon a time a strong and powerful Tzar ruled in a country far away. And among his servants was a young archer, and this archer had a horse - a horse of power - such a horse as belonged to the wonderful men of long ago - a great horse with a broad chest, eyes like fire, and hoofs of iron. There are no such horses nowadays. They sleep with the strong men who rode them, the bogatirs, until the time comes when Russia has need of them. Then the great horses will thunder up from under the ground, and the valiant men leap from the graves in the armour they have worn so long. The strong men will sit those horses of power, and there will be swinging of clubs and thunder of hoofs, and the earth will be swept clean from the enemies of God and the Tzar. So my grandfather used to say, and he was as much older than I as I am older than you, little ones, and so he should know. [the rest]
Here is another story about the Zhar-ptitsa at by Leslie Slape:
The Feather of the Firebird
Long ago in Russia, there lived a brave huntsman who had a horse that could talk. Every day, he would ride into the dark forest and bring back wonderful things for his master, the Tsar.
One day, he saw something glowing in the darkness. It looked like fire. But when he drew close, he saw it was not fire, but a feather. The feather of the Zhar-ptitsa – the Firebird.
The huntsman knew the old tales. If a man is lucky enough to snatch a feather from the tail of the Zhar-ptitsa, he will have good luck all his days. But as he bent to pick up the feather, his horse spoke:
Stop! Don’t pick up the feather of the Zhar-ptitsa. You will know trouble!” [the rest]


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