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Russian Fairy Tales


The Zmey is a three headed Russian dragon, green in color it walks on its hind legs and has small arms (much like a t-rex) and can spit fire. The zmey came to represent the Steppes and its dangerous people such as the Mongols. Like the hydra the Russian dragons had heads in multiples of three which would grow back if every single head wasn’t cut off quickly. The three headed dragon and the battle with the serpent is a common theme in Indo-European mythology and so likely has its roots among the Proto-Indo-European peoples who split up 6,000 years ago to become the Slavic, Greek, Celtic, Latin, Spanish, Germanic, Iranian, and Indian peoples.

The Serpent [Zmyei] is described in the stories as "winged," "fiery," "many-headed." Sometimes he assumes a human form, becoming a youth of marvellous beauty in the presence of his beloved, or, when going to meet a foe, a warrior mounted on a noble charger, with a raven perched on his shoulder and a hound following at his heels. Sometimes he bears the patronymic of Goruinuich, i. e. Son of the Mountain [Gora = a mountain], in which case he may be the lightning, looked upon as the offspring of the aerial mountain, the cloud. In others he seems to be intended for the cloud itself, as in a story which mentions his blotting out the light of day. It seems to be in the latter capacity that he is spoken of as guarding treasures of bright metals and gleaming gems, and as carrying off and imprisoning fair maidens. In one story a snake is said to have stolen the luminaries of the Right. A hero cuts off its head, and out from the slain monster issue "the Bright Moon and the Morning Stars;" and in another the Bear and the "Ocean Monster" carry off the Beautiful Princesses Luna and Zvyezda [Star] 3. But it is generally a mortal maiden with whom he elopes, and whom he retains much against her will. From such unions spring heroes of magic powers, such as Tugarin Zmyeevich, and Volkh Yseslav'evich, of whom more will be said hereafter, and also
fiendish shapes like the Kikimori, or Incubi, which harass sleepers.

In the stories and songs the fair prisoner is generally rescued by a hero who penetrates into the castle of the Snake, and there fights and conquers him, getting possession at the same time of the "living water" [the rain?] on which depends the snake's [or the cloud's] power. This hero is supposed to be the Thunder-god, who disperses the Cloud and frees the life-bestowing Rain and the fair Sunlight. In some of the stories he bears a surname which points to his connexion with the Deity of the Hearth, being called Zapechny, or, Zatrubnik, or Popyalof--from pech [the stove], or truba [the stove pipe or chimney], or pepel [ashes]. Sometimes the demon eats the maidens whom he carries off, the stories frequently speaking of a beautiful princess who is exposed like Andromeda, and whom a Slavonic Perseus saves from a "seven-headed snake" which is hastening to devour her.