Ilya Muromets and Nightingale the Robber

Illustration by Ivan Bilibin



In this graphic illustration, Bilibin depicts the moment before the capture of Nightingale the Robber by Ilya Muromets - a

portion of the bylina (Russian oral tradition) known as 'The First Journey of Ilya Muromets'.


Ilya Muromets is among a triumvirate of legendary Medieval heroes who were bogatyrs (Knights of Kievan Rus) - the two

other great legendary bogatyrs are Dobrynya Nikitich and Alyosha Popovich.


According to Russian folklore, Nightingale the Robber was features of both a human and bird - he was able to fly and

lived in a nest, but had a human family and received drinks with his hands. Living in a forest near Bryansk, he would sit

in a tree by the road to Kiev and stun strangers with his powerful whistle - it was said he would scream, "All the grasses

and meadows become entangled, the azure flowers lose their petals, all the dark woods bend down to the earth, and

all the people there lie dead".


Ilya Muromets brought the terror of Nightingale the Robber to an end by shooting the brigand with arrows to the eye

and temple. According to legend, Muromets then dragged the defeated monster to Vladimir, Prince of Kiev, who foolishly

wished to hear Nightingale the Robber whistle. Having been allowed to recouperate, the monster showed the folly of the

Prince's wish when he whistled so loud that all of Vladimir's palaces were destroyed and many lay dead. After this final

assault, Ilya Muromets took Nightingale the Robber into an open field and cut off his head.



Full Image

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Detail (for reference)