Places: Ruslan and Lyudmila

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Ruslan i Lyudmila, 1820 (English translation, 1936)

Type of work: Poetry

Type of plot: Mock-heroic

Time of work: Late tenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Kiev

*Kiev Ruslan and Lyudmila (kyehv). Russian city (now part of Ukraine) that is the home of the knight Ruslan and the princess Lyudmila; located in a steppe (similar to the American prairie). The characters of the poem are loosely based upon historical figures of the period, but there is little sense of that history in Pushkin’s treatment of it. Instead, Kiev is here a fairy-tale city, home of a fairy-tale king and his many sons.


*Dnieper (DNYEH-pehr). Major river of the steppe, upon the western bank of which Kiev is built, where Ruslan fights his rival Rogdai, whom he defeats and throws into the water to drown and be taken by the river-maiden, a Russian folk spirit.

Midnight Mountains

Midnight Mountains. Fictional stronghold of the evil wizard Chornomor. Perhaps inspired by travelers’ stories of the Caucasus Mountains and their proud tribes, these fairy-tale mountains are full of perils, including a deadly dragon and a magical dwarf with superhuman strength. The tower of the sorcerer Chernomor is filled with magical delights, but the people within are slaves, whom he has captured through guile.

BibliographyBayley, John. Pushkin: A Comparative Commentary. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1971. Devotes a number of pages to Ruslan and Lyudmila and its impact. Discusses the poem also in the context of Pushkin’s later fairy tales in verse.Briggs, A. D. P. Alexander Pushkin: A Critical Study. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1983. An excellent introduction to Pushkin’s work. Especially good at explaining formal aspects of Pushkin’s poetry to readers who do not speak Russian.O’Bell, Leslie. “Young Pushkin: Ruslan and Liudmila in Its Lyric Context.” The Russian Review 44, no. 2 (April, 1985): 139-155. Discusses the poem in light of Pushkin’s earlier lyrics and takes issue with the common critical evaluation of the poem as sparkling entertainment but less-than-profound poetry.Pushkin, Alexander. “Ruslan and Lyudmila.” In Collected Narrative and Lyrical Poetry. Translated by Walter Arndt. Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1984. Includes a look at Pushkin’s sources, with special attention to the vogue for Gothic tales and translated ballads. Discusses con-temporary reaction to the poem.Vickery, Walter. Alexander Pushkin Revisited. Rev. ed. New York: Maxwell Macmillan International, 1992. The chapter “Early Verse and Ruslan and Lyudmila” also gives a good overview of the state of Russian literature when Pushkin entered the scene.
Categories: Places