Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

More about the Island of Buyan

As my long-time readers know, I first discovered the mysterious Russian island of Buyan through the Tanya Grotter books. Her school, the Tibidox School for Troubled Wizards, is on that island; the obvious English equivalent would be Avalon.

But as the ever valuable Sunbirds site tells us, the Isle of Buyan is traditionally the home of all sorts of things. From the constant references to the place in song, story, and spell, the gods lived there and so did the North, East, and West Winds and the bogatyr (hero) brothers Usinya, Gorinya, and Dubinya. (Who also appear in Tanya Grotter.) Toska (Longing or Melancholy) lived there. Sometimes it was portrayed as the home of angels and saints, or even God Himself. There were also many strange and mighty things: the stone Alatyr, which was warm, bright-colored, and the hardest thing on Earth; the King of Birds, Strafil; the King of Beasts, Indrikh; Kit the Whale, mother of all fishes and foundation of moist Mother Earth; and the Book of the Dove, which is hundreds of feet wide and thick, which nobody can open, but which once told a wise king that the universe is God's robe. The really informative thing is that the island's name means "unruly", in the sense of wind-tossed.

We've already talked about Pushkin's prologue to Ruslan and Ludmila, in which he claims to have visited Buyan. Here's another translation of the prologue, and a translation of his Tale of Tsar Saltan, which includes Buyan in passing, as it were.

In the Frog Princess version of the story, Koshchei the Deathless keeps his death on the Island of Buyan on the point of a needle inside an egg, inside a duck, inside a hare, inside a chest buried underneath a large oak tree. Which might be the sea-oak, I suppose.

The Fisherman and His Wife lived on Buyan, too.

Here are some pictures of Buyan, as well as portraits of Gorinya, Usinya, and the god Veles.


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