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Bewildering Stories

Koshchei in Art and Legend

by Bill Bowler

Danielle L. Parker’s “The Deathless Hand” begins in issue 574.

Koschei cannot be killed by conventional means targeting his body. His soul — or death — is hidden separate from his body inside a needle, which is in an egg, which is in a duck, which is in a hare, which is in an iron chest.

Sometimes the chest is made of crystal and/or gold. It is buried under a green oak tree on the island of Buyan in the ocean. As long as Koschei’s soul is safe, he cannot die.

If the chest is dug up and opened, the hare will bolt away. If the hare is killed, the duck will emerge and try to fly off.

Anyone possessing the egg has Koschei in their power. He begins to weaken, becomes sick, and immediately loses the use of his magic. If the egg is tossed about, he is flung around against his will. If the egg or needle is broken — in some tales, this must be done by specifically breaking it against Koschei’s forehead — Koschei will die.

And here are a couple of images by the greatest of the Russian fairy tale illustrators.

Viktor Vasnetsov

Ivan Bilibin

Click on the images for a larger view.

Copyright © 2014 by Bill Bowler

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