Ruslan and Ludmila

Pushkin, Alexander (1799–1837), translated by Kline, A. S. (contact-email)

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Ruslan and Ludmila is an epic poem by Alexander Pushkin, first published in 1820. The narrative centres on the knight Ruslan’s quest to rescue his bride Ludmila, who has been abducted by the sorcerer Chernomor. The poem opens with a feast at Ludmila’s father’s court, where the abduction occurs. Ruslan faces challenges and adversaries on his journey, including a rival knight and a giant, disembodied head. Ruslan is both assisted by the sage Finn, and opposed by the witch Naina (identified with Baba Yaga). Despite his travails he eventually defeats Chernomor and liberates Ludmila. The poem is noted for its use of folklore, vivid characters, and blend of comedy and drama.

The poem is set during the era of Kievan Rus’, with Vladimir the Great as ruler. The characters’ names, including Ruslan, derive from earlier Russian tales and historical texts, such as Yeruslan Lazarevich mentioned in Pushkin’s own The Moor of Peter the Great and in Karamzin’s History of the Russian State. The poem references the Pechenegs’ sieges of Kiev, notably in 968 and 997 and Pushkin’s battle descriptions reflect the reality of 10th-century warfare.

Author Details

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Kline, A. S.

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