the Deathless gallops naked through the
wild Caucus mountains with his long spindly
legs trailing in the dust.
In this picture by Ivan Bilibin, he
is seen brandishing his sabre, shrieking
blood-curdling threats and urging the
spirits of the steppes to come to his
like the cloud formations . . .
the Deathless also known as Koshchey
Russian Koshchey is known as "Koshchey
Bessmertny" which means deathless or
immortal (thanks to Mike Harris in Moscow
for this information).
spellings of his name are: Koschey,
In Russian folklore Koshchey is an evil
sorcerer of terrifying appearance who
gallops naked around the wild Caucus
mountain range on his magic steed.
He is also a shape-shifter, who takes
the form of a whirlwind or a storm wind.
He is a nature spirit representing the
destructive powers of nature.
He is fond of stealing beautiful women,
often the bride of the hero.
his female counterpart Baba Yaga, he
also has powers over the elements. Dark
clouds suddenly appear amidst thunder
and lightning when he comes on the scene.
a shape-changer, Kotschey usually takes
the form of a whirlwind and makes off
with his victims in this form. He may
also come under cover of a mist or fog
and can fly through the air.
is called the deathless, or immortal
because his soul/spirit/life force or
his "death" as he calls it,
is hidden in a remote, inaccessible
place, separate from his body.
soul/spirit/ is often hidden in a duck's
egg, inside a hare, which in turn is
inside a chest buried under the roots
of a mighty oak tree, on an island in
the middle of the ocean.
Sometimes his "death" may be hidden
in the point of a needle inside the
duck's egg. Although called deathless
or immortal, Kotschey may die if the
hero finds out where the egg that contains
his life force or, as he calls it, his
"death", is hidden.
the egg is broken, it's goodnight for
Kotschey too. Anyone possessing this
egg has Koshchey in their power. He
begins to weaken, becomes sick and immediately
loses all his magic powers.
one story the egg is thrown at his forehead
and he drops down dead.
in the palace of the warrior princess
Maria Morevna for ten years, Koshchey
is freed by the unwitting hero.
In this story the egg with his soul/spirit/death
in it is not mentioned at all. Instead,
he receives a kick in the head from
one of Baba Yaga's magical steeds. After
the horse kills him, the hero Ivan cuts
Koshchey's head off, burns it and scatters
the ashes to the four winds, presumably
just to be on the safe side.
Tall, boney, fearful to look upon. As
Baba Yaga says:
' Medusa's got nothing on you, Kotschey
Morewnas description of him:
sports a wild mane of tangled seaweed-like
hair which stands up all around a lean
and bony face. From beneath those craggy
brows peer hooded, unblinking reptilian
eyes. A raven's beak of a nose juts
out over a cavernous mouth from which
now and then one may catch a glimpse
of several large crooked teeth. Mouth
may change shape according to mood.
beard: Mottled-grey and scraggly, unsightly
Scaly, rough, forever shedding, more
snake-like than human.
Method of fighting: Wraps or coils himself
around his foes. Finger nails and toe
nails long and claw-like (he never cuts
his hair, finger or toe nails - to preserve
his 'life-force' as he calls it/his
lack of clothing may also be attributed
to these peculiar 'life-force preservation'
On the inside of Koshchey's scrawny
long ape-like arms are venom glands.
(His blames Maria Morewna for his arms
being so long - he complained once that
hanging out in her dungeon for 10 years
didn't do his posture any good).
battle he has been known to lick these
venomous parts and then bite his adversary
thus causing intense pain and immobility.
change his voice at will. Terrifies
his opponents with blood-curdling cries.
Has also been known to use his voice
to charm and induce sleep when necessary.
astride his magical steed, Kotschey
likes to throw off his flamboyant fish-skin
clothes and it is said that he thus
takes on the magical powers of his mount.
His fish-skin clothes, which he scatters
behind him, are blown away and scattered
by the four winds. Flocks of ravens
gather behind him to fight over and
devour these shreds. Shreds of his clothing
may be sometimes seen flapping in the
tree tops throughout the steppes.
freed from all worldly constraints he
gallops naked through the wild Caucus
mountains with his long spindly legs
trailing in the dust. In the picture
by Ivan Bilibin, he is seen brandishing
his sabre, shrieking blood-curdling
threats and urging the spirits of the
steppes to come to his aid.
Quite an emotional character, it is
said that he will weep with rage for
hours afterwards when outwitted by his
quarry and his sobbing and wailing often
echoes throughout the Caucuses, terrifying
both man and beast alike.
times of stress he may change himself
into a storm or a whirlwind. In his
spare time he seems to be off hunting
quite a lot, although it is not specified
what it is that he is hunting.
cunning, one of his weaknesses is that
he is extremely vain and therefore may
be outwitted by a woman pretending to
find him irresistible.
has twelve sisters (also shape-shifters)
who come to avenge his death and who
seem to be almost as charming as Koshchey
Koshchey is a powerful sorcerer, he
seems to be down the hierarchical ladder
a rung or two to Baba Yaga. In one story
he works as a herdsman for her in order
to earn one of her magical steeds. This
horse has the power of speech and gives
Koshchey invaluable advice.
favourite drink: A fermented drink make
of green tea, sour goat's milk and salt.
craves female company, and although
he can turn on a charming voice at will,
Kotschey is anything but a smooth talker.
Maria Morewna is trying to pump him
for information and plays up to him,
he once again fails to realize that
one of his oft-repeated remarks: "Foolish
woman, long of hair: short of wit",
does not do anything to improve his
chances with her.
about the bush is one of Koshchey's
rules of thumb: for Koshchey to speak
directly is to lose his power or 'life
she asks him about the time he spent
at Baba Yaga's hut and where he got
his horse he replies: "Three days there
and I learned as much as in three years."
is able to "far see" - he has the ability
to see with his eyes closed.
song he is fond of singing when he has
drunk enough Kwas: (Some say he penned
it himself while he was hanging out
in Maria Morewna's dungeon)
the Deathless leaping,
free again from
the storm he howls and weeping,
Sprays the steppes
burning tears of rage.
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