The Firebird (Zhar–ptitsa ) is one of the most colorful legendary animal figures of Russian magical tales (fairy tales). With golden feathers and eyes like crystals, she is a powerful source of light, and even one of her feathers can illuminate a whole room. Sometimes she functions as little more than a magical helper who flies the hero out of danger; in other tales her feather and she herself are highly desired prizes to be captured. "Prince Ivan, the Firebird, and the Gray Wolf" depicts her coming at night to steal golden apples from a king's garden and becoming one object of a heroic quest by the youngest prince, Ivan. Helped by a gray wolf, he ends up with the Firebird as well as a noble steed with golden mane and golden bridle and Princess Yelena the Fair.
The tales became the narrative source for the first of two famous folklore ballets composed by Igor Stravinsky under commission from Sergei Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes. L'Oiseau de feu, with choreography by the noted Russian Michel Fokine, premiered at the Paris Opera on June 25, 1910, with great success and quickly secured the young Stravinsky's international reputation. Like his Petrushka that followed it, The Firebird impressed audiences with the colorfulness of both story and music and with its bold harmonic innovations. The two ballets also helped spread awareness of Russia's rich folk culture beyond its borders.
See also: ballet, folklore
Guterman, Norbert, tr. (1973). Russian Fairy Tales, 2d ed. New York: Pantheon Books.
Taruskin, Richard. (1996). Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions: A Biography of the Works through Mavra. 2 vols. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Norman W. Ingham
"Firebird." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/firebird
"Firebird." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Retrieved February 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/firebird
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The firebird is a magical bird with golden feathers and crystal eyes that appears in many Russian folk stories. Several of the tales involve young Prince Ivan, son of the tsar.
In one story, the firebird stole apples from the tsar's garden. The tsar promised his kingdom to the son who could catch the firebird. The youngest son, Ivan, found a magic gray wolf, which helped him capture the bird. While Ivan and the wolf were on their journey, they met a beautiful princess and a horse with a golden mane. When Ivan's two jealous brothers saw them, they killed Ivan and took the horse and princess for themselves. The wolf found Ivan and brought him back to life just in time to stop Ivan's older brother from marrying the princess. When their father heard the full story, he imprisoned his two evil sons and allowed Ivan to marry the princess.
In another tale, Ivan captured the firebird in a castle garden but set it free in exchange for a magic feather from the firebird. Thirteen princesses came out of the castle and told Ivan that the owner was an evil magician who turned people into stone. But Ivan, who fell in love with one of the princesses, ignored the warning and decided to face the magician and his demons. The magic feather protected Ivan, and the firebird cast a spell on the demons. When the bird showed the prince an egg that contained the magician's soul, Ivan broke the egg, killing the magician and freeing the princesses.
tsar Russian ruler
The stories inspired Russian composer Igor Stravinsky to write a ballet called The Firebird in 1910.
See also Animals in Mythology; Birds in Mythology.
"Firebird." Myths and Legends of the World. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/firebird
"Firebird." Myths and Legends of the World. . Retrieved February 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/firebird