Daily Russian Anime

For those of you who lack your daily recommended requirement of Russian animation, see below the cut.

This is the first part of Dobrynya Nikitich i Zmey Gorynych (Добрыня Никитич и Змей Горыныч for those of you who read Cyrillic) by Ilya Maksimov of Melnitsa Animation Studio.

Dobrynya Nikitich is one of the Three Bogatyrs of Russian legend, as famed for their deeds of derring-do in Kiev as the Paladins of Charlemagne in Paris, or the Table Round of Arthur in Caerleon. This is a comedic take on the material, not lacking some shots of breathtaking animation (see, for example, the world below the floating bubble at about 2.00), and not without a claim to the best fight scene on celluloid at about 15.00, er, if ‘best’ includes over-the-top humor as well as tooth-smashing slo-mo Matrix-style action against the Mongols.

Baba Yaga makes an appearance later in the movie (not in this clip), together with her famous chicken-legged hut. She is perhaps somewhat reduced from her stature as a witch who commands the sun, moon, and stars, as one might recall her from the myth of Vasilissa the Wise. The monster Zmey is also reduced in dignity from his original role in the Three Bogatyr story to a comedy relief sidekick.

Here is a wikipedia summary of the bylina, or lay:

The bylina begins with Dobrynya’s mother telling the hero not to go to the Saracen Mountains, not to trample baby dragons, not to rescue Russian captives, and not to bathe in the Puchai River. Dobrynya disobeys his mother and does all of these things.

When he is bathing in the Puchai River, the dragon Zmey appears. Dobrynya has nothing to defend himself, and thinks he is going to die. Dobrynya then discovers “a hat of the Greek land” and uses it to defeat the dragon.

The dragon pleas for Dobrynya not to kill him and the two make a nonaggression pact. Once the pact is made, the dragon flies away and captures the niece of Prince Volodymir, Zabava Putyatishna.

When Dobrynya arrives at Kiev, Prince Vladimir tells Dobrynya to rescue his niece. Dobrynya makes it to the Saracen Mountains with the help of a magic whip given to him by his mother, and begins to fight the dragon.

Dobrynya fought the dragon for three days. On the third day of the bloody battle, Dobrynya feels like giving up and riding away, but a voice from heaven tells him to stay and fight for three more hours. After the three hours Dobrynya kills the dragon.

When he killed the dragon, the blood did not soak into the ground, and Dobrynya and his horse were stuck in the blood for three days. A voice from heaven told the hero to stick his spear into the ground and say an incantation. The blood was then swallowed by the earth and Dobrynya rescued Zabava.

Since Dobrynya is a peasant, he cannot marry Zabava and gives her to Alyosha Popovich. Dobrynya encounters a polyanitsa, Nastasia, and marries her instead.

Needless to say, this plot has a close a relation to the cartoon above as HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME by Disney has to NOTRE DAME de PARIS by Victor Hugo.

I have read maybe a zillion modern takes on the Arthurian mythos, but I cannot recall anyone who has taken a stab at a modern retelling of the Bogatyrs.

It is possible that a close examination of the film might reveal some minor influence issuing from American film or popular culture. Or not.

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