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Who is Koschei the Deathless?

24. July 2009 by Gregg 0 Comments

Koschei the Deathless

Koschei the Deathless, also known as Kaschey the Immortal and Chakhlyk in Ukraine is another prominent figure in Russian Mythology. He is a monster who dwells in the Caucasus Mountains and carries an iron club which he uses to terrify young women and attack anyone with the courage to seek his treasure.

Like many other evil spirits and monsters in Slavic folklore, he normally appears as an ancient, wizened and ugly human although he is also sometimes depicted as a skeletal man with black hair. He is referred to as “The Deathless” or “The Immortal”, although neither term is completely accurate. Koschei’s soul was hidden in a needle, which was hidden in an egg, which was hidden in a hare, which was locked inside an iron chest and buried on the legendary island of Buyan. Koschei could only be killed by finding the island and digging up the chest, catching and killing the hare that will try and run away and then catching and killing the duck that would try to fly away. Once the hero of the story possessed the egg, Koschei would lose his magic and could be controlled. Finally, Koschei could be killed by destroying the egg.

Koschei the Deathless could be contained and weakened by denying him food and water, but he would not die. He would also regain his strength if he ever managed to drink water. In the story “The Death of Koschei the Deathless”, the legendary Prince Ivan came across Koschei, weakened and thirsty, having been caged and tied by 12 iron chains and deprived of water and food for ten years.

Koschei, like the Baba Yaga, has remained a popular figure in Russian Mythology over the years. In addition to the traditional folk tales that featured him, he is also featured as a major character in popular culture. Mike Mignola’s Hellboy has featured Koschei as an antagonist in one of the volumes and he appears in Mercedes Lackey’s “Firebird” novel, her literary retelling of Igor Stravinsky’s famous ballet of the same name. Koschei’s name is often featured in popular culture more than his character, used as a name for various monstrous characters and all sorts of legendary archetypes.