An International Tale-Type: “The City of Babylon”

  • Valeriia Eremina


The oral narrative about a journey to Babylon to fetch a princely crown has motifs which are found in different cultures and different historical epochs. Variants of this tale are found in the North of Russia (Arkhangel’sk and Olonetsk provinces) Samara province, in Eastern Siberia, the Urals, and the White Sea coast in Karelia, as well as in Ukraine, Belarus, and several Western countries. The plot is extremely stable: the Tsar issues a call for a volunteer to travel to Babylon and bring back the royal purple robe, a crown, and a scepter so that the Tsar can begin his reign. A hero volunteers to get the above mentioned attributes of royal power. The city of Babylon is guarded by a huge Snake encircling it like a wall. Snakes have eaten all the citizens of Babylon and they also exist as the lower half of the Tsar maiden’s body who governs Babylon. But snakes can also be signs of good as Nabuchadnezzar uses an asp-snake sword to route his enemies. It is not a Snake that kills, but sin. The role of this tale in Russian history from the 14th century is examined.