Tugarin Zmeyevich (Russian: Тугарин Змеевич) is a mythical evil creature in Russian bylinas and fairy tales.
Tugarin Zmeyevich has many different names in Russian folklore, such as Zmey Tugarin, Zmey Tugaretin, Zmeishche Tugarishche and others.
Tugarin Zmeyevich appears in the form of a bogatyr (i.e. a medieval Russian knight-errant) or a dragon-like nature. Tugarin's torso is covered with fiery snakes. He is flying in the sky flapping his paper-like wings, which caused his fall and end when Alyosha Popovich brought the rain.
Tugarin Zmeyevich is a chtonical character of an ancient dragon-fighting myth, related to Zmey Gorynych (Змей Горыныч), Fiery Dragon (Огненный Змей) etc. In Kievan Rus, Tugarin Zmeyevich became a symbol of paganism and wild steppes full of dangers. In later versions the dragon was transformed into the figure of a Mongol Khan.
Tugarin Zmeyevich is best known from a bylina about his duel with Alyosha Popovich, which comes in many different versions but usually takes place near the Safat River. In this bylina Alyosha Popovich and his servant, Yekim, set out for Kiev to meet Prince Vladimir. When they arrive at Kiev, Prince Vladimir is having a feast. Prince Vladimir offers Alyosha Popovich to sit next to him, but Alyosha Popovich refuses and decides to take the lowest place in the social hierarchy by sitting next to the stove (Bailey, p. 121-122). At the feast, the monster Tugarin insults the Prince by sitting between Vladimir and his wife. Tugarin also does not pray to God and gorges himself at the feast. Alyosha Popovich, who is disgusted with the way Tugarin is acting, insults the creature with stories about the deaths of a dog and a cow (Bailey, p. 122). Tugarin is provoked by these stories and throws a dagger at Alyosha Popovich. Then, Alyosha Popovich accepts Tugarin's challenge to fight. The battle takes place in an open field, and when Alyosha Popovich arrives, Tugarin is already flying in the sky on his wings made of paper. Alyosha Popovich prays for rain, and Tugarin falls to the ground because his paper wings get wet. Finally, Alyosha Popovich knocks Tugarin's head off with his staff, sticks it on a spear, cuts his body into small pieces, and presents it to Prince Vladimir's court. (Bailey, p. 122-129).
- Bailey, James and Ivanova, Tatyana. An Anthology of Russian Folk Epics. M.E. Sharpe, Inc. Armonk, New York, 1998.