Sunday, December 11, 2011


Sadko may be a Russian medieval epic. The title character is an adventurer, merchant and gusli musician from Novgorod. Sadko played the gusli on the shores of a lake.

The Sea Tsar enjoyed his music, and offered to help him. Sadko was instructed to create a bet with the local merchants regarding catching a certain fish in the lake; when he caught it, the merchants had to pay the wager, making Sadko a rich merchant.

Sadko traded on the seas along with his new wealth, but did not pay proper respects to the Tsar as per their agreement. The Tsar stopped Sadko's ships in the sea. 

He and his sailors tried to appease the Sea Tsar with gold, to no avail. Sadko's crew forced him to jump into the ocean. There, he played the gusli for the Sea Tsar, who offered him a new bride. On advice, he took the last maiden during a long line, and lay down beside her.

He woke up on the seashore and rejoined his wife.

In some variants, Sadko is chosen to jump overboard by throwing lots between the men. This motif may be a widespread device, appearing, for instance, in Child ballad 57 Brown Robyn's Confession.

This tale attracted the attention of many authors in the 19th century with the rise of the Slavophile movement and served as a basis for a variety of derived works, most notably the poem "Sadko" by Alexei Tolstoy (1871–1872) and the opera Sadko composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who also wrote the libretto. In 1953, Aleksandr Ptushko directed a movie based on the opera entitled Sadko. A shortened and heavily-modified American version of this film entitled The Magic Voyage of Sinbad was spoofed on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Historical parallels:
Sadko will be viewed as a metaphor for Yaroslavl the Wise. The liberation of the Novgorodian people by Sadko may be linked to the establishment of the Novgorod Republic by Yaroslavl. Sadko might also be based on an exact Sedko Sitinits, who is mentioned in the Novgorodian First Chronicle as the patron of the stone Church of Boris and Gleb built in the Novgorodian Detinets in 116.