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In Russian mythology, Koschei (Russian: Коще́й, Koshchey, also Kashchei or Kashchey or Kościej (Polish)) is an evil person of ugly senile appearance, menacing principally young women. Koschei is also known as Koschei the Immortal or Koschei the Deathless (Russian: Коще́й Бессме́ртный), as well as Tzar Koschei. As is usual in Russian transliterations, there are numerous other spellings, such as Koshchei, Kashchej and Kaschei. The spelling in other Slavic languages (like Polish “Kościej”) suggests that his name may be derived from “kost” (rus. кость pol. kość=bone); thus suggesting a skeleton-like appearance.
Koschei cannot be killed by conventional means targeting his body. His soul is hidden separate from his body inside a needle, which is in an egg, which is in a duck, which is in a hare, which is in an iron chest, which is buried under a green oak tree, which is on the island of Buyan, in the ocean. As long as his soul is safe, he cannot die. If the chest is dug up and opened, the hare will bolt away. If it is killed, the duck will emerge and try to fly off. Anyone possessing the egg has Koschei in their power. He begins to weaken, becomes sick and immediately loses the use of his magic. If the egg is tossed about, he likewise is flung around against his will. If the needle is broken (in some tales this must be done by specifically breaking it against Koschei’s forehead), Koschei will die.
- In Vasilisa Prekrasnaya (Vasilisa the Beautiful), a Russian cartoon based on the Russian fairy tale.
- A villain in Igor Stravinsky‘s The Firebird.
- Appeared in the 1958 Soviet animated film Beloved Beauty
- Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov wrote an opera involving Koschei, titled Кащей бессмертный —Kashchey the Immortal.
- Mercedes Lackey‘s novel “The Firebird” features Katschei as the main villain, retelling the classic tale for a modern audience. Also, in her 500 Kingdoms series, the Katschei is reference in the novels The Fairy Godmother and “Fortune’s Fool.”
- Koschei appears as an antagonist to the hero in the 2007 comic book Hellboy: Darkness Calls. The Baba Yaga will grant him death only through Hellboy’s destruction.
- In The Sandman: Fables and Reflections, Koschei’s emerald heart (or, more likely a piece of green glass being passed off as such) passes into the possession of a Gypsy trader, then a werewolf, and finally Baba Yaga.
Other uses of the name
- James Branch Cabell used the spelling Koshchei in several of his books. His character, however, was a sort of over-deity who presides over all the “first-level” human gods (such as Jehovah and Loki). Robert A. Heinlein used Cabell’s version in his book Job: A Comedy of Justice.
- In John C. Wright‘s War of the Dreaming Koschei is the bringer of death, the taker of souls when someone has to die.
- In Keith Taylor’s novel Bard II, Koschei appears to menace Felimid mac Fal, a roving Irish bard who is the novel’s lead character, and his lover Gudrun Blackhair, a female pirate chieftain.
- In Charles Stross‘s novelette A Colder War, Koschei is the American code name for sleeping Cthulhu, captured along with shoggot’im (shoggoths) from Nazi Germany by the Soviet Red Army.
- David A. McIntee‘s Doctor Who novels The Dark Path and Face Of The Enemy have Koschei as a name used by the Master before he adopts ‘The Master’ as a name.
- In Andrei Belyanin‘s Tsar Gorokh’s Detective Agency series of novels, Koschei is the main villain of most of the stories. He is described as a criminal mastermind a hundred times worse than Osama bin Laden.
- In Rifts, the roleplaying game, a type of demon in Russia is the Koschei (Rifts typically turns individual demons in mythology into species).
- In the MMORPG RuneScape, one of the quests features Koschei the Deathless as a mysterious warrior whom the player must best thrice in combat to prove their worth as a warrior.
- The Werewolf RPG sourcebook Rage Across Russia mentions Koschei as one of the five Talons of the Wyrm. It is summoned from the Umbra by Baba Yaga during her battle with Nosferatu.
- In The Deathless by Keith R.A. DeCandido, the modern day resurrection of Koschei is thwarted by Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
- Sir James George Frazer (1854–1941). The Golden Bough.
- The Golden Bough by Sir James George Frazer (Project Gutenberg)
- The Death of Koshchei the Deathless from Andrew Lang’s Red Fairy Book