Mikula Selianinovich

Contributed by John McCannon

A peasant hero of Russian folklore. Mikula Selianinovich appears in tales and epic poems (byliny) as a strong, handsome farmer. He is prosperous, dressed in a dark velvet tunic, a felt hat, and green leather boots. Mikula works his fields with a plow of silver, gold, and maple, drawn by a fine bay mare with a mane of gold. No horse is swifter than his, and no other man is able to handle his plow or even lift it from the earth.

Mikula symbolizes agricultural production, and he traditionally represents Russian (and male) domination of the (female) land. In a body of folklore populated mainly by warriors and noblemen, Mikula, a peasant, stands out as a hero for the common man. Although he can be a fierce fighter, able to lay bandits low by the hundreds, he is celebrated most for his superhuman capacity for work, as well as for his quick wits. Mikula's cleverness is shown to its best advantage in a fifteenth-century tale told about his meeting with Prince Volga Sviatoslavovich. After besting Volga and his soldiers in contests of strength and skill, Mikula reveals his identity. Prince Volga then rewards him with an appointment as local tribute-collector.