Ilya Murometz, or Ilya of Murom, is one of the greatest of the mighty warriors called the bogatyri in the Russian epics, the bylini.
Ilya was born in the village of Karacharvo near Murom, a Russian city that still exists. The son of a peasant, Ilya was a sickly boy stricken with an illness that took the strength from his legs. He sat helpless for thirty-three years. Then one day, while his parents were out working and he was alone, traveling pilgrims, or, in some versions, an old singer, stopped by the house asking for water. Ilya apologized for his lack of courtesy and explained that he was unable to stand, let alone fetch water.
The visitors shared a drink with Ilya and told him to rise and go forth, declaring that he would become a powerful bogatyr. From that moment forward, Ilya could walk, and he soon became a warrior of extraordinary strength.
Ilya went on to the court of Prince Vladimir of Kiev. There, the prince and the other bogatyri refused to take this newcomer seriously. Ilya set out to prove himself.
He heard of a horriﬁc creature, Solovei Razboynik the Brigand, that had terrible powers. The monster could scream with deadly force or create a ferocious wind that tore trees up by their roots. Solovei Razboynik, also known as Nightingale the Robber, was truly a strange being—half bird and half human. He roosted in a tree near the road to Kiev so that he could stop and challenge all who passed. So far, no one had been able to defeat him.
Ilya rode up to the monster’s tree and sternly told his horse not to be afraid. Ilya was able to ignore Solovei Razboynik’s terrifying noise, and he calmly drew his bow, shooting and killing the creature. Ilya tied the monster’s body to his stirrup and brought it to Prince Vladimir.
After this, there were no more doubts about Ilya. He was made Vladimir’s chief bogatyr. Ilya further proved his worth by killing Tsar Kalin, who had attacked the land of Rus, which would become Russia.