Oddity of the Week: The Firebird
In Slavic folklore, the Firebird is a magical glowing bird from a faraway land, which is both a blessing and a bringer of doom to its captor.
The Firebird is described as a large bird with majestic plumage that glows brightly emitting red, orange, and yellow light, like a bonfire that is just past the turbulent flame.
The feathers do not cease glowing if removed, and one feather can light a large room if not concealed. In later iconography, the form of the Firebird is usually that of a smallish fire-colored peacock, complete with a crest on its head and tail feathers with glowing eyes.
A typical role of the Firebird in fairy tales is as an object of a difficult quest. The quest is usually initiated by finding a lost tail feather, at which point the hero sets out to find and capture the live bird, sometimes of his own accord, but usually on the bidding of a father or king. The Firebird is a marvel, highly coveted, but the hero, initially charmed by the wonder of the feather, eventually blames it for his troubles.
The Firebird tales follow the classical scheme of fairy tale, with the feather serving as a premonition of a hard journey, with magical helpers met on the way who help in travel and capture of the Bird, and returning from the faraway land with the prize. There are many versions of the Firebird story as it was primarily told orally in the beginning.
According to Suzanne Maisie the story of the Firebird is about a great embroiderer Maryushka, who lives in a small village. People would come from all over to buy her embroidery. Many merchants would try to get her to work for them but she told them all that they could buy her wares but she would never leave the village she was born in.
One day the evil sorcerer Kaschei the Immortal heard of Maryushka’s beautiful works and transformed into a beautiful young man and visited her. Upon seeing her ability he became enraged that a mere mortal could produce finer work than him.
He tried to tempt her by offering to make her Queen but she refused saying she never wanted to leave her village. Because of this last insult to his ego he turned Maryushka into a firebird and himself into a falcon, picked her up in his talons and stole her away from her village. As a way to leave a piece of herself with her village forever she shed her feathers onto the land below, after the last feather fell Maryushka died in the falcon’s talons. The feathers live on showing themselves to those who love beauty and show beauty to others