The Feather of Finist the Falcon

The Feather of Finist the Falcon or Finist the Falcon (Russian: Пёрышко Финиста ясна сокола) is a Russian fairy tale[1] collected by Alexander Afanasyev in Narodnye russkie skazki. It is Aarne–Thompson type 432, the prince as bird. Other tales of this type include The Green Knight, The Blue Bird, and The Greenish Bird.

Illustration by Ivan Bilibin


A merchant asked his three daughters what they want him to bring them from the fair. The older two ask for dresses or shawls, but the youngest wants either the feather of Finist the Falcon or a red flower. In some variants, he went to the fair twice, able to bring back what her older sisters had asked for, but not hers, but she did not vary her request. In the third or first visit, he found the feather, or else found the flower and must promise that his daughter will marry Finist the Falcon for it. Whether the flower or the feather, the thing brought Finist the Falcon to her at night, and he wooed her. If she was given the flower, he gave her a feather that would magically aid her.

Her sisters discovered the visit; they might have spied, or she may have appeared in finer clothing, from use of the feathers, than they knew she had, or she may have appeared in church as a strange woman (like Cinderella at the ball) because of her rich clothing, and not hidden it quickly enough when she returned home. Once they became suspicious, they often listened and, hearing a man's voice, tried to persuade their father that their sister had a lover, but failed. However they discovered it, the sisters put knives in the window, so that he was injured. He said that she must search for him to find him, which would wear out three pairs of iron shoes, and three iron staves. He did not return. She sets out to find him.

She finds a hut with a witch (sometimes referred to as a Baba Yaga), who gives her a gift (such as a silver spinning wheel and a golden spindle), and sends her on to another witch. This witch gives her another gift (such as a silver dish and a golden egg), and sends her on to yet a third witch. This one gives her a third gift (such as a golden embroidery frame and a needle that sewed of itself), and sent her to the castle where Finist was to marry.

In some variants, she found someone trying to wash the blood from Finist's shirt and washed it herself. In all, she managed to trade the witches' gifts to the bride to let her stay a night with Finist. The princess either put a magical pin in his hair to keep him asleep or gave him a sleeping draught; the third night, either Finist is warned not to drink the draught, or the pin falls out. He woke and knew her.

In some variants, he asked the nobles whom he should marry: the woman who had sold him, or the woman who had bought him. They agreed the woman who bought him should have him.

In other variants, she went home to her father. When he and her sisters went to church, she dressed finely and went with Finist, and her sisters came back with stories of the prince and princess who came to church. The third time, her father saw the carriage stopped at his own door, and the daughter had to confess. She married Finist.


The tale was translated as The Little Feather of Finist the Bright Falcon by Robert Nisbet Bain;[2] as The Bright-Hawk's Feather by Nathan Haskell Dole,[3] and as Fenist the Bright-Eyed Falcon by James Riordan.[4]


Tale typeEdit

The tale is classified in the international Aarne-Thompson-Uther Index as type ATU 432, "The Prince as Bird". In Russia, particularly, the tale type is known as Finist iasnyi sokol ("Finist the Bright Falcon),[5] - also the name of type SUS 432 of the East Slavic Folktale Classification (Russian: СУС, romanizedSUS).[6]

Russian researcher Varvara Dobrovolskaya stated that type SUS 432 figures among some of the popular tales of enchanted spouses in the Russian tale corpus.[7]

The falcon prince's nameEdit

James Riordan suggested that the name Fenist was a corruption of the name Phoenix.[8] In the same vein, scholar Andreas Johns states that the name Finist (and variations) is a corruption of the mythological phoenix (in Russian, feniks), brought into the folklore of Rus' by an external source, possibly written.[9]


The East Slavic Folktale Classification (Russian: СУС, romanizedSUS), last updated in 1979 by folklorist Lev Barag [ru], registers variants only in Russia.[10]


Professor Jack V. Haney stated that the tale first appeared in printed form in 1795,[11] with the title "Сказка о финифтяном пёрушке ясного сокола".[12][13]

Dobrovolskaya also remarks that in regional variants from Karelia, Murmansk and Arkhangelsk, type 432 sometimes merges with type 425A, "The Search for the Lost Husband", where the heroine receives gifts from the witches (Yagas) and uses them to buy from a false bride three nights in her husband's bed.[14]

Folklorist Jeremiah Curtin translated a Russian variant from Vologda. In this version, the third daughter asks for a red flower, which acts as the object that summons "Bright Finist the Falcon of Flowery Feathers". Her father finds the flower and gives it to his third daughter, with a reminder that the flower was a wedding gift from Finist himself. That night, the girl is visited by Finist, who flies in through her window. At dawn, before he departs, Finist gives the girl one of his feathers. At three consecutive Sundays, the girl's family goes to mass, and she, at home, uses Finist's feather to create beautiful dresses for her to go to church with. The sisters overhear a secret conversation between the lovers and place knives by the window. Finist flies in, hurts his foot, and rushes back to his kingdom. After days of his absence, the girl decides to go after him. On her journey, the heroine learns that Finist has been betrothed to a Tsar's daughter, and meets three Baba Yagas in their chicken-legged huts. Each Baba Yaga gives the heroine a gift: the first, a golden hammer and diamond nails; the second, a golden plate with a diamond ball; and the third, her quick steed. The heroine uses the gifts to buy three nights with her husband from the Tsar's daughter (the false bride).[15]

Russian folklorist Nikolai V. Morokhin [ru] collected a tale from Nizhny Novgorod with the title "Финист-ясен сокол" ("Finist - Bright Falcon"). In this tale, a father is going to the bazaar and asks his three daughters what he can buy them. The elder asks for a handkerchief, the middle one for earring and the youngest, named Mashenka, for Finist-Bright Falcon. The father finds his youngest daughter a falcon: he remains a bird by day, and a human by night. Her sisters begin to hate the bird, and Finist decides to fly back to his kingdom to bring gifts for her. He flies and returns, but loses most of his feathers and has to fly back. Mashenka goes out of the door and tries to call him out with a song. Finist goes back and brings gifts for Mashenka.[16]

In a tale from Pudozh titled "Про Филиста" ("About Filist"), a pair of siblings live with their father. The brother lulls his sister to sleep by singing a song about a future suitor for her: Filist, the Bright Falcon. She grows up and questions her brother about this Filist, but the brother, now older, dismisses it as a figment of his childhood. He goes to heat up the bath house and an old man tells him how his sister can find Filist: she is to follow three horses that will lead her to Filist. The horses stop by a barn, everything unlit inside. The girl finds a hut in the back of the property and meets a witch there. The witch tells her that Filist is indeed handsome, with hair of gold and silver, and gives her some matches to see him at night. The girl goes to the barn and lights up the matches to see him, but a spark falls in his hair and he disappears. The girl goes back to the witch in the backyard and she admonishes the girl, for now she has to endure three years of searching with iron boots, iron canes, iron bread. The girl goes to a smith to fashion the iron accessories and begins her quest. She goes to the huts of the witch's sisters, and gain from each a golden object: a golden reel, a golden spinning wheel, and a golden spindle. At last she finds Filist, but he is under the power of the Yaghi-Baba and bribes her with the golden objects for three nights with him.[17] Despite the name of the male character, typical of Russian type 432, the compiler noted that the tale was closer to type 425A.[18]

Komi peopleEdit

In a variant from the Syryenen/Komi people titled Der falke Pipilysty ("The Falcon Pipilysty"), collected in Kortkeros, a rich merchant asks his three daughters what they want as gifts. The elder two ask for shoes and a headscarf, while the youngest asks for the Falcon Pipilysty. The merchant does not find the bird in the first two journeys, but on the third be brings home the Falcon Pipilysty. While her sisters go to church, the bird becomes a human youth and he gives her beautiful clothes to go to church. One day, the girl burns Falcon Pipilysty's birdskin, and disappears beyond the mountains. She has to go after him, and brings with her a spool of golden thread, yarns of silk and a golden frame. She reaches a meadow where a hut is located, and finds her husband there, living in the hut with a joma. The girl uses the three objects to bribe the joma for three nights with her husband. On the first two nights, she tries to wake him up by recounting her arduous journey so far, but he does not flinch. On the third night, the husband awakes and escapes with the girl.[19]


In a tale from Perm Krai with the title "Фифилисто ясно перышко" ("Fifilist, Bright Feather"), a father wants to gift his three daughters presents, and the youngest asks for Fifilist Bright Feather. The man does not seem to find the object on the first two trips, only on the third. After the girl gets Fifilist Bright Feather, she summons him by her window with a song and he comes to give her beautiful dresses to go to church with. The girl goes to church twice and is not recognized by her sisters, but on the third time she tells them she was the girl in beautiful dresses. On the fourth time, the sister place scissors by the window, Fifilist is hurt by the blades and flies back to wherever he comes from. The girl decides to go after him and meets Baba Yaga in her hut. Baba Yaga gives the heroine three eggs and three bowls, one of copper on the first time, silver on the second and gold on the third, and advises her to trade them for three nights with Fifilist, who is living with Baba Yaga's daughters.[20]


Variants of type 432 also exist in the Bulgarian Folktale Catalogue with the name Сокол съпруг ("Falcon husband"), which reference Finist as the bird prince.[21]



  • Finist, the brave Falcon (Финист - Ясный сокол) (1976), Soviet Slavic fantasy adventure film directed by Gennadi Vasilyev.
  • The Falcon (1990), children's film written and co-directed by Greg Palmer. The first co-production between the US and Soviet Georgia, with a film crew from Seattle shooting alongside locals in the Caucasus Mountains. It was aired on television as part of the 1990 Goodwill Games.[22]
  • The Phoenix Feather Alexandre Alexeieff and Claire Parker, (1974) animation on pinboard with chiaroscuro effect, 12 minutes, Black and White, part of European Folk Tales series produced by Max Massimino Garnier and John Halas for the Internation Animated Film Association 1971-1980, shown on Granada TV in UK and worldwide in 1980s.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Post Wheeler, Russian Wonder Tales "The Feather of Finist the Falcon"
  2. ^ Polevoĭ, Petr; Bain, Robert Nisbet. Russian Fairy Tales: From the Skazki of Polevoi. Chicago: Way & Williams, 1895. pp. 188-199.
  3. ^ Dole, Nathan Haskell. The Russian Fairy Book. Cambridge, the University Press, 1907. pp. 21-44.
  4. ^ Riordan, James; Turska, Krystyna. Tales from Central Russia. Harmondsworth, Eng.: Kestrel Books; [New York]: Viking Press. pp. 63-72.
  5. ^ Johns, Andreas. 2003. “Jack V. Haney. The Complete Russian Folktale. Vols. 1-4. 1-4”. In: FOLKLORICA - Journal of the Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Folklore Association 8 (2). p. 38.
  6. ^ Barag, Lev. "Сравнительный указатель сюжетов. Восточнославянская сказка". Leningrad: НАУКА, 1979. p. 133.
  7. ^ Dobrovolskaya, Varvara. "PLOT No. 425A OF COMPARATIVE INDEX OF PLOTS (“CUPID AND PSYCHE”) IN RUSSIAN FOLK-TALE TRADITION". In: Traditional culture. 2017. Vol. 18. № 3 (67). p. 139.
  8. ^ Riordan, James. Russian Folk-Tales. Oxford University Press. 2000. pp. 43-52. ISBN 0 19 274536 0.
  9. ^ Johns, Andreas (2010). Baba Yaga: The Ambiguous Mother and Witch of the Russian Folktale. New York: Peter Lang. p. 212. ISBN 978-0-8204-6769-6.
  10. ^ Barag, Lev. "Сравнительный указатель сюжетов. Восточнославянская сказка". Leningrad: НАУКА, 1979. pp. 133-134.
  11. ^ Haney, Jack V. The Complete Folktales of A. N. Afanas'ev. Volume II: Black Art and the Neo-Ancestral Impulse. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. 2015. pp. 536-556.
  12. ^ Сказка о финифтяном пёрушке ясного сокола at Wikisource.
  13. ^ "Старая погудка на новый лад: Русская сказка в изданиях конца XVIII века". Б-ка Рос. акад. наук. Saint Petersburg: Тропа Троянова, 2003. pp. 159-163. Полное собрание русских сказок; Т. 8. Ранние собрания.
  14. ^ Dobrovolskaya, Varvara. "PLOT No. 425A OF COMPARATIVE INDEX OF PLOTS (“CUPID AND PSYCHE”) IN RUSSIAN FOLK-TALE TRADITION". In: Traditional culture. 2017. Vol. 18. № 3 (67). pp. 147, 149.
  15. ^ Curtin, Jeremiah. Myths and Folk-tales of the Russians, Western Slavs, and Magyars. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. 1890. pp. 47-58.
  16. ^ Морохин, Николай Владимирович. "Нижегородские сказки". Nizhegorodskiĭ oblastnoĭ ėkologicheskiĭ t︠s︡entr "Dront", 1992. pp. 111-112, 182.
  17. ^ "Русские Народные Сказки: Пудожского Края" [Russian Folk Tales: Pudozh Region]. Karelia, 1982. pp. 139-143.
  18. ^ "Русские Народные Сказки: Пудожского Края" [Russian Folk Tales: Pudozh Region]. Karelia, 1982. p. 281.
  19. ^ Wichmann, Yrjö. Syrjänische Volksdichtung. Helsinki 1916. pp. 104-110.
  20. ^ "Русские народные сказки Пермского края" [Russian Folktales from Perm Krai]. Сост. А. В. Черных. Пермское кн. изд-во, 2004. pp. 95-99, 246. ISBN 5-93683-024-1.
  21. ^ Даскалова-Перковска, Лиляна et al. "Български фолклорни приказки: каталог". Университетско издателство "Св. Климент Охридски", 1994. p. 152. ISBN 9789540701561.
  22. ^ Palmer, Greg. "The Falcon". Retrieved 27 January 2021.
  23. ^ Platonov, Andreĭ Platonovich; Chagnon, Mary. Finist the falcon prince: a Russian folk tale. Minneapolis, Minn. : Carolrhoda Books, 1973.
  24. ^ Riordan, James. Russian Folk-Tales. Oxford University Press. 2000. pp. 43-52. ISBN 0 19 274536 0.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit