St. Stephan and Mel'ejka in Komi Folklore

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St. Stephan and Mel'ejka in Komi Folklore

Submitted by Yuri Klitsenko

[Ed. Note] We find it very interesting that so much of human religion is connected to violence, killing, and death.  God's creation intent and heavenly desire is to give us peace and life eternal.  Our understanding of this simple fact, will let is know whether something is in God's will.  Note the following story.

Mel'ejka – a hero of a Zyrian legend about St. Stephan the Permian, a sorcerer (tun) from the river Mezen’.

The name of Mel'ejka, like the names of the majority of those sorcerers who fought against St. Stephan, has a toponymic base explaining the origin of the name of village Melentievo (Zyr. mel’ej) on the river Mezen’: mel’ej + ajka ‘old man’ = mel’ajka.

The competition between St. Stephan and Mel'ejka is presented in folklore sources as a competition of two sorcerers in power, by the canons of the so-called Zyrian «sorcery epos». In the beginning the following subject is given:

St. Stephan sails in a boat along the river Mezen’ and sees that on the bank Mel'ejka distils mash for beer. St. Stephan pronounces a charm («Mash, stop!»), and Mel'ejka says an answering charm («If the mash stops, let the boat stop!»). Both the mash and the boat simultaneously stop. After that Stephan and Mel'ejka pronounce usual for such an episode in the «sorcery epos» phrases: «Mash, move! – If the mash moves, let your boat move!»

St.Stephan moors to the bank and comes to Mel'ejka. Mel'ejka attacks him with a weapon, but Stephan pronounces a charm and becomes invulnerable. Guessing that Mel'ejka, like all sorcerers, has a close connection with the water element St. Stephan orders his companions to block any Mel'ejka’s way to the river. Then Mel'ejka pronounces a charm, and as a result of it the mash in the tun instantly gets cold, he jumps into the tun and pronounces a new charm, the mash begins to flood the environs as an impetuous stream. In answer St. Stephan says his charm, after which the bonfire under the tun flames up, mash begins to boil. Mel'ejka jumps out from the tun and runs towards the river. The companions of Stephan blocked his way and began to chop him with axes, but they were able to kill him only after they had cut his belt on an advice of Mel'ejka himself.


“Komi Mythology: Encyclopaedia of Uralic Mythologies” ed. by Vladimir Napolskikh, Anna-Leena Siikala, Mihaly Hoppal. Budapest: Akademiai Kiado – Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, 2003