The Mistress of the Copper Mountain

“The Mistress of the Copper Mountain” (Russian: Медной горы хозяйка) is a folk tale (the so-called skaz) of the Ural region of Russia collected and reworked by Pavel Bazhov, the famous Russian writer, best known for his collection of fairy tales The Malachite Box, based on Ural folklore. It was first published in 1936

It comes from a time when the spirits of forests and mountains still moved among humans, watching them, searching for those who could be taught their secrets before such ancient wisdom was lost forever. One such spirit was especially revered for her magic and power. She was an extremely beautiful woman, dressed in a great silk dress with patterns resembling malachite, a lovely-patterned green stone often found in Urals. Some people knew her as an ancient mountain goddess; others called her the Mistress of the Copper Mountain. Often people called her the Lizard Queen because an army of lizards always was all around her, they were different colors, green, bluish, brown ones with gold spots, etc. Sometimes she would turn herself into a lizard: ”At this moment the stunned Stepan noticed that her outer appearance had suddenly changed, he could see now that she had green paws, a tail with a black crest running down her back, but her head still remained human in appearance”.

According to the legends, a person who sees the Mistress comes under her spell. She shows kindness to good people and skilled craftsmen, helping them to find jewels and gold, but if her conditions aren’t met, the person loses all his luck, skill and can even die.

In this story, a young factory worker Stepan meets the Mistress of the Copper Mountain. After some events, she brings Stepan to her domain, shows him her treasures and abundance of malachite, and proposes marriage. Stepan honestly replies that he already promised to marry another girl, Nastyona. The Mistress is delighted by his reply, revealing that her proposal was a test of Stepan’s honesty. She presents a malachite casket filled with jewelry for Nastyona and lets the man go, making one final request that Stepan would forget about her. Unfortunately, Stepan cannot do that. He marries Nastyona and lives with her for many years, but he is unhappy. One day he goes away and doesn’t come back. His body is later found lying by a rock. The tale concludes with the words: “It’s a chancy thing to meet her [The Mistress], it brings woe for a bad man, and for a good one there’s little joy comes of it.”

The fairy tale “The Mistress of the Copper Mountain” became very well-known after their appearance in Pavel Bazhov’s The Malachite Box. It is written in contemporary language and blends elements of everyday life with fantastic characters. (It was awarded the Stalin prize in 1942). Bazhov’s stories are based on the oral lore of the miners and gold prospectors.

The book contains more than 40 stories about the life, people, industry and culture of the Urals. The most popular tales are “The Mistress of the Copper Mountain” and its continuation “The Malachite Casket”, “The Stone Flower” and its continuation “The Master Craftsman”, “Silver Hoof”, “Cat’s Ears”, “Sinyushka’s Well”, “The Manager’s Boot-Soles”, and the later stories – “A Fragile Twig”, “The Fire-Fairy”, “Tayutka’s Mirror”, “Ivanko Krylatko”, “That Spark of Life”.

The Mistress of the Copper Mountain summary

The Urals Region: Ural workers, Folklore and Malachite Casket tales by Pavel Bazhov

About the book “The Malachite Box” (Малахитовая шкатулка)

The Book of Masters – the first Walt Disney movie loosely based on Bazhov’s tales, was created in Russia by its Disney CIS division.
The world is in danger. Soon the ancient prophecy will be fulfilled and the Stone Princess, imprisoned in the tower, will break free in order to gain power over the world with the help of her evil spells. By chance, the fate of people in the hands of Ivan, who will go through many tests. In his power to endow the princess with magical power and make her the ruler of the earth, but he also can defeat her in order to save his beloved Katya. On the way to the goal, many dangers and adventures wait for Ivan, including encounters with the heroes of Russian fairy tales – Baba Yaga, the Mermaid, Koschei the Immortal, and many others.

Sergei Prokofiev, ballet ‘’The Stone Flower”

Lizards Waltz from The Stone Flower

The Mistress of Copper Mountain (1975), Russian cartoon

The Stone Flower(1977), Russian cartoon

The Mountain Master, a Soviet-era cartoon about all the aforementioned characters based on Bazhov’s tales

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