The Lay of Igor's Campaign Analysis


Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Novgorod-Seversk (NOV-go-rod seh-VEHRSK). Home of Igor Svyatoslavich. Not to be confused with the northern city of Novgorod, this is a smaller city on the Desna River, in what would later become Ukraine.

*Don River

*Don River. Location of Igor’s first battle against the Polovetsians. This large river of Russia’s southern steppe is a major waterway and would serve as a natural boundary difficult for a rapidly retreating army to cross.

*Donets River

*Donets River (DO-nehts). The lesser Don, a tributary of the Don River. In the rushes along its banks, Igor escapes from his Polovetsian captors with the aid of Ovlur the Polovetsian. The poet personifies the river, having it speak to Igor as he approaches and then loyally protect him in his escape. The bard also portrays the various animals and birds of the region as aiding Igor in his escape, except for the snakes, which prove faithless but can only slither.


*Kiev (kyehv). Principal city of the Russian nation prior to the Mongol invasion. In the hills overlooking the Dnieper River, Svyatoslav the prince of Kiev has his palace. There he has the prophetic dream of his son Igor’s defeat at the hands of the Polovetsians.

The Lay of Igor's Campaign Bibliography

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Gudzii, N. K. History of Early Russian Literature. 2d ed. Translated by Susan Wilbur Jones. New York: Macmillan, 1949. Reviews the textual history of the work and comments on the issue of its authenticity. Examines the tale in its historical context with respect to the Old Russian chronicles. Reflects on references to nature, pagan gods, and folk elements.

Howes, Robert C. Introduction to The Tale of the Campaign of Igor. New York: W. W. Norton, 1973. Probably the most thorough and readily accessible treatment of the work in English, providing solid historical background, examination of the poem, and commentary on nature, religion, and the role of the hero. The translation includes very useful footnotes.

Muchnic, Helen. An Introduction to Russian Literature. New York: Doubleday, 1947. The dozen pages on The Lay of Igor’s Campaign reflect especially on the presumed character of the anonymous poet as well as the nature of the poetry itself.

Pronin, Alexander. History of Old Russian Literature. Frankfurt, Germany: Posev, 1968. Three discussions include brief historical context and a genealogical chart of the major characters. Provides a simple section-by-section analysis.

Tschizewskij, Dmitrij. History of Russian Literature from the Eleventh Century to the End of the Baroque. The Hague: Mouton, 1960. The section on The Lay of Igor’s Campaign, about a dozen pages, focuses on the poetic elements (metaphors, imagery, sounds). Notes the predominance of auditory and color images.