Prince Igor Svyatoslavich
Prince Igor Svyatoslavich (ee-GOHR svya-toh-SLAH-vihch), the ruler of the city of Novgorod-Seversk. He leads his troops against the Polovetsians in 1185. He is the grandson of Oleg, prince of Chernigov, and the son of Svyatoslav of Chernigov. Although he is the title character, Igor’s stature as a hero is sometimes questioned, but his courage is never in doubt. He foolishly ignores the bad omen of the solar eclipse in assaulting the Polovetsians, but the initial encounter is successful. Igor refers to his troops as “friends” and “brothers,” and he is likened to a “mother bird.” When Igor’s troops are defeated by the heathens, Russia is left open to their raids, and the poet suggests that Igor’s “willfulness” cost them the battle. When Igor escapes with the aid of a Polovetsian named Ovlur, he is compared to an ermine, a white duck, a gray wolf, and a falcon, and his return is celebrated. The poet says that as it is hard for the body to exist without a head, so it is difficult for Russia without Igor.
Prince Vsevolod Svyatoslavich
Prince Vsevolod Svyatoslavich (VSEH-voh-lod), Igor’s brother, known as the Wild Ox. He is perhaps even hungrier for glory than is Igor. He stands “at the head of all,/ Flinging arrows at the enemy” and striking them down with his sword. His golden...
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