Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 523
Vladimir, the grand prince of Kiev from 980 to 1015. The ruler, an actual figure from history, is best known for bringing Christianity to Kievan Russia, the territory that eventually would expand into the Russian Empire. He was also the hero of legends and tales. In this poem, he is featured merely as the father of the bride, Lyudmila.
Lyudmila, the younger daughter of Vladimir. Whisked away from her bridegroom Ruslan on their wedding night and held captive by the sorcerer Chernomor, she is no languishing damsel in distress. The high-spirited young woman almost succeeds in outwitting her would-be-ravisher. Only by using her love for Ruslan to trick her is Chernomor able to snare her and put her into an enchanted sleep.
Ruslan, a member of Vladimir’s famed warrior retinue and Lyudmila’s betrothed. True-hearted and brave in the face of danger, despair, and humiliation, he must pass through a number of trials to rescue his bride.
Rogday, the first of Ruslan’s three human challengers. Genuinely brave but dour and pugnacious, he intends to fight his way into Vladimir’s favor by doing away with Ruslan and rescuing Lyudmila.
Ratmir, a young Khazar khan who is another of Ruslan’s rivals. Quick and passionate, and excited by the prospect of wedding and bedding Lyudmila, he too sets out to rescue her. He is soon distracted from the chase by the more immediate pleasures of an enchanted castle inhabited by twelve beautiful maidens.
Farlaf, Ruslan’s third and deadliest challenger. Long on talk and short on deeds, Farlaf also sets out on the quest but soon conspires with the sorceress Naina to slay Ruslan once the true knight does the dangerous work of retrieving Lyudmila.
Chernomor, the evil dwarf who kidnaps Lyudmila. Although he is a powerful sorcerer, his physical charms are far inferior to his magic ones, and she finds him too grotesque and ridiculous to truly fear.
The Finn, a hermit-sorcerer who aids Ruslan in his quest. In his youth, he had been desperately in love with the beautiful peasant Naina and went off seeking wealth and glory as a pirate-raider. When she continued to spurn him, he turned to sorcery and spent decades learning the magic arts. He succeeded in bewitching Naina only to realize that forty years had passed and the woman who now passionately desired him was a hideous crone. Rueful and wise, he has retreated from the world.
Naina, the vengeful witch who takes up the mischief making where Chernomor leaves off. Her late, thwarted passion for the Finn has turned to malice toward him and anyone close to him, and she helps Farlaf plot the betrayal of Ruslan.
The Enchanted Head
The Enchanted Head, all that remains of a giant and warrior whose body is slain by his brother Chernomor. His head is doomed to remain alive to guard the magical sword that can cut off the dwarf’s beard and render him powerless. Although its encounter with Ruslan begins on a comic note, the Head does have an air of tragedy that the other characters lack.
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