As Vladimir and his warrior retinue feast in celebration of Lyudmila’s marriage, the amorous bridegroom Ruslan plucks at his mustache and waits impatiently for the ceremonies to end. Just as uneasy are his rivals Rogday, Farlaf, and Ratmir, who sit brooding over their love for Lyudmila and their hatred of Ruslan. Finally the newlyweds retire to the bridal chamber, and soon only the rustle of discarded clothing and lovers’ murmurs are to be heard—until suddenly, in a flash of lightning, a roll of thunder, and a puff of smoke, Lyudmila vanishes. A frustrated and puzzled Ruslan is left to explain the mysterious disappearance of his bride. Vladimir, prince of Kiev, blames Ruslan for failing to protect her and offers Lyudmila’s still-virginal hand to whichever knight succeeds in bringing her back. Ruslan, Rogday, Farlaf, and Ratmir at once mount their horses and gallop off; they soon part ways.
A dejected Ruslan finds himself at the cave of the Finn, a serene old hermit who greets him by name. The Finn explains that it is the sorcerer Chernomor who has spirited Lyudmila away for his own lustful ends, but Ruslan need not fear—his bride will remain unharmed and he will get her back in the end. The Finn also tells Ruslan his own story of love and misplaced enchantment and warns that his old love Naina, now a witch, will turn her malice on him too. Ruslan, emboldened by hope, continues his quest.
Meanwhile, Rogday has decided to first do away with Ruslan and then pursue Lyudmila. After chasing down the cowardly Farlaf by mistake, then leaving in amused disgust, Rogday encounters an old woman who directs him further; this same old woman, promising that the girl will not escape, advises Farlaf to go home and bide his time.
Lyudmila awakens to find herself in Chernomor’s castle, in a splendid chamber hung with precious brocades and redolent of incense. Wandering through the enchanted gardens outside the castle, utterly alone, she contemplates throwing herself from a bridge but thinks better of it; she also considers starving herself rather than eating the sumptuous dinner that is miraculously set before her, but in the end she eats. At nightfall, as she waits in...
(The entire section is 899 words.)