The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale is a historic fantasy novel written by Katherine Arden. It’s Arden’s debut novel, and the primary novel within the Winternight trilogy.[2] The Bear and the Nightingale is about in medieval Russia and incorporates components of Russian folklore. The central character is a younger lady, Vasya Petrovna, who is ready to talk with mythological creatures, at a time when Orthodox Christianity is making an attempt to stamp out all perception in such beings.

The Bear and the Nightingale was a finalist for the Locus Award, and Arden obtained nominations for the John W. Campbell Award. The complete trilogy was a finalist for the Hugo Award for Finest Collection.[3]



The novel begins with an introduction of Pyotr Vladimirovich’s family. Pyotr is a Russian boyar, the lord of a distant village, Lesnaya Zemlya, on the outskirts of the forests. His spouse, Marina Ivanovna, the daughter of the Grand Prince of Moscow, Ivan I, and their 4 youngsters, Kolya, Sasha, Olga and Alyosha are huddled across the kitchen oven being instructed the story of the frost-demon by their housekeeper and nanny, Dunya. This story tells the story of Morozko, the frost king. As soon as the youngsters have fallen asleep, Marina makes her approach to her bed room the place she informs her husband, Pyotr, that she is as soon as once more pregnant. This poses a difficulty to the household as a result of Marina isn’t anticipated to reside by means of one other being pregnant. Nonetheless, she is decided to see by means of the start of her fifth baby as a result of she will be able to sense that this daughter could have powers that Marina’s mom is believed to have had. To her household’s grief, she certainly dies in childbirth, and her daughter is called Vasilisa, nicknamed Vasya.

As Vasya grows older, she begins to spend extra time within the forest. Nonetheless, whereas she is exploring in the future, she comes throughout an uncommon tree that she doesn’t recognise. On the foot of this tree lies a person with a lacking eye. Earlier than he can take an curiosity in her, one other unusual man on a horse arrives warning Vasya to depart and instructing the one-eyed man to return to sleep as a result of it’s nonetheless winter. Vasya will get misplaced within the woods and is discovered by her older brother Sasha who’s out with the search occasion on the lookout for her. As soon as Sasha and Vasya return residence, Sasha warns his father that Vasya wants a mom to take care of and lift her. Pytor takes on this recommendation and travels to Moscow, taking Kolya and Sasha with him.

Whereas in Moscow, Sasha meets a neighborhood monk who makes a great impression and returns to ask his father if he can go away and spend his time on the Christian monastery. Pyotr makes a cope with his son that he can solely go if he agrees to remain at residence for yet one more 12 months so that he’s certain of his determination and never swayed by the monk. Pyotr can be profitable find a spouse for himself. The Grand Prince of Moscow, Ivan II, presents his younger daughter, Anna Ivanovna, to Pyotr. Anna additionally has the flexibility to see mythological creatures, nevertheless is satisfied that they’re devils and that she is being punished by God. In consequence, there are whispers from others dwelling within the fort that she is both a witch or loopy, so the Grand Prince sees this as a approach to get her out of the general public eye.

After making their means again to Lesnaya Zemlya, Pyotr additionally informs his daughter Olga of his success find her a husband in Moscow and that Anna is now their step mom. As soon as Anna realises that Vasya can even see the creatures, however isn’t afraid of them, she turns into satisfied that Vasya is a witch on the facet of evil and when the brand new, younger and good-looking priest, Konstantin Nikonovich, arrives they plan to make sure that each particular person in Lesnaya Zemlya is satisfied of Christianity and turns their backs on folklore and traditions of leaving choices for little creatures believed to be protected guarding their village from the evil bear, Medved. Nonetheless, in doing this, the creatures quickly disappear as their choices deplete and Lesnaya Zemlya is left defenseless. In the meantime, Medved has been launched and has satisfied Konstantin that he’s the voice of God. Konstantin, satisfied that God is giving him his orders straight, agrees to Medved’s calls for to sacrifice a witch. Whereas Pyotr is away, Konstantin and Anna hatch a plan to ship Vasya to a convent by convincing the village people who she is a witch. Nonetheless, within the midst of all of the insanity that arises, Vasya escapes into the forest, the place she is taken below the wing of Morozko, the frost demon, who then reveals that he’s the brother of Medved and is tasked with maintaining him locked up for so long as he can. Whereas within the care of Morozko, Vasya meets Solovey, an clever horse, with whom she bonds.

In the meantime, Medved has realised that Vasya has been taken in by Morozko and convinces Konstantin to influence Anna to comply with him into the forest. As soon as he does this, Medved reveals himself to Konstantin because the evil bear and kills Anna, wholly resolving him of his shackles. Regardless of this, Pyotr seems within the forest and affords himself to Medved rather than Vasya. This sacrifice as soon as once more bounds Medved, returning him to limitless slumber beneath the bizarre tree. Because the novel concludes, Vasya convinces her brother, Alyosha, that she should go away and permit him to determine himself as a person amongst males and that her presence will solely have an effect on him negatively, being a witch-woman. She and Solovey journey into the forest and she or he finds Morozko in his residence.

Main characters

1932. Illustration of the story of Morozko, Father Frost, by Ivan Bilibin.

  • Vasya Petrovna: a younger lady who is ready to see the spirits that lurk inside her residence and village. She possesses the powers to battle the evil bear, Medved, and make sure that her residence stays protected from his grasp.
  • Morozko: the winter demon and the brother of Medved. He takes in Vasya when she escapes from Konstantin and Anna and helps her realise her potential whereas aiding her in her battle with Medved.
  • Medved: the one-eyed man that’s seen chained to a tree when Vasya was a little bit lady. He’s additionally the brother of Morozko and the beast that’s attempting to destroy the world.
  • Pyotr Vladimirovich: a Russian Boyar and the daddy of Vasya. He marries Ivan II’s daughter, Anna Ivanovna, as a way to deliver residence a girl who can elevate Vasya into changing into a good girl. He in the end sacrifices his life through the battle between Vasya and Medved to make sure that she lives.
  • Anna Ivanovna: the daughter of Ivan II and the second spouse of Pyotr Vladimirovich. She additionally has the flexibility to see the spirits, nevertheless, believes them to be demons. Anna additionally creates the plan with Konstantin to ship Vasya to a convent whereas Pyotr is away. This mimics the Slavic story of Morozko. She is in the end slayed by Medved, appearing because the sacrifice wanted to loosen his shackles.
  • Konstantin Nikonovich: the good-looking younger priest that’s despatched to Lesnaya Zemlya as a deterrent for an early revolution. He’s rapidly capable of achieve the eye and belief of the residents of Lesnaya Zemlya and scares them into ending their sacrifices to the spirits that guard their properties. He’s additionally led astray by Medved, who involves him because the voice of God, to hold out his bidding.


Illustration of a domovoy by Ivan Bilibin.

Illustration of a rusalka by Ivan Bilibin.

Illustration of a leshy within the forest.

The Bear and the Nightingale is Arden’s debut novel and was revealed in January 2017 by Del Rey Books. Arden accomplished her diploma in French and Russian literature earlier than shifting to Hawaii for six months whereas writing her novel. Her fascination with Russian literature and historical past prompted her to jot down a novel that was set in medieval Russia. Based on Arden, her attraction with this topic stems from a younger age. In an interview with CNET she revealed that she had learn Russian fairytales as a toddler.[4]

The novel tackles points similar to gender and ladies’s roles. Being set in medieval Russia, Arden challenges these points in her novel and that is famous in her interview with BookPage as Ping states, “Vasya is a really compelling heroine. She is robust sufficient to embrace her variations, however she nonetheless reads as a girl of her time”.[5] Arden confirms this and explains her problem in balancing what she believed was proper and what her character believed was proper in medieval Russia.

Arden additionally weaves a mixture of Russian folklore and Slavic mythology into the narrative. She tells the story of the intertwining however conflicting beliefs of custom and faith by incorporating characters such because the bold priest, Konstantin Nikonovich and enchanting fairy-tale creatures. Vasya is used as a medium to discover the interactions between these opposing philosophies. These creatures embody:

  • Domovoy: the family spirit who lives inside the boundaries of the family. Within the novel, the domovoi is depicted because the guardian of the house, placated with meals choices in return for cover.[6]

Illustration of a bannik by Ivan Bilibin.

  • Rusalka: a water spirit that may be discovered round lakes. They arrive within the type of girls and their purpose is especially to entice males. Within the novel, the rusalka is the primary creature to warn Vasya of the priest’s hazard to the lifestyle of the villagers.[7]
  • Leshy: forest spirits who disguise in tall grass and revel in taking part in methods on individuals wading by means of forests.[8]
  • Bannik: bathhouse spirits. The bannik within the bathhouse the place Anna Ivanovna lived earlier than marrying Pyotr would scare her a lot she would refuse to wash for weeks at a time till she was compelled by her stepmother.[9]
  • Dvorovoi: the family yard spirit. The dvorovoi spend their time within the stables and yards of homes. The dvorovoi play a major function within the novel by warning Vasya of their fleeting time left as a result of depleting choices left by the villagers.[10]
  • Vodianoy: a male water spirit. They’re vengeful creatures who get pleasure from drowning individuals. They’re sometimes thought of the male model of rusalkas.[11]

When requested why she included so many myths and legends into her novel Arden responded, “Slavic paganism by no means actually disappeared from the Russian countryside after the arrival of Christianity; slightly they coexisted, with some friction, for hundreds of years. I used to be fascinated by the tensions inherent in such a system”.[5]


The Bear and the Nightingale was launched in early January 2017,[12] adopted by the sequel The Woman within the Tower,[13] which was launched in December 2017. The ultimate novel of the collection, The Winter of the Witch, was launched in January 2019.[14] The collection is being revealed by Del Rey, an imprint of Penguin Random Home Firm. The Bear and the Nightingale was awarded Amazon’s Finest Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2017[15] and nominated for Goodreads Alternative Awards Finest Fantasy 2017 and Goodreads Alternative Awards Finest Debut Goodreads Creator 2017.[12]

The Bear and the Nightingale has additionally been revealed in paperback, hardcover, e book and audio editions. Official translations embody Bulgarian, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, Serbian, Croatian, Hungarian, Persian, Spanish, Turkish, Chinese language, Czech and Russian.[16]


The Bear and the Nightingale has been obtained positively by critics and reviewers. Publishers Weekly wrote that “the gorgeous prose (“The blood flung itself out to Vasya’s pores and skin till she may really feel each stirring within the air”) types a totally immersive, uncommon, and thrilling fairy story that may enchant readers from the primary web page”.[17] In a starred evaluate, Kirkus commented on how the story was a “fairy story [..] grounded within the realities of each day life within the time interval”, and that “even minor characters are given their very own units of longings and fears and impression the trajectory of the story”.[18] Everdeen Mason of The Washington Publish stated:[19]

“The novel is deceptively easy, however its characters and plot are subtle and sophisticated. Arden explores what occurs when concern and ignorance whip individuals right into a furor, and the way society may be persuaded to behave in opposition to its personal pursuits so simply.”

Some critics have been upset with the later chapters of the ebook. In an in any other case glowing evaluate, fantasy author and critic Amal El-Mohtar finds fault within the ebook’s conclusion, for a “mishmash of have an effect on and elegance, and an ending that undercuts a lot of its former energy.”[20] Equally, author and ebook reviewer Caitlyn Paxson finds that “plot choices and character developments veer down the trail of least resistance” in the long run of a ebook she would nonetheless “fortunately advocate.”[21]

The Bear and the Nightingale was a finalist for the 2018 Locus Award for Finest First Novel, and Arden obtained nominations for the John W. Campbell Award for Finest New Author in 2018 and 2019. The Winternight trilogy was a finalist for the Hugo Award for Finest Collection in 2020.[3]

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