The following are most of the characters who have shown up in the stories thus far, largely in order of appearance. I was having trouble keeping the merchants straight, which is why I finally decided that a “Cast List” would be appropriate. The numbers indicate the episodes in which the characters appear.
IF YOU HAVE NOT READ ANY OF THE STORIES, YOU WILL ENCOUNTER SPOILERS BELOW. So’s you know.
Read in chapters here.
Read entry-by-entry here.
Last updated: March 30, 2012
The Inkeeper (husband) and Bartender (wife): They are the proprietors of the inn in which all of the stories are currently being told in the course of a long and snowy winter’s night. The Bartender is the narrator of Part 27 – It Sees in Time. They work hard, they manage their inn together. The husband might drink too much sometimes. Hard to say. ( 1, 22, 26, 27, 28)
The Old Traveler: According to his own words, he is the Soldier in his own stories (see below) and he has a mysterious flask that he has wagered against a night’s lodging. He is probably a great liar, but he might not be. ( 1, 9, 22, 26, 28, 32, 41, 52)
Several Merchants: Our named fellows are Dmitri (9, 22, 26, 28, 32, 41, 52), who is wealthy, suspicious, and prone to anger; his jovial friend Yevgeny (9, 22, 26, 28, 32, 41); and Sergei, a large, red-faced man who may not be the most honest dealer in the world, but is completely honest about how not-honest he may have been (22, 26, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32; narrator in those last three).
The Soldier: A world-weary, put-upon man, he is nearly always polite, except in the presence of some beautiful women, who cause him to trip over his own feet. In addition to his own varied adventures, he has internalized the experiences of the various soldiers that he used to know back when he was only a simple soldier in the Tsar’s service and had no great aspirations beyond living until the next day. He failed in this particular goal when Yumni killed him after the rescue of Vasilisa (part 21). (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21)
The Great Horned Spirit: A creature of fearsome power, knowledge, looks, and odor. It agrees to help the Soldier because he freed it from where it had been trapped. (2, 3, 4)
Tsarevitch Ivan: Or “Prince Ivan,” if the Russian is too quirky. Young, handsome, and privileged, Ivan is exactly the person you want leading your charge. He is probably not the person you want planning your strategy. He is in love with Vasilisa. At the very least, he is in love with the idea of being in love with Vasilisa, which is still very, very sincere. He was turned into a dragon for a while, and now considers himself something of an expert on them as a species. (5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 52, 53, 55, 56, 57)
Tsarevna Vasilisa: Prince Ivan’s betrothed and the daughter of the sorcerous and less-than-desirable father-in-law, Tsar Pyotr, who turned Ivan into a dragon at one point. She is more able than Ivan suspects and often lets him take charge because that’s what Ivan thinks he should do (and what he thinks she thinks he should do). Everyone thought she had been abducted by Koschey the Deathless, but it was in fact Yumni who had taken her away. She narrates Yumni’s story in part 54.(19, 20, 21, 52, 53, 55, 56, 57)
Yumni: Also called the Whirlwind (one translation of his name), he lives in a diamond palace made of water drops, where he kept Vasilisa. Earlier in his life, he was betrayed by Coyote and now would love to kill him if he could. Vasilisa calls Yumni “a lost soul.” He is a giant of a man with a flail that billows out thunder and lightning before it, which is precisely how the Soldier died. (20, 21, 54)
Koschey the Deathless: One of the traditional villains of Russian folktales, Koschey is the source of everything bad in these stories. He is the ultimate villain, and only two people know how to kill him. ( 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 47, 48, 49, 50)
Baba Yaga: A more ambiguous Russian folk figure, she is without a doubt malevolent, but she will occasionally function as a helper to heroic figures. Not that her help necessarily comes without a price… (36, 40, 45, 46, 51)
Marya Morevna: In Russian folklore, she is a warrior princess who has Koschey strung up in irons in her dungeon. This story finds her long before the events of that one, how she fell into a well, thought she was dead, and nearly learned how to get home before Koschey cursed her never to be able to regain her human form. (42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51)
Various Helpers, Supernatural or Otherwise
No Legs and No Eyes are paired (siblings? friends?) ogre-like creatures who are fond of living meat and are good in a pinch. But not against Yumni. (10, 11, 12, 21)
The Monarchs of the Copper, Silver, and Gold Kingdoms: Benevolent and powerful individuals with whom the Soldier left talismans as he and Prince Ivan went in search of Princess Vasilisa.( 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25)
Raven and Coyote: More on the powerful side than on the benevolent side. Raven might be responsible for the rains (through no fault of his own: 16, 23, 24, 25) and Coyote might be the reason we all die ( 54).
The Six Helpers: Common throughout folklore, the hero often encounters people with specialized skills: Sharp-Eye is the best marksman in the world. Hears-All can hear anything and everything, anywhere in the world. Fleet-of-Foot sometimes ties one leg behind him because he is otherwise so fast that in one step he would be on the other side of the world. The Hungry Man (sometimes Thirsty) can never be sated with enough food (or drink, yes). Another commands the magical Brushwood Army. Another can blow a cold Arctic wind. Obviously, these are only types, and for this story I’ve worked to fashion a geographically appropriate backstory as Ivan picked his crew up, one by one.
Other characters come and go throughout the stories and may or may not play a larger role as the whole thing unfurls.