Rise of the Tomb Raider Based on Russian Folklore: 20th Celebration

20 years of raiding!

This button was designed by me Emma Q copyright 2016


As many of you know, the game Rise of the Tomb Raider is the latest Tomb Raider game and the game that the 20th anniversary will centre.  Lara is on the march to find the secret of immortality. If I think about what draws me into the Tomb Raider series and cultivates such drive for the forthcoming instalment, I would say its tangible  history. 
Now I guarantee you won’t find Centaur, Sun Queens, or her ancient storm guards chasing you as in various Tomb Raider games, for those are the legends that haunt the gamescapes and spice up the plots. After all it is a game. 
However, the detail given to tangible locations from ancient places of the world, and the way the developers tailor those places you could actually visit, is fascinating. It cultivates an interest that pulls the gamer into the increasingly vast world of Lara Croft.
Now, I have learned that Crystal Dynamics has spun their latest game plot from two Slavic folk tales: Koshchey the Deathless and the Lost City of Kitezh. Elements from these two fascinating tales are woven together and gives us a wonderful explorable plot for Lara to wade through. 
we also have some historical invaders to contend with, such as Batu Khan and the Golden Horde the grandson of the diabolical Genghis Khan. Apparently he and his men went in search of the city of Kitezh, and when they found the fabled town, the inhabitants did not wish to confront he and his men and prayed to God to save them. As they prayed to be saved, the city sunk before the eyes of the invaders, immersing it under the water. It is thought that the waters the city sunk beneath were that of Lake Svetloyar: 

Lake Svetloyar, Russia
Lake Svetloyar, Russia

 Legend tells only the pure of heart can go there. Now we shall see how pure of heart Lara is. I am also interested to know how much of the original tale of Kitezh will be used in the plot. As far as I know, Kitezh  is not connected to finding immortality, however, the folktale about Koshchey the Deathless is directly connected to immortality, so this plot must use a combination of the two. I like this idea, and am eager to see how much of each Crystal decided to go with or how they will spin this legendary new telling of these fantastic legends.

In regards of the folktale: Koshchey the Deathless AKA Koshchey the Immortal

Koshchey the Deathless by Ivan Bilibin, 1901.
Koshchey the Deathless by Ivan Bilibin, 1901.

Rise of the Tomb Raider will deal with an idea that has been written about and fascinated many for centuries. That idea being to remove the soul from the body and placing it in a box to achieve immortality. Though the game is not out as of yet, I read that Lara is using her father’s notes about Koshchey’s path to deathlessness. Lara’s father devoted much research towards this subject. 
I like this idea; because, it grounds Lara to an older past when her father came into play that many are familiar with. Hopefully, the manor will return, too. 
Koshchey is a powerful, evil sorcerer. Legend tells about him in several stories. One of which he is seen riding naked upon the back of his magical steed he got from his female counterpart Baba Yaga.

Baba Yaga as depicted by Ivan Bilibin (1902)
Baba Yaga as depicted by Ivan Bilibin (1902)

 She was another notorious, awful character that lived in the forest in a chicken legged hut that walked about. Here is an illustration of her hut:

The chicken legged hut of Baba Yaga
The chicken legged hut of Baba Yaga

The setting for Koshchey’s exploits is usually the Caucus mountains. Folklore tells he is also a shapeshifter, and if he is angry, he can appear as a whirlwind or dark clouds. He has control of the elements much like Baba Yaga. Essentially, he is a type of spirit that represents the destructive forces of nature. 
Koshchey likes to steal the brides of heroes. He comes on the scene with his storms or whirlwinds etc. and snatches her away from her groom. 
He is called “deathless” because his soul is hidden in a place away from his body, so he cannot be killed in the conventional sense. In most stories about him his soul is put into a needle. Then the needle is put into a duck egg, then the egg is put back into the duck and then the duck is put into a hare. Then the hare is put into a chest made of iron or gold depending on the story. Then the chest is buried under an old Oak tree on an island in the middle of the ocean known as Buyan. You can find Buyan referenced in several Slavic folktales’. Also, if you would like to read a folktale about Koshchey find it here under the title: The Red Fairy Book 
The Red Fairy Book is a collection of older tales by author, Andrew Lang (1844 – 1912) 

The Greeks possible interest in Siberia

Screenshot taken by Emma’s Quill

I think Greece factors in well in the plot of Rise of the Tomb Raider, because Lara learns the ancient Greek language in this game. Additionally, we are treated to a sighting of a Greek warship known as a trireme which dominated the Aegean in the 5th century BC. One of the most famous battles in ancient history took place in Salamis in 480 BC between the Persian king Xerxes and his armada and the Greeks with their fleet of triremes. What I find sad is there is no account of anyone finding a trireme, and this is probably due to the fact the materials they used (softer woods) would absorb too much water if left in the sea too long. They would remove them from the water each night and house them in a protective shelter (boat house) to dry them out. Absorbing large amounts of water would more than likely aid decay in the ancient vessels rendering no remains found thus far. Although there are many carvings of the vessels as well as paintings on pottery from the ancient world. Additionally, there are accounts of them from classical authors such as Homer, Thucydides, and Apollinus of Rhodes,  In the game, the trireme is frozen in what appears to be a waterfall. This waterfall resides in a cave Lara travels through in Siberia that was guarded by an enormous bear. She battled the bear eventually killing it in order to pass. This brings rise to why any Greek trireme would be found in Siberia. What were they there for? Could they have been looking for immortality? Possibly, the Legend of Koshchey is the oldest folklore tale in Rise of the Tomb Raider that I know of and it deals with immortality, but how old is it, is the operative question. Does this folklore date back to the heyday of the trireme? Either way, the main thought is, why would the ancient Greeks bother going to Siberia? Let’s explore that question a bit.

There was a Eurasian nomadic people (who more than likely spoke Eastern Iranian languages) known as Scythians. They inhabited the central Eurasian steppes which is a vast place and stretches through Moldavia, Ukraine and Siberia.  Rather unknown as of yet, but theoretically, the game developers could have used these people as the come on for the Greeks to explore these areas in ancient times. The ancient Greeks knew well of them. In the 5th century BC the Scythians were doing trade with the Greeks. Also, the Greek historian Herodotus gave the most detailed Western description of the Scythians. It is unknown if he ever visited Scythia though.  Considering the Scythians were successful in warfare and were among the first people to develop great skill with horse mounted battles, their zones spread considerably from centuries of inhabiting a region near the Black sea. It was in the 8th century BC and beyond that their territories spread from the Carpathian mountains to China and Siberia.  At the pinnacle of their power, they were in control of the entire steppe region giving way to what was known as the first Central Asian nomadic empire.  To me this would be the connection for Greece to be even slightly involved in exploring any part of Siberia, and would further explain why the Greek trireme was frozen in Siberia. I also find it interesting that the Scythians raided Syria as well as other places. We all know about the connection in Rise with Syria. The trailer for that part of the game recently was released. It appears that the writers of this great game may have collaborated about the history of the nomadic tribes and then fashioned a game from the legends and the relationship of these peoples. It would be compelling thought, because, of the vast scope of territory the Scythians inhabited, which spans many cultures and of course many folklores. Who knows for the game developers did take artistic license and use the best or similar elements from each folklore and compiled their own tale of intrigue and curiosity. When the game comes out we shall all know for sure! I cannot wait!

 Sites that mention the DLC: 




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