Polkan (Palkan, Polkanovits, Monster-Polkanische, Polkan-Bogatyr) is a spirit with supernatural strength and unimaginable agility of running, having a human physique to the waist, and below the waist the physique of a horse. An analogue of the Greek centaur, although with significant differences.
The fact that he helped people in battles and battles is highly reflected in legends and myths. Therefore, he is even depicted on the protective ornaments of the ancient Slavs and is an integral image of traditional Russian ceramic toys.
Here is what we read in the description of such a toy: “Polkan, a huge and kind hero, defender of people from the forces of evil. He is half a gallant general: his chest is strong, his face is round with a large, thick beard, and his body is like a horse's, and he has hooves on his legs.
There is a radiant sun on Polkan's chest. The Polkan in the Kargopol toy is the image of an irresistibly powerful hero. Very rarely they molded Polkan to be daring and brave, usually he is a stately "old man".
The mention of polkans in the Russian written tradition dates back to the 11th century. Numerous images of polkans are known, for example, on the walls of the Dmitrievsky Cathedral in Vladimir (1194) or on the walls of the St. George Cathedral in Yuryev-Podolsky (1230).
The Slavs considered Polkan a demigod and attributed to this creature incredible strength and agility. It was believed that Polkan could cover a distance of seven miles in one jump.
Polkan is a character from the story about Bova the Queen, and at first he appeared in the story as an enemy of Bova, but after fighting with him, Polkan became his loyal friend and ally in all battles.
He is considered practically invulnerable. But the hero remembers and knows perfectly well that he must die from the lion's claw. So he died when he protected Bova's children and wife from the claws and fangs of predatory and bloodthirsty lions.
His name, which has become the nickname of most Russian village dogs, is not at all Russian. It is Latin-Italian and comes from Pulicane - "half-sand" (which means, another dog-dog, but only in Russia?).
Polkan. Painting on the lid of the chest. Great Ustyug, XVII century.
Let's ask the folklorists. Polkan has been known in Russian literature for a long time: "Azbukovnik" of the 17th century. reports that Polkan is half-man, half-settled, and this is probably a reflection of the ancient ideas about centaurs. In addition to the folk epic, the name Polkan has become a household name for people of extraordinary strength.
So, in the popular fairy tale of the 18th century. About Dobrynya, the polkans (people) are going to battle in whole regiments. Their appearance is terrible: hands and faces in blood, eyes shine like red-hot iron, with their breath flames fly out; they throw stones the size of a mountain and clouds of three-seated eaves. A popular fairy tale takes them out of the “beyond-Astrakhan steppes”.
The translations of the Italian story about Bove, of which the oldest one is known from the Belarusian manuscript of the 15th century, published by Academician A. Veselovsky, were the conductor of the popular milieu of ideas about the hero Polkan.
In the 18th century. the story of Bove appears in a whole series of popular prints, illustrating either the whole story, or a separate episode of it - the struggle between Bova and Polkan.
From the popular fairy tale about Bove, Polkan passes into the same tales about Ilya Muromets and Dobryna, into the tale of Ivan the hero, a peasant's son, where Ivan defeats Polkan, who attacked the Chinese kingdom.
The winged polkan was called Kitovras. He acquires wings, and the latter are located not in the region of the shoulder girdle of the horse (as in some Parthian images), but behind the back of the human torso.
Such a regiment was usually depicted wearing a crown (Novgorod 1336). In witchcraft verses Polkan is the savior of the "sun maiden" from the serpent.
Kitovras from the Collection of the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery (the book writer Euphrosynus). XV century
There are several more ancient Russian book legends associated with the name of Polkan - Kitovras. According to the Russian version of the legend, King Solomon needed Kitovras's help in order to build the Jerusalem Temple.
By means of deception and a chain with a spell in the name of God, Kitovras is caught and brought to Solomon. Kitovras teaches him how to get a shamir from a wonderful bird (shamur, according to some interpretations - a diamond, according to others - a magic worm), with which you can hew stones, avoiding, according to ritual prescriptions, the use of iron tools.
The motives of the competition of Kitovras and Solomon in wisdom are characteristic. Upon completion of the construction, Solomon tells Kitovras that his strength does not exceed that of a human, since he was caught.
In response, Kitovras asks to remove the chain with a spell and give him Solomon's magic ring. When this is fulfilled, Kitovras throws Solomon into a distant country, thus punishing him for his pride.
The legends of Solomon and Kitovras developed independently in Russia. They tell about Kitovras that he was the brother of Solomon, the son of King David. The capture of Kitovras is associated with the betrayal of his unfaithful wife (oriental fairy tale motif), which Kitovras wore in his ear.
King Solomon and Kitovras. The stigma of the Vasilievsky gates. 1335-1336 St. Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod. The inscription at the top of the image: "Kitovras sword (t) by his brother Solomon to the Promised Land for a word"
Another legend, known from the list of the 17th century, tells of the abduction of the wife of King Solomon by Kitovras. Here Kitovras is also Solomon's brother, the king who rules in the neighboring city.
He is endowed with the features of a werewolf - during the day, in the form of a man, he rules over people, and at night, in the form of “Kitovras's beast,” - beasts. Kitovras deceived Solomon's unfaithful wife. The latter goes after her, hiding the army in the forest.
The wife recognizes Solomon and betrays him Kitovras Solomon asks to execute him in a royal manner, before being hanged he is allowed to play the horn. Solomon's army appears and frees the king, and Kitovras and the unfaithful wife are hanged on the prepared gallows.