The 26-year-old informant was born in Russia, but moved to the U.S. at a young age. During his undergraduate studies at Dartmouth College, he was a teaching assistant for a Russian folklore class and found these pieces of folklore to be particularly interesting or representative of Russian culture.
“So in this epic tale, there was this monster called Nightingale the Robber that had human and bird-like features, and he was able to fly. So he lived in a nest, but he had a human family. He was said to live in a forest, and would sit in a tree to scare strangers with his great ability to whistle. It is said that his whistle was a so strong that it would bend the forces of nature.
So the legend is that Nightingale the Robber was defeated by being shot in the eye with arrows. He was defeated by Ilya Muromets who was the lone survivor after Nightingale’s whistle killed everyone else. Ilya then took his wounded body to the Prince to prove that he defeated him. The Prince wanted to hear the Robber whistle, but he said he was too wounded and near death to whistle, so he asked the Prince for wine to drink in order to heal his wounds so he could whistle for the Prince. The Prince gave him wine, and Nightingale drank it. He whistled and all of the Prince’s palaces were destroyed and also killed a lot of people. After this mistake, Ilya cut off Nightingale the Robber’s head so that he could never wreak such havoc again.”
This story is a bylina, or a Russian epic tale. This bylina ties into the Russian superstition that whistling, especially indoors, is bad because the wind is believed to be a demon, so by whistling, one is essentially summoning a demon, which brings bad luck.