Tag Archives: fire bird

Sirin, Alkanost, and Gamayun


The informant is a Russian-American-Bulgarian woman who spent the first half of her life in Russia. She currently resides in Boston, MA and the interview took place over zoom in which I interviewed her about the Russian folklore that she grew up with and that she feels represents the Russian people and culture.

Transcribed and translated from an interview held in Russian

“In pagan folklore, there were these mythological creatures of three birds: They were known as Sirin, Alkanost, and Gamayun.  I cannot really remember what the distinguishing features were for all of them. I believe Gamayun, I think, is known to be able to tell the future. I do not know a lot about it, but I once heard a song in which it is said that the bird tells the future. Anyway, a more familiar character to me in Russian folklore is that of the Zharptsitsa, it’s like this fire bird that many characters in folktales always seek to find and claim for themselves. I don’t know the origins of this bird, but my guess is that it originates from these older mythical birds.”

Analysis:The immediate oicotype that springs to mind with the Zharptsitsa  is a phoenix. The one main difference being that the Zharptsitsa does not rise from its ashes after it dies. It is unclear of these two originate from the same root, or if they were just created in the folklore of different cultures and happen to have similar features. It is quite likely. Birds exist worldwide, as does fire. Combining the two in folklore to create a legendary creature can occur in more than one culture.