Mythic Russia

Heroic roleplaying in a mythical medieval Russia

Russia’s Twelve Oldest Architectural Monuments — April 24, 2012

Russia’s Twelve Oldest Architectural Monuments

There’s a nice little piece in Russia Beyond The Headlines here on a dozen ancient Russian archeological sites. Some are a little dry (no pun intended given that one is a mummy), but here’s the last of the pre-Christian ones on page one, the Karelian stone labyrinths — and there’s an excellent photo on the site, too. There’s great story material here:

The first stone labyrinths of Karelia, built in prehistoric times by unknown tribes, were discovered in the 16th century. Even then, the local Sami people called them “Babylons.” Such labyrinths are located near the White, Barents and Baltic Seas. Generally, they are sited on islands, peninsulas or estuaries; sometimes they are scattered in isolation or, as on the Solovki Islands, comprise a large group with heaps of stones and long walls made out of boulders. Their exact purpose is still not clear: theories abound that they were burial shrines. Some allege that mazes were built so that the souls of the dead could not find their way back to the living world; other theories hold that they were a place for the young to perform ritualistic dances. However, it is most likely that the spiral labyrinths were constructed in honor of the gods of the sea, entreating them to provide more fish. Perhaps that is why they are often found in the vicinity of fishing regions.

Wolf of the Steppes: pulpy goodness — April 17, 2012

Wolf of the Steppes: pulpy goodness

I’d heard of the pulp fiction author Harold Lamb, not least as one of the inspirations behind Robert E Howard’s Conan stories, but had never read any of his work until I came across Wolf of the Steppes: The Complete Cossack Adventures, Volume One on Amazon. This, the first of a four-volume collection of stories about Khlit the Cossack, is great, rip-roaring fun, but also written with a nicely economical style, some serious historical research and excellent plotting. I can do no better than quote some of the blurb:

In this first volume, Khlit infiltrates a hidden fortress of assassins, tracks down the tomb of Genghis Khan, flees the vengeance of a dead emperor, leads the Mongol horde against impossible odds, accompanies the stunning Mogul queen safely through the land of her enemies, and much more. This is the stuff of grand adventure, from the pen of an American Dumas.

It is very reminiscent of Conan, but without the fantasy elements and some of the more repetitive prose. Technically set later than the Mythic Russia time period, it actually works very well as an inspiration, beyond the odd reference to a gun. Well worth it, especially for anyone tempted to run a game set amongst the border Cossacks: raiders, adventurers and mortal foe of the Mongols.