Indrik-beast (индрик-зверь) is a unicorn from Russian folklore. It appears in the Book of Doves. Indrik is the father of all beasts. It lives on the Holy Mountain (either Mount Tabor or Mount Athos), eats and drinks from the blue sea. It walks through the underworld like the sun through the sky. It pierces solid rock with its horn, digging underground tunnels and opening springs that fill lakes and rivers with water. When it skips, the whole world shakes; it is, therefore, the cause of earthquakes. However, indrik is also gentle and does not intentionally harm anyone.
The XVII century azbukovniks describe indrik as a small animal similar to a dog that lives in the Nile and kills crocodiles, confusing it with an ichneumon.
Indrik is portrayed in Russian fairy tales. It acts as an opponent of a snake, which prevents taking water from a well. In some stories, it replaces the firebird in stealing golden apples from the royal grove. Oftentimes, it serves as a quest objective for the hero, who ventures to the underworld in order to use the unicorn as a steed in battle.
Origin and name
Numerous variants exist: индрок (indrok), индра (indra), кондрык (kondryk), белояндрик (byeloyandrik), вындрик (vyndrik), единорог (yedinorog), единрог (yedinrog) and единор (yedinor). All of those can be reduced to two: yedinorog, which literally means "unicorn", and indrik, which is suspected to be a distortion of "enudra" (Greek ένύδριος – otter) or "endrop" (ϋδρωψ – a legendary half-horse half-fish, known from Romanian Physiologus). Replacing "indrik" with "yedinorog" – unicorn – may be explained with a similarity between those two words and the fact that they began to have the same symbolic function. Some parallels can also be drawn between indrik and the Indian god of rain Indra, who kills the serpent demon Vritra that was blocking the course of rivers.
Sergei Usov believes the description of indrik as an underground beast could be inspired by Uralic legends about mammoths, whose bones were often found in Siberia. They were thought to resemble giant moles and live underground (compare with Chinese yin-shu). The word mammoth comes from Old Russian мамут (mamut). Russians borrowed it from the Finnish tribes that inhabited the northern parts of today's Russia. In many Finnish dialects "ma" means "earth" and "mut" means "mole"; therefore mammoth is an "earth mole". Usov believes the word "indrik" come from the Nenets name for the mammoth: "yengor", from "ya" – earth and "gora" – leader; therefore "underground leader".
The title of the father (sometimes mother) of all beasts, in this case, denotes a progenitor of all animals and ideal to which they strive. This can be traced to Persian sources, which define a system of chieftainship of kingdoms, cities, mountains, plants and animals. Indrik can especially be connected to the three-legged ass, which governs the water cycle in nature.
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