Among the heroic ballads of medieval knights is the character of Yeruslan Lazarevich. This figure came before the more commonplace and true Russian personalities of Svyatogor, Alyosha Popovich, and Ilya Muromets. Stories of this kind, previously unknown in Russian literature, attracted readers by their fantastic and magical qualities, by the presentation of ideas of chivalric honor and fidelity. Initially, they were favorite readings of the nobility, but later they became popular among the middle class and literate peasants. Of all the heroes of such literary works, the most popular and influential were Prince Bova, Yeruslan Lazarevich, and Peter the Golden Keys.
Yeruslan Lazarevich was derived from Firdawsi's poem Shah-nameh. The hero of the Persian work, Rustam, turns into a lion (araslan), from which the Russian name Yeruslan derives. Yeruslan is a valiant knight who challenges other heroes and defeats them one by one. In the end, he conquers the Indian Kingdom and settles down with his wife. His exploits include a battle with the Dragon King of the Sea and an encounter with a slain hero's head.
The story goes that Yeruslan Lazarevich was married to a beautiful bride. Unfortunately, his enemies capture his bride and carried her off to their castle, and his parents were are captured and taken to prison. Yeruslan Lazarevich triumphs over many trials before he is reunited with his bride and successfully returns his family to freedom.