The ancient legend "Stavr Godinovich" is one of the most original legends of Russian folklore. The main character of this legend is the young woman Vasilisa Mikulichna who dared to argue with Prince Vladimir who was the ruler of Kiev, the center of Ancient Russia. Vasilisa comes to Kiev to save her husband Stavr Godinovich who was taken prisoner by Prince Vladimir. She managed to deceive Vladimir and conquer two bogatyrs: Alyosha Popovich and Dobrynya Nikitich.
Some researchers suppose that this legend is connected with some historical events that really took place in ancient Kiev. According to the Novgorod chronicle in 1118 Vladimir Monomakh (the ruler of ancient Russia) was angry with Stavr Godinovich and several Novgorodian bogatyrs and imprisoned them. In 1960 on the wall of the Sofiysky Cathedral situated in Kiev was discovered the signature of Stavr Godinovich.
The legend "Stavr Godinovich" was written in different versions. People liked this legend owing to its detective and fascinating plot. This version of the legend was told by the famous Altai narrator of folk tales Leontiy Tupitsyn.
On one occasion, Prince Vladimir arranged a lavish feast in his principality. Many noble princes and rich merchants came to that feast. Vladimir treated his guests generously. He walked grandly through his chambers and showed his riches to his guests.
"Who can be richer than me? I don't know anybody who might be richer than me," boasted Prince Vladimir.
Noble princes and rich merchants humbly dropped their eyes; they didn't dare to argue with the prince. Suddenly a young merchant Stavr Godinovich boldly exclaimed, "I'm not so famous as you are, I'm not so noble as you are, but I'm richer than you. I possess three high towers adorned with gilded domes. The towers are surrounded with a firm wall. In the first tower is the gold treasury. In the second tower precious stones are held. In the third one lives my young wife, the beauty Vasilisa Mikulichna."
The noble princes and rich merchants exchanged glances with each other and said, "Dear Prince Vladimir, don't believe Stavr Godinovich. He tells lies. Order him to be imprisoned!"
Prince Vladimir ordered Stavr Godinovich to be imprisoned in a deep cell. Then Vladimir called the two bogatyrs Alyosha Popovich and Dobrynya Nikitich and said them, "Bring the wife of Stavr Godinovich to Kiev. On the way you may torment her anyway you like."
Vasilisa Mikulichna found out the intentions of Prince Vladimir. She didn't lose her head and contrived a grandiose plan to get her husband released. The girl cut off her light brown braids, dressed up in men's clothing and called herself Vasiliy the Son of Vasiliy. Then she gathered fifty young warriors and went to Kiev.
On the way to Kiev Vasilisa Mikulichna met Alyosha Popovich and Dobrynya Nikitich. They didn't recognize Vasilisa because she was dressed like a man.
"Where are you going?" asked Vasilisa of the bogatyrs.
"We are going to the town of Chernigov. Prince Vladimir ordered us to convey the wife of Stavr Godinovich to Kiev."
"Don't go to the town of Chernigov," said Vasilisa. "Vasilisa Mikulichna has sent a terrible ambassador to see Prince Vladimir. Go to Kiev and inform the prince of the ambassador's arrival."
Alyosha Popovich and Dobrynya Nikitich returned to Kiev and notified Prince Vladimir in advance about the ambassador's arrival.
Soon the ambassador who called himself as Vasiliy the Son of Vasiliy arrived to Kiev. Prince Vladimir met him blandly and offered him to play dice. They were drinking wine and playing dice for a long time. Suddenly, Princess Apraksinya, the wife of Vladimir, interrupted their game and said, "Dear Prince Vladimir! Look at this man! It isn't Vasiliy the Son of Vasiliy. It is Vasilisa Mikulichna disguised as a man!"
Prince Vladimir smiled and ordered the bath house to be stoked. He decided to check if the ambassador was a man or a woman.
"My dear guest, Vasiliy the Son of Vasiliy, come wash in the bath house with me!" said the prince.
Vasilisa Mikulichna wasn't bewildered. She foresaw the situation and took her bath implements from home. While Prince Vladimir was preparing for washing and gathering his bath implements, Vasilisa Mikulichna had time to wash herself.
"Thank you, dear Prince Vladimir, your bath house is splendid!" There was nothing to be done and the prince had to wash alone.
After Vladimir had washed himself, he continued playing dice with his guest. Some time later the prince, trying to test the ambassador again, said, "My dear guest, Vasiliy the Son of Vasiliy, can you battle?"
"I can battle with anyone you wish!" was the reply. At first Alyosha Popovich was ordered to battle with Vasilisa Mikulichna. Vasilisa managed to conquer him.
Then Dobrynya Nikitich was ordered to battle with the girl. Vasilisa again was the winner. Prince Vladimir admired the ambassador's manner of battle and said, "Dear guest, you are a skillful warrior! You may ask me anything you want!"
Vasilisa Mikulichna answered, "Thank you very much, but I don't want your expensive presents. But I have only a favor to ask of you. Release Stavr Godinovich from your captivity, so that I may take him with me to my native land!"
Prince Vladimir agreed and Stavr Godinovich was released. Vasilisa Mikulichna said good-bye to the prince and went to the town of Chernigov together with her husband. When they left Kiev Princess Apraksinya said to Prince Vladimir, "Dear Prince Vladimir, weren't you able to recognize Vasilisa Mikulichna? She was walking along your chambers gently and gripped her knees in a feminine way when she was sitting on the bench."
Thus, Vasilisa Mikulichna was able to rescue her husband.