Ivan the Fool

For other uses, see Ivan the Fool (disambiguation).

Ivan the Fool (Russian: Иван-дурак, diminutive: Иванушка-дурачок) or Ivan the Ninny is a stock character of lucky fool who appears in Russian folklore, a very simple-minded, but, nevertheless, lucky young man. Ivan is described as a likeable fair-haired and blue-eyed youth.

The approximate setting of Ivan The Fool's adventures is the 15th or 16th century Russia.

When he appears in stories, Ivan The Fool is usually portrayed as either a peasant or the son of a poor family. He is usually the youngest of three brothers who appear to be much smarter than him, yet they are, nevertheless, sometimes unkind and envious of him.

Unlike typical heroes, it is Ivan's simplicity and lack of guile that turn out to help him in his adventures. For example, he listens to his heart, rather than his mind, he easily forgets offence and endeavours to help others even at his own expense. His naivety, kindness and daring help him fight villains, make friends, win princesses' hearts and ultimately he is rewarded with half a kingdom or some similar accomplishment.

The moral of these stories is that Ivan The Fool is rarely the fool, he is merely perceived as such by others owing to his simple nature and joviality. According to one theory, Ivan the Fool as he was originally created was not intended to be a fool at all. At that time the Russian word “дурак” (fool) did not have any negative connotation, and was used to refer to the youngest son in the family. It was only later that it obtained a new meaning, from which the ambiguity arose.

It is inevitably the case that he is a positive character in all tales that he is mentioned in.[1]

See also


  1. Sini︠a︡vskiĭ, Andreĭ; Turnbull, Joanne; Formozov, Nikolai. Ivan the Fool – Russian Folk Belief. Glas Series. Glas New Russian Writing. p. 415. ISBN 978-5717200776.

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