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Mon Nov 21, 2022, 04:53 PM

Baba Yaga: The greatest 'wicked witch' of all?

In fairy tales, women of a certain age usually take one of two roles: the wicked witch or the evil stepmother, and sometimes both.

A key figure from Slavic folklore, Baba Yaga certainly fulfils the requirements of the wicked witch – she lives in a house that walks through the forest on chicken legs, and sometimes flies around in a giant mortar and pestle. She usually appears as a hag or crone, and she is known in most witch-like fashion to feast upon children.

However, she is also a far more complex character than that synopsis suggests. Cunning, clever, helpful as much as a hindrance, she could indeed be the most feminist character in folklore.

So enduring is the legend of Baba Yaga that a new anthology of short stories, Into the Forest (Black Spot Books), has just been released, featuring 23 interpretations of the character, all by leading women horror writers. The stories span centuries, with Sara Tantlinger's Of Moonlight and Moss offering a dream-like evocation of one of the classic Baba Yaga stories, Vasilisa the Beautiful, while Carina Bissett’s Water Like Broken Glass sets Baba Yaga against the backdrop of World War Two. Meanwhile Stork Bites by EV Knight ramps up the horrific aspects of the myth as a salutary tale for inquisitive children.

Baba Yaga appears in many Slavic and especially Russian folk tales, with the earliest recorded written mention of her coming in 1755, as part of a discourse on Slavic folk figures in Mikhail V Lomonosov's book Russian Grammar. Before that, she had appeared in woodcut art at least from the 17th Century, and then made regular appearances in books of Russian fairy tales and folklore.

If you’re a film fan, you might recognise the name from the John Wick films starring Keanu Reeves, in which the eponymous anti-hero is called Baba Yaga by his enemies, giving him the mysterious allure of an almost mythical bogeyman. Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki used Baba Yaga as the basis for the bathhouse proprietor in his award-winning 2001 movie Spirited Away. Baba Yaga appears in music, too; Modest Mussorgsky's 1874 suite Pictures at an Exhibition features a ninth movement called The Hut on Fowl’s Legs (Baba Yaga). She might well be making an appearance on the small screen soon, as well; Neil Gaiman used her in his Sandman comics for DC, the adaptation of which has just had its second season announced by Netflix.

https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20221118-baba-yaga-the-greatest-wicked-witch-of-all

I was introduced to Baba Yaga tales as a child, when stories appeared in Jack and Jill magazine. I loved her! There is a wonderful book by Kathy Burford called Hexed in Texas which features her ending up there by accident and is hilarious.

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Reply Baba Yaga: The greatest 'wicked witch' of all? (Original post)
Jilly_in_VA Nov 21 OP
Ocelot II Nov 21 #1
elleng Nov 21 #2
localroger Nov 21 #3
Jilly_in_VA Nov 21 #4
Bristlecone Nov 21 #5

Response to Jilly_in_VA (Original post)

Mon Nov 21, 2022, 05:19 PM

1. Moussorgsky got her perfectly.

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Response to Ocelot II (Reply #1)

Mon Nov 21, 2022, 05:26 PM

2. Thanks, was gonna look for it!

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Response to Jilly_in_VA (Original post)

Mon Nov 21, 2022, 07:09 PM

3. Now Disney can do a film about her

...she wasn't all that bad, you see, she did all those bad things because of the bad things other people did to her when she was young and impressionable and it just got out of control and then there was the one unfortunate incident that cemented her reputation and since then, she's had no choice but to say fuckit and let it ride.

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Response to localroger (Reply #3)

Mon Nov 21, 2022, 07:15 PM

4. Oh God please no!

Don't Disney up Baba Yaga! Now if someone decided to make a movie of "Hexed in Texas", it would be funny, especially the part where her broom falls in love with...oh never mind, read the book, it's hilarious.

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Response to Jilly_in_VA (Original post)

Mon Nov 21, 2022, 09:25 PM

5. John Wick's nickname

For those that have seen the movies.

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