When we cobbled together our list of fairy tales for the rest of the year, we thought that a bit of Russian/Slavonic influence might be interesting – and who can resist a hut on chicken legs? And so, Baba Yaga was made ‘Miss October’. But in our discussions, we realised that we both feel that Baba Yaga is fairly close to Ruebezahl – both live in forests, have magic, are used to threaten people, and offer punishment or reward based on a whim that seems to know little rhyme nor reason….and yet. Who can resist a hut on chicken legs?
As a child, I had the fairy tale of ‘Vassilissa the Brave’ on tape, a girl whose mother dies, but who remains protected by her mother’s love, even when her evil step-mother and step-sisters send her to fetch fire from Baba Yaga, the evil witch in the dark forest.
No matter what task Baba Yaga throws at her, Vassilissa manages them all with the help of her mother’s love, in form of a doll (who is a whizz at cleaning and cooking – I need one of those!) But there are marginal characters which are also interesting – in folklore, Baba Yaga is in charge of the three horsemen – the red, the white, and the black, who represent dawn, day and nightfall. And she has pairs of disembodied hands who serve her. Nowhere (that I could see) does it say where these hands come from, or how they were created, but I have a thing for hands, of course!
Then, of course, let’s not forget Modest Mussorgsky’s interpretation of Baba Yaga, or rather ‘The Hut on Bird’s Legs’, as the penultimate movement of Pictures at an Exhibition is called.
So, here’s a You Tube soundbite:
I’m not sure in which direction I’ll take Baba Yaga, to be honest, it may have to be a quickie – October is already upon us, and it’s a busy month!!