Baba Yaga

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search
Baba Yaga, by Viktor Vasnetsov.

Baba Yaga (Russian: Ба́ба-Яга́, Macedonian and Serbian: Баба Рога, Bulgarian: Баба Яга, Polish: Baba Jaga, Romanian : Baba Cloanța Czech: Ježibaba (also: Baba Jaga), Slovak: Baba Jaga, Croatian: Baba Roga, Slovene: Jaga Baba) is, in Slavic folklore, a witch-like character who flies around on a giant mortar, kidnaps (and presumably eats) small children, and lives in a house which stands on chicken feet. In most Slavic folk tales, she is portrayed as an antagonist; however, some characters in other mythological folk stories have been known to seek her out for her wisdom, and she has been known on occasion to offer guidance to lost souls, although this is seen as rare.


[edit] Etymology and origin

An early recorded reference to "yaga-baba" is in the Of the Russe Common Wealth of Giles Fletcher, the Elder, in the section "About Permyaks, Samoyeds and Lopars",[1] indicating at a possible Finno-Ugric influence.[2]

The name differs within the various Slavic languages. It is spelled "Baba Jaga" in Czech, Slovak and Polish (though Czech and Slovak also use Ježibaba). In Slovene, the words are reversed, producing Jaga Baba. In Russian, Bulgarian and Ukrainian it is Баба Яга transliterated as Baba Yaga (or Baba Yaha in Ukrainian).

In South Slavic languages and traditions, there is a similar old witch, written Baba Roga in Croatian and Bosnian, and Баба Рога in Serbian and Macedonian.

The name of Baba Yaga is composed of two elements. Baba means "grandmother" or "old woman" in most Slavic languages. Yaga is probably a diminutive of the feminine name Jadwiga.[citation needed] Jadwiga, in turn, is simply a Slavicized form of the Germanic Hedwig, and thus has no particular meaning in the Slavic languages. However, some etymologists have conjectured other origins for Yaga; for example, Vasmer mentions the Proto-Slavic ęgа.[citation needed]

[edit] Folklore

Vasilisa the Beautiful at the Hut of Baba Yaga, by Ivan Bilibin

In Russian tales, Baba Yaga is portrayed as a hag who flies through the air in a mortar, using the pestle as a rudder and sweeping away the tracks behind her with a broom made out of silver birch. She lives in a log cabin that moves around on a pair of dancing chicken legs, and/or surrounded by a palisade with a skull on each pole. The keyhole to her front door is a mouth filled with sharp teeth; the fence outside is made with human bones with skulls on top, often with one pole lacking its skull, leaving space for the hero or heroes. In another legend, the house does not reveal the door until it is told a magical phrase: Turn your back to the forest, your front to me.

In some tales, the house is connected with three riders: one in white, riding a white horse with white harness, who is Day; a red rider, who is the Sun; and one in black, who is Night. Baba Yaga is served by invisible servants inside the house. She will explain the riders if asked, but may kill a visitor who inquires about the servants.

Baba Yaga is sometimes shown as an antagonist, and sometimes as a source of guidance; there are stories where she helps people with their quests, and stories in which she kidnaps children and threatens to eat them. Seeking out her aid is usually portrayed as a dangerous act. An emphasis is placed on the need for proper preparation and purity of spirit, as well as basic politeness. It is said she ages one year every time she is asked a question, which probably explains her reluctance to help. This effect, however, can be reversed with a special blend of tea made with blue roses.

Baba Yaga by Ivan Bilibin

In the folk tale Vasilissa the Beautiful, recorded by Alexander Afanasyev (Narodnye russkie skazki, vol 4, 1862), the young girl of the title is given three impossible tasks that she solves using a magic doll given to her by her mother.

In the Christianised version of the story, Vasilissa is sent to visit Baba Yaga on an errand and is enslaved by her, but the hag's servants — a cat, a dog, a gate, and a tree — help Vasilissa to escape because she has been kind to them. In the end, Baba Yaga is turned into a crow. Similarly, Prince Ivan in The Death of Koschei the Deathless is aided against her by animals whom he has spared.

Baba Yaga in Polish folklore differs in details. For example, the Polish Baba Jaga's house has only one chicken leg. Monstrous witches living in gingerbread houses are also commonly named Baba Jaga. Baba Jaga, flying on a mop, wearing black and red striped folk cloth of Świętokrzyskie Mountains is an unofficial symbol of Kielce region (it is connected with legendary witches sabbaths on Łysa Góra mountain).

Baba Yaga is used as a stock character by authors of modern Russian fairy tales, and from the 1990s in Russian fantasy. In particular, Baba Yaga meets at Andrey Belyanin's books in his cycle Secret service of Tsar Pea, etc. The childhood and youth of Baba Yaga for the first time were described in the A. Aliverdiev's tale Creek ("Lukomorie").

In some fairy tales, such as The Feather of Finist the Falcon, the hero meets not with one but three Baba Yagas. Such figures are usually benevolent, giving the hero advice or magical presents, or both.[3]

Other recorded Russian fairy tales that feature Baba Yaga are Teryoshecka, The Enchanted Princess, and The Silver Saucer and the Red Apple[4]

[edit] Cabin on chicken legs

Nicholas Roerich, "Изба смерти" ("Hut of Death", sketch, 1905), an artistic expression of burial traditions of Ancient Slavs

According to Russian folklore, Baba Yaga dwells, in the words of Alexander Pushkin's Lukomorye (a preface to his fantasy poem Ruslan and Lyudmila), in a "cabin on chicken legs... with no windows and no doors". Baba Yaga herself usually uses the chimney to fly in and out on her mortar. Sometimes the door appears at the other side of the hut; to see it, a hero should pronounce "Hut, o hut, turn your back to the woods, your front to me" and thus force the cabin to turn around and discover the door.

Sami storehouse, Stockholm, Sweden
Baba Yaga's hut in Kukoboi, Yaroslavl Oblast.

This may be an interpretation[citation needed] of an ordinary construction popular among hunter-nomadic peoples of Siberia of Uralic (Finno-Ugric) and Tungusic families, invented to preserve supplies against animals during long periods of absence. A doorless and windowless log cabin is built upon supports made from the stumps of two or three closely grown trees cut at the height of eight to ten feet. The stumps, with their spreading roots, would give an impression of "chicken legs".

A similar but smaller construction was used by Siberian pagans to hold figurines of their gods. Recalling the late matriarchy among Siberian peoples, a common picture of a bone-carved doll in rags in a small cabin on top of a tree stump fits a common description of Baba Yaga, who barely fits her cabin: her legs lie in one corner, her head in another one, and her nose is grown into the ceiling.[citation needed]

There are indications that ancient Slavs had a funeral tradition of cremation in huts of this type. In 1948 Russian archaeologists Yefimenko and Tretyakov discovered small huts of the described type with traces of corpse cremation and circular fences around them; yet another possible connection to the Baba Yaga myth. [5][6]

Modern fantasy writers, such as Tad Williams and Elaine Cunningham use the character of the cabin on chicken legs in their works, as do Fritz Leiber (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser) and Mike Mignola in his portrayal of Baba Yaga in his Hellboy comics. The castle in Hayao Miyazaki's film version of Diana Wynne Jones' novel Howl's Moving Castle also moves on mechanical chicken legs.

[edit] Film and animation

Baba Yaga from Bartok the Magnificent.

Baba Yaga is a favorite subject of Russian films and cartoons. The film Vasilissa the Beautiful by Aleksandr Rou, featuring Baba Yaga, was the first feature with fantasy elements in the Soviet Union.[7] Georgy Milliar, a male actor, portrayed Baba Yaga in numerous movies from 30's to 60's, among them Vasilissa the Beautiful, Morozko, New Adventures of Puss-in-Boots, and others. He also often portrayed Koschey the Deathless.

The animated film Bartok the Magnificent features Baba Yaga as a main character, but not the antagonist. 'Emily and the Baba Yaga' is an animated short telling a modern version of the classic tale. Instead of combs and handkerchiefs, chainsaws and mangy pets help defeat the hag.

At the Baba Yaga museum in Kukoboi.

[edit] Computer games

In Quest for Glory I, Baba Yaga is featured as the main antagonist.

In the online game RuneScape, Baba Yaga is featured in quests and as an integral part of the Lunar Isle where she runs a magic store in her chicken-legged house.[8]

[edit] Music

Baba Yaga has been portrayed in two famous musical works.

Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, a suite for piano composed in 1874, features "The Hut on Bird's Legs (Baba Yaga)" as its penultimate movement. Mussorgsky's suite has since been set in whole or in part for a variety of instruments. The most famous version for orchestra was made in 1922 by Ravel. The progressive rock group Emerson, Lake and Palmer adapted Mussorgsky's suite for an album in 1971 that included the original Baba Yaga movement along with an original track entitled "The Curse of Baba Yaga."

Baba Yaga (opus 56), a symphonic poem by Anatoly Lyadov, was composed between 1890 and 1904. The music depicts the witch summoning her mortar, pestle and broomstick, then flying through the forest.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ A chapter from Fletcher's book (Russian)
  2. ^ ""Baba Yaga was a Good Old Northener, by Aleksandr Tutov, Energiya, no.3, 2004
  3. ^ W. R. S. Ralston Songs of the Russian People Section III.--Storyland Beings
  4. ^ Bonnie Marshall (2004) "The Snow Maiden and Other Russian Tales",ISBN 1563089998, Preface, p. 19
  5. ^ Рыбаков Б.А., "Язычество Древней Руси" (1987) Moscow, Nauka
  6. ^ Ефименко П. П., Третьяков П. Н. Курганный могильник у с. Боршева. МИА, № 8. М.; Л., 1948, рис. 37-42.)
  7. ^ James Graham, "Baba Yaga in Film"
  8. ^ "" RuneScape Knowledge Base| By Jagex ltd |
Personal tools