Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Baba Yaga

Allow me to take you on a trip to Russia.  Well okay, not an actual trip-trip, but something more akin to a folkloric journey.  On our "trip" we will discuss the story of Baba Yaga.

There is some debate on the name Baba Yaga.  In Old Russian, the word BABA may have meant "midwife," "sorceress," or "fortune teller."  In today's Russian language, BABA probably refers to "grandmother."  The most common translations I have found on YAGA have been "witch," "worry," and "pain."

Some common themes in the various versions of Baba Yaga are:
  • Repulsiveness (ugly, big nose, deformed sexual parts)
  • Flying around in a mortar
  • Wielding a pestle
  • Dwelling is a hut that stands on chicken legs
  • Fence is decorated with human skulls
  • Cannibalism  (she is said to eat her victims)
Just like with all folklore stories, there are many versions of Baba Yaga.  In some tales, she is a lone woman who lives deep in the woods.  In others, she is not one woman, but three.

I have seen a version of Baba Yaga on TV, in the SyFy program LOST GIRL.  In that version, Baba Yaga was interested in young women.  She put them to work in her house as servants and ate them when they displeased her.

I have also read a version of Baba Yaga.  In the story, two children were sent to the home of Baba Yaga by their unloving stepmother.  They were put to work as servants in the witch's house.  By the end of the story, the children were able to escape Baba Yaga with the help of some animals and a tree.  The morals of the story - as I saw them - were (1) evil thoughts and hatred grow inside of a person until there is no more good within them, and (2) as long as you are nice and kind, others will be nice and kind in return.

Have you seen or read a different version of Baba Yaga?  I'd love to hear about it!


  1. I had never heard of Baba Yaga - Very interesting. Do they have very tall chickens in Russia? To build houses upon their legs? Hmmm

    1. Maybe they do have super chickens in Russia. I don't know! :-)