The informant is a Russian-American-Bulgarian woman who spent the first half of her life in Russia. She currently resides in Boston, MA and the interview took place over zoom in which I interviewed her about the Russian folklore that she grew up with and that she feels represents the Russian people and culture.
Transcribed and translated from an interview held in Russian
Baba Yaga is this old mean witch that lives on the edge of the forest in a hut that stands on chicken legs. This hut can turn in different directions, so the hero comes to it and says “Hut, hut. turn your back to the forest and your front to me” So it turns and allows the hero to enter and speak with Baba Yaga. She’s evil so she can mess with you, lie to you, send you in the wrong direction. She flies in a mortar, holding a broom.
The figure of the older, evil woman/witch is one that pops up a lot, especially in European folklore. Be that the evil stepmother or an evil witch, the purpose of this archetype remains largely the same: to impede the hero in their journey or to somehow cause them harm. This probably mirrors society’s general disapproval of an older, unmarried, childless woman by portraying them as “evil hags”. Even in the case of a stepmother, she almost always made out to be malicious, possibly because she is not the hero’s biological mother and usually has hers or her own children’s interest at heart rather than the hero’s.