The Baba Yaga

The interlocutor (MT) is a friend of the interviewer’s (INT). She took a class on Russian literature at her university and learned about the Baba Yaga through her professor’s telling of the legend as well as through conducting her own research.

DESCRIPTION: (told over text)
(MT): “So the Baba Yaga is kinda a mixed figure in slavic folklore bc in the stories I’ve personally encountered, she’s a witch with cannibalistic tendencies (and a preference for children) who lives with her two other sisters (also named Baba Yaga, think Macbeth and the three witches). She lives in the woods and she’s depicted as super ugly and repulsive and often with reptilian traits.”

(INT): “Sorry, what kind of reptile?”

(MT): “A crocodile!!! So in the late 17th century, early 18th century, she was also used in these things called a lubok, which was this wooden tablet to tell stories and the ones that had the Baba Yaga were used to relay political messages and depicted her as a crocodile.”

(INT): “Okay, thanks.”

(MT): “Yeah, totally! in general, she’s a villain (hello! she eats children) and a scary figure who’s a hag, super ugly and lives in the woods, away from the “civilized” people in the cities and villages. But, like, some stories (like, later works of Russian lit) complicate her morality by making Baba Yaga more of a guiding figure who has wisdom from her age. That’s it, I think.”

Final Thoughts/Observations:
While I’ve definitely heard of the Baba Yaga before, it was interesting to hear about this folk tale from someone who’s studied her in more depth and tracked her through different pieces of Russian literature! The Baba Yaga is interesting because she’s another example of the stories people across different cultures tell children to scare them into good behavior. I noticed how MT’s telling of the Baba Yaga falls into the category of “redeemable villains” that we discussed in class. Overall, she’s clearly a fascinating and memorable figure in Slavic folklore that’s well-known for a reason.