The traditional Russian folk character Baba Yaga is an ambiguous and fascinating figure.
The traditional Russian folk character Baba Yaga is an ambiguous and fascinating figure. She appears in folktales as a monstrous, hungry cannibal, or as a canny inquisitor of the adolescent hero or heroine of the tale. Her roles in the various tales suggest that she is an ancient part of traditional culture, a player in adolescent rites of passage, possibly even once a deity comparable to the Hindu goddess Kali. She has daughters but no husband or lover. Some of the best-known Russian tales feature her in variously frightening or testing roles: Vasilisa the Beautiful, The Frog Princess, or some versions of The Firebird. Baba Yaga also continues to show up in popular culture, both folk and artistic illustrations and films and cartoons from the Soviet and post-Soviet eras. She has emerged as a figure in Western media or games as well, often with a very different personality and affect.
Sibelan Forrester is the Susan W. Lippincott Professor of Modern and Classical Languages and Russian at Swarthmore College (Pennsylvania, USA), author of the introduction and translator of the tales in the volume Baba Yaga: The Wild Witch of the East in Russian Fairytales (2013). Besides her scholarly work on Russian poetry, gender studies and folklore, she is a poet and translator from Croatian, Russian, Serbian, and a co-translator from Ukrainian.
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