in Russian and also translated Baba Jaga) is a witch-like character in Slavic folklore. She flies around using a giant mortar and pestle, kidnaps (and presumably eats) small children, and lives in a forest hut, which stands on chicken legs. In modern days, she is often depicted not as a villainous, but simply a sociopathic or even gentle and friendly person. And in almost any tale she knows much. The 'Baba' word can be translated as impolite 'old woman' or 'big woman' or simply 'woman' — usually the first one is correct for this trope; while 'Yaga' is a form of a certain name, it is thought to be a corruption of Slavic root for 'hag', making 'Baba Yaga' mean something like 'old hag', or perhaps 'hag hag
'. Baba Yaga is depicted as an old, knowledgeable, and geeky character with mystical servants.
She is a common antagonist in Slavic folklore, known for kidnapping and eating children (and serving as a cautionary tale for small children against wandering off or talking to strangers). Some tales alternatively revolve around characters seeking her out for her wisdom or having her offer guidance to lost souls, though they are notably less in number. She features in Vasilissa the Beautiful
The character of Baba Yaga has made dozens of appearances in popular culture and modern works including Orson Scott Card
's novel Enchantment
, the Fables
comic series, innumerable Russian cartoons and tales, Runescape
, Quest for Glory
, Bartok the Magnificent
, and (as "Barbara Jagger") Alan Wake
. Baba Yaga is also a brand of beer from the Massachusetts-based brewery.
- All Witches Have Cats: Has one, at least in some stories. But she has other animals as well.
- Bizarrchitecture: Baba Yaga's chicken-legged home. It even apparently moves.
- Truth in Television: The Sami◊ evidently used this style of architecture.
- This architecture style is called nili and it is usually used for storages and barns, to prevent animals from reaching foodstuffs sotred inside and stealing them away. The legs are usually made from pine stumps and either tarred or smoked to prevent them from rotting.
- Alternatively, odd look of her house is connected to the Slavic tradition of putting some of wooden houses on stumps with chopped off roots to prevent wood from rotting.
- Another alternative version is that her house is sort of a watchtower between human world and the world of spirits, this is why hero or heroine says all this "Hut, hut, turn your back to the forest and your facade to me" thing. Because forest is a straight way to underworld. And guess in the middle of what Baba-Yaga lives?
- One more version suggests that her house is actually a "domovina" - a special type of building that was put on the high stump with roots where ancient Slavic people used to bury their dead. Also domovinas had no doors and no windows so that a) dead couldn't return to the world of living b) so that living did disturb the dead for no good reason c)so that no element was tainted. This makes Baba-Yaga a priestess who leads the rite of cremation.
- Black Magic
- Cool Old Lady: In the stories where she is a helpful character rather than the villain.
- This is often explained by there being multiple Baba Yaga's.
- Curiosity Is a Crapshoot: Baba Yaga sometimes displays a propensity to eat the overly curious. Notably, it's not a good idea to ask her about the spectral disembodied hands serving her in her hut.
- Eats Babies: Most of the time.
- Elemental Embodiment: while not an embodiment per se, according to That Other Wiki Baba Yaga represents the element of fire. Though it's not explicitely made clear in most tales, her ambiguous nature (sometimes helpful, sometimes destructive) hints towards this, so does the fact that her hut is based on the funerary huts where ancient Slavs cremated their dead. Not to mention those Flaming Skulls.
- Evil Aunt: In some stories, Baba Yaga has a beautiful, younger (but still evil) sister who seduces and marries widowed fathers in order to send her new stepchildren off to their new "aunt." Don't worry, they will usually escape with the help of their dead mother or something...
- Evil Old Folks
- Familiar: Usually has several, either animals, or her invisible servants, or both.
- Fair Folk: fits the description quite nicely.
- Flaming Skulls: in "Vasilissa the Beautiful", Baba Yaga's fence is adorned with skulls with glowing eyes. The title character's evil stepmother sends her to the Baba's hut to get some fire, but Baba is not about to grant favors easily. When Vasilissa completes the hag's impossible tasks (her late mother's magic helping), Baba lets her go (more like kicks her out when she learns Vasilissa is blessed) and gifts her with one of the skulls to serve as fire. When Vasilissa brings the skull home, its scorching gaze burns her evil steprelatives to ashes.
- Flying Broomstick: Sometimes, but she's usually depicted flying with the mortar and pestle.
- "Hansel and Gretel": Localised varieties of this fable sometimes make her be the witch the two meet.
- Holy Burns Evil: Just tell her you are protected by a blessing and she will leave you alone.
- While technically not holy, it is often explained that she can only eat the flesh of naughty children, and she is somehow forbidden to touch good children. Good children who end up in her clutches are then forced to be her slaves and often made to perform an Impossible Task, so if they fail she has the excuse they were being "naughty." This never works.
- Iconic Item: She flies around in a giant mortar and pestle. Some later tales (and toys) depict her flying with the usual for witches - a broomstick.
- It is common to see Baba riding in the mortar (on the ground), whipping the mortar with the pestle to make it go faster, and using the broom to cover up her tracks.
- The hut on bird legs is also quite iconic.
- Leitmotif: "The Hut on Fowl's Legs" by Mussorgsky, which is a musical tribute to a picture of Baba Yaga's abode. That Other Wiki notes that it is supposed to invoke the hag herself riding on her mortar.
- Lost in Translation: From ancient Russian into modern Russian and then into other languages. The "chicken legs" are not chicken at all. "Куриный" (chicken) is warped from "курий", which can also mean chicken but also "smoked", so the hut should be "on smoked piles" (The wooden piles that supported huts were saturated with smoke to make them resistant to rot).
- Not exactly. Since the house is called "Избушка на курьих ножках". You probably meant "окуренные ножки" which would mean "smoked piles/legs". So originally "о" could be lost in time and legs became "куренные ножки" now let's move emphasis a little, take away "н" and change "е" into "и". And you will get "куриные" (сhicken) instead of "окуренные"(smoked).
- Never Mess with Granny: She is an old powerful witch after all. Though in some stories, she suffers from Badass Decay.
- Psychopomp: Baba Yaga sometimes acts as a guardian between the world of the living and the realm of the dead.
- Public Domain Character Has shown up in Dungeons & Dragons, Quest for Glory, Fables, Naru Taru (which, being Japanese, makes her a beautiful teenage girl and her chicken house a Mon) and now Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated.
- SCP-352 is another alternative take on the character. Being an SCP object, it's even more disturbing than the traditional depiction.
- One story, The Chaos, had her hut and the pheonix fall in love.
- Sapient House: Her hut is able to move on its own with its chicken legs.
- Wicked Witch
- Wizards Live Longer: No one knows how old she is, but in some stories she's been around for a very long while.
- In some stories, however, it is said she ages one year every time she is asked a question. Goes a long way to explain why she lives far away from civilization and is not always too excited to help out.
- In many stories she is effectively a goddess. For one thing, Day, Sun and Night ride out of the doors of her hut, and are apparently her manservants.