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Mavka: The Forest Song (Ukrainian: Mавка. Лісова пісняMavka. Lisova pisnya) is a 2023 CGI animated Fantasy / Fairy Tale film made by the Ukrainian studio Animagrad (which previously made The Stolen Princess), directed by Oleksandra Ruban. It is inspired by The Forest Song, a Slavic Mythology-based poetic play in three acts by Lesya Ukrainka, one of the earliest examples of fantasy in Ukrainian literature.

Taking place in a fantasy version of rural Ukraine, the story is about Mavka, the gentle humanoid soul of the forest, who faces an impossible choice between love and her duty as the new Guardian of the Heart of the Forest. She falls in love with a human, the talented young musician Lukash, and together they must face the evil woodswoman Kylina, who is seeking to destroy the forest in order to find a mysterious source in its heart.

The film rapidly got a Screen-to-Stage Adaptation into a musical in its home country, and a TV series is in the works.

Mavka: The Forest Song provides examples of:

  • Advertising by Association: Some English-language posters advertised it as follows: "For family audiences that loved Ainbo and The Jungle Book". Ainbo, like Mavka, is an example of animated film from a country (Peru) that's emerging on the international CGI animation market like Ukraine, and also features a female protagonist, a Green Aesop about the protection of a forest from humans who seek to destroy it, and Nature Spirits.
  • All There in the Stinger: "How about Kylina's whereabouts in the climax?", one might ask. The answer is in The Stinger.
  • All Your Powers Combined: The Guardian is granted power by the Supreme Spirits of Nature and able to utilize all of them with special handsigns. However, the Spark of Rage is a Dangerous Forbidden Technique.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: The village feels very much like rural Ukraine from the 19th century, the guns of Kylina's two brutish henchmen feel likewise, there's a 1900s car, and then there are things like Frol's very modern dandy, fashion-oriented flamboyance (with an English name in 1980s-like typo on the back of his coat), chainsaws and a big wood-cutting machine on tracks.
  • Animal Stampede: A shot of the blunderbuss of Kylina's two big henchmen causes a herd of wisents (European bisons) to nervously run. Mavka jumps on one of them and calms them down when they head towards a cliff, causing them to swerve at the last moment before the cliff.
  • Advertised Extra: The lynx prominently features in advertising, but only appears in a few scenes.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: When Mavka is chosen as the new Guardian, she's granted powers by the Supreme Spirits of Nature in a huge ceremony.
  • Bear Trap: Mavka rescues a lynx cub from an old bear she forgot to remove when she had to clean up an old battlefield. Leshy then has roots dismantling and absorbing the trap into the ground and uses the occasion to lecture her about how Humans Are Bastards.
  • Chainsaw Good: Some villagers are armed with chainsaws by Kylina when attacking the forest (against Treants and not just mere trees), and Frol attempts to kill Lukash's dog and the frog-cat with one, only to lose control of it and ends up Chased Off into the Sunset by it.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The effect of Lukash's flute music on Mavka.
  • City Mouse: Having to spy on Lukash at his farm is a nightmare for the dandy Neat Freak (and visibly urbanite) Frol since it dirties his clothes.
  • Cocky Rooster: The rooster of the farm of Lukash and his uncle seems to really hate Frol and attacks him any chance he gets, possibly seeing a rival in him due to how flamboyantly dressed Frol is rather than merely seeing him as an intruder.
  • The Dandy: Kylina's assistant Frol is very flamboyant, foppish and fashion-obsessed, and he has purple bangs covering one of his eyes when no one else in the film has.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Summoning the spirit within the Rock has massive destructive potential, but it will burn friend and foe alike and exacts a price. Mavka does so in the climax, and nearly pays with her life.
  • Dedication: The film has a dedication to "the unbreakable Ukrainians" in the end credits. It was completed and released during the full scale war of aggression initiated by Russia in the country in 2022.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Kylina, at the end. She reaches the Fountain of Youth in the Heart of the Forest and bathes entirely in it... which makes her regress to the baby stage. There's a reason only small quantities of the liquid are enough for her and Lukash's uncle early on.
  • Disguised in Drag: When Lukash is prisoner of Kylina, Frol is disguised as Mavka with a bag on his head in order to make Lukash reveal where the Fountain of Youth is.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": "Mavka" is used as the character's name in the film. In Slavic Mythology, the word is used for her species.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: The villagers don't go in the forest Mavka and the other Nature Spirits inhabit, for they believe them to be demons.
  • Drowning Pit: Kylina traps Lukash in a basement that gets filled with water over time. He's saved Just in Time by his dog and the cat-frog creature.
  • Dub Name Change: Mavka is named "Naya" in the French dub.
  • Dub Species Change: Though them being referred as nymphs in the French and English dubbings, Mavka and the water nymphs are originally a mavka (as her name implies) and rusalkas.
  • Earthy Barefoot Character: Mavka is a Nature Spirit and always walks barefoot (except when she attends the village's festival dressed like the local women).
  • Elemental Eye Colors: Mavka has green eyes since she is the soul of the forest, Ondina has blue eyes matching her elements (bodies of water), etc.
  • Evil Old Folks: Kylina is much older than she looks due to using a rejuvenating liquid from the Fountain of Youth in the Heart of the Forest. Then she regresses into a baby at the end when she makes the mistake of bathing entirely in it.
  • Family Relationship Switcheroo: Kylina is not the sawmiller's daughter as she claims, and she eventually reveals that there never was a daughter. She was his wife who made up the story about the daughter to get to the Source of Life.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: In the backstory, the sawmiller begged the spirits to help save his dying daughter, so Leshy gave him a drop from the Source of Life to heal her. He then came back with an army to try and take it all, leading to a devastating battle and the nature spirits losing all trust in humans. It gets even worse when it's revealed that there was no daughter, and he and his wife just made the whole thing up because they wanted immortality and riches.
  • Fertile Feet: Flowers grow where Mavka walks sometimes in the forest.
  • Funny Background Event: As Lukash is tending to his bedridden uncle with the drop of the Heart of the Forest that Mavka gave him, Frol is spying on him, and the rooster of the farm decides to attack Frol, which causes all sorts of mayhem that's partly visible in the windows while the focus is on Lukash preparing the medicine.
  • Fur and Loathing: The foppish and vain Frol wears a fox's skin as a fur scarf. He serves the Big Bad Kylina, and he nearly kills Lukash's dog and the cat-frog with a chainsaw late in the film.
  • Glamour Failure: At some point, half of Kylina's face starts to show her true age with big wrinkles. She promptly uses one last drop of the mysterious liquid to rejuvenate her face, then plans to reach the Fountain of Youth to get more of it.
  • God in Human Form: Granted Mavka already resembles a human, but in order to better blend in for the village festival she turns into a brunette (bar a few still green hair on her braid), changes her eye color from supernaturally green to plain brown and conceals most of the visible runes of her body, complete with a vyshyvanka and a red dress.
  • Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: Mavka is an All-Loving Heroine and doesn't quite comprehend that people like Kylina are evil just because of greed and other such things. At the same time, she's the only one who can build a bridge between the superstitious villagers and the mistrustful spirits of nature.
  • Green Aesop: Naturally, there's a takeaway about respecting nature from the film, though it's not quite the Central Theme.
  • Green Means Natural: Mavka's hair and runes are green, and she's the soul of the forest.
  • Hiding Behind Your Bangs: Frol's purple hair covers one of his eyes, which illustrates how vain and foppish he is.
  • Humans Are Bastards: The opinion all the Nature Spirits hold bar Mavka, due to her bonding with Lukash. That's the reason she is chosen as the next Guardian, to build a bridge between nature spirits and humans.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: The Ukrainian folk music ensemble that plays at the village festival in the film is a Real Life one, DakhaBrakha. The likeness of each member was reproduced.
  • Laughably Evil: Frol's surely one buffoonish henchman.
  • Love Redeems: The big henchman of Kylina who has a crush on Ondina saves the latter from the storm Mavka causes after becoming fiery and stops serving Kylina afterward.
  • Magical Flutist: Lukash playing his flute isn't inherently magical, but it has some effects on Mavka.
  • Marked By The Supernatural: Lukash gets a few green runes on his face and hands after Mavka kisses him for restoring her, marking him as her lover.
  • Magical Gesture: To summon an element, Mavka forms her hands into the rune that represents it.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: Mavka's animal sidekick is a mix between a cat and a frog.
  • Nature Hero: Mavka is the film's main protagonist and the soul of the forest.
  • Nature Spirit: Mavka is the soul of the forest, and there are several other protective spirits of nature like her manifesting in various shapes, from nymphs all the way to sentient trees.
  • Nice Guy:
    • Mavka is an All-Loving Heroine who's the only one among her kind to believe there are good humans. It’s even called attention to in the film itself, as her fellow nymphs warn her that she’s far too trusting, and Kylina weaponizes it against her, lying that Lukash told her Mavka was too nice to go against her.
    • Lukash is a gentle young man who dreams of being a famous musician, and he only accepts to work for Kylina because he needs money to tend to his sick uncle.
    • Lukash's uncle Lev too. Although he follows the villagers when they're out to destroy the forest, he's quick to realize how wrong they are to do so.
  • Our Nymphs Are Different: Among the nature spirits, there are two nymph-like women, one of which, Ondina, watches over rivers and other water places and lures one of Kylina's two big henchmen in a pond to drown until he regains his senses and flees (yet he still harbors a crush on her afterward). Both nymphs mock Mavka for not being as willing to fight humans as they are.
  • Our Sirens Are Different: Ondina is a nymph who watches over bodies of water. Early on she lures one of Kylina's two henchmen into a swamp pool to either drown or scare him and he's initially too enthralled by her beauty to notice, until a human skull emerges from the water and his pants get dissolved, freeing him from the charm and making him run away (he still harbors a crush on her afterwards).
  • Power at a Price: During the battle between the nature spirits and the villagers, Mavka renounces empathy and love to become a fiery being of pure destruction, and that transformation will kill her and send her to the Limbo.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Mavka transforms into a being of fire to end the fight between humans and spirits. It does, but because both of them have to team up to try and calm her down, rather than a straight victory for the spirits.
  • Self-Disposing Villain: Kylina, by bathing in the Fountain of Youth, turning herself into a harmless baby.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Mavka is beautiful to begin with, although when disguised as a human, she looks about as fashionable as a scarecrow. Later at the festival when she dons a vyshyvanka and a red skirt and styles her hair in a braid, she becomes the loveliest girl in the village.
  • The Stinger: Following the first part of the end credits, we see Kylina reaching the Fountain of Youth in the Heart of the Forest, and she bathes in it... which makes her regress into a baby.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: Kylina exploits the villagers' beliefs that the Nature Spirits are demons to turn them against the forest.
  • Transformation Discretion Shot: At the end, when Kylina regresses to her baby stage due to bathing in the Fountain of Youth, we only see her disappear and her baby self getting out of her now-empty adult clothes.
  • Treants: There are several humanoid sentient trees, the most prominent being Leshy, the Guardian of the Heart of the Forest (he's partly made of rocks as well). Feeling like his time as the Guardian is coming to an end, Leshy passes the torch to Mavka.