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Baba Yaga: The Ambiguous Mother and Witch of the Russian Folktale

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Baba Yaga is a well-known witch from the folklore tradition of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. A fascinating and colorful character, she resembles witches of other traditions but is in many ways unique. Living in the forest in a hut that stands and moves on chicken legs, she travels in a mortar with a pestle and sweeps away her tracks with a broom. In some tales she tries to Baba Yaga is a well-known witch from the folklore tradition of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. A fascinating and colorful character, she resembles witches of other traditions but is in many ways unique. Living in the forest in a hut that stands and moves on chicken legs, she travels in a mortar with a pestle and sweeps away her tracks with a broom. In some tales she tries to harm the protagonist, while in others she is helpful. This book investigates the image and ambiguity of Baba Yaga in detail and considers the meanings she has for East Slavic culture. Providing a broad survey of folktales and other sources, it is the most thorough study of Baba Yaga yet published and will be of interest to students of anthropology, comparative literature, folklore, and Slavic and East European studies.


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Baba Yaga is a well-known witch from the folklore tradition of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. A fascinating and colorful character, she resembles witches of other traditions but is in many ways unique. Living in the forest in a hut that stands and moves on chicken legs, she travels in a mortar with a pestle and sweeps away her tracks with a broom. In some tales she tries to Baba Yaga is a well-known witch from the folklore tradition of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. A fascinating and colorful character, she resembles witches of other traditions but is in many ways unique. Living in the forest in a hut that stands and moves on chicken legs, she travels in a mortar with a pestle and sweeps away her tracks with a broom. In some tales she tries to harm the protagonist, while in others she is helpful. This book investigates the image and ambiguity of Baba Yaga in detail and considers the meanings she has for East Slavic culture. Providing a broad survey of folktales and other sources, it is the most thorough study of Baba Yaga yet published and will be of interest to students of anthropology, comparative literature, folklore, and Slavic and East European studies.

30 review for Baba Yaga: The Ambiguous Mother and Witch of the Russian Folktale

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nightshade

    This is an incredibly comprehensive book on the folklore of Baba Yaga. It explores the folktales in whch Baba Yaga appears as Donor, Ambiguous Donor, and Villain. The study is an extensive look at the meaning of Baba Yaga within tales- but focuses largely on psychological, and socio-culural meanings. While mythological approaches are examined and the possibility of her being demonic forest spirit, or mother goddess are mentioned in the early chapters- Baba Yaga's origins are simply too obscure t This is an incredibly comprehensive book on the folklore of Baba Yaga. It explores the folktales in whch Baba Yaga appears as Donor, Ambiguous Donor, and Villain. The study is an extensive look at the meaning of Baba Yaga within tales- but focuses largely on psychological, and socio-culural meanings. While mythological approaches are examined and the possibility of her being demonic forest spirit, or mother goddess are mentioned in the early chapters- Baba Yaga's origins are simply too obscure to draw any solid conclusions. I enjoyed the text, but often found the overt psychologization of the Yaga to be a bit heavy-handed-(much is written about the phallic mother, oedipal complexes and archetypal meanings within this book). While these are certainly all valid, as are marxist aproaches- as a Witch, I tend toward the more mysterious... Johns mentions briefly that Baba Yaga is often treated as an "other"- and that is where I believe the deeper, hidden meanings begin. Perhaps I am a little biased, as Baba Yaga has been in my life for a long time, always spinning her threads deeper and deeper into my roots, and perhaps the fact that as an animistic witch when I see tales with animals in them my heart does a little skip and a jump, and when I see such an "othered" being as Baba Yaga within these tales I am always looking at the Spirit world, the Underworld, the "Other"world. Much of the meanings applied to the supernatural nature of Baba Yaga are explained in symbolic terms. I understand why an author of folklore would focus on psychology, Marxism, and even take a look at the gendered view of Baba Yaga within Patriarchal culture, as all of these explorations add different layers to the study. But I also don't think it is possible as an animist for me to only look at that- even when studying mythology, and even during my own myth-making process, while I tend toward a queer, feminist viewpoint- animism, witchcraft, and the realities of the spirit world and the gods, are deeply important to me. As an academic text I believe this book is invaluable- and if you are into Baba Yaga, folklore, and Russian/Slavic history and culture, I highly recommend this book. As a witch, I would also suggest reading between the lines, reading the folktales themselves (this book contains a few at the back), and perhaps -if you dare- even to seek out The Yaga yourself. "A beautiful inheritance from the past, a cultural treasure, the folktale is a complex, many-sided phenonemon. Its multiple aspects and potential meanings seem inexhaustible. The same is true of its characters: Reborn every time a tale is told or read, they are never finished and complete. As a unique creation of human imagination and verbal art, Baba Yaga defies any single or simple definiton or interpretation, and no final, definitive word can ever be said about her. "- Andreas Johns (From the Conclusion)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bobbie Kinkead

    Very interesting - only cast Baba Yaga as a weird and evil; I see Baba Yaga as the old aunt and healer. Use this book as a resource. Read my PURSUED, the Frog Princess when I finish the book and shows on my author page on Goodreads.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Marta Dec

  4. 5 out of 5

    Karen Allen

  5. 5 out of 5

    Christine

  6. 5 out of 5

    Frank

  7. 5 out of 5

    Haralambi Markov

  8. 4 out of 5

    Therese Brown

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jahn Machen

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lydia

  11. 5 out of 5

    moje_interpretacje

  12. 5 out of 5

    Natalia Clarke

  13. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tammie

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dylan Key

  16. 5 out of 5

    Steve_long

  17. 5 out of 5

    jennet wheatstonelllsl

  18. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Swartz

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Snow

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Huber

  21. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin

  22. 4 out of 5

    Marie

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  24. 4 out of 5

    Zen

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  26. 4 out of 5

    Liddia

  27. 4 out of 5

    Emy

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Salvador

  29. 4 out of 5

    David Galloway

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alexis_avital

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