I'm not the first writer to use Baba Yaga. *cough: Neil Gaiman. Orson Scott Card. Whoever wrote the Buffy novelization with Baba Yaga in it: cough* (and just a digression this morning, but has anyone seen the Buffy staked Edward t shirts? Because - heh!)
In any case, hopefully I haven't mangled Baba Yaga's legend sufficiently that I'll be the last. Because I've come to really love the old gal. Particularly because in Russian folklore she has this mysterious duality. Like all strong women - crone or working mom with a crick in her neck - she's complex. You can't be certain if she's going to choose to use her powers for good or for evil and you can't even figure it out based on the behavior of the person going up against her. There are some great articles on this, actually, like this one at http://www.endicott-studio.com/rdrm/rrBabaYaga.html and its other parts that you can link to once you've read it. Really thought provoking stuff and if you're the type who likes to go behind the curtain, it's a little snippet of the many sources I researched while writing Dreaming Anastasia.
But before I let Anastasia herself tell you a little - um - first hand knowledge about old Baba Yaga, let me add my other favorite observations about the crazy broad. Her presence always acts as an instrument of change. You can't ever fully conquer her. In the folktales, she usually has boundaries she can't cross, although personally I felt the need to fudge with that a little. And just cause you're nice to her or do her bidding, doesn't mean she won't choose to eat you for supper. In short - she's my kind of girl!
As for Anastasia, well, when writing, I imagined that she learned about Baba Yaga first as most children might learn about a fairy tale witch - in a story read to her by her mother. And so this excerpt from chapter one of Dreaming Anastasia by yours truly:
"In the story, there was a girl. Her name was Vasilisa, and she was very beautiful. Her parents loved her. Her life was good. But things changed. Her mother died. Her father remarried. And the new wife - well, she wasn't so fond of Vasilisa. So she sent her to the hut of the fearsome witch Baba Yaga to fetch some light for their cabin. And that was supposed to be that. For no one returned from Baba Yaga's. But Vasilisa had the doll her dying mother gave her. And the doll- because this was a fairy tale and so dolls could talk - told her what to do. Helped her get that light she came for and escape. And when Vasilisa returned home, that same light burned so brightly that it killed the wicked stepmother who sent Vasilisa to that horrible place. Vasilisa remained unharmed. She married a handsome prince. And lived happily ever after.
When I listened to my mother tell the story, I would pretend I was Vasilisa the Brave. In my imagination, I heeded the advice of the doll. I outwitted the evil Baba Yaga, the fearsome witch who kept her enemies' heads on pikes outside her hut. Who rode the skies in her mortar and howled to the heavens and skitterd about on bony legs. Who ate up lost little girls with her iron teeth.
But the story was not as I imagined...."
Ooooh the teaser goodness this morning!!
Til next time...