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Modern Interpretations of Baba Yaga
 

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By Any Other Name An Overview of the Russian Fairy Tale in the Fantastic Traditions of the East and West by Helen Pilinovsky

Russian Fairy Tales, Part II: Baba Yaga's Domain by Helen Pilinovsky



 

 

The character of Baba Yaga has appeared in modern literature and other forms of art, such as music and film. This page provides a small discussion of some of the better known treatments by authors and other artists.

Literature   Poetry   Music   Film   Theatre


Literature: Novels

A Question of Magic by E. D. Baker

Baker, E.D. A Question of Magic. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013.
Amazon.com: Buy the book in ebook, hardcover, or paperback.

NOVEL: Serafina was living the normal life of a village girl, when she gets a mysterious letter--her first letter ever, in fact--from a great aunt she's never heard of in another village. Little does 'Fina know, her great aunt is actually a Baba Yaga, a magical witch who lives in an even more magical cottage.

Summoned to the cottage, Serafina's life takes an amazing turn as she finds herself becoming the new Baba Yaga. But leaving behind home and the boy she loves isn't easy, and as Serafina grows into her new and magical role answering the first question any stranger might ask her with the truth, she also learns about the person she's meant to be, and that telling the future doesn't always mean knowing the right answers.

In her inimitable and bestselling way, ED Baker has crafted a funny and romantic story that combines some fabulous details from the original Slavic tale, with an all new spin!


A Question of Magic by E. D. Baker

Barlow, Toby. Babayaga. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013.
Amazon.com: Buy the book in ebook, hardcover, or paperback.

NOVEL: Will is a young American ad executive in Paris. Except his agency is a front for the CIA. It’s 1959 and the cold war is going strong. But Will doesn’t think he’s a warrior—he’s just a good-hearted Detroit ad guy who can’t seem to figure out Parisian girls.

Zoya is a beautiful young woman wandering les boulevards, sad-eyed, coming off a bad breakup. In fact, she impaled her ex on a spike. Zoya, it turns out, has been a beautiful young woman for hundreds of years; she and her far more traditionally witchy-looking companion, Elga, have been thriving unnoticed in the bloody froth of Europe’s wars.

Inspector Vidot is a hardworking Paris police detective who cherishes quiet nights at home. But when he follows a lead from a grisly murder to the abode of an ugly old woman, he finds himself turned into a flea.

Oliver is a patrician, fun-loving American who has come to Paris to start a literary journal with the help of friends in D.C. who ask a few favors in return. He’s in well over his head, but it’s nothing that a cocktail can’t fix. Right? 

Add a few chance encounters, a chorus of some more angry witches, a strung-out jazzman or two, a weaponized LSD program, and a cache of rifles buried in the Bois de Bologne—and that’s a novel! But while Toby Barlow’s Babayaga may start as just a joyful romp though the City of Light, it quickly grows into a daring, moving exploration of love, mortality, and responsibility.


Enchantment by Orson Scott Card

Card, Orson Scott. Enchantment. New York: Ballantine Books, 1999.
Amazon.com: Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.

NOVEL: An unusual offering from Card (Ender's Game and Seventh Son). The novel explores the Russian version of Sleeping Beauty. Baba Yaga is present and the sleeping princess is far from helpless despite first appearances. I highly recommend it.


Hogan, Lee. Belarus. New York: Roc, 2002.
Amazon.com: Buy the book in paperback.

NOVEL: Science Fiction. Baba Yaga appears as a character in the novel.


The Dream Stealer by Gregory Maguire

Maguire, Gregory. The Dream Stealer. New York: Clarion Books, 1983.
Amazon.com: Buy the book in hardcover.

NOVEL: From the publisher: "Once every generation or so, a great wolf called the Blood Prince, who not only devours bodies but also steals souls, stalks the northern forests of Russia. Rumor has it that he has set his sights on the forgettable little village of Miersk. The wolf"s evil runs so deep that past survivors refuse to believe in him, and so it is up to the newest generation, two children named Pasha and Lisette, to save the village. But how can a young boy and girl stop such a beast? This mesmerizing tale draws on Russian folk stories about Vasilissa the Beautiful, Baba Yaga, and the Firebird and is filled with quirky details and memorable characters that could spring only from the imagination of Gregory Maguire. This new edition includes a prologue and is illustrated with striking cut-paper silhouettes."


In the Forests of Serre by Patricia A. McKillip

McKillip, Patricia A. In the Forests of Serre. New York: Ace, 2003.
Amazon.com: Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.

NOVEL: "In the tales of World Fantasy Award-winning author Patricia McKillip, nothing is ever as it seems. A mirror is never just a mirror; a forest is never just a forest. Here, it is a place where a witch can hide in her house of bones and a prince can bargain with his heart...where good and evil entwine and wear each others' faces...and where a bird with feathers of fire can quench the fiercest longing... "


Prince Ivan by Peter MorwoodFirebird by Peter MorwoodThe Golden Horde by Peter Morwood

Morwood, Peter. Prince Ivan. New York: Legend, 1993.
Amazon.com: Buy the book in ebook or paperback.

Morwood, Peter. Firebird. New York: Legend, 1993.
Amazon.com: Buy the book in ebook or paperback.

Morwood, Peter. The Golden Horde. New York: Legend, 1993.
Amazon.com: Buy the book in ebook or paperback.

Prince Ivan by Peter MorwoodFirebird by Peter Morwood

These books are available in ebook format from Morwood's site at Prince Ivan, Firebird, and The Golden Horde.

The Golden Horde by Peter Morwood

NOVEL: A trilogy featuring Baba Yaga. Description for the second book, Firebird:

In the dark winter of 1235 the Teutonic Knights are plotting a crusade against Russia. Their secret weapon is the foul witch Baba Yaga, out for revenge against her old enemy, Ivan, Prince of Khorlov.

In his second spectacular fantasy adventure in the lands of Old Russia, Prince Ivan finds himself battling against civil war at home, foreign invaders, the dreadful powers of the Inquisition, and the soured magic of an evil old woman.

But Ivan is not without allies. And the forces arrayed against him soon discover that they may have miscalculated when they find themselves up against not only Ivan and the forces of Khorlov, but a cranky sorceress-wife who may or may not be pregnant, a fabulous and deadly bird with its own agenda... and Volk Volkhovitch, the opposite of a werewolf.


Dreaming Anastasia by Joy PrebleHaunted by Joy PrebleAnastasia Forever by Joy Preble

Preble, Joy. Dreaming Anastasia. New York: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2009.
Amazon.com: Buy the book in ebook or paperback.

Preble, Joy. Haunted. New York: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2011.
Amazon.com: Buy the book in ebook or paperback.

Preble, Joy. Dreaming Anastasia. New York: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2012.
Amazon.com: Buy the book in ebook or paperback.

NOVEL: A trilogy featuring Baba Yaga. Description for Dreaming Anastasia: Anastasia Romanov thought she would never feel more alone than when the gunfire started and her family began to fall around her. Surely the bullets would come for her next. But they didn't. Instead, two gnarled old hands reached for her. When she wakes up she discovers that she is in the ancient hut of the witch Baba Yaga, and that some things are worse than being dead.

In modern-day Chicago, Anne doesn't know much about Russian history. She is more concerned about getting into a good college—until the dreams start. She is somewhere else. She is someone else. And she is sharing a small room with a very old woman. The vivid dreams startle her, but not until a handsome stranger offers to explain them does she realize her life is going to change forever. She is the only one who can save Anastasia. But, Anastasia is having her own dreams…


Baba Yaga Laid an Egg

Ugresic, Dubravka. Baba Yaga Laid an Egg. New York: Canongate, 2010.
Amazon.com: Buy the book in ebook, hardcover, or paperback.

NOVEL: Baba Yaga is an old hag who lives in a house built on chicken legs and kidnaps small children. She is one of the most pervasive and powerful creatures in all mythology. But what does she have to do with a writer's journey to Bulgaria in 2007 on behalf of her mother? Or with a trio of old women who decide to spend a week together at a hotel spa? Startlingly original, "Baba Yaga Laid an Egg" takes a traditional myth and spins it afresh. The result is an extraordinary meditation on femininity, ageing, identity, secrets, storytelling and love.


A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True

Pasulka, Brigid. A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2009.
Amazon.com: Buy the book in ebook, hardcover, or paperback.

NOVEL: The novel opens on the eve of World War II. In the mountain village of Half-Village, a young man nicknamed the Pigeon, under the approving eyes of the entire village, courts the beautiful Anielica Hetmanska. But the war's arrival wreaks havoc in all their lives and delays their marriage for six long years. Nearly fifty years later, their granddaughter, Beata, leaves Half-Village for Krakow, the place where her grandparents lived as newlyweds after the war and the setting of her grandmother's most magical stories. Beata yearns to find her own place in this new city, one that is very different from her imagination and the past. Her first person insight into a country on the cusp of change--and the human toll of Poland's rapid-fire embrace of capitalism--transports readers to another world. When two unexpected events occur, one undeniably tragic, and the other a kind of miracle, Beata is given a fresh glimpse at her family's and her country's, history and a vision of her own essential role in the New Poland. With the effortless, accomplished grace of a gifted storyteller, Pasulka weaves together the two strands of her story, re-imagining half a century of Polish history through the legacy of one profound love affair--that of the Pigeon and Anielica--which readers won't soon forget.


Service, Pamela F. Weirdos of the Universe Unite. New York: Atheneum, 1992.
Amazon.com: Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.

NOVEL: Fantasy/Young Adult. Baba Yaga appears as a character in the novel. From book cover: "Last year Mandy wanted to belong to a clique, but then she decided to be as different as possible--and found a kindred spirit in Owen, the new kid in school. Together, they formed a secret club of two: Weird Entities in Rightful Domination or, as they liked to put it Weird Power!. Things got really weird though, when the mythological beings Mandy and Owen were writing a school paper about, came to life. Even more astounding, was the incredible news that earth was being attacked by space invaders in the shape of garbage pails--and that the only hope of stopping them fell to Mandy, Owen, and their ragtag army!"


Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

Valente, Catherynne M. Deathless. New York: Tor Books, 2011.
Amazon.com: Buy the book in ebook, hardcover, or paperback.

NOVEL: Koschei the Deathless is to Russian folklore what devils or wicked witches are to European culture: a menacing, evil figure; the villain of countless stories which have been passed on through story and text for generations. But Koschei has never before been seen through the eyes of Catherynne Valente, whose modernized and transformed take on the legend brings the action to modern times, spanning many of the great developments of Russian history in the twentieth century.

Deathless, however, is no dry, historical tome: it lights up like fire as the young Marya Morevna transforms from a clever child of the revolution, to Koschei’s beautiful bride, to his eventual undoing. Along the way there are Stalinist house elves, magical quests, secrecy and bureaucracy, and games of lust and power. All told, Deathless is a collision of magical history and actual history, of revolution and mythology, of love and death, which will bring Russian myth back to life in a stunning new incarnation.


Tad Williams has a trilogy, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, which features a Baba Yaga type character named, Valada Geloe.

Williams, Tad. The Dragonbone Chair. New York: DAW, 1988.
Amazon.com: Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.

Williams, Tad. The Stone of Farewell. New York: DAW, 1990.
Amazon.com: Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.

Williams, Tad. To Green Angel Tower. New York: DAW, 1993.
Amazon.com: Buy the book in hardcover or paperback (part 1) or paperback (part 2).


Zettel, Sarah. A Sorcerer's Treason. New York: Tor, 2002.
Amazon.com: Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.

NOVEL: Fantasy/Science Fiction. Baba Yaga appears as a character in the novel. From book cover. "Bridget Lederle is a lighthouse keeper on this stormy, windswept shore of Lake Superior. One cold night she sees a boat foundering near the island's shoals, and rescues its lone occupant. The strangely dressed sailor tells her a fantastic tale, of Isavalta, a world where magic reigns, and where she is-incredibly-destined to play a key role in a power struggle between the Dowager Empress and her foes.Isavalta, where magic can be found in the pattern of knots on a string, the colors of a dress, or even smoke in the air, beckons to her. Bridget has the second sight of her family, but the magical land where she will go with the sailor holds far greater marvels, and terrible perils that even she cannot see. For she carries secrets within her that even she doesn't know, secrets that could change the fate of the fabulous magical world that calls her home."

The Baba Yaga character appears in some of Zettel's other books, including The Firebird's Vengeance.

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Literature: Short Stories

Harrowing the Dragon by Patricia A. McKillip

McKillip, Patricia A. "Baba Yaga and the Sorcerer's Son." Harrowing the Dragon. New York: Ace, 2005.
Amazon.com: Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.

SHORT STORY


Rubly Slippers, Golden Tears

Wolfe, Gene. "The Death of Koshchei the Deathless." Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, eds. New York: Avon, 1996.
Amazon.com: Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.

SHORT STORY

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Poetry

Haessler, Taiko. "Bubah Yagah." Endicott Studio Website. 2000. http://www.endicott-studio.com/cofhs/cofbubah.html.


Snyder, Midori. "Baba Yaga." Endicott Studio Website. 2001. http://www.endicott-studio.com/cofhs/cofbaba.html.

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Music

I have listed primarily classical compositions of music using the themes of this fairy tale in either ballet, opera or some other musical style. I have also provided links to popular recordings of the music when available at Amazon.com. The advantage to these links is that you can listen to samples of the music at no charge.

Mussorgsky: Pictures at an ExhibitionMussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition

Mussorgsky: Pictures at an ExhibitionMussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition

Mussorgsky, Modest Petrovich. Pictures at an Exhibition.

From Wikipedia (Modest Mussorgsky: 8/26/2006): Mussorgsky's "most imaginative and frequently performed work is the cycle of piano pieces describing paintings in sound called Pictures at an Exhibition. This composition, best known through an orchestral arrangement by Maurice Ravel, was written in commemoration of his friend, the architect Viktor Hartmann."

Also from Wikipedia (Baba Yaga: 8/26/2006): "The music conjures the image of Baba Yaga trudging through the forest with her pestle, and of the spirits surrounding her."

This piece was later reinterpreted by Emerson, Lake & Palmer (see below).


The Mravinsky Collection - Prokofiev: Symphony No. 6 / Lyadov / Scriabin

Liadov, Napravnik - Anthology of Russian Symphony music - Evgeni SvetlanovRussian Fairy Tales

Lyadov, Anatoly Konstantinovich (also known as Liadov). The Baba Yaga Illustration to a Russian Fairy Tale Op. 56.

A symphonic poem. The music represents Baba Yaga summoning her mortar, pestle and broomstick. Then she flies away into the forest.


Tchaikovsky: Album for the Young, Op. 39

Tschaikovsky, Pyotr Ilyich. "La sorciere (The Witch): Baba Yaga, No. 20". The Album for the Young Op. 39.
Amazon.com: Buy it on CD.


Pictures at an Exhibition [LIVE]  by Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Pictures at an Exhibition. 1972.
Amazon.com: Buy it on CD.

Features three tracks:

The Hut of Baba Yaga
The Curse of the Baba Yaga
The Hut of Baba Yaga

Description from an Amazon.com review: "ELP's provocative take on Mussorgsky's famed classical piece [see above], and it was performed live, with some extra makeovers. Of course, many classical purists are still having a fit, even after more than 30 years since this hit the shelves, but if you're a bit more open-minded, this may just be something of a treat. This peformance captures ELP mixing moments of refinement and explosive intensity combined with an ethereal rawness. Rarely have I heard this combination work well...especially in a LIVE performance."A sample can be heard on Amazon.com.


Baba Yaga by Annbjørg Lien

Lien, Annbjørg. "Baba Yaga." Baba Yaga. Northside Records, 1999.
Amazon.com: Buy it on CD.

Annbjørg Lien is a Norwegian folk musician. Track 5 on the album is titled "Baba Yaga." A sample can be heard on Amazon.com.

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Film

To learn more about these films, please visit the
Internet Movie Database.

Father Frost (1965)

Morozko (1965). Aleksandr Rou, director. Russia. Also Known As: Father Frost; Jack Frost; The Crystal Star (USA).
Amazon.com: Buy it on DVD.

From Amazon.com: "Based on popular Russian fairy tales, Father Frost is a beautifully costumed musical about Nastenka, a sweet girl who lives with her wicked stepmother and is forced to do all the work of the house. Nastenka falls in love with Ivan, a fine young man from the village who is turned into a bear, while Nastenka is sent to the woods to freeze by her stepmother. Will the two young lovers ever reunite? Only the good wizard Father Frost can make it possible." Read more about it on IMDB.com.

Yes, this movie also appeared as an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Read about more Russian Films like this one.


Golden Horns (1972)

Zolotye roga (1972). Aleksandr Rou, director. Russia. Also Known As: The Golden Horns; Baba Yaga (USA).
Amazon.com: Buy it on DVD.

From Amazon.com: "In this adaptation of popular Russian fairy tales, witchy Baba Yaga kidnaps two little girls and turns them into beautiful does. Unwilling to resign to her loss, their mother sets out on a quest in which she finds many helpful volunteers: the Sun, the Moon, the Wind and the Deer with the Golden Horns. Filled with magical characters, miraculous transformations and delicate humor, this dazzling fantasy from acclaimed director Alexander Row (Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors) is a treat for the whole family!" Read more about it on IMDB.com.

Read about more Russian Films like this one.


Baba Yaga (1973)

Baba Yaga (1973). Corrado Farina, director. Italy. Also Known As: Baby Yaga, Devil Witch (USA); Black Magic; Kiss Me Kill Me (USA: video title); The Devil Witch.
Amazon.com: Buy it on DVD.

Cast:
Carroll Baker .... Baba Yaga
George Eastman .... Arno Treves
Isabelle De Funès .... Valentina Rosselli
Ely Galleani .... Annette

DRAMA/MYSTERY: From IMDB: "Strange things have been happening to Valentina, a young and beautiful professional photographer, ever since she made the acquaintance of Baba Yaga, a mysterious older woman who gave her a lift home late one night. For one thing, Valentina has been having weird, kinky nightmares. For another, one of Valentina's cameras seems to have acquired a deadly curse. And then there was that visit to Baba Yaga's house, where Valentina discovered bizarre relics, including a dominatrix doll, and a bottomless pit in the living room. Valentina comes to realize that Baba Yaga is a witch who is out to possess her - body and soul." Read more about it on IMDB.com.


Bartok the Magnificent

Bartok the Magnificent (1999). Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, directors. USA.
Amazon.com: Buy it on DVD.

Cast:
Hank Azaria .... Bartok (voice)
Kelsey Grammer .... Zozi (voice)
Andrea Martin .... Baba Yaga (voice)
Catherine O'Hara .... Ludmilla (voice)
Tim Curry .... The Skull (voice)
Jennifer Tilly .... Piloff (voice)
Phillip Van Dyke .... Ivan (voice)
Diedrich Bader .... Vol (voice)

ANIMATION: Direct to DVD sequel to Anastasia (1997), featuring Baba Yaga as the villain. "When Prince Ivan is kidnapped, it's up Bartok to discover the real hero inside himself and rescue the young Romanoff - even if it means confronting the evil witch Baba Waga." Read more about it on IMDB.com.


Emily and the Baba Yaga (2005). Clive Tonge, director. UK.

Cast:
Anthony Chambers .... Bob (voice)
Nicky Peacock .... Baba Yaga, Fifi (voice)
Lottie Rowling .... Emily (voice)

ANIMATED SHORT: From IMDB: "Once upon a time in a place not far away Lived a lovely little girl, whose name was Emily But the good times and the smiles, will all be over soon For a chainsaw and a witch, she'll meet beneath the moon And a cruel twist of fate will kill tranquility." Read more about it on IMDB.com.

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Theatre

I haven't found any large scale theatrical productions connected to this tale yet.

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Available on
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Baba Yaga themed items available at Cafe Press

Available on
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Baba Yaga by Andreas Johns

Baba Yaga: The Wild Witch of the East in Russian Fairy Tales

The Russian Folktale by Vladimir Yakovlevich Propp (Series in Fairy-Tale Studies)

Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave  by Marianna Mayer illustrated by Kinuko Y. Craft

The Flying Witch by Jane Yolen

Baba Yaga by Eric A. Kimmel

Babushka Baba Yaga by Patricia Polacco

Baba Yaga illustrated by Paul Zelinsky

Alice Nizzy Nazzy by Tony Johnston

Baba Yaga  and the Wise Doll

A Perfect Pork Stew

Bony-Legs

The Dream Stealer by Gregory Maguire

The Black Geese

Baba Yaga by Katya Arnold

Baba Yaga

The Tzar's Bird by Ann Tompert

 

 
©Heidi Anne Heiner, SurLaLune Fairy Tales
E-mail:
heidi@surlalunefairytales.com
Page created 1/2005; Last updated 7/25/2013
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