Q: Who? Baba Ganoush? Ali Baba? Yo Gabba Gabba?
A: No…Baba Yaga.
Q: Never heard of her.
A: Well, she’s a mysterious figure from a range of different Eastern European folk tales. In some, she’s very much the villain: an evil witch with iron teeth who will happily kidnap you and keep you prisoner if she gets the chance. In others, she’s…well, she’s still the same old iron-tooth crone, but she can be a source of wisdom, help, and advice.
Q: Did you say… iron teeth?
A: Yeah, she uses them to eat up little Russian children, or so the story goes. But that’s not the strangest bit.
Q: Really? What is the strangest bit?
A: That would probably be her use of a pestle and mortar to fly through the sky instead of the traditional broomstick.
Q: Huh. And where does she live?
A: Just in your average creepy hut in the woods. That stands on chicken legs. Which let it roam around wherever she pleases.
Q: Naturally. So why should I read more about this Baba Yaga lady?
A: She’s a pretty fierce, one-of-a-kind female character in folklore; she’s genuinely scary; she was first referenced in writing in 1755—so she’s likely to stick around a little longer! …with her terrifying teeth…
Q: Ok. Any book recommendations?
A: Sure! Try Tashi and the Baba Yaga by Anna Fienberg, Barbara Fienberg and Kim Gamble. Or check out Baba Yaga and the Stolen Baby, by Alison Lurie. Another good bet is Baba Yaga the Flying Witch, by Susanna Davidson.