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Russian Fairy Tale and Folklore
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From these male personifications of evil--from the Snake, Koshchei,
and the Water King--we will now turn to their corresponding female
forms. By far the most important beings of the latter class are those
malevolent enchantresses who form two closely related branches of the
same family. Like their sisters all over the world, they are, as a
general rule, old, hideous, and hateful. They possess all kinds of
supernatural powers, but their wits are often dull. They wage constant
war with mankind, but the heroes of storyland find them as easily
overcome as the males of their family. In their general character they
bear a strong resemblance to the Giantesses, Lamias, female Trolls,
Ogresses, Dragonesses, &c., of Europe, but in some of their traits
they differ from those well-known beings, and therefore they are
worthy of a detailed notice.

In several of the stories which have already been quoted, a prominent
part is played by the Baba Yaga, a female fiend whose name has given
rise to much philological discussion of a somewhat unsatisfactory
nature.[160] Her appearance is that of a tall, gaunt hag, with
dishevelled hair. Sometimes she is seen lying stretched out from one
corner to the other of a miserable hut, through the ceiling of which
passes her long iron nose; the hut is supported "by fowl's legs," and
stands at the edge of a forest towards which its entrance looks. When
the proper words are addressed to it, the hut revolves upon its
slender supports, so as to turn its back instead of its front to the
forest. Sometimes, as in the next story, the Baba Yaga appears as the
mistress of a mansion, which stands in a courtyard enclosed by a fence
made of dead men's bones. When she goes abroad she rides in a mortar,
which she urges on with a pestle, while she sweeps away the traces of
her flight with a broom. She is closely connected with the Snake in
different forms; in many stories, indeed, the leading part has been
ascribed by one narrator to a Snake and by another to a Baba Yaga. She
possesses the usual magic apparatus by which enchantresses work their
wonders; the Day and the Night (according to the following story) are
among her servants, the entire animal world lies at her disposal. On
the whole she is the most prominent among the strange figures with
which the Skazkas make us acquainted. Of the stories which especially
relate to her the following may be taken as a fair specimen.