Saturday, June 22, 2013


“Baba Yaga and Vasilisa Diptych” by Milo Neuman
I've long-wished we (the fairy tale community) had a fairy tale newsroom, with lots of different newshounds, articles and features; one of those being an advice column. I've started to think about this again semi-seriously in the hopes of building up the fairy tale community and have been wondering: if Once Upon A Blog did have an advice column, who would be a good "Dear Abby"?

A fairy godmother seemed a little too genteel for the kinds of things I had in mind. Then I came across this:

"Ask Baba Yaga" by Taisia Kitaiskaia*

Instant love. The advice was published on The Hairpin, a general interest women's blog (see link) and I quickly discovered I wasn't the only one who wished this were a regular feature.
Quick note for new readers or those unfamiliar with Baba Yaga: I suggest giving a quick look for a great summary (although Wikipedia is good too) but the important thing to know is that she and her chicken legged house (that bites!) is the stuff of nightmares for many Slavic and Russian children, however, unlike other witches in fairy tales, she is not necessarily all bad. Scary - yes, but she has a set of rules and sometimes this means she helps the good of heart. The dual aspects of this character make her fascinating and unpredictable. In general though, she remains quite terrifying.
 Here are some of the comments from readers:
I LOVE THIS. Baba Yaga is the stuff of nightmares, who wants to talk about DEAD SOULS for a minute??
And this exchange:
Amphora - My Russian Lit teacher in undergrad was totally channeling Baba Yaga all the time.
Spaghettius! - @Amphora As a moderately Russian person, let me tell you that this was probably unintentional. Unavoidable, even.
Baba Yaga by Vania Zouravliov
From another reader (who could have been reading my mind):
"Could this be a regular feature? Teach me how to salt my bones with glory, Baba Yaga!"
To which the author replied "I hope so!" then followed up with "email me or leave a question here", resulting in a flood of mail to our favorite hag-to-hate, such as the following:
"Dear Baba Yaga, my mortar and pestle won't start in cold weather. How do I get them to work consistently? P.S. Don't bullshit me, Baba Yaga, or you'll wish you were a hangnail on a plague-ridden rat."
Baba Yaga & Vasilisa by Forest Rogers
"Dear Baba Yaga, I once hid my heart in a needle...that I put in an egg, that was in a duck, that was in a hare, that was in an iron chest, that I buried under a tree on the island Buyan. I recently dug up the chest and, well, it's in pretty bad shape, having been buried so long. How can I restore it so it looks like new again (before I rebury it). P.S. Don't bullshit me, Baba Yaga, or I'll just go Ask A Clean Person. I really should be doing that anyway but I figured we're kinfolk of a sort and so I thought I'd give you a break.
There's more (a LOT more) about Baba Yaga herself, various childhood experiences in which she was key, comments about her house, her "security system", the chicken legs and, well, you should just go check it out HERE.

And while I noodle on how to make a fairy tale newsroom happen (suggestions welcome - just email me at the address shown in the sidebar!), have a think about what you would ask her. You can even leave a comment below and I'll pass them on.

You never know. She might just reply...

*Taisia Kitaiskaia is a poet, writer, and Michener Center for Writers fellow. Born in Russia and raised in America, she's had her poems and translations published in Narrative MagazinePoetry International, and others.


  1. In our culture Baba Yaga also existed, we call her Omena El Ghoula or mother ogre, and like Baba Yaga she was and still is the night mare of childhood and one of my favorite characters from my grandmother's tales..