Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Double Baba Yaga News: Worldwide Popular Game Fortnite Adds A Baba Yaga Skin/ Prof & Pints Have Dr. Rappoprt Talking About Baba Yaga Live Online TONIGHT!

Baba Yaga and her chicken-legged hut, designed by Epic Games for Fortnite

It's "Halloweek" (week of Halloween) and this year we have a good reason to talk about our favorite witch! Though she wasn't originally a character to be pulled from folklore and fairy tales just for this season (any Slavic kid will tell you, she has the ability to scare you all year long!), Baba Yaga has slowly and steadily been entering Western pop culture during the spooky season for some time now and she - and her chicken-legged hut - are now familiar figures. This year, however, she's achieved another pop-culture milestone via the worldwide gaming community of Fortnite. There's enough interest in her now that experts are running live lectures online for special presentations about her... (Read on for details.)

1. Fortnite (one of the most popular video games in the world in 2020) Releases a Baba Yaga "Skin"
Do you hear the sound of chicken legs...?

Baba Yaga has been making appearances in video games for many years but they have tended to be more independent games for niche markets. Then came Baba Yaga in the Hellboy comics and last year the most recent Hellboy on the big screen had Baba Yaga and her walking hut as a very scary antagonist (rated R). She's been appearing more in pop culture references the past few years and has become a stock character in dark fantasy offerings in books and on screen, but this week, Fortnite, one of the most popular video games in the world, introduced her - and her hut - to over 350 million active players around the world. 

Epic Games' video game creation Fortnite is a powerhouse in the gaming industry. Their e-sport tournaments are intensely competitive and the world's top players vie for big money.  If you have a gamer in the house they either tend to love Fortnite and play a LOT, or they hate it with other allegiances but are still fully aware of just how big this game is. (It's a third-person shooter game with a few creative components and lots of emphasis on teams.) While they do have narrative arcs and themes (currently they are running a Marvel-superhero crossover) they still often dip into legends, myths, and even fairy tales for little bits of story and various special character "skins" that players can "wear" and play as, fully animated. Fortnite's Baba Yaga is clearly a folkloric witch, complete with sprouting mushrooms and forest vibes, sporting a red-eyed crow in a cage on her back (called a "back bling"). Along with her chicken-legged hut to function as a "glider", and a special broom with sprouting mushrooms and chopped off chicken feet hanging from its twigs to be used as a "pickaxe",  the Baba Yaga skin which any player can "wear" (by purchasing it with "v-bucks" ie., virtual dollars), is the first crone skin (read, senior female skin), and possibly the most ancient-looking skin to be added to the game (as far as we can verify - vampires not being counted as they're all timelessly youthful). She became available in Fortnite item shop on Sunday evening October 25th at the 5pm item shop change and remained in the item shop for the Monday 26th update too (usually skins change every day, although new ones often get a couple of days spotlight). The Baba Yaga skin has no special powers in the game - none of the skins do, so as not to disadvantage players who can't purchase them, but she can do everything others characters can, including all those infamous Fornite dances, and wield any weapon she finds in treasure chests, or takes from her kills, including seasonal pumpkin bazookas through to the classic Fortnite LMGs (light machine guns). While there's a good chance she will return later in the week for Halloween, chances are, after this week, we won't see her again in the item shop until Halloween 2021, so if you know a folkloric gamer, make sure they get her today. There's nothing quite like being run down by a Russian witch!

2. Prof and Pints Online Are Hosting A Special Baba Yaga focused lecture by Professor Philippa Rappoport Live TONIGHT 

Come join us as we tune in to hear a fascinating lecture by Slavic folklorist Dr. Philippa Rappoport, on Baba Yaga TONIGHT! All time-zones welcome!

Prof and Pints Online are dedicated to bringing faculty members into bars, cafes, offices (and now living rooms!) to share their knowledge, without the pricey cost of tuition, or the stress of quizzes or grades. Since moving all presentations online due to the pandemic, tickets cost just $12 for an approximately 90-minute lecture, complete with Q&A. Prof and Pints curate presenters (faculty members) on a very wide variety of topics, including politics, history, sociology, and, of course, folklore and fairy tales. (Our Carterhaugh Profs are frequent presenters!) We are HUGE Prof and Pints fans and have attended many lectures, by various experts over the past few months and remain impressed at the quality of educators invited to speak and how generous in sharing their knowledge and expertise they are. We highly recommend them.

Tickets to join live via Crowdcast (no app download needed) are available right up to a few minutes before it starts and anyone can join. (Please be advised, content is aimed at adults, so should be screened before being shared with anyone under 18.) Live chats are very active during the lectures and proposing questions for the end Q&A is open to anyone attending. Lectures are also recorded so are available to watch again later, or tickets can then be purchased to watch at leisure after the event.

TONIGHT at 4pm PST/7pm EST, Slavic folklorist Professor Philippa Rappoport, whose lectures are truly excellent, is talking about Baba Yaga, along with other "dark denizens". (She's also a good storyteller and wonderful to listen to.)


Profs and Pints Online presents: “Tales from Netherworlds,” an evening with Baba Yaga and other dark denizens of the imagination, with folklorist Philippa Rappoport of George Washington University.

[This talk will remain available in recorded form at the link for tickets and access given via this site. ]

The traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain—now known as Halloween—marked the opening of a door between our world and the world of deities and the dead. In honor of that day’s approach, Philippa Rappoport returns to the Profs and Pints Online stage to tell Slavic folktales about journeys to a strange netherworld beneath us.

Baba Yaga by Ivan Bilibin

The ticket to taking such a trip is being in possession of a magic doll. A mysterious element of folktales in Russia and other East Slavic nations, they’ll open doors in the earth for you. Beware, though. Although you might escape danger on one side, you’re likely to face it on the other.

Professor Rappoport will tell the tale of one heroine, Vasilisa the Beautiful, whose doll-aided plunge into a netherworld leads her to confront the witch Baba Yaga and a host of ooglie booglie spirits. She’ll take us on a journey of our own, exploring what such folktales tell us about beliefs about women, witches, fairy godmothers, and magical helpers. We’ll tour netherworlds as places where we can find both terror and refuge. You’ll be surprised by how relevant much of what you’ll encounter is to spiritual beliefs and practices all around us today.

Professor Rappoport has also wowed Profs and Pints audiences with talks about Russia’s house spirits treacherous mermaids. Her latest effort will change how you think about Halloween.

Hope to see you there!

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