Something exciting! @repecca and I are doing a joint Visual Development project this term! Based on the Russian fairy tale Vasilisa the Beautiful, we’re going to be doing characters, locations and other fun things. Here are some of my sketches and design explorations for Baba Yaga, Vasilisa’s Step-sister and Step-mother. Some location designs are also in the works and on their way! :>
The last two weeks Animal Alphabets Fairy Tale Edition was U for Ugly Duckling and V for Vasilisa the Beautiful (Based off a Russian fairy tale). Long story short, she is sent to find fire, and meets Baba Yaga and must complete a set of tasks with the help of her magical doll given to her by her dead mother.
By his first wife, a merchant had a single daughter, who was known as Vasilisa the Beautiful. When the girl was eight years old, her mother died. On her deathbed, she gave Vasilisa a tiny wooden doll with instructions to give it a little to eat and a little to drink if she were in need, and then it would help her.
Baba Yaga is a supernatural being who appears as a deformed and/or ferocious-looking woman. Baba Yaga flies around in a mortar, wields a pestle, and dwells deep in the forest in a hut usually described as standing on chicken legs (or sometimes a single chicken leg).
It sways lightly, willow leaves rustling as the house creaks. The single chicken foot taps its claws on the ground, clack-clack-clack-clack. It bends, and the front door lowers towards you. You’ve reached Baba Yaga’s hut.
Designs for Baba Yaga’s abode! It hops. Can you imagine how alarming it would be to be inside it when it moves?
Baba Yaga goes up to the counter and orders a flaming hot jasmine tea. She forces the barista to sort the coffee beans behind the counter on penalty of death. On an unrelated note, the barista later marries the tsar.
Greetings all, and welcome to our Mythological Throwback Thursday. This week we’re getting to know a very special lady. From Eastern Europe, it’s Baba Yaga, the wise old crone!
Baba Yaga is known as an archetypal witch, an old lady with strange powers and knowledge. She appears in many tales both as an antagonist and as a donor or patron. Her name is thought to mean ‘old woman’, though nobody is clear on what ‘yaga’ means.
Baba Yaga is very peculiar in her ways. Unlike the more common perception of witches, she doesn’t fly upon a broom. Her preferred mode of transport is a giant mortar, in which she sits with her knees drawn up under her chin. She uses a pestle as a rudder of sorts, sculling around the forest in which she lives, and brushes away her tracks with a sprig of silver birch. Often referred to as ‘bony one’, she is nevertheless said to possess an unnatural appetite, able to eat as much as ten men. She seems to be especially fond of eating children, when she is able.
Perhaps most unusual of all is her home. A simple hut deep within the forest, it is often encircled by a dreadful fence made of human bones and skulls. It is guarded by fierce animals, and it possesses gigantic chicken-like legs on which it rotates and even moves around. People say that while it rotates, it makes a terrible screeching sound, and can only be stopped by someone making the incantation ‘Turn your back to the forest, turn your front to me’.
Baba Yaga has three faithful consorts: a white horseman, a red horseman and a black horseman. Their identities are unknown, as all that Baba Yaga will say of them is that they are her Bright Dawn, her Red Sun and her Dark Midnight. She is also associated with Koshchei the Deathless, an immortal, wild old man who some think served as her herdsman for a time. Last among her allies are her ‘soul friends’, three pairs of spectral, disembodied hands that sometimes appear and obey her commands.
In the Cinderella-esque story of Vasilisa the Beautiful, the heroine is sent to Baba Yaga for light, after her wicked stepmother and stepsisters put out all the lights in the house. Vasilisa travels a long way, and is very frightened by the strange crone, who sets her to work on arduous tasks. With a little supernatural help she succeeds, and in thanks Baba Yaga sends her on her way with a skull-lantern full of flaming coals. The skull incinerates her whole cruel family, and Vasilisa leaves home to be a clothmaker and later marry the Tsar. Well, it’s a more straightforward solution than Bibbidy-Bobbidy-Boo.
That’s all we have time for this week, but if you’d like to hear more stories about young women doing their best in unpleasant situations you should download The Lounge Singer, only on our app Beyond Books. We’ll see you next Thursday too, for another Mythological Throwback!
Photos of the Vasilisa book finally! Taking pictures of this was really hard. Also I still have a blister on my finger from cutting all of these pages, and I finished like 2 weeks ago. But it turned out great so whatever. :>
Vasilisa with her face smeared with dirt and blood and her hair messy, but still every inch as beautiful as she ever was in the tales of old. She wandered the earth alone before she was taken in by a camp who forced her to find supplies and technology for them. She had no choice but to accept this mission, and venture into the world, passing through white nuclear wasteland, red burning cities and a black forest so dark and thick, you cannot see the sky.