Baba Yaga is perhaps one of the most feared of all creatures within Russian fairy tales. A hag witch whom appears as a monstrous old lady with long greasy hair, a sign of her freedom and wildness. She is interesting however because despite how feared she has become she's obviously plays a duel roll. On the one hand she's the witch who devours girls who get lost in the woods, who threatens the weak and the faint of heart. Yet at the same time she tales on the roll of the donor within fairy tales. She's the one who tells the hero how to kill their immortal foes, or gives them the magical object needed to complete their quest. Of course it's interesting to note that she only does this for male characters who tend to seem perfectly at ease with her, to understand exactly how to act. Because she represents the wilderness and that is their element. Girls are only in the woods in Russian fairy tales because they have been lost or left their. Thus their test in the forest is much more scary.
The obvious duel role of Baba Yaga has led to speculation that she was once purely good. That Christianity perverted her. I think that this is a misconception. In the post Christian world we want to divide things neatly into good and bad. Perfect and imperfect. We forget that even in places which never converted many of the deities and fairy like creatures still retain a duel role. Baba Yaga doesn't represent good or evil, she represents the world which the heroes of fairy tales have now found themselves. These heroes are entering the adult world, a world which is both good and bad. Which provides opportunity and danger. Baba Yaga like nearly all fairies appears to people at a time of inbetween, when they are not yet adults but are no longer children. A time when that which challenges someone also makes them stronger. When people have conflicted emotions about those challenging them to be better. In the modern and perhaps even the past era she is the employer which people portray as a cruel hag but which provides what they need to advance in society.
The world isn't always divided into good and evil then, sometimes its divided into growing experiences, into challenges. And while Baba Yaga represents something harsher then the modern day challenges we tend to face, she was exactly what was needed when nearly everyone was a serf.
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