The Strange House in the Woods

April 20, 2012

Sami storehouse. Photo by m.prinke.

In last week’s bird quiz, the pelican was mentioned as Baba Yaga’s bird. Baba Yaga is the harvest goddess of many Eastern European countries, who appears as a witch in Russian fairy tales. Another of her bird characteristics is her little house, which stands on chicken legs in a clearing in the woods. This hut has the curious ability to walk around on its legs. Sometimes it spins in a furious circle. In folk tales when the heroine reaches Baba Yaga’s hut, she addresses the building politely and says, “Stand with your back to the forest and your front to me.” Obediently, the hut waddles around and allows the door to face her, so that she can enter. It is speculated that Baba Yaga’s house may be built off the ground on tree stumps, similar to the storage building traditionally used by some Sami people.


Afanas’ev, Aleksandr. Russian Fairy Tales. Trans. Norbert Guterman. New York: Random House, 1973.

Johns, Andreas. Baba Yaga: The Ambiguous Mother and Witch of the Russian Folktale. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2010.