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15 November 2018

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Baba Yaga: The Wild Witch of the East in Russian Fairy Tales

Sibelan Forrester, transl. and ed. (Univ. Press of Mississippi)

Baba Yaga is trending.

I know this not simply because we received two Baba Yaga books to review in the space of one month, but because a Scandinavian food cart in our little town has introduced a Baba Yaga wrap (roasted butternut squash, roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, arugula and blue cheese dressing: $7 – notably, no chicken).

Of course, Baba Yaga has been trending for a long time. As Sibelan Forrester begins her introduction to this fine volume, “As the classic Russian fairy-tale witch, Baba Yaga has elicited fascination, trepidation and wonder in generations of Russian children and adults.”

The book contains not just 29 tales newly translated in a very fluid, enjoyable style (including some of the “better-knowns”: The Firebird, The Tsar-Maiden, Vasilisa the Beautiful and The Frog Princess), but copious footnotes and explanations, a lengthy introduction on everything you ever wanted to know about the witch, plus dozens of color illustrations from old books, modern designers, and artisans the world over.

If you are fascinated by Russian fairy-tales, this is one to savor.

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: Nov/Dec 2013