Interesting Characters Found in Russian Folklore
Reading fairy tales and folklore can tell you a lot about a country and its culture. Russian folklore is full of interesting recurring characters, all with fascinating habits and powers. Here are some of my favourite characters that you will often stumble across when reading Russian folk stories.
Nightingale the Robber (Соловей-Разбойник)
This is the typical enemy of the hero in many folk stories. Taking the form of a snake-like monster, he sits in a tree waiting for passers-by, and then robs them. His ‘special power’ is his whistle, which is so loud that it can cause earth tremors and cause leaves to fall from trees. You can watch a cartoon film which starts this character on YouTube here.
Domovoi is the master of the house, and holds the secret to a happy household. He often takes the shape of a small old man, covered in white or black shaggy hair. He loves cosy spaces, and will be found hiding by the oven or in a warm area underground. If you find him in your home, be kind: if he likes you, he will become a delightful companion, helping with the chores to keep the house in order. However, if he doesn’t take a shine to you, beware! He will severely misbehave, breaking dishes and scaring the homeowners. This film, available on YouTube, is all about the adventures of Domovoi.
Kikimora is another character who can prove to be a homeowner’s nightmare. She also lives in people’s homes, and is often invisible. However, when she does make an appearance it is not a pleasant sight: she can take the form of a woman of any age, depending on the tale, but will always appear to be very disheveled and frightening, wearing tattered clothes. Her main goal is to cause chaos in a home, breaking dishes, frightening people and making loud noises. If you want to learn more about this character whilst improving your Russian, you can watch this video.
Babai is many children’s worst nightmare, and many parents’ best threat. He is a lopsided, cloaked man who wanders the streets at night with a stick and a sack, searching for children who are not sleeping for him to abduct. Looking into windows at night, if he notices that a child is not asleep he will make noises to scare them. The threat of being face to face with Babai would definitely have made me go to bed on time! One impression of Babai can be seen in this film trailer.
These are just some of many weird and wonderful characters that can be found in Russian folklore. To learn about the relationship between two other characters that are often found in Russian folk stories, you can read this article.