Fantasy novel Granny Yaga by Vitali Vitaliev reveals a host of different characters perfect for Halloween.
The author of the book, which is aimed at both children and adults alike, introduces the reader to the following characters:
Baba Yaga – Renowned in Slavic and particularly Russian fairy tales, this hook-nosed old witch lives in a forest, in a hut that stands on chicken legs. She flies around in a mortar, propelling herself with a pestle and only uses a broom to cover her tracks. It was rumoured that this sorceress ate children, so parents still often use her to deter naughty behaviour from their little ones. Vitaliev’s reincarnation, who resides in North London, is far friendlier, modern, witty and selfless: an unlikely super-heroine
Dziwożona (or mamuna) – a female swamp demon that is neither quite alive nor quite dead but something in between. They’re known for being generally wicked and kidnapping children. The book’s Dziwozona is Pani Czerniowiecka; a peculiar creature originating from the swamps of Eastern Poland whose existence alternates between her house and a spacious sarcophagus in the nearby Highgate Cemetery
Koschei (or Koschei the Deathless aka Koshchey the Immortal) – Koschei is the archetypal male antagonist in Slavic folklore and is known for kidnapping females. He is an old sorcerer and magician who metamorphoses into many different objects, people and creatures. As his name suggests, he is destined to live forever. However, this immortality is not actually fool proof. He can be killed if his soul is found (incidentally his soul is hidden in a needle, inside an egg). Vitaliev describes him as tall and, although in excellent health, extremely, almost inhumanly, thin. The name Koshchei means skeleton in old Krivichi dialect.
Volkodlak – A vampire, which is linked to various Slovenian werewolf legends. The word literally means “wolf-skin” and many sources say it is actually a vampire that can transform into a wolf. The British Museum curator character in Granny Yaga doesn’t believe a volkodlak is particularly gruesome. He explains that they are Magi sorcerers who can cause sun eclipses. It is an old volkodlak who teaches Granny Yaga to slow down time
Kikimora – A demon of the night that is seen throughout Slavic mythology. There are many interpretations of this female house spirit, but a kikimora is usually very ugly in depictions and considered evil.
The book doesn’t only feature Slavic mystical characters. The North London setting means we also get an introduction to the Highgate Vampire.
“Slavic folklore with its abundance of colourful and often evil characters is fertile ground for Halloween inspiration,” said book author Vitali Vitaliev. “Baba Yaga is the most famous figure from Slavic mythology although I think she is often misunderstood. Readers will find my interpretation rather more sympathetic and the character of Baba Yaga far more charismatic.”
This year, Granny Yaga has been optioned by a Hollywood-based film production company.
To request a copy of the book or exclusive character pictures, please contact Francesca De Franco at: email@example.com
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Notes to editors
About the book
On a drab winter’s evening, an old flying old woman is spotted in Bloomsbury, an area of London known for its magical, masonic and shamanism associations. This is followed by the arrival of Yadwiga, alias Baba Yaga, one of the most interesting characters of East European folklore – an ambiguous witch, a sorceress and an unlikely super-heroine. She has come to London as part of the struggling Sablins family, recent migrants from a fictitious East European country. It is in London that their adventures really begin.
Yadwiga joined the Sablins when life in the forest, where she had been dwelling inside a hut on hen’s legs for over a thousand years, became impossible due to “deforestation” and the invasion of overly-curious visitors. Baba Yaga can’t take being asked questions, for each question makes her a little bit older – a curse imposed on her by her former partner and now sworn enemy, Koschei the Deathless, the incarnation of all evil.
The story takes the reader on a fascinating excursion through the history of Slavic and British folklore projected on the vicissitudes of modern Western life.
About Vitali Vitaliev
A Ukrainian-born Russian (with British and Australian citizenship), Vitaliev studied French and English at Kharkiv University. He then became the first investigative journalist in the Soviet Union. As a result, he was forced to defect from the USSR by the KGB in January 1990.
He has become widely known in the West for his regular appearances on TV and radio. Vitaliev has published twelve books, which have been translated into a number of languages. A former staff columnist for The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The European, The Australian and many more, he has also made several TV documentaries and is the winner of over 20 journalistic and literary awards in the USSR and in the West.
He is currently Features Editor of E&T magazine and lives near London.