Saturday, April 26, 2008

Baba Yaga Boney-legs has teeth made of steel

I was always the witch in school plays, never the princess. This was because witches had coarse dark hair and princesses long blond tresses. To boot, I was kind of an ugly kid, with big glasses and physically awkward, and thus certainly not suited for princess roles. Back in elementary school this used to make sad, and even, silently and secretly, mad, because back then, I still believed in the transformative powers of donning a crown and a pink sateen dress. It was my thinking, that being allowed to play the princess, would somehow make me one in essence, that it would make me beautiful and accepted.

As the years passed and my witching résumé grew longer (I've played the witch at least in Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Hansel and Gretel), I learned to embrace my weirdness, and realised that unlike princesses, witches had power. They were their own women, with character, a personality beyond beauty and cleverness. They were different, lived by their own rules, and were certainly not in any need of rescue, unlike their golden-haired counterparts. The notion of their evilness too, quickly comes into question when one probes beyond the Christian re-telling of old folk-tales.
My all-time favorite witch (whom I also got to play in 5th grade in a play I adapted and directed myself) is Baba Yaga, the Russian hag who flies in a mortar and lives in a house that walks on chicken legs. Invariably Baba Yaga is portrayed in fairy-tales as a complex character, capable of both good and evil, terrible monster and a wise giver of council, from whom even the Tšars ask for advice. She also commands these dashing gentlemen:

Fair or dark, I think girls would fare better if they took their cues from sorceresses and hags, rather than high-born ladies. We are all destined to become hags eventually, and personally, I would rather become one with power.

Listening to: Annbjørg Lien
Images from: Wikipedia
Amazing use of the story of Baba Yaga and my fave movie: Lawn Dogs

PS. I realise that my email moniker might raise some eyebrows in connection to the princess-bashingness of this post, but that is another story.
Also, I'd like to add as a humorous fact, that I did, in the end actually get to marry a Prince, despite my witchy credentials. That's my husband's surname.


  1. I always used to play the witch, too! I was an awkward kid with short hair and glasses and wasn't terribly attractive, so I tended to get the witch parts. Except for one year, when I played the stone in The Sword in the Stone. In that production, all the girls with long hair got to be princesses, and all the girls with short hair got to be rocks.

    I like the idea of being empowered by embodying a witch rather than resenting it. And I did find that the witch was often people's favourite character from a production because she HAD a character, as opposed to the princess, who was generally just pretty.

  2. Yes yes, as far as roles, playing a witch is definitely more fun than playing a princess. Though until I started school I was the girl with long golden locks ;) But get this, at the mature age of nearly 7 I decided that a bob cut would have more sass and went to cut it despite my mom trying to persuade me otherwise, practically in tears.. My favorite character from story books was probably Ronja Ryövärintytär though. I loved her spunky attitude, adventures in the woods, and dark curly hair.

  3. Oh I would have loved to play the witch in school plays, or any proper character with lines. I remember being a tree and a lamb, and some other silent creature. Well, that was until I started writing the plays myself. At that point it didn't really matter if I didn't have a part, because I was happy just being the mastermind behind the scenes.

  4. hey there, love this story and the thought of the hags having the power in the end. great message! i'm trying to subscribe to your posts but can't find a working rss feed. help??

  5. Hey, I thought I left a comment here the other day. Maybe you didn't get it. Too bad, it was a long inspired comment all about how when I was in grade school I was so shy that I would have gladly traded in my golden locks for the courage to participate in a school play in any capacity whether it were as a princess, a witch, or even a rock. Oh yeah, I also said that you have a very unique blog and I love your thought provoking posts as well as your gorgeous dark tresses! :)

  6. I really like that your blog isn't only about clothes. I added a link to your blog under "vintage friends" assuming that vintage is your taste.

  7. "We are all destined to become hags eventually, and personally, I would rather become one with power." I about died laughing when I read that! Bravo! The one time i got to play the princess (1st grade, and my crush, the prince!) I had to wear a wig. But we didn't have any money to buy one so my dad made one out of a paper bag he painted orange. Definitely FELT like the haggiest sham of a princess ever! I avoided the theater after that....

  8. it's funny because i posted some stuff about baba yaga too, few weeks ago and now i found out you have done the same thing year ago :)
    baba yaga's our local character.