Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A to Z of Witches. B

B is for Baba Yaga

And Father Nyaga!

So I have talked about Baba Yaga, her infamous hut and her less infamous mortar and pestle in the past.
In fact one post on her, was later mis-translated into "Father Nyaga".  Later I had the thought that was an old wizard and more or less counterpart to Baba Yaga.

Baba Yaga has had a long career in RPGs.  Baba Yaga's hut has appeared in every version of the D&D game since the beginning.  Baba Yaga herself is said to be the adopted mother of the witch Tasha who would later become Iggwilv.  She has even appeared in other RPGs like the World of Darkness line.

Baba Yaga is a tricky one to capture properly in stats.  She is more plot point than character the characters in a game can confront.  She always has more spells and more ways of getting out of situations that should be allowed a non-player character.   She is old and powerful and stats would never do her justice.

In my games where she has needed to turn up I usually make her into a Makava or a Wood Hag.  I typically increase her ability to that of a 30th level witch (regardless of system).

Father Nyaga
I took Väinämöinen to be the model for Father Nyaga. Basically he is Väinämöinen to Baba Yaga's Louhi.
This isn't much of stretch since Louhi in the D&D game is believed to be another form of Iggwilv and Väinämöinen was one of the models for Mordenkainen.

I have to admit that a lot of my inspiration for this character comes from the old Time-Life books, The Enchanted World, esp. the one on Wizards and Witches.  The wizard on the cover has been staring at me for 30+ years and he has needed representation in my games.

Like Baba Yaga, Father Nyaga works best as plot device.  Think about Merlin or Gandalf.  Do you really care what their spells are just as long as you know they are powerful wizards?  Not really.  Father Nyaga works in the same way, only his main "plot point" is aid those that run afoul of Baba Yaga.  I see him with a staff and owl and of course the long, long white beard.  I also have had it my mind that he has darker skin. Either Indian, African or deeply tanned.  I like the contrast of darker skin and snow white beard. I think it would give him a different look that most of the wizards we see, which tend to be very Eurocentric.

ETA:  Anna Tan is also doing Baba Yaga today.  Check out her post.

Supernatural AtoZ


Sophie Duncan said...

I first read about Baba Yaga in a book of fairy tales 'from around the world' when I was a child. She gave me nightmares with her threat of cannibalism, but her challenges to the girl she was holding as a slave were really interesting and I kept rereading that story. I'd never heard of a witch flying in a pestle and mortar before I read that story - I suppose she was one of the first characters who stepped outside what I expected from a trope. That encouraged my imagination and, hey, now I'm a writer ;).

Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles - A to Z Ghosts
Fantasy Boys XXX - A to Z Drabblerotic

Unknown said...

Camehis is what I love about AZ, here from Anna's post. This is what i love about AZ, such a variety of perspectives!

Tasha Duncan-Drake said...

I've just read Soph's comment and I was going to say exactly the same thing. Damn this being twins thing! :) I do remember being absolutely fascinated by her house.
Tasha's Thinkings

Jolie du Pre said...

Dark skin with a white beard would be cool!

Pun Isaac said...

As long as they don't take the spotlight away from pc's, I really enjoy mystic plot device characters like this.

A Tarkabarka Hölgy said...

There is also a less well known RPG called Firebird that features Baba Yaga heavily. I found it on Drive Thru RPG. :D

@TarkabarkaHolgy from
Multicolored Diary - Tales of Colors
MopDog - The crazy thing about Hungarians...

Laura Clipson said...

Baba Yaga I have heard of, though I've never read her story.

dm said...

Baba Yaga is one of the greatest and scariest images/characters from literature ever. Love the house. Love the mortar and pestle. I think you are right though that bringing her into an adventure -- outside of being a plot device would be tricky.

Courtney said...

Aloha from Hawaii. I'm not an RPGer so it took me a while to translate that into role playing games...She's definitely well known in Russian mythology and I wouldn't want to meet her on a dark night, or probably any time for that matter!
Maui Jungalow

Unknown said...

She was just in an episode of Lost Girl on Netflix. I also used to read a storybook about her.

I'm pretty sure both gave me nightmares!

Mina Burrows said...

I've never heard of her, but what a cool name. She sounds menacing.

Unknown said...

Great information on Baba Yaga. I love learning about this stuff. I'm really enjoying following you, along with the other supernatural a to zers.

Carrie~Anne at That Dizzy Chick

Anna Tan said...

Ooh. I've never heard of Father Nyaga! (Sounds like Father Dragon, Naga being Dragon in Malay)

And thanks for the shoutout!

anna @ Deeply Shallow

Su-sieee! Mac said...

This is all new to me and was quite interesting to read. I am a scardy-cat when it comes to dark stuff, doesn't matter what. :-)

Unknown said...

That Baba Yaga character is one creepy mambo-jambo! Wouldn't want to cross paths with the likes of her!

I do like the sound of Father Nyaga, however -- particularly the dark skin contrasting a white beard.

I'm participating in AtoZ, too.
See you around!