Thursday, 27 December 2012

Morozko (Jack Frost) - the Russian Magical Winter

The power of imagination can make a lot of difference in how you feel at the moment. So here I am, imagining a typical Russian winter. Everything is under a thick layer of snow and when you step on the snowdrift, your feet sink into its softness. The sky is clear blue and you can see crystals sparkling in the air. It's frost. Moroz in Russian. 
The winter season found its reflection in Russian folklore. As it can last up to 7 months, this season is a significant part of the Russian annual life cycle. There are numerous festivals celebrated during the winter, as to brighten up and warm up the cold days. Also, important to note, that the weddings were conducted in the winter too.
As I had promised earlier here is another Russian magical fairy tale. "Morozko" (Father Frost, Jack Frost) is its name. If interested, you can read it here. Not only this fairy tale pictures the Russian winter, it also teaches us very good lessons of patience, politeness, respect and kindness.
The female character of Morozko is a girl, who has to bear all the challenges of being a step daughter. A step mother hates her, as she is, first of all, beautiful, kind, and a good helper in the house. These qualities may affect her own daughter's marriage proposal success, as step daughter will be preferred upon her. Thinking of what shall she do with her accurst step daughter, the wicked step mother forces her husband to leave his daughter alone in the winter forest as she can freeze there to death.
Obeying his wicked wife, he takes the daughter to the woods on the sledge and leaves her under a big pine tree (a great father!). Later the girl starts feeling very cold, trying to warm up her ice cold hands with her breath when suddenly hears :"Are you warm, my girl?" This is Morozko, leaping from one tree to another.The girl being very kind and polite answers him: "I'm warm, father, thank you..." Morozko first wants to freeze the life out of her, but seeing her good nature, has mercy on this nice girl. them he keeps asking her same question few more times, and when she still replies "You are welcome, father, I'm warm", decides to bestow her with jewelry and a trunk of gems. The girl returns home in rich clothes and in beautiful sledge. 
The wicked step mother of course, becomes furious, and asks husband to send her own daughter to the forest as she can also get all those treasures from Morozko.
Now we assume that the story ends good for those how deserve happiness and bad for those who deserved  punishment. In this way the fairy tale seems to be quiet cruel. The step mother's daughter never returns home in all the glory. Placed under the same pine tree,she is also questioned by Morozko how she is doing, but she replies rudely : "Are you blind? Can't you see that my hands and feet are numb?" In the end what the step mother gets is her daughter's cold body in the sleigh... Morozko didn't have mercy on her rude, lazy daughter. The old man's daughter marries a neighbor, and they live happily ever after.
Yes, many Russian fairy tales have this moment in them, when the main character gets everything after sufferings, and the offender left with nothing or even finds his or her death. Morozko meanwhile is a personification of the Russian winter, which can be kind or cause many difficulties to people. So as to please it, you have to be kind and polite to it always. 
Have a happy magical winter and a Happy New Year!
Yours sincerely,
Witchcraft and Literature

Monday, 24 December 2012

The Feather of Finist the Falcon

Continuing with the Russian fairy tales, the next one to talk about is a beautiful The Feather of Finist the Falcon (Пёрышко Финиста ясна сокола). Yes, I found my dear witches in it as well :). One of them - our very well known Baba-Yaga  and another- a queen enchantress.
The story about Finist the Falcon is a traditional Russian folk tale about a lad who can turn to a feather or a falcon and about a girl who fell in love with him.
Obviously, that being in love with a supernatural guy has its difficulties and challenges. Finist the Falcon has to fly away from the girl Maryushka after wicked sisters prevent him from entering the room by inserting blades in the window frame. He says at last that she'll find him only after she wears out three pairs of iron shoes, breaks three iron staves and three iron caps. The number 3 has always been a magical number (lucky too) in Russian folklore. So many actions are repeated for three times in the fairy tale (and in life's superstitious moments) as to ensure success. Maryushka is able to reach the palace where her Finist is held by the Queen, exactly after she breaks all those iron items (3 items, three each of them).
I had been speaking already about traditional folklore theme of the meeting of the main character with Baba-Yaga  several times with regard to Olesya and Russian folklore. Same is in the Finist the Falcon as the protagonist can't accomplish her journey without help. This help, as usual, comes from Baba-Yaga. In fact, there are 3 of them in the story, each of which helps on the particular stage as the plot unwinds. Each of Baba Yagas gives Maryushka a bewitched thing which is supposed to aid her in future. Maryushka gets to know that Finist the Falcon was given a potion and, befuddled, was forced to marry the queen. First Baba Yaga provides her with a golden plate and a golden egg.
Second Baba Yaga's  gift is the needle which can do embroidery with gold and silver on its own. The third bewitched object she is given is a spindle which can spin on its own. Maryushka has to exchange all three things on the right to see Finist the Falcon.
Moreover Maryushka is assisted by animals as well. She meets a cat and a dog, who encourage her (yes, they can speak!) to continue her way through the dark forest in spite of fear. The third animal she meets is a wolf who gives her a ride on his back.
I.Bilibin, Finist the Falcon
When Maryushka dwells to the walls of the crystal palace, she, following an advise of the first Baba Yaga, hires out as a queen's maid. The queen, seeing all Maryushka's peculiar objects, wants to buy them. Maryushka however  requests to see Finist the Falcon in exchange. Another challenge now is that Finist, being befuddled, fell into a wakeless sleep, and she can't make him to see her. Last time, when she almost lost hope to wake him, and starts crying, one of the tears drops on the shoulder of her beloved and this awakens him. He is happy to see her, they head back home and get married.
I.Bilibin, Finist the Falcon
Russian Wedding in old times
Hope you liked this fairy tale with few witches in them. I'm going to make a post about a winter fairy tale, with little bit of magic in it too, of course:)
   *** Hope you had a great Winter Solstice day. Merry Christmas and Yule to all! ***
Yours sincerely,
Witchcraft and Literature