Friday, 10 May 2013

A Ukrainian Witch in Nikolay Gogol's Short Horror Story "Viy" - Who Is Viy?

Viy (Вий)... I bet no one of you have ever hear this name. But for Russian literature this short story was
of a great significance. It was written by Nikolai Gogol' - a Ukrainian born Russian writer of the 19th 
century, who along with Pushkin and Griboedov created the way for Russian literature development in 20th
century. My favorite 20th century Russian writer Bulgakov, author of the novel "Master and Margarita", was Gogol's admirer and you can definitely find influence of this in his fantastic compositions.
Viy Illustration by Eduard Novikov
But why do I choose to speak about Viy and who is this at last? This would be not easy to explain. Though giving a definition of Viy Gogol himself says that "He is a colossal creation of folk mind.
By such name among Ukrainians is called a chief of gnomes, 
eyelids go till the ground.The whole this story is a legend. I didn't 
want to change it in any way, so I am telling it in the same simplicity as I have heard it." The author told us where Viy was originated 
from...but in real there was never such a creature in Ukrainian 
folklore. Hence Viy is a pure fictitious character, which was born in Gogol's mind, and who knows, how it ever got in there.
However, I am not going to dedicate my post to this "sleepy" monster, as I have something more interesting to discuss. And this is a witch of course. Before I had acquainted you with Russian witches mainly, whose witchy nature either helped in solving love and life issues, or made their love story unhappy. Both however had to flee of the society in order to gain peace of mind and soul.
The witch I am going to tell about has particular differences from those created by Bulgakov and Kuprin. Let us explore this.
Gogol produced such a story which to this day excites reader's mind and lets be honest, scares. On just about 20 pages the complete narrative unfolds with all the details of horror genre which I believe are used by nowaday writers and filmmakers. The author uses folklore plots as well as his own creative mind to describe the scenes and characters. The conventional motif of many Gogol's short stories is a scary legend or a hearsay told by one of the story's characters, which then becomes true as the narration proceeds. This is how  the real world and the world of supernatural is linked  in Gogol's early compositions, and "Viy" is not an exception. However one can not deny the author's subtle irony in his writings somehow prevents you from being swallowed by fear... unlike the protagonist of the story Homa Brut... Now it is time to switch to witch!
Homa Brut is a philosopher - a senior student of a seminary, who being on vacations, makes his way back home with two of his fellows. They cross various places, settlements, stay in the fields over night, but at some point of time they feel to rest and refresh. They make a long journey, but all the efforts of finding a sanctuary for the night come to nothing. Homa with his friends don't give up and when the night already has covered the fields with its cloak they see a flickering light afar - a sign of a farm (a "hutor" in Ukrainian). The travellers are very pleased to finally reach near humans...
As they approach one of the houses of the farm, and knock the door, an old lady opens them and first is not happy to see young lads and refuses to let them stay. But the seminary students good at talking, they coax the old woman, and she being wary makes them sleep in tree different places of the farm. Homa Brut is settled in an empty sheep barn. Late at night he is awaken by a noise of a door opening  in the barn - the old woman enters premises. Homa asks why is she there... but the lady proceeds walking towards him with open arms... He assumes that the crone comes to get some pleasure from him what scares him a lot and he is trying to stop the woman but she stares at him and he is not able to move or speak... : "He could only hear how his heart was pounding, and he saw an old woman came up to him, clasped his hands, bent his head, with the swiftness of a cat jumped on his back, hit him with a broom and by his side, and he bouncing around like a horse, carried her on his shoulders...". That is a moment when Homa thinks : "Aha, it is a witch."

To Be Continued...

Yours sincerely,
Witchcraft and More.


  1. Ride, witchy crone, ride! Hahahahaha! You sure know how to end a post on a cliffhanger -- now I must wait for Part 2.

    1. Thanks for waiting :) I am sure Gogol will not disappoint you!

  2. I fell in love with Gogol after I read "The Nose." I've read "The Viy" a couple of times, and every time I do, I laugh a little and feel terrified a little. My favorite part of the tale, or favorite lines I should say, are:

    "the learned maintain that every witch has a tail."

    "Every old woman is a witch..."

    Too funny.

    Can't wait to see what else you share with us. Hm, I might follow your lead one of these days and share bits about Caribbean witches in folklore ;-)

    1. Is there anything you haven't read, Magaly? I am so pleased you know Gogol' too, and his wonderful "Nose" and "Viy"!
      You are right - those folk's talks about identifying witch by fining her tail..and saying that every old woman is a witch...haha!I have some more o fhis stories about witches, will present when I am done with "Viy"'s witch.
      Wow! Caribbean witches - sounds great! Isn't there the one in the Pirates of the Caribbean?

    2. There are tons of things I haven't read lol but Gogol is not one of them--he's too awesome!

      Speaking about reading everything, have you read The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri? I watched the movie, but haven't read the novel. I will in the next few weeks... I'm excited to see how they handled the adaptation.

      Thinking about Gogol brought the movie to mind ;-)

    3. No I haven't read this book and haven't seen the movie... but I saw a review and that there is Gogol' as a character! wow, Now I wanna read it! thanks for suggestion :)

  3. This is excellent! That witch is having a fun ride! Can't wait to read what is next!

    1. There is a lot more to come..:) Thanks for reading!