Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Ukrainian Witch in Gogol's Short Horror Story - Lift My Eyelids!

It is difficult to follow a plot with such wide breaks between narratives. I know and apologise to myself for this, like I did a hundred times. And a hundred times I promised to blog here regularly. When I told my friends during our meeting in my native city last summer that I have a blog about witchcraft and witches in literature and mythology, all of them were amazed that I started this topic. I am not the only who blogs about the same, but they found it, being themselves philologists by education if not by present profession, very interesting and one of them even suggested me to try to publish my "research"... Yea this is what I need now, but that is just a thought, a good one I agree.
I lost few followers over time, as I understand completely well that it is no fun to follow a blog which is not being updated. I'd not like the project I was so excited about in the beginning, to wither, decay and vanish completely from the Internet surface. So today I am here again, dragging feet and a *utt and a head of course to continue what once has been started.  
Pannochka by Blavatskaya
Homa, having no other choice, forced to come to centurion's house. The same night his sleep is disturbed by running of people and some noise, the whole house appeared to be on the move with the news that pannochka has died. Homa's first thoughts are to escape, to get rid of the duty he has been forced into. But the fate or better doom doesn't leave, him and he is called to the centurion (not sure whether this Russian word's translation is correct) himself. It seems that Homa now is at the mercy of Pannochka's father as well as demonic powers which drag him farther and farther. The same day Homa enters the room in which the corp is being laid... her father is inconsolable as he also doesn't know who was the reason of the daughter's death. Homa is full of fear but decides to start reading prayers. Centurion exits the room and then Homa looks at the body for the first time - a beauty he has never ever seen before is in front of him. She looks alive, with sharp features on her snow white skin... But through these Homa still recognises the witch. Later in the evening the body is being laid in the middle of a church on the outskirts of the farm. The church has been abandoned and no service has been held there for a long time.
The very same evening Homa hears talks and stories among local people about Pannochka's acquaintance with  "unclean, a wicked one" as Satan is called by Slavic people nowadays too. Right after dinner Homa is being escorted to the church for the first night of the prayers. The fear begins to settle in Homa's heart but first in his mind. He tries to persuade himself that the prayers he is about to read can banish any evil forces. He sticks the church candles all over the place... The witch's corp in the coffin as if beckons him and he looks at it again... She is still as beautiful in her mortality as before. Homa stands near choir and sings the prayers, however with every page he turns the fear doesn't subsides but increases, and thoughts of Pannochka's dead body so close to him haunt his mind. Meanwhile he tries to reassure himself that there is nothing to be afraid of as the young witch is dead and cannot arise from the coffin. Pannochka lifts up her head, and Homa catches a sight of her already sitting in the coffin... A moment later she is already standing on the floor and the next moment moving towards Homa, who hurriedly draws a circle around. She cannot cross it to her displeasure. 
Her appearance changes - skin becomes blue as of the dead body and her eyes look blindly around. Pannochka gets angry as she is not able to harm Homa, she lies back to the coffin which lifts up and starts flying almost above Homa's head but not crossing the circle. As this try fails too, Pannochka arises again, and this is when the rooster sings announcing morning. Of course Pannochka, being a demonic creature,cannot stand the morning light and settles in the coffin again, closing the lid.
The folkloric filling of this story is enhanced by the sacred number 3. Homa spends 3 nights in the church, each of which is more scary than the previous one. Homa notices however that Pannochka  tries to fetch him not where he stands as she is actually  not able to SEE him because of the magical circle.
Hence on the third day Pannochka driven by revenge  has to summon a powerfull creature which comes from the depths of Earth,Viy, in order to see Homa and kill him. Homa, glancing askew saw that some squat, burly, clumsy person is being led. He was all in the black earth. His hands and feet knobbed like sinewy, strong roots, buried underground. He walked heavily, constantly stumbling. Long eyelids were lowered to the ground.  Homa noticed with horrorthat the person had an iron face. They brought him under the arms and put straight to the place where Homa stood". Viy demands to lift his eyelids...Though Homa's inner vocie tells not to look at the terrible creature, he fails to do so, and with the Viy's words "Here he is!" all the unclean sprang on Homa, and "breathless he thundered to the ground and his spirit departed at once because of FEAR".
I suppose that this story by Gogol is the scariest in its genre. In the very end author once again confirms the thought that if Homa was not scared Pannochka wouldn't have had any influence on him. It is also interesting that the holy place in Gogol's work itself becomes a habitation of the evil - the church which is no longer a hope for a person and doesn't save him, it wants to punish and take revenge.
I would like to give a list of the movies which are based on this story:
1. "Viy" 1967 - a classic old version which remains the best till date.
2. "Witch" 2006 - an attempt to scare.
3. "Viy" 2014 - a collaborative project with all modern special effects and as the critic said reminds of the Sleepy Hollow by Tim Burton. I haven't seen it.
Sincerely Yours,
Witchcraft and Literature

P.S. I will credit the authors of the pictures later, as I am not able to retrieve the sites' names right now.

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