SUMMONING BABA YAGA
By Lindy Ryan
My stepmother immigrated to the United States shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, and along with my stepsister and step-babushka, she brough borscht, matryoshka dolls, and Baba Yaga. I was seven years old, and my mother—an Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King enthusiast—had already conditioned me with a love for darker stories. Sparkly, sanitized Disney-version fairy tales didn’t appeal to me as much as the original Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, and Hans Christian Andersen tales, where even the happiest of “happy endings” often involved bloodshed, mutilation, and—as in the case of “The Little Mermaid”—death by suicide. By the time my stepmother arrived on the Texan soil of my childhood home, the closest I’d come to a true dark fairytale were all twenty-seven episodes of Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre (of which twenty-six were retellings and the final episode a cast and crew “Grimm Party”), but even these shied away from the true dark depths of the original source material.