The characters of Russian fairy tales inhabit a spectacular Magical Kingdom where they never get bored. They’re eternally engaged in all kinds of trials and tribulations – to do the bidding of the king, win themselves a beautiful wife, save their land or defend their loved ones from evil beasts.
Baba Yaga is one of the most frequently encountered characters in fairy tales. She’s most often found as the owner of a wooden hut on chicken legs, or as the guardian of the way into a wild wood. And she doesn’t let just anyone pass. Baba Yaga tests the hero’s nerve and courage. And if he proves worthy, she helps him along his way with his task, giving him talismans that will aid his work.
Ivan the Fool is usually the youngest son of a peasant family. He doesn’t think before acting, and often does things randomly. Other people don’t take him seriously – at best they treat him like a fool, and at worst they push him around. Ivan the Fool doesn’t like work; he can’t manage even the simplest task, instead bringing woe upon his family or employer. Yet somehow he always blunders through thanks to some miraculous assistance, and ends up achieving feats that not even heroes can manage. Despite his chaotic nature, Ivan the Fool fulfills a very important role: his bungling antics provide amusement for both the other characters and the readers too, and they prove that even the slowest sometimes turn out to be the fastest. We find Ivan the Fool in stories such as “Little Ivan the Fool,” “The Humpty-Back Little Horse” and “Sivka-Burka.”
The Frog Princess is the perfect wife, clever and beautyful, sensible and resourceful, loyal and thrifty. And on top of all that, she’s skilled in the magic arts and has an army of nannies at her command, who can assist her in even seemingly impossible circumstances. There is, however, one drawback. On the orders of her powerful father, she has been changed into a frog for three years, and is compelled to appear in that form to her betrothed – Tsarevitch (Crown Prince) Ivan.
Gorynych the Dragon has many heads. He can appear out of the water, spew flames from his nostrils, occasionally fly on wings of fire and often lives in the mountains. Gorynych kidnaps women and besieges cities. But, unlike Baba Yaga, he can’t be bought off or distracted – he’s always determined to make a meal of those who disturb his rest or thwart his plans.
Vasilisa the Beautiful shouldn’t be confused her with her namesake, Vasilisa the Wise, who is a sorceress and daughter of the King of the Seas. Vasilisa the Beautiful is a merchant’s daughter. Her mother died young, leaving her to cope with an evil stepmother. She is sweet and good-natured but gets into a lot of scrapes, especially with Baba Yaga. But she’s helped in her adventures by a doll her mother left her.