Russia is a land of dark isolated forests filled with things far darker than even vampires and fairies such as the Rusalka which are so whimsical they will tickle their victims to death. Yet it is also a land of contrasts for few places have such a diversity of creatures as does Russia. For the Rusalka also teach people the arts, inspire beauty, and help the crops to grow. Yet despite the amazing array of fascinating creatures few fantasy artists or writers seem interested in Russia beyond what it contributes with regards to vampires.
By ignoring everything but vampires people miss not only an array of interesting creatures but important aspects of the vampires themselves. Everyone knows that vampires can’t enter a home without permission, what they forget is that the reason is that the house spirit or ‘domovoi’ in Russian folklore keeps the vampire out of the home.
Domovoi’s could be likened both to fairies and to ghosts, they are the spirits of a family patriarch which stays behind to protect their family, but they are not simply a boring wise old spirit. As with nearly everything in Russia they have a duel nature of their own. They will rob the nieighbors home or even attack a neighbors domovoi, at times killing it leaving the neighbors vulnerable to the many things that haunt the Russian country side.
It is well known that in Russian folklore the dead continue to live on, but another point people forget is that even the forces of nature are alive in this region. Consider the following excerpt from the Russian Fairy Tale
“The Brothers Frost.”
“Two frost brothers walked hand in hand, foot to foot through an open foot making snapping noises as they went.“Brother Claus of the Crimson nose! We should have some fun and freeze people,” the blue nosed frost said to his red nosed brother.“Brother Christmas of the blue nose, there are no people to freeze because the snow is drifted and the road is covered in snow, no one will come outside to pass us by,” the blue nose frost responded. “It would be better for us to go into the forest, there is less space but there will be more fun.”
“Brothers Frost” Russian Fairy tale
The forces of nature in Russia have this tenancy to be both dangerous, funny, or if treated with proper respect, protective. One Russian tale tells of a man who bows to the wind, angering the Sun and the Frost. However, the wind blows warm air to protect the man from the frost and cool air to protect him from the sun.
Baba Yaga, the most infamous witch of Russian fairy tales is believed by some folklorists to be related to a wind spirit. I and others have noticed that she lives with the sun, the day, and night but not the moon, which might mean that she herself is the moon. Its possible of course that her stories are inspired by both.
The best way to make something unique is often to be inspired by such notions, to determine how someone who would draw a witch which is the spirit of the wind, rather than to simply draw a witch.
Nukiuk is a folklorist and illustrator who’s been translating Russian fairy tales into English which you can read at http://zeluna.net/russian-fairy-tale.html.