Xlibris Publishing returns with Folklore From Around the World: Slavic Folklore Part 2.
Leshy, the Guardian of the Forests
A strange and enigmatic figure, even within Slavic folklore, Leshy is the guardian spirit of the forests, and he does not tolerate any trespassers. His names and titles include: “Honourable One of the Forest,” “Forest Grandfather,” and the “Forest Master.” While Leshy is known to be a shapeshifter, his most well-recognized form is that of a masculine humanoid capable of changing in size and height.
Leshy’s regard for humans can be apathetic at best and outright cruel at worst. To Leshy, any human he finds in his forest is a trespasser. According to the stories it is best advised to either completely avoid the forest or at least treat the forest with the utmost respect so as not to draw Leshy’s wrath. In some stories Leshy leads people astray so that they become lost in the woods. In darker stories Leshy is known to abduct children.
In a way, Leshy embodies how the Slavic peoples viewed the forest, a dangerous place with little to no forgiveness for trespass.
Domovoi, the Keepers of the Home
A much friendlier and less ambivalent entity of Slavic folklore is the Domovoi. The Domovoi is a house-dwelling helper spirit. While known to appear as a short, hairy, and heavily bearded man, a domovoi will also appear as one of the house’s residents while doing chores. Domovoi act to both help keep the home clean and to help keep the house safe, especially when kept happy. According to folktales, every house had a domovoi and most families made sure to treat the domovoi with kindness. It was an accepted practice to gift the domovoi with milk, porridge, bread, salt, and tobacco. A certain way to anger the domovoi was to constantly leave a mess in the house, or allow the house to fall into disrepair.
If the Domovoi becomes angry, whether due to messiness, disrespect, or abuse, it acts more like a western poltergeist- moving and throwing objects, playing tricks- but nothing harmful. If a family still refuses to change or improve then the domovoi will simply leave.
The Three Bogatyrs
Much as Western Europe had its knights, and Japan had its samurai, the Slavic cultures had the Bogatyrs. A stock character in East Slavic legends, a bogatyr was the epitome of martial might and moral virtue, a protector of the people, a loyal servant to his lord. The most famous of these figures was the Three Bogatyrs: witty Alyosha Popovich, courageous Dobrynya Nikitich, and the great Ilya Muromets. In Eastern Europe the Three Bogatyrs are treated similarly to how King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table are treated in Western Europe. Tales of the Three Bogatyrs include adventures where they battle dragons, giants, and other fantastical foes. Interestingly, while these stories are certainly fictional, there is evidence to suggest there were real people upon whom the Three Bogatyrs were based.
By Ian Smith