Hags. My first Hag was either the Russian witch Baba Yaga, or the Annis Hag from 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons. Baba Yaga is the most interesting. I can’t recall much about the Annis Hag. The had a middling number of hit dice and a relatively uninspiring special attack.
Baba Yaga is weirdly great. Like many authentic myths there are aspects of the Baba Yaga myth that function by the rules of dream logic: in some versions of the story she flies around in a giant mortar (mixing bowl for crushed herbs or compounds), using the pestle as a rudder. Her house moves around on chicken legs (unless you’re in Poland, where it only has one and presumably hops.) One young girl is enslaved by her ala-Cinderella and only escapes by the kindness of a magical talking gate. Other times there are three Baba Yagas and they aid questing heroes, giving them the thing they need to complete their quests.
Her role in mythology is generally of antagonist, a complication along the way, aiding the hero by inadvertently giving him something he needs, or giving him the chance to prove his mettle. Again, in Poland, Baba Yaga is the original witch in the Gingerbread House, luring handsome blonde twins to their cannibalistic doom. She kills the unkillable and knows the unknowable. Baba Yaga, it’s safe to say, kicks ass.
Britain has it’s own great hag. The D&D Annis Hag might not have been my favourite monster (I preferred Rust Monsters, which I always found adorable) the mythological Hag Black Annis not only scares the pants off me, but she also gets about a bit. In Cornwall she causes storms, wrecking boats and killing mariners. In Leicstershire she eats babies on the Dane Hills before popping over to Yorkshire. Continue reading “The Evil of the Hag”