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Glasgow, United Kingdom
An illustrator and games artist living and working in Scotland. I have various hobbies: coding, travel, art and games; and I enjoy writing about them.

26 February 2013

Prince Ivan, the Witch Baby and the Little Sister of the Sun

Now that you've read the original text let me explain to you why this fairy tale caught my attention more than any other. There are quite a few reasons.

First of all, some of my coursework feedback mentioned that the choice of the fairy tales presented int he documentation was a small one. Let me dispel this notion. Here is the list of some fairy tales I looked at before settling on one. Here is another list. Obviously these two are English sources, but I read them in original at various points of my life. Here is another list in Russian. I was looking for a mix of magic and drama with a potential for a video game action and interesting visuals. Two other tales that made it to the semi finals are Hunter Brothers and Go There, Don't Know Where; Bring Me That, Don't Know What. Both these tales had fantastic visuals. Like the Go There, Don't Know Where had a frog that lived in a tin container full of milk. It became huge and carried the protagonist across a burning river. However they didn't make it because one had a ridiculously long name (even in Russian) and was a very long tale in itself, and the other one was too similar to the Skillful Huntsman, which was already covered in another art book.

Apart from obvious potential for action the Sun's Sister story is also extremely interesting on another level. The fact that is can be connected to Russian mythology is fantastic from research point of view. I shall explain. In Russian mythology the god of the sun is Dazhdbog. He goes around the world on a burning carriage pulled by magical birds of paradise  This fact alone and the fact that this myth is many millenia old and can be seen in different forms all around the world gives the story more depth. Also in Russian mythology Dazhbog does not have any sisters or brothers. However he does have a daughter, Zarya (Dawn), which in this context can be what the tale refers to as the Sun's Sister. In the original tale she is a young girl, which fits this assumption.

Also the plot in which a witch destroys a whole kingdom is claimed to be a common one around the world. However I found no evidence to support this claim. Therefore, as far as I was concerned, this folk tale was unique to Slavic culture.

The story also had potentially interesting locations. The mountain side where the mountain giant lives is described as a huge playground where some giant child didn't put away the toys. The weaver's hut lost in the forest. The castle ruined by the reign of the monstrous witch baby. The Sun's Sister's castle which floats in midair at the end of the world. All these images will allow this project to grow and move forward.

As an aside, I also added some bits to make it more interesting, provide more insight into Slavic folklore and adapt the story to appeal to contemporary audiences. I added Ivan's quest for the magic sword. He would have to go into the deepest part of the forest where Baba Yaga lives in her hut on chicken legs. He will appease her and she will give him this sword, with which he would be able to kill the witch baby and avenge his kingdom. The Baba Yaga character in Slavic fairy tales represents luck. This is an independent conclusion based on various sources and this article about the importance of luck in medieval society. The article is in Russian but I'm sure Google Translate will do it justice. So, Baba Yaga represents luck. She can be good to you or you can end up as her dinner. This duality is important in fairy tales and creates tension and suspense. In ancient Russian society leaders were chosen on how lucky the people thought they were. The unlucky rulers were banished, because everyone knew that bad luck is contagious and transcends onto the ruler's people. To appease one's luck was a common tradition in Slavic culture. Many superstitions appeared, like throwing salt over your left shoulder or choosing another pass if a black cat crossed it.

From aesthetic point of view, we have a wide variety of settings and characters to explore, which is perfect if I want to create an appealing and interesting final outcome. This is also excellent for my personal development as I will be forced to work with a wide variety of paintings depicting different subjects.

Finally, as far as I know this story was never adapted for screen and was never illustrated properly. There is this book, but that is just plagiarism as far as I'm concerned.

And this is why I chose this story and no other.