Irish Banana Tours Presents: The Door by the Staircase Tour
Today I’m participating in a book tour arranged by the beautiful Hannah at Irish Banana Blog Tours. Please check out the other stops on the tour (see below!) and enter the giveaway for a copy of The Door By the Staircase by Katherine Marsh. Also, check out Katherine Marsh’s top ten facts about Baba Yaga, a character from Russian folklore who inspired Madame Z in the book!
About The Door By the Staircase by Katherine Marsh
Twelve-year-old Mary Hayes can’t stand her orphanage for another night. But when an attempted escape through the stove pipe doesn’t go quite as well as she’d hoped, Mary fears she’ll be stuck in the Buffalo Asylum for Young Ladies forever.
The very next day, a mysterious woman named Madame Z appears at the orphanage requesting to adopt Mary, and the matron’s all too happy to get the girl off her hands. Soon, Mary is fed a hearty meal, dressed in a clean, new nightgown and shown to a soft bed with blankets piled high. She can hardly believe she isn’t dreaming!
But when Mary begins to explore the strange nearby town with the help of her new friend, Jacob, she learns a terrifying secret about Madame Z’s true identity. If Mary’s not careful, her new home might just turn into a nightmare.
Top Ten Facts about Baba Yaga of Russian Folklore from Author Katherine Marshall
Baba Yaga, a witch from Russian folklore inspired some elements of Madame Z in The Door by the Staircase. Today, Katherine Marshall joins me here to describe some of the lore surrounding this mythical character and gives us some hints about what we might see from the folk tales in her novel.
1. She eats children…but she sometimes also helps them.
If you’ve heard of Baba Yaga at all, you’ve probably heard that she’s a fearsome Russian witch who eats men, women, children or anyone else who wanders into her kingdom. But this is not completely true. Every once in a while, Baba Yaga helps someone. Often that someone is a child who lacks a mother and who is brave, kind of heart, and deserving of some magical intervention. This capacity for good makes Baba Yaga unique among fairy tale witches and is one of the qualities that attracted me to her.
2. She may be the oldest European folktale witch.
Baba Yaga has her roots in the pagan beliefs of the original tribes that populated Russia. Some even believe she originated as a Paleolithic nature goddess. In some tales, Baba Yaga has the power to control the weather; in others she is a protector of the forest and the animals who populate it; in yet others, she is a weaver with the power to spin the thread of life, somewhat like the Greek Fates. (In my book, she does versions of all three).
3. She doesn’t actually live in Russia.
This one is really a surprise to most people because she is known as a Russian witch! But technically, Baba Yaga lives in a magical kingdom next to Russia. In my book, this kingdom is mobile and can be parked next to other countries—such as America—as well. This way Baba Yaga can sample some international cuisine…
4. She has a frighteningly strong sense of smell.
In the folktales, Baba Yaga can tell when a hapless soul has crossed into her forest kingdom using only her very long nose. “Fie, fie, I smell the Russian scent,” she typically says. In my book, Baba Yaga can even smell a child’s fear, which makes running away from her pretty tricky.
5. She lives in a house on chicken legs.
Imagine living in a house with a personality of its own. Baba Yaga lives in a house on chicken legs that spins around and reveals its door on her command. In some tales, the house can even move around. In my version, it does some other things that a part-chicken, part-house might naturally do.
6. She has three pairs of magic flying hands that help her in the kitchen.
Long before the Adamms Family and their disembodied hand “Thing,” Baba Yaga was assisted in her daily tasks by three pairs of bodiless hands who she sometimes called my “soul friends.” Of course, I had to work these creepy magical servants into my book as well.
7. She bakes her meals in a giant oven.
For centuries, Russians did their cooking in an enormous multipurpose oven called a pech. The pech was at the center of the house and was used to prepare food, provide warmth and even as sleeping space (peasants would sleep on top of it, especially in winter). Baba Yaga’s pech is naturally just the right size to cook up anyone she might find appetizing.
8. She would never be caught riding a broomstick.
Unlike Western witches, Baba Yaga makes her nightly journeys not on a broomstick but in a mortar, which she steers through the sky with a pestle. She is not completely adverse to brooms though—she uses a birch broom to sweep the clouds and hide traces of her passage from human eyes. Driving a mortar, as you’ll find out in my book, is an acquired skill.
9. Her servants are not always faithful to her.
In addition to her magical friends, Baba Yaga has other servants—including a talking cat, a magic horse and, for a time, the wizard Koshchey the Deathless (all of whom play a role in my book). Sometimes they disobey her and assist her victims for purposes of their own.
10. She is a mother.
Well, actually, there’s some debate over this. Some tales claim Baba Yaga has a daughter named Marynka or Marina. But even if she is not a biological mother, she is a figure that represents the wisdom and power of women, even marginalized ones. In that sense, I always felt she had potential as a mother…if just the right type of child arrived at her door.
I learned a lot about Baba Yaga today! I think the first time I heard of Baba Yaga was actually on an Arthur episode on public TV. Ever since, I think it is one of the scariest creatures in books.
Thanks, Danielle! I know – so creepy! Some of those things I knew from other stories, but some were totally new. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.