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Story time: Embracing the Tradition of Bedtime Tales


Illustration depicting a grim folktale scene with the corpse of a grandmother in the center, flanked by her granddaughter and daughter, both wielding sticks in defense. Surrounding them are two menacing demons floating in the air, capturing the eerie and macabre essence of the old Russian folk tale recounted in the accompanying blog about traditional bedtime stories and the power of storytelling. by Foeshel


Hi everyone!


Today, let's harken back to a time when storytelling was not just reserved for children's bedtime tales. In the days of yore, before the glow of the television screen, people would gather around the warm hearth to share stories, to captivate their audience, and ignite their imaginations. So, come, gather 'round my virtual fire, and allow me to share with you a timeless tale.






The Story:

The dead witch (old Russian folk tale)


Once upon a time, in a world steeped in magic and mystery, there lived a terrible witch—an old crone with a daughter and a granddaughter. The witch's time was drawing to an end, and she had a curious request for her daughter.


"Listen well," the witch croaked, her eyes gleaming with an eerie light. "When I depart from this world, do not bathe my body in tepid water. Instead, set a cauldron a boil, let it seethe and simmer until it reaches the highest of heats, and then use that scalding water to cleanse my form."


With these unsettling instructions, the witch fell ill and lingered on the brink of death for a few days before passing away. Her daughter hurriedly sought the help of neighbours to prepare her mother's body for burial, leaving her young granddaughter alone in their cottage.


Left to her own devices, the granddaughter witnessed a scene beyond her wildest nightmares. From beneath the stove emerged two grotesque figures—an imposing demon and a smaller companion. They moved towards the body of the old witch.

The elder demon seized the witch's feet and, with a single, gruesome tug, stripped her of her skin in one fell swoop. Turning to his little accomplice, he instructed, "Take the flesh for yourself and conceal it beneath the stove."


The smaller demon complied, clutching the witch's flesh to his own grotesque form before vanishing beneath the stove. Only the witch's skin remained, a hollow vessel for the unspeakable.


The daughter returned with a group of women to prepare the witch's body for her final journey. The granddaughter, unable to hold in her fear and astonishment, cried out loud.

"Mama," the child exclaimed, her voice quivering, "they tore off Granny's skin while you were away!"


The daughter scoffed, looking at the other women, dismissing words as mere fantasy. Undeterred, she fetched a large cauldron, filled it with frigid water, and set it upon the stove, allowing it to boil ferociously. Together, the women transferred the witch's body into a trough and, with the cauldron in hand, poured the scalding water over her in one swift, relentless deluge.


The demon inhabiting the witch's skin could not endure the agony. He writhed and contorted before leaping from the trough, darting through the doorway, and vanishing, skin and all. The women were left agog.


"What sorcery is this?" They cried in astonishment. "The witch's body was here, and now it's gone. There's nothing left for burial or preparation."





Reflection:


In Western European folklore, tales of dead witches spirited away by demons are not uncommon. In this tale, it becomes more macabre as the demon inhabits the witch's skin, only to meet his own demise.


Yet even in this darker tale of eerie magic lies a message of compassion. Even a terrible witch, still cares for her daughter and granddaughter, trying to protect them after her dead.



The Creation of Art:


Many ask how I conjure my creative ideas. More often than not, it's life's experiences that serve as my muse—personal anecdotes, the intricacies of daily existence, or the profound impact of political events. Occasionally, I find inspiration in the pages of old and often-forgotten folk tales. These tales then spark an idea which eventually becomes a new illustration.


As today's illustration is two family members protecting the old witch who loved them enough to warn them what was coming.


So over the coming weeks I will invite you again to join me at the fire and share some more stories. I hope you will find it as enchanting as I do.









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