Vodyanoy

:"For a Russian military vehicle, see Vodnik."In Slavic mythology, vodyanoy ( _ru. водяной, _uk. водяний, literally "watery"), Polish wodnik, Czech vodník, Bulgarian vodnik ( _bg. водник), or Serbian vodenjak (Cyrillic: водењак) is a male water spirit. Vodník in Czech fairy tales is the same creature like Wassermann or nix of German fairy tales.

He is said to appear as a naked old man with a greenish beard and long hair, with his body covered in algae and muck, usually covered in black fish scales. He has webbed paws instead of hands, a fish's tail, eyes that burn like red-hot coals. He usually rides along his river on a half-sunk log, making loud splashes. Consequently, he is often dubbed "grandfather" or "forefather" by the local people. Local drownings are said to be the work of the vodyanoy (or rusalkas).

When angered, the vodyanoy breaks dams, washed down water mills, drowns people and animals. (Consequently, fishermen, millers, and also bee-keepers make sacrifices to appease him.) He would drag down people to his underwater dwelling to serve him as slaves.

In Czech folklore the features of the vodník are markedly different to the East-Slavic conception; he has a completely human body, although his skin is algae-green in colour. His overall dress and appearance is that of a vagrant; patchy shirts and (by modern standards) odd hats - often boaters - are commonplace. His face is unshaven and it is not uncommon for a vodník to have a large, wet, tangled beard.

In Czech tales drowned victims die and vodník stores their souls in porcelain cups which they consider valuable; except for fish (or perhaps fish spirits) they do not have servants. Fishermen asks the vodník for help by placing a pinch of tobacco in the water and saying, "Here's your tobacco, Lord Vodník, now give me a fish." In Czech tales vodníci live in a pond or river; there are no mentions of a particular dwelling and the 'half-sunken log' is unapparent.

Cultural references

* Vodyanoy is one of the best known characters of the Soviet cartoons. In the Soviet animated film "The Flying Ship", he performs a song about his loneliness and need to talk with someone.
* David Wiltshire's novel "Child of Vodyanoi" (adapted into the TV series "The Nightmare Man") used the water spirit as a metaphor for a miniature Russian submarine.
* Composer Antonín Dvořák wrote a symphonic poem entitled "Vodník" or The Water Goblin about this creature, who is also a character in his opera Rusalka.
* In China Miéville's Bas-Lag novels, the Vodyanoi are an aquatic people skilled in water magics. In Miéville's Perdido Street Station, striking Vodyanoi dockworkers use their water magic to blockade a shipping route.
* In the manga series "Shaman King", the female Russian Shaman Zorya uses Vodyanoy (formed as a frog-like being made of water) as her spirit.
* In the The Witcher (video game) computer game, the Vodyanoi appear as a race of fish people who have strong religious beliefs. Some Vodyanoi worship the evil god, Dagon. They wear breathing masks while on land.

See also

* Kappa (folklore)

References


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