In an attempt to keep some of the Russian fairy tale feeling in my stories, I’ve incorporated several antiquated words into my writing. This is a list of them, with short explanations.
Note: these terms and explanations are specific to my writing and may or may not align directly with history. For example, “Saracen” was once used to refer to only Arab Muslims, but over time came to mean any Muslim. In my story, however, I use the term only in reference to Ottoman Turks, which may or may not have been correct at the time.
- Bogatyr (богатырь): pronounced “bo-GHA-tee;” a Russian knight-errant who often does heroic things and can most often be found in the service of the Tsar, defeating dragons and rescuing beautiful maidens. Some of the more popular bogatyrs are Dobrynya Nikitich, Ilya Muromets, and Alyosha Popovich, and all of them make an appearance in Anya’s world.
- Crim Tartary: the Crimean Khanate. Located in present-day Crimea. It was conquered in 1475 by the Ottomans and between 1475-1769 traded over 2 million kidnapped Russian and Polish slaves to the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East. This is where Anya’s father Miroslav is fighting the forces of Sultan Osman.
- Domovoi (домовой): a house spirit which may be either protective or destructive, depending upon how the family of the house treats him. If given a treat of cream, tobacco, bread, or another favorite, he will bring good fortune to the family and protect the home from bad luck. A relic from pre-Christian Slavs, the domovoi is one of the few pre-Christian entities that survives into modern times.
- Dyedushka (дедушка): pronounced “DYUH-doosh-kuh;” grandfather. A familiar form is “dyed,” but that isn’t pronounced like what you do to your hair or a wicked cool tie-dye shirt. It’s more like “dead” with a Y-sound after the first D.
- Babushka (бабушка): pronounced “BAH-boosh-kuh;” grandmother. A familiar form that little kids will use with their own grandmother is “Baba” or “Babka,” but these are inappropriate to use for women you’re not closely related to! “Baba” or “Babka” directed at an unfamiliar woman is very rude. Older children may call their grandmother “Babulya,” as Anya does.
- Ivanushka: Ivan the Fool, a stock character in Russian folklore, who accomplishes impossible missions by bumbling through them. Usually the youngest son with genius big brothers, and usually blond. He spends a lot of time sitting on stoves, which in medieval Russia was a way of portraying someone as lazy. Anya’s friend Ivan is the youngest of seven brothers, and the only genius among fools. This genius makes it nearly impossible for him to use fool magic, as this magic requires no thought to go into decision making.
- Saracen: a late Medieval word for Muslims. In this story, it specifically refers to Ottoman Turks. Interestingly, the descriptions of Saracens often involve them having Caucasian features with black skin.
- Zmey (змей): pronounced “zmee;” a Slavic dragon, from the word for snake.
- Zmeyreka (змейрека): pronounced “zmee-REE-kuh;” a portmanteau of “zmey” (snake/dragon) and “reka” (river). This is the name of the town Anya is from.