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The Leshy (Russian: Ле́ший, IPA: [ˈlʲeʂɨj]; literally, "[he] from the forest") is a tutelary deity of the forests in Slavic mythology. The plural form in Russian is лешие, leshiye (retaining the stress on the first syllable). Another name of the god is Boruta or Borewit from Slavic word bor, pine tree forest. According to the folklore, the god dwells in this kind of tree.[1][2] As the lord of woods and hunting he is equated with the god Porewit, of which he probably represents a local version. He was portrayed as an imposing figure, with horns over the head, surrounded by packs of wolves and bears.[1]

Leshy (1906).jpg
An illustration, 1906
Grouping Fairy
Relict hominid
Country Slavic Europe
Habitat Forests

Leshy are masculine and humanoid in shape, are able to assume any likeness[3] and can change in size and height.[4][5] In some accounts, Leshy is described as having a wife (Leshachikha, Leszachka, Lesovikha) and children (leshonki, leszonky). Because of his propensity to lead travelers astray and abduct children, which he shares with Chort, the "Black One", Leshy is believed by some to be evil. Others view him as more of a temperamental being like a fairy.[6]


Names and etymologyEdit

The Leshy is known by a variety of names and spellings including the following:[7][8][9][10][11]

Main name variations:

Home of the leshy. "Fairy Forest at Sunset" by Ivan Bilibin, 1906.

Euphemistic titles:

  • He (Russian: он) also used for the devil, based on superstition prohibiting invocation of evil
  • He himself (Russian: он сам) like "he"[6]
  • Les chestnoi (Russian: Лес честной) "honorable one of the forest"
  • Les pravedniy (Russian: Лес праведный) "righteous one of the forest"
  • Lesnoi dedushka/ded or Dedushka-lesovoi (Russian: Лесной дедушка/дед, Дедушка-лесовой, Belarusian: Лясны дзед, Polish: Leśny dziad) "forest grandfather"
  • Lesnoi dukh (Russian: Лесной дух) "forest spirit"
  • Lesnoi dyadya (Russian: Лесной дядя) "forest uncle"
  • Lesnoi khozyain (Russian: Лесной хозяин) "forest master"
  • Lesnoi zhitel' (Russian: Лесной житель)"forest dweller" or "woodsman"
  • Lesny muzhik (Czech: Lesní mužík, Slovak: Lesný mužík), "forest man"

In popular cultureEdit

"The Leshy" by P. Dobrinin, 1906.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Theresa Bane (9 January 2012). Encyclopedia of Demons in World Religions and Cultures. McFarland. p. 85. ISBN 978-0-7864-8894-0. 
  2. ^ Alexander Porteous (1 January 2005). The Lore of the Forest. Cosimo, Inc. p. 108. ISBN 978-1-59605-105-8. 
  3. ^ Ushakov,Dmitry. (1896) Материалы по народным верованиям великоруссов, Этнографическое обозрение [Materials on the folk beliefs of the Great Russian, Ethnographic Review]. (Vol. 8), no. 2-3, pg. 158.
  4. ^ Maksimov, S. V. (1912) Нечистая сила. Неведомая сила // Собрание сочинений [The Unclean Force, The Unknown Force, Collected Works]. pp. 79-80.
  5. ^ Tokarev, Sergei Aleksandrovich. (1957) Религиозные верования восточнославянских народов XIX — начала XX века [The religious beliefs of the peoples of East 19th – early 20th centuries]. AN SSSR Moscow and Leningrad. p. 80.
  6. ^ a b Ivanits, Linda J. (1989) Russian Folk Belief. Routledge. p. 68 ISBN 0-873-32889-2
  7. ^ Afanasyev, Alexander Nikolayevich. (2013) Поэтические воззрения славян на природу [The Poetic Outlook of Slavs About Nature]. Akademicheskii Proyekt. Moscow. ISBN 978-5-8291-1451-0 ISBN 978-5-8291-1461-9
  8. ^ Afanasyev, Alexander Nikolayevich. (1983) Древо жизни и лесные духи [The Tree of Life and Forest Spirits]. Sovremennik. Moscow.
  9. ^ Afanasyev, Alexander Nikolayevich. (2008) Славянская мифология [Slavic Mythology]. Eksmo, Migard. Moscow. ISBN 978-5-699-27982-1
  10. ^ Krinichnaya, Neonila Artyomovna. (2004) Русская мифология: Мир образов фольклора [Russian Mythology: The World of Folklore Images]. Akademicheskii Proyekt. Moscow. ch. 3, "Leshy: Totemic origins and the polysemy of images". ISBN 5-8291-0388-5 ISBN 5-98426-022-0
  11. ^ Levkievskaya, Elena E. (2011) Мифы русского народа [Myths of the Russian People]. AST, Astrel, VKT. Chapter "Leshy". ISBN 978-5-17-072533-5 ISBN 978-5-271-33771-0 ISBN 978-5-226-03926-3