A to Z Challenge Folklore

Leshi #folklore #AtoZChallenge

W is for Wandering

Learn more about the challenge here.

wander 1 to move or travel about, in, or through (a place) without any definite purpose or destination; 2 to proceed in an irregular course; meander

Collins English Dictionary

I’m doing folklore and book review posts to reach and please a larger audience. Previous years have shown select interest in both and to minimise blogging throughout the year, I’m focusing my efforts on April.

If you’d rather check out my book review for today, go here.

Learn more about the A to Z Challenge here.

Throughout folklore, there are wild beings that live in forests and protect them. I liked the idea of the leshi since reading about it in a high fantasy trilogy involving Slavic mythology. So everything falling under “sasquatch”, “wild man” and “leshi” can be found in this post. I like the idea of this creature wandering through the forest, minding its own business, until provoked by human stupidity.

Leshi. Image credit forest, man.


There’s not a lot of original folklore sources about this creature, but there are a lot of folktales. You can read a selection here as I’m only sharing my favourites.

Iron Hans [Germany, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm]

Once upon a time there was a king who had a great forest near his castle, full of all kinds of wild animals. One day he sent out a huntsman to shoot a deer, but the huntsman did not come back again.

“Perhaps he has had an accident,” said the king, and the following day he sent out two other huntsmen who were to search for him, but they did not return either. Then on the third day, he summoned all his huntsmen, and said, “Search through the whole forest, and do not give up until you have found all three.”

But none of these came home again either, nor were any of the hounds from the pack that they had taken with them ever seen again.

From that time on, no one dared to go into these woods, and they lay there in deep quiet and solitude, and all that one saw from there was an occasional eagle or hawk flying overhead.

This lasted for many years, when an unknown huntsman presented himself to the king seeking a position, and he volunteered to go into the dangerous woods.

The king, however, did not want to give his permission, and said, “It is haunted in there. I am afraid that you will do no better than did the others, and that you will never come out again.”

The huntsman answered, “Sir, I will proceed at my own risk. I know nothing of fear.”

The huntsman therefore set forth with his dog into the woods. It was not long before the dog picked up a scent and wanted to follow it, but the dog had run only a few steps when it came to a deep pool, and could go no further. Then a naked arm reached out of the water, seized the dog, and pulled it under.

When the huntsman saw that, he went back and got three men. They returned with buckets and baled out the water. When they could see to the bottom, there was a wild man lying there. His body was brown like rusty iron, and his hair hung over his face down to his knees. They bound him with cords and led him away to the castle.

Everyone was greatly astonished at the wild man. The king had him put into an iron cage in his courtyard, forbidding, on pain of death, that the cage door be opened. The queen herself was to safeguard the key.

From this time forth everyone could once again go safely into the woods.

The king had a son of eight years. One day he was playing in the courtyard, and during his game his golden ball fell into the cage.

The boy ran to the cage and said, “Give me my ball.”

“Not until you have opened the door for me,” answered the man.

“No,” said the boy, “I will not do that. The king has forbidden it,” and he ran away.

The next day he came again and demanded his ball.

The wild man said, “Open my door,” but the boy would not do so.

On the third day the king had ridden out hunting, and the boy went once more and said, “Even if I wanted to, I could not open the door. I do not have the key.”

Then the wild man said, “It is under your mother’s pillow. You can get it there.”

The boy, who wanted to have his ball back, threw all caution to the wind, and got the key. The door opened with difficulty, and the boy pinched his finger. When it was open, the wild man stepped out, gave him the golden ball, and hurried away.

The boy became afraid. He cried out and called after him, “Oh, wild man, do not go away, or I shall get a beating.”

The wild man turned around, picked him up, set him on his shoulders, and ran into the woods.

When the king came home he noticed the empty cage and asked the queen how it had happened. She knew nothing about it, and looked for the key, but it was gone. She called the boy, but no one answered.

The king sent out people to look for him in the field, but they did not find him. Then he could easily guess what had happened, and great sorrow ruled at the royal court.

After the wild man had once more reached the dark woods, he set the boy down from his shoulders, and said to him, “You will never again see your father and mother, but I will keep you with me, for you have set me free, and I have compassion for you. If you do what I tell you, it will go well with you. I have enough treasures and gold, more than anyone in the world.”

He made a bed of moss for the boy, upon which he fell asleep. The next morning the man took him to a spring and said, “Look, this golden spring is as bright and clear as crystal. You shall sit beside it, and take care that nothing falls into it, otherwise it will be polluted. I shall come every evening to see if you have obeyed my order.”

The boy sat down at the edge of the spring, and saw how sometimes a golden fish and sometimes a golden snake appeared from within, and took care that nothing fell into it. As he was thus sitting there, his finger hurt him so fiercely that he involuntarily put it into the water. He quickly pulled it out again, but saw that it was completely covered with gold. However hard he tried to wipe the gold off again, it was to no avail.

That evening Iron Hans came back, looked at the boy, and said, “What has happened to the spring?”

“Nothing, nothing,” he answered, holding his finger behind his back, so the man would not be able to see it.

But the man said, “You have dipped your finger into the water. This time I will let it go, but be careful that you do not again let anything else fall in.”

Very early the next morning the boy was already sitting by the spring and keeping watch. His finger hurt him again, and he rubbed it across his head. Then unfortunately a hair fell down into the spring. He quickly pulled it out, but it was already completely covered with gold.

Iron Hans came, and already knew what had happened. “You have let a hair fall into the spring,” he said. “I will overlook this once more, but if it happens a third time then the spring will be polluted, and you will no longer be able to stay with me.”

On the third day the boy sat by the spring and did not move his finger, however much it hurt him. But time passed slowly for him, and he looked at the reflection of his face in the water. While doing this he bent down lower and lower, wanting to look straight into his eyes, when his long hair fell from his shoulders down into the water. He quickly straightened himself up, but all the hair on his head was already covered with gold, and glistened like the sun. You can imagine how frightened the poor boy was. He took his handkerchief and tied it around his head, so that the man would not be able to see his hair.

When the man came, he already knew everything, and said, “Untie the handkerchief.”

The golden hair streamed forth, and no excuse that the boy could offer was of any use.

“You have failed the test, and you can stay here no longer. Go out into the world. There you will learn what poverty is. But because you are not bad at heart, and because I mean well by you, I will grant you one thing: If you are ever in need, go into the woods and cry out, ‘Iron Hans,’ and then I will come and help you. My power is great, greater than you think, and I have more than enough gold and silver.”

Then the prince left the woods, and walked by beaten and unbeaten paths on and on until at last he reached a great city. There he looked for work, but he was not able to find any, because he had not learned a trade by which he could make a living. Finally he went to the castle and asked if they would take him in.

The people at court did not at all know how they would be able to use him, but they took a liking to him, and told him to stay. Finally the cook took him into service, saying that he could carry wood and water, and rake up the ashes.

Once when no one else was at hand, the cook ordered him to carry the food to the royal table. Because he did not want them to see his golden hair, he kept his cap on. Nothing like this had ever before happened to the king, and he said, “When you approach the royal table you must take your hat off.”

“Oh, sir,” he answered, “I cannot. I have an ugly scab on my head.”

Then the king summoned the cook and scolded him, asking him how he could take such a boy into his service. The cook was to send him away at once. However, the cook had pity on him, and let him trade places with gardener’s boy.

Now the boy had to plant and water the garden, hoe and dig, and put up with the wind and bad weather.

Once in summer when he was working alone in the garden, the day was so hot that he took his hat off so that the air would cool him. As the sun shone on his hair it glistened and sparkled. The rays fell into the princess’s bedroom, and she jumped up to see what it was.

She saw the boy and called out to him, “Boy, bring me a bouquet of flowers.”

He quickly put on his cap, picked some wildflowers, and tied them together.

As he was climbing the steps with them, the gardener met him and said, “How can you take the princess a bouquet of such common flowers? Quick! Go and get some other ones, and choose only the most beautiful and the rarest ones.”

“Oh, no,” replied the boy, the wild ones have a stronger scent, and she will like them better.”

When he got into the room, the princess said, “Take your cap off. It is not polite to keep it on in my presence.”

He again responded, “I cannot do that. I have a scabby head.”

She, however, took hold of his cap and pulled it off. His golden hair rolled down onto his shoulders, and it was a magnificent sight. He wanted to run away, but she held him by his arm, and gave him a handful of ducats. He went away with them, but he did not care about the gold.

He took the gold pieces to the gardener, saying, “I am giving these things to your children for them to play with.”

The next day the princess called to him again, asking him to bring her a bouquet of wildflowers. When he went in with it, she immediately grabbed at his cap, and wanted to take it away from him, but he held it firmly with both hands. She again gave him a handful of ducats. He did not want to keep them, giving them instead to the gardener for his children to play with. On the third day it was no different. She was not able to take his cap away from him, and he did not want her gold.

Not long afterwards, the country was overrun by war. The king gathered together his people, not knowing whether or not fight back against the enemy, who was more powerful and had a large army.

Then the gardener’s boy said, “I am grown up, and I want to go to war as well. Just give me a horse.”

The others laughed and said, “After we have left, then look for one by yourself. We will leave one behind for you in the stable.”

After they had left, he went into the stable, and led the horse out. It had a lame foot, and it limped higgledy-hop, higgledy-hop.

Nevertheless he mounted it, and rode away into the dark woods. When he came to the edge of the woods, he called “Iron Hans” three times so loudly that it sounded through the trees.

The wild man appeared immediately, and said, “What do you need?”

“I need a strong steed, for I am going to war.”

“That you shall have, and even more than you are asking for.”

Then the wild man went back into the woods, and before long a stable-boy came out of the woods leading a horse. It was snorting with its nostrils, and could hardly be restrained. Behind them followed a large army of warriors, outfitted with iron armor, and with their swords flashing in the sun.

The youth left his three-legged horse with the stable-boy, mounted the other horse, and rode at the head of the army. When he approached the battlefield, a large number of the king’s men had already fallen, and before long the others would have to retreat. Then the youth galloped up with his iron army and attacked the enemies like a storm, beating down all who opposed him. They tried to flee, but the youth was right behind them, and did not stop, until not a single man was left.

However, instead of returning to the king, he led his army on a roundabout way back into the woods, and then called for Iron Hans.

“What do you need?” asked the wild man.

“Take back your steed and your army, and give me my three-legged horse again.”

It all happened just as he had requested, and he rode home on his three-legged horse.

When the king returned to his castle, his daughter went to meet him, and congratulated him for his victory.

“I am not the one who earned the victory,” he said, “but a strange knight who came to my aid with his army.”

The daughter wanted to hear who the strange knight was, but the king did not know, and said, “He pursued the enemy, and I did not see him again.”

She asked the gardener where his boy was, but he laughed and said, “He has just come home on his three-legged horse. The others have been making fun of him and shouting, ‘Here comes our higgledy-hop back again.’ They also asked him, ‘Under what hedge have you been lying asleep all this time?’ But he said, ‘I did better than anyone else. Without me it would have gone badly.’ And then they laughed at him all the more.”

The king said to his daughter, “I will proclaim a great festival. It shall last for three days, and you shall throw a golden apple. Perhaps the unknown knight will come.”

When the festival was announced, the youth went out into the woods and called Iron Hans.

“What do you need?” he asked.

“To catch the princess’s golden apple.”

“It is as good as done,” said Iron Hans. “And further, you shall have a suit of red armor and ride on a spirited chestnut horse.”

When the day came, the youth galloped up, took his place among the knights, and was recognized by no one. The princess came forward and threw a golden apple to the knights. He was the only one who caught it, and as soon as he had it, he galloped away.

On the second day Iron Hans had outfitted him as a white knight, and had given him a white horse. Again he was the only one who caught the apple. Without lingering an instant, he galloped away with it.

The king grew angry and said, “That is not allowed. He must appear before me and tell me his name.”

He gave the order that if the knight who caught the apple, were to go away again, they should pursue him, and if he would not come back willingly, they were to strike and stab at him.

On the third day, he received from Iron Hans a suit of black armor and a black horse, and he caught the apple again. But when he was galloping away with it, the king’s men pursued him, and one of them got so close to him that he wounded the youth’s leg with the point of his sword. In spite of this he escaped from them, but his horse jumped so violently that his helmet fell from his head, and they could see that he had golden hair. They rode back and reported everything to the king.

The next day the princess asked the gardener about his boy.

“He is at work in the garden. The strange fellow has been at the festival too. He came home only yesterday evening. And furthermore, he showed my children three golden apples that he had won.”

The king had him summoned, and he appeared, again with his cap on his head. But the princess went up to him and took it off. His golden hair fell down over his shoulders, and he was so handsome that everyone was amazed.

“Are you the knight who came to the festival every day, each time in a different color, and who caught the three golden apples?” asked the king.

“Yes,” he answered, “and here are the apples,” taking them out of his pocket, and returning them to the king. “If you need more proof, you can see the wound that your men gave me when they were chasing me. But I am also the knight who helped you to your victory over your enemies.”

“If you can perform deeds like these then you are not a gardener’s boy. Tell me, who is your father?”

“My father is a powerful king, and I have as much gold as I might need.”

“I can see,” said the king, “that I owe you thanks. Can I do anything for you?”

“Yes,” he answered. “You can indeed. Give me your daughter for my wife.”

The maiden laughed and said, “He does not care much for ceremony, but I already had seen from his golden hair that he was not a gardener’s boy,” and then she went and kissed him.

His father and mother came to the wedding, and were filled with joy, for they had given up all hope of ever seeing their dear son again.

While they sitting at the wedding feast, the music suddenly stopped, the doors opened, and a proud king came in with a great retinue. He walked up to the youth, embraced him, and said, “I am Iron Hans. I had been transformed into a wild man by a magic spell, but you have broken the spell. All the treasures that I possess shall belong to you.”

Leshi. Image credit

The Tsarevich and Dyad’ka [Alexander Afanasyef, Russian Folk-Tales, translated by Leonard A. Magnus (1916)]

Once upon a time, in a certain kingdom, in a city of yore, there was a king who had a dwarf son. The tsarevich was fair to behold, and fair of heart. But his father was not good: he was always tortured with greedy thoughts, how he should derive greater profit from his country and extract heavier taxes.

One day he saw an old peasant passing by with sable, marten, beaver, and fox skins; and he asked him: “Old man! whence do you come?”

“Out of the village, father. I serve the wood-sprite with the iron hands, the cast-iron head, and the body of bronze.”

“How do you catch so many animals?”

“The wood-sprite lays traps, and the animals are stupid and go into them.”

“Listen, old man; I will give you gold and wine. Show me where you put the traps.”

So the old man was persuaded, and he showed the king, who instantly had the wood-sprite arrested and confined in a narrow tower. And in all the wood-sprite’s forests the king himself laid traps.

The wood-sprite forester sat in his iron tower inside the royal garden, and looked out through the window. One day, the tsarevich, with his nurses and attendants and very many faithful servant-maids, went into the garden to play.

He passed the door, and the wood-sprite cried out to him: “Tsarevich, if you will set me free, I will later on help you.”

“How shall I do this?”

“Go to your mother and weep bitterly. Tell her: ‘Please, dear Mother, scratch my head.’ Lay your head on her lap. Wait for the proper instant, take the key of my tower out of her pocket, and set me free.”

Ivan Tsarevich did what the wood-sprite had told him, took the key; then he ran into the garden, made an arrow, put the arrow on a catapult, and shot it far away. And all the nurses and serving-maids ran off to find the arrow. Whilst they were all running after the arrow Ivan Tsarevich opened the iron tower and freed the wood-sprite. The wood-sprite escaped and destroyed all the king’s traps.

Now the king could not catch any more animals, and became angry, and attacked his wife for giving the key away and setting the wood-sprite free. He assembled all the boyars, generals, and senators to pronounce the queen’s doom, whether she should have her head cut off, or should be merely banished.

So the tsarevich was greatly grieved; he was sorry for his mother, and he acknowledged his guilt to his father. Then the king was very sorry, and didn’t know what to do to his son.

He asked all the boyars and generals, and said: “Is he to be hanged or to be put into a fortress?”

“No, your majesty!” the boyars, and generals, and senators answered in one voice. “The scions of kings are not slain, and are not put in prison; they are sent out into the white world to meet whatever fate God may send them.”

So Ivan Tsarevich was sent out into the white world, to wander in the four directions, to suffer the midday winds and the stress of the winter and the blasts of the autumn; and was given only a birch-bark wallet and Dyad’ka, his servant. So the king’s son set out with his servant into the open fields. They went far and wide over hill and dale. Their way may have been long, and it may have been short; and they at last reached a well.

Then the tsarevich said to his servant, “Go and fetch me water.”

“I will not go!” said the servant.

So they went further on, and they once more came to a well.

“Go and fetch me water — I feel thirsty,” the tsarevich asked him a second time.

“I will not go.”

Then they went on until they came to a third well. And the servant again would not fetch any water. And the tsarevich had to do it himself.

When the tsarevich had gone down into the well the servant shut down the lid, and said: “You be my servant, and I will be the tsarevich; or I will never let you come out!”

The tsarevich could not help himself, and was forced to give way; and signed the bond to his servant in his own blood. Then they changed clothes and rode on, and came to another land, where they went to the tsar’s court, the servant-man first, and the king’s son after.

The servant-man sat as a guest with the tsar, ate and drank at his table.

One day he said: “Mighty tsar, send my servant into the kitchen!”

So they took the tsarevich as scullion, let him draw water and hew wood. But very soon the tsarevich was a far finer cook than all the royal chefs. Then the tsar noticed and began to like his young scullion, and gave him gold. So all the cooks became envious and sought some opportunity of getting rid of the tsarevich. One day he made a cake and put it into the oven, so the cooks put poison in and spread it over the cake. And the tsar sat at table, and the cake was taken up.

When the tsar was going to take it, the cook came running up, and cried out: “Your majesty, do not eat it!”

And he told all imaginable lies of Ivan Tsarevich. Then the king summoned his favourite hound and gave him a bit of the cake. The dog ate it and died on the spot.

So the tsar summoned the prince and cried out to him in a thundering voice: “How dared you bake me a poisoned cake! You shall be instantly tortured to death!”

“I know nothing about it; I had no idea of it, your majesty!” the tsarevich answered. “The other cooks were jealous of your rewarding me, and so they have deliberately contrived the plot.”

Then the tsar pardoned him, and he made him a horse-herd. One day, as the tsarevich was taking his drove to drink, he met the wood-sprite with the iron hands, the cast-iron head, and the body of bronze.

“Good-day, tsarevich; come with me, visit me.”

“I am frightened that the horses will run away.”

“Fear nothing. Only come.”

His hut was quite near.

The wood-sprite had three daughters, and he asked the eldest: “What will you give Ivan Tsarevich for saving me out of the iron tower?”

“I will give him this tablecloth.”

With the tablecloth Ivan Tsarevich went back to his horses, which were all gathered together, turned it round and asked for any food that he liked, and he was served, and meat and drink appeared at once.

Next day he was again driving his horses to the river, and the wood-sprite appeared once more.

“Come into my hut!”

So he went with him.

And the wood-sprite asked his second daughter, “What will you give Ivan Tsarevich for saving me out of the iron tower?”

“I will give him this mirror, in which he can see all he will.”

And on the third day the third daughter gave him a pipe, which he need only put to his lips, and music, and singers, and musicians would appear before him.

And it was a merry life that Ivan Tsarevich now led. He had good food and good meat, knew whatever was going on, saw everything, and he had music all day long: no man was better. And the horses! They — it was really wonderful — were always well fed, well set up, and shapely.

Now, the fair tsarevna had been noticing the horse-herd for a long time, for a very long time, for how could so fair a maiden overlook the beautiful boy? She wanted to know why the horses he kept were always so much shapelier and statelier than those which the other herds looked after.

“I will one day go into his room,” she said, “and see where the poor devil lives.”

As everyone knows, a woman’s wish is soon her deed. So one day she went into his room, when Ivan Tsarevich was giving his horses drink. And there she saw the mirror, and looking into that she knew everything. She took the magical cloth, the mirror, and the pipe.

Just about then there was a great disaster threatening the tsar. The seven-headed monster, Idolishche, was invading his land and demanding his daughter as his wife.

“If you will not give her to me willy, I will take her nilly!” he said.

And he got ready all his immense army, and the tsar fared ill. And he issued a decree throughout his land, summoned the boyars and knights together, and promised any who would slay the seven-headed monster half of his wealth and half his realm, and also his daughter as his wife.

Then all the princes and knights and the boyars assembled together to fight the monster, and amongst them Dyad’ka. The horse-herd sat on a pony and rode behind.

Then the wood-sprite came and met him, and said: “Where are you going, Ivan Tsarevich?”

“To the war.”

“On this sorry nag you will not do much, and still less if you go in your present guise. Just come and visit me.”

He took him into his hut and gave him a glass of vodka. Then the king’s son drank it.

“Do you feel strong?” asked the wood-sprite.

“If there were a log there fifty puds, I could throw it up and allow it to fall on my head without feeling the blow.”

So he was given a second glass of vodka.

“How strong do you feel now?”

“If there were a log here one hundred puds, I could throw it higher than the clouds on high.”

Then he was given a third glass of vodka.

“How strong are you now?”

“If there were a column stretching from heaven to earth, I should turn the entire universe round.”

So the wood-sprite took vodka out of another bottle and gave the king’s son yet more drink, and his strength was increased sevenfold. They went in front of the house; and he whistled loud, and a black horse rose out of the earth, and the earth trembled under its hoofs. Out of its nostrils it breathed flames, columns of smoke rose from its ears, and as its hoofs struck the ground sparks arose. It ran up to the hut and fell on its knees.

“There is a horse!” said the wood-sprite.

And he gave Ivan Tsarevich a sword and a silken whip,

So Ivan Tsarevich rode out on his black steed against the enemy. On the way he met his servant, who had climbed a birch tree and was trembling for fear. Ivan Tsarevich gave him a couple of blows with his whip, and started out against the hostile host. He slew many people with the sword, and yet more did his horse trample down. And he cut off the seven heads of the monster.

Now Marfa Tsarevna was seeing all this, because she kept looking in the glass, and so learned all that was going on.

After the battle she rode out to meet Ivan Tsarevich, and asked him: “How can I thank you?”

“Give me a kiss, fair maiden!”

The tsarevna was not ashamed, pressed him to her very heart, and kissed him so loud that the entire host heard it!

Then the king’s son struck his horse one blow and vanished. Then he returned to his room, and sat there as though nothing had happened, whilst his servant boasted that he had gone to the battle and slain the foe. So the tsar awarded him great honours, promised him his daughter, and set a great feast. But the tsarevna was not so stupid, and said she had a severe headache.

What was the future son-in-law to do?

“Father,” he said to the tsar, “give me a ship, I will go and get drugs for my bride; and see that your herdsman comes with me, as I am so well accustomed to him.”

The tsar consented; gave him the ship and the herdsman. So they sailed away, may be far or near. Then the servant had a sack sewn, and the prince put into it, and cast him into the water. But the tsarevna saw the evil thing that had been done, through her magic mirror; and she quickly summoned her carriage and drove to the sea, and on the shore there the wood-sprite sat weaving a great net.

“Wood-sprite, help me on my way, for Dyad’ka the servant has drowned the king’s son!”

“Here, maiden, look, the net is ready. Help me with your white hands.”

Then the tsarevna threw the net into the deep; fished the king’s son up, took him home, and told her father the whole story. So they celebrated a merry wedding and held a great feast. In a tsar’s palace mead has not to be brewed or any wine to be drawn; there is always enough ready.

Then the servant in the meantime was buying all sorts of drugs, and came back. He came to the palace, was seized, but prayed for mercy. But he was too late, and he was shot in front of the castle gate.

The wedding of the king’s son was very jolly, and all the inns and all the beerhouses were opened for an entire week, for everybody, without any charge.

I was there. I drank honey and mead, which came up to my moustache, but never entered my mouth.

Leshi. Image credit

Element Encyclopedia of Fairies by Lucy Cooper


Forest spirits of Slavic folklore. Leshii can refer to an individual male or a group of leshii; their female counterparts are leshovikha. Listed as demons in the Dictionaire Infernal (1818), these shapeshifting spirits are protectors of the forest and its creatures. In human form, the males are often depicted as bearded men with horns, a blueish tinge to their skin… mischievous tricksters, they are accomplished mimics, imitating familiar voices or the sounds of birds or animals to lure visitors to the forest and deeper into the woods, away from the path.

*More can be read in the book.

The Forest in Folklore and Mythology by Alexander Porteous

In the Russian forests what were known as Lieschi, Forest Devils, or Genii of the Forest, were considered to be always present in clumps of trees, and particularly on the tops of Birch trees. These beings were believed to be able to accommodate their stature according to their environment. Thus, when they were wandering in the forest they were as tall as the trees, but when they appeared on the plains they did not exceed the blades of grass in height. Professor Mannhardt tells of the means taken to invoke these Genii. He says that very young Birches are cut down and placed in a circle with the points toward the centre. They then enter the circle and invoke the spirit, which at once appears. Then they step on to the stump of one of the cut trees with their face turned towards the east, and bend their heads so that they look between their legs. While in this position they say: “Uncle Lieschi, ascend thou, not as a grey wolf, not as an ardent fire, but as resembling myself.” Then the leaves tremble, and the Lieschi arises under human form, and agrees to give the service for which he has been invoked, provided they promise him their soul.

*More can be learned in the book.

Encyclopedia of Beasts and Monsters in Myth, Legend and Folklore by Theresa Bane

La Calchona

Variations: Chiludo

A species of WILD MAN from South American folklore, la calchona (“bogey” or “ghost”) is described as looking like a large bearded man whose body is covered with sheep-like wool. A nocturnal creature living in the fields and hills of the countryside, it is reported as doing little more than scaring horses and travelers. In Chile the calchona is described as looking like a large wooly dog with a tangled coat; said to live in the mountains where it frightens travelers and their horses, it occasionally steals their food.

Leshy, plural: lechies

Variations: Lešak, Leshak, Leshii, Leshiy, Lesiy, Lesní mužík, Lesnik, Lesný mužík (“forest man”), Lesny mužik/ded, Lesovij, Lesovik, Lesovy, Lesun, Lešy, Leszi, Leszy

Originally a god or NATURE SPIRIT of the forest in Slavonic mythology, a leshy (“forest”) was named as a type of terrestrial devil in Colin de Plancy’s Dictionaire Infernale (1818, 1863); the male of the species was known as leshouikha. SATYR-like humans from the waist up with notable beards, ears, and the horns of a she-goat, these NATURE SPIRITs used their ability to imitate voices as a way to lure people back to their caves. Once the victim was inside, they would be tickled to death. Lechies, as they are called in numbers, have a banshee-like cry and the ability to shrink down to the height of grass when marching through fields. They can also grow as tall as a tree when running through the forest where they live.

*More can be read in the book.

The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures by John & Caitlín Matthews


The Leshii (or Leshy) is the Slavonic forest spirit who leads travellers astray. He is humanoid but has a long green beard and casts no shadow. He can change in size and goes into hibernation every October until the following spring when he emerges full of wildness and long hooting shouts. The root of his name derives from the word for ‘forest’. Every forest has its own Leshii and each has a wife (Lesovikha) and children (Leshonki). Like many forest spirits, he causes travellers to lose their way by calling to them and leading them from the path. If you are going into a forest, it is wise to carry offerings of bread and salt, the traditional gifts to propitiate spirits. To put a Leshii off your trail, you can take the precaution of putting on your clothes and shoes inside out and back to front until you reach the edge of the forest again.

*More can be read in the book.

Further Reading:

Leshi. Image credit

Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel

Forests are mysterious places that evokes as much fear as awe in the hearts of mortals. The idea that there are people who thrive within its dark embrace has been the whispered tales around evening fires for as long as humans lived along forests.

There are many names for a wild man who lives in the forest and protects it. Leshi, Green Man, Wild Man, Basajaun, Sasquatch, to name a few. But there aren’t a lot of written folklore sources about them.

The folktales surrounding a wild man, sasquatch or leshi are mostly the same: a wild man – supposedly bigger, stronger, and hairier than others – lives in the local forest, the wild man gets caught by a king for stopping the king’s men from ravaging the forest, the inquisitive prince lets the wild man free, the king disowns his son, the boy goes to another kingdom and thrives there thanks to the goodness of the wild man.

In Slavic folklore, leshi are forest spirits who protect the forest and its creatures. They are mischievous tricksters and enjoy playing with their prey – the humans who dare enter the forest – and can mimic any sound, creature or person. It is believed that the leshi can change their shape and size to conform to their environment. There are also tales of the leshi being invoked by the desperate, and that the leshi will do as asked – in return of the person’s soul.

For the most part, though, it is believed that the wild man has a long beard, covered in some kind of fur, doesn’t cast a shadow, hibernates during the winter, and runs wildly through the forest during the spring to rouse the forest creatures. He and his wife stay away from others, keeping to themselves.

Tickling the humans who trespass in the forest to death seems to be the preferred attack, after scaring them to death, of course.

Stay out of the forest if you have ill-intent, or the leshi will get you.

Leshi in Modern Culture

Blessed Monsters by Emily A Duncan (My Review)

Crack. He whirled, coming face-to-face with a creature that he could not immediately put a name to. He didn’t know the monsters that lurked in Kalyazin’s corners, but this one was familiar. Hunched over, just shy of walking upright. Long claws tipped humanlike hands, and it walked on deerlike hooves. The head was that of a deer skull if deer had that many … teeth. Flowers, acrid and rotting and roiling with maggots, dripped from its antlers.

Oh. The word came to him.

Leshy. A forest guardian. One of Nadya’s preferred threats—to leave them all to the leshy that she claimed one of her gods commanded.”

Blessed Monsters by Emily A Duncan

Wildermann in Grimm TV Series

Wildermann concept art Grimm. Image credit

Wildermann are incredibly strong and are more than capable of tearing a full grown man to shreds and casually overpowering Blutbaden. They are incredibly fast for their size and are capable of traversing large distances in a short amount of time. While Wildermann have high levels of stamina and pain tolerance, they are no more durable than humans.

Ironically, despite their rather frightening appearance, Wildermann are normally a very friendly Wesen species. Wildermann tend to be loners who enjoy nature and activities such as campfires, hiking, and camping. Despite their peaceful natures, Wildermann will resort to violence when they feel it is necessary. When enraged, a Wildermann is a terrifying sight to behold.

Learn more on Grimm Wiki

Kinoshimobe in Grimm TV Series

Kinoshimobe (Leshi). Image credit.

Kinoshimobes are towering humanoids made of plant materials with chlorophyll for blood. When they attack, they do so by ensnaring their victims with vines before having one of the said vines deliver a killing blow via stabbing. They can make vines shoot out from their hands, as well as from their feet.

Kinoshimobes are protectors of Jobokko trees and fiercely safeguard the surrounding approximate five square miles. Anyone caught violating nature are at risk of experiencing a Kinoshimobe’s wrath. Kinoshimobe do not discriminate between accidental (a leaking car) or intentional (poaching, dumping toxic waste, etc.) violations against nature. However, they do discriminate between individuals in groups and will only go after the particular individuals in that group they deem responsible for harming nature while leaving the others alone. Once they have identified a target to attack, they can not be reasoned with. When they have killed their target and dragged the body back to the Jobokko tree they serve, they will humbly kneel before the Jobokko as it takes in the body the Kinoshimobe has brought to it.

Learn more on Grimm Wiki

Leshi in My Writing

Origin of the Fae: Leshi

Singular: Leshi. Plural: Leshies.
This forest spirit protects the forest it lives in at any cost. Though it can move through the forest in an ethereal form, it prefers its corporeal form of bark, leaves and flesh. It’s a shapeshifter, an accomplished mimic, and far too smart to get entangled in the affairs of mortals or fae.
Despite folklore saying it likes to tickle and scare its victims to death, it is actually much more straightforward with true villains: it uses its powers to impale and dispatch those who pollute, etc. the forest and bury them wherever the forest needs nourishment most. Sometimes the leshi eats its kills.
Though it does like to play tricks on those entering its forest unbidden, it is usually younger leshies who mimic loved-ones in shape and sound for their own entertainment.
When attending a Tithe ceremony, they can appear as the traditional wild man with a human-like body, long beard and hair covering their body; or they can conform to expectations of others, appearing as a humanoid creature made of the forest (leaves, bark, etc.). They are loyal to the Dark Court, though prefer to dwell in the human realm if they can.

Leshi translated to Afrikaans: Wilde Man.

See this fae in action in my writing:

Dark Fae (Origin of the Fae #7)

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Where did you first encounter leshi? What do you think of this shape-shifting faery? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.

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image credit https://pixabay.com/illustrations/ai-generated-fairy-wings-magic-8121013/

No-one writes about the fae like Ronel Janse van Vuuren.

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