LEGO channels Slavic folklore for a set you shouldn’t ignore

One of the three newly-revealed LEGO DREAMZzz sets channels elements of Slavic folklore, and in doing so conjures up multiple reasons to be on your radar.

Unveiled alongside 71484 Cooper’s Robot Dinosaur C-Rex and 71485 Mateo and Z-Blob the Knight Battle Mech by a Mexican LEGO Certified Store earlier this week, 71478 The Never Witch’s Midnight Raven does well to stand out in what looks like the best wave of LEGO DREAMZzz sets yet. But you might not have clocked that from the box art and main product shot alone, because they hide the model’s most fascinating feature.

At one point during the assembly process of every LEGO DREAMZzz set, the instructions give you a choice in how to complete the model. Do you build a regular old car, or one that’s fused with a giant crocodile? Should you piece together a boring old van, or do you want a flying submarine with turtle legs? In 71478 The Never Witch’s Midnight Raven, that choice looks to stand between a raven with a house on its back, or a separate bird and hut that can each thrive alone.

But this is no ordinary house. It stands tall on two bird-like legs, creating a nightmarish effect that will haunt (or perhaps delight) those familiar with Slavic folklore, or any of the modern interpretations of the character who lives there… for this is the house of Baba Yaga.

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A witch or ogress who kidnaps, cooks and eats children, Baba Yaga is a guardian of the fountains of the waters of life, and lives in the forest in a hut that stands on tall chicken legs. She’s popped up in folk tales including Vasilissa the Beautiful and The Frog Princess, and is frequently cast as a kind of menacing Fairy Godmother. And while she was originally seen as a villain in both written literature and (likely) the oral tradition of Slavic folklore, she’s often depicted in modern stories as an empowering symbol of feminism.

It’s that more favourable rewriting of Baba Yaga’s character (and less so the eating kids bit) that has probably made the LEGO DREAMZzz team amenable to pulling on the threads of her iconic house for 71478 The Never Witch’s Midnight Raven, but she’s also appeared across other media, too – including Dungeons & Dragons. Her hut was first mentioned in a Dungeon Master’s Guide in 1979, and five years later she joined the fantasy tabletop roleplaying game in a magazine adventure.

Baba Yaga finally received her own full-length adventure module in 1995’s The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga, introducing her legend to an entirely new audience. The LEGO Group is now tapping into that very same audience with 21348 Dungeons & Dragons: Red Dragon’s Tale and the upcoming LEGO Dungeons & Dragons Collectible Minifigures series, so a little bit of crossover with its homegrown DREAMZzz theme feels like a cunning ploy to blow open the doors to the rest of its portfolio.

It’s already working, too: keen fans over on reddit are chomping at the bit for LEGO Baba Yaga. A couple of users have announced they’ll be picking up 71478 The Never Witch’s Midnight Raven purely for Baba Yaga’s hut, while another redditor has pointed out that it’s not just D&D fans who should be paying attention to what LEGO DREAMZzz is doing this summer.

“The house looks almost in scale with [10332 Medieval Town Square],” says natrual_screaming. “I might [put] a nice witch together and have a witch in the woods behind the castle.”

Of course, the set does already include a witch – the Never Witch, in fact, who will be playing the primary antagonist in the second season of the LEGO DREAMZzz TV series – along with a colourful cast of eclectic minifigures. But whether you strip away the more fantastical elements of the set or keep them intact, the Baba Yaga-esque house in 71478 The Never Witch’s Midnight Raven does indeed look like it might slot right into a wider medieval layout.

Beyond just the house’s use within other LEGO themes (or subthemes), there’s also the appeal of Baba Yaga herself to consider here, because there’s clearly an audience for Slavic folk tales in LEGO: in 2021, a LEGO Ideas project inspired by her house reached the review stage in less than 24 hours (a record at the time, and one that it perhaps still holds today). In short… the LEGO Group knows what it’s doing with this one.

We’re still waiting on an official reveal for these three LEGO DREAMZzz sets to confirm their prices and release dates, but the Mexico LEGO Certified Store says they could be dropping as soon as May. Watch this space.

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Chris Wharfe
I like to think of myself as a journalist first, LEGO fan second, but we all know that’s not really the case. Journalism does run through my veins, though, like some kind of weird literary blood – the sort that will no doubt one day lead to a stress-induced heart malfunction. It’s like smoking, only worse. Thankfully, I get to write about LEGO until then.

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Chris Wharfe

I like to think of myself as a journalist first, LEGO fan second, but we all know that’s not really the case. Journalism does run through my veins, though, like some kind of weird literary blood – the sort that will no doubt one day lead to a stress-induced heart malfunction. It’s like smoking, only worse. Thankfully, I get to write about LEGO until then.

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