(Image: “Leshy (1906)”)

The leshy or leshii is a Russian forest being. Usually standing as tall as the trees in its forest, the leshy can also shapeshift to become as small as a blade of grass. It knows all of the noises of the forest and can imitate them perfectly, and so is able to lead unwary travelers astray, for instance, by making the sound of running water seemingly only a little bit away. Only one leshy generally lived in a forest, unless the forest was extremely large. However, all leshies in a large area would meet together when they came back from their long winter death to make noise and let the humans know that they were back. A leshy wears its shoes on the wrong feet and its clothes backward, and one way that travelers can escape from a leshy is to put their clothes on the same way to impersonate it (Rose 223).

The leshy’s ability to imitate the sounds of the forest may account for how people may get lost in the forest, but its shapeshifting abilities and choice of clothes make it all the more interesting. The shapeshifting often comes as part of the package of a trickster creature, while the backward clothes may hint at the backward nature of the monster. Finally, the spring reincarnation of the leshies and their annual meeting may explain how the snow melts from the forests and the trees groan as they warm up.


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