This post is about the traditional vodyanoy, a creature from Slavic folklore. It was inspired by the mention of it in 魔法使いの嫁 [まほうつかいのよめ, mahoutsukai no yome, The Ancient Magus’ Bride].
Angelica’s familiar, Hugo, is supposed to be a vodyanoy. In his case, that pretty much means a water spirit. But the traditional ones aren’t like that.
To be honest, he looks like a fishy ariel fairy.
водяно́й, вадзянік, водяник, wodnik, vodník, vodnik, vodanoj, podvodni mož, водењак, Вутăш
先ず [まず, mazu, first of all] they are no fairies. They’re regular human-sized humanoids. In East-Slavic cultures he’s…
a naked old man with a frog-like face, greenish beard, and long hair, with his body covered in algae and muck, usually covered in black fish scales. He has webbed paws instead of hands, a fish’s tail, and eyes that burn like red-hot coals. He usually rides along his river on a half-sunk log, making loud splashes.
East-Slavic conception, Vodyanoy by Ivan Bilibin
Czech/Slovak/Slovene conception, by Josef Lada
In Slovenia and Czech and Slovak Republics, he looks almost like a regular man. Except for the fact that his skin, hair and beard are green and he lives underwater. They often have gills, webbed hands and feet, and they are wet, dripping water from their coattails. They are not universally good or evil, just like humans. But they collect drowned (accidentally or with their “help”) souls and keep them in pretty cups underwater.
In Josef Lada’s (the author of the vodník on the right) fairytales, vodníci go to the village pub to drink with humans and even have children, who in turn go to school with human children. On the picture, a vodník is sitting on a willow over his fishpond, sewing himself a pair of shoes for walking underwater and on dry land.