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"Viy" (Russian: Вий, Ukrainian: Вій) is a horror short story by the Ukrainian-born Russian writer Nikolai Gogol, first published in the first volume of his collection of tales entitled Mirgorod (1835). The title refers to the name of a demonic entity central to the plot.
Gogol states in his author's note that Viy, the King of the Gnomes, was an actual character from Ukrainian folklore. This was merely a literary device. In reality Gogol probably never heard of Viy at all. No discovery has been made of the folklore source of Viy, and as such it remains a part of Gogol's imagination.
The demons summoned into the church come from the Slavic superstitions of "midnight dead". Evil people, it was believed, automatically became Devil's subjects upon death. Earth would not hold them so that every night they would crawl out of their graves and torment the living. In the story, the demons have "black earth" clung to them, as if they crawled out of the ground.
The water sprite (Rusalka) seen by Khoma during his night ride bears relation to the "midnight dead". It was widely believed, in Russian and Ukraine, that rusalki were spirits of unbaptized children or drowned maidens, who were in league with the Devil. They were known to drown their victims or tickle them to death. They were described as beautiful, and deadly, and bear relation to the young version of the witch, and Gogol's frequent portrayal of women as beautiful yet evil.
Incantations, exorcism, and the magic circle come from Ukrainian beliefs of protection from evil forces. The circle relates to "chur", a magical boundary that evil cannot cross. Even though Khoma died from fear, the creatures could not touch him.
Additionally, the final notion that Khoma died only because he let fear win over him appears to stem from John of Damascus, who said "... all evil and impure passions have been conceived by [evil spirits] and they have been permitted to visit attacks upon man. But they are unable to force anyone, for it is in our power either to accept the visitation or not."
-Film adaptations and influence in popular culture-
In 1967, the short story was adapted by Georgi Kropachyov and Konstantin Yershov into the film Viy. An updated version with advanced special effects was originally scheduled to be released in 2009 to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Gogol's birth. While the first part has been completed, the producers decided to postpone the premiere until the completion of the second part. The 2006 film The Power of Fear (Russian title Ведьма, "The Witch") was a sequel meant to continue the story, with elements of horror similar to The Ring.
Several other works draw on the short story:
+ Mario Bava's film Black Sunday is loosely based on "Viy".
+The 1990 Yugoslav film Sveto mesto (A Holy Place) is also based on Nikolai Gogol's short story.
+In the 1978 film Piranha, a camp counselor retells Viy's climactic identification of Khoma as a ghost story.
+One of the boss enemies in La-Mulana is a demon named Viy, who is extremely massive and requires the help of small flying demons in order to open his eye