Dobby, Russian-Style

Have you fed your house elf today? If not, you might wake up to someone doing Morse code inside your fridge. Or your coffeemaker would refuse to cooperate. And when you’re late, you might be looking for your cell phone for a long, long time…

Credit: Warner Bros

Most of my American friends think it’s weird that I keep a little handmade domovoi – or a house elf – in the back of my pantry just because I want to hedge my bets and make friend with whatever supernatural forces that might also inhabit my house. OK, that didn’t come out right… But hey, lots of people used to hang socks for Dobby, right?

Some Russians get along with their house elves just fine. Alesja Petrovna, a Russian TV producer, once documented just how deep that relationship is.

…We’re walking down the street and I’m told:

“We need to stop by the store to pick up some milk for Zakhar.”

“Who’s Zakhar?”

“You’ll see for yourself. “

We get home and there is no Zakhar. “Where is he?”

“He’s here…”

I look under the dining table and see a white napkin with a cup of milk and a saucer with cookies. They tell me, “He likes cookies with his milk.”

So I start thinking. Is it a cat? Then why cookies? A rabbit? A parrot? When why is everything on the floor? A walking parrot?

They tell me, “Well… It’s Zakhar. A house elf. He likes fresh milk in the morning and in the evening, and cookies.”

I’m itching to say, “Are you for real?” but it seems like they are. When they moved into this condo, he got upset and kept running around and stomping. They poured him some milk and he settled down.

“So what happens when you go on vacation? Who feeds him?” I ask. It’s not exactly a cat – you can’t get your neighbors to pet-sit it. They tell me they poured him a ton of cookies and he somehow pulled through…

Then I notice a bag of cookies and crackers in the corner. I ask, “So is that supplies for Zakhar?”

And what they tell me turns my world upside down. I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry or how to express appropriate emotions because I can’t even begin to grasp what they might be.

“No, that’s what Zakhar has already eaten.”

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