Robin Redbreast

Robin Redbreast
Birds can represent the fluttering, darting thoughts of intuition. This is why little birds helped Cinderella help herself.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Vasilisa the Beautiful, pt.2

illustrated by Herbert Danska 1961
One night, in a forest deep in Russia, Vasilisa the Beautiful was alone among the trees, trying to find the hut of Baba Yaga, the witch. She clutched her littel doll in her hands for that was all that would keep her safe. Suddenly,  a rider whooshed past, dressed all in white. Now it was light. Soon another rider passed her her by, this one dressed in red. And the sun rose. She walked and walked and by evening, she could see a hut, set up above the ground on hen's legs. It had a fence around it, made of human bones, with skulls on top for decoration. Now another rider appeared, this time dressed in black. In his wake, the eyes of the skulls " lit up like lamps and the clearing became as bright as day. Vasilisa, seeing this, stood frozen with terror. But she could hear an awful scraping, grinding noise and saw something coming closer. It was old Baba Yaga, rowing along the ground in a stone mortar, using her pestle to drive it along, sweeping away the scrape marks with a huge broom. " I smell a Russian!" the witch cried out, and Vasilisa bravely answered that her stepmother requested fire. " Work for me for a while and I will give you fire. If you don't work I shall eat you up!' So Vasisilisa worked, doing exactly as asked, with no questions. When the witch told her to open the oven and serve her what was within, the girl did it. There was a gigantic roast which the witch ate in one bite. Now she demanded drink, and Vasislisa brought this, eating only the crumbs, and drinking only a drop herself. And now Baba Yaga said, " Tomorrow, when I go out, you are to clear the yard, sweep the house, do the washing, and get my dinner. You must be sure that everything is done before I come home or I shall eat you up!" And the witch fell into a sound sleep. That's when Vasilisa got out her doll and whispered her troubles to it, and the little doll said, " Vasilisa, my beautiful, do not be afraid. Say your praryers and go to bed. The morning is wiser than the evening. " Before she knew it, the white rider passed by the house: it was dawn. The witch drove away in her mortar, and  the red rider thundered by. And the sun came up. Poor Vasilisa looked around. How could she ever get the work done? But now she couldn't believe her eyes. The work was done! The doll climbed back into her pocket, smiling. Vasilisa fixed supper for the witch and finally the black rider came by. The skulls lit up as the night before, and the sound of the witch scraping home through the trees could be heard.  She stomped over to the table and gobbled the food without a word to the girl. Then suddenly she asked, " Why do you not speak to me? Why do you sit there as if you were dumb? " And the girl said she did have a question, if it was permitted to ask. " Ask, if you will, but know that not every question leads to something good. If you know much, you are soon old." And the girl asked about the white rider, the red rider and the black rider. The witch told her that the white rider is her bright day, the red rider her red sun, and the black rider her dark night. "All three are my faithful servants. " The girl was silent again, and Baba Yaga said, "Why don't you ask me something more?" Vasilisas replied respectfully that she had no further questions, and the witch was pleased. " I do not like stories carried out of my house. I eat those who are too curious." But now the witch had a question: how had the girl done the work so fast. " I am helped by my mother's blessing" answered the girl. "Her blessing? Get out of here as fast as you can, blessed girl. I want no one near me who is blessed. " And she shoved her back out into the night. However, she also gave Vasilisa one of her burning skulls, stuck onto a stick so she could carry it easily. "Take this fire. It is what your stepmother's daughters sent you for." So Vasilisa started walking home. It took her all night, and all of the next day, and when she came close to home, she thought she might as well throw the skull away, as surely her family would have fire by now. But she heard a voice: "Don't throw me away! Take me to your step mother." said the skull. So she did. Her stepsisters met her, and said that they were without fire, for whenever they tried to light one or borrow a light from the neighbors, it went out as soon as they crossed the threshhold. Setting the skull down, the Vasislisa returned to her work, but her sisters neither knit nor wove. The eyes from the skull stared at them, and burned them and soon they were smoked to cinders. TO BE CONINUED!
NotesFavorite fairy tales told in Russia, retold from Russian storytellers, by Virginia Haviland, 1961,  is availabe at the Berkeley Public Libary. It is also available on Amazon.
Montessori Connection: Read more about Vasilisa' adventures. Learn about Russia, and how the U.S. and Russia are cooperating on the International Space Station. Go to National Geographic Kids for lots of intormation!