Robin Redbreast

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

Monday, February 7, 2011

Baba Yaga: A Bit of Background

Baba Yaga's hut, Lent, B. (1966)
Once upon a time in Russia, “deep in the darkest part of the forest” a little girl named Marusia was searching for wild turnips.  Her mother had given her money to buy turnips for supper, but she had lost it.  She knew that she must not linger too long, for the forest was dangerous.  Now, 
 “ the ground began to tremble.  Rabbits scurried under bushes and birds flew to the sky to hide in the clouds. “  Her mother had warned her of the wtich, Baba Yaga, “whose hut roams through the woods on chicken legs...to search for bad Russian children to cook in a stew.” Now Marusia froze: ahead of her she could see a hut, on chicken legs with a fence made out of skulls.  She felt very, very sleepy, and sat down to rest.  When she awoke, “she was sitting in a large pan, surrounded by potatoes and onions.  A lean cat was lying beside the stove, dreaming of fish  heads and rats.  And Baba Yaga was bent over a table.  She was pulling petals from flowers and making neat piles of leaves. “ Then she shook some pepper and salt right over Marusia’s head.  That’s when Marusia decided to speak up and said,  “Pardon me, Baba Yaga, but I am a good Russian girl”, though she did feel bad about the money for the turnips!  The old woman shuddered and dumped her out of the pan.  “ I can’t eat a good Russian girl for my dinner, but I can make you cook my dinner, and sweep the hut, and clean the clearing. "  So Marusia got to work, sweeping and scrubbing and clearing.  Finallly, she “ lit a fire under the samovar to heat water for Baba Yaga’s tea.  The old woman ate a meal large enough for ten men.  Her stomach rumbled.  She offered nothing to Marusia or the cat. “  The hut was silent, with not so much as a tick or a chirp to be heard. But then the girl “was startled when she heard a noise outside.  In the last light of the day, Marusia saw a horseman, dressed all in black, ride a black horse past the hut. ” Marusia lay down then, and went to sleep, but she was “awakened by another mysterious horseman.  He was dressed all in white and rode a white horse from out of the forest.  He galloped across the clearing, and up into the sky.  It was a new day. ”  Baba Yaga was nowhere to be seen, but then “the rising sun disappeared behind swirling black clouds.  The sky rumbled with thunder and cracked with lightning.  Tree boughs snapped, blew across the clearing and scratched  against the hut. “  That’s when Marusia saw her, riding a mortar and pestle through the sky, and sweeping away the trail with a broom made out of birch twigs.  “Baba Yaga’s cap smelled of smoke and sailed wildly about her.  Toads, black beetles and mice darted from under her feet.  Bats and owls flew from her hair.  [She] tickled  one of the chicken legs  underneath her hut and chanted: Izbushka, Izbushka, lower your door to me!” And it did!  Then the old woman poured her herbs and flowers onto her work table, and hissed at Marusia .  “You say nothing!” the witch yelled, and the girl stammered out a question.  “ Ask!’ interrupted Baba Yaga, ‘but remember, every question that you ask will make me a year older.”  And so Marusia asked about the black horseman at dusk and  the white horseman at dawn.  The black one was, “ My moonless night.   He is my obedient servant. “ Baba Yaga answered, and the white one, “ My fair day,” and her servant as well.  Now the old woman opened a cabinet, and the girl could see inside, “ nearly one hudred jars were covered with spiders and webs and filled with leaves , herbs, roots, stems and withered berries. “  Ingredients for her tea of youth, she said, and she needed only more so that she could live for 200 years!  This was  a certain black sunflower.  Her potions also allowed her to change her shape and her size.  Now it was time for Marusia to leave, but she had one more question.  May she have some turnips?  Why on earth did she want those, asked the old woman, when she could choose “sausage and cabbage and plump fruit pies” instead.  “ I was sent to the village to buy turnips,  but I lost the money my mother gave me, and...’ ‘Then you are a bad Russian girl!” and with that, she put Marusia right back into the pan and went out to gather parsley.  “She found a hedgehog sitting on top of a big mushroom, eating a mushroom.  The hedgehog looked up and said, ‘ Please, Babushka, don’t kick me for I have suffered enough. ‘ Baba Yaga thought the hedgehog might make a nice goulash.  ‘That should ease his suffering!’ she said to herself and she put the hedgehog into the pan with Marusia.  She sprinkled them both with parsley and mushrooms.  “  And that’s when the hedgehog began to tell his story. “ TO BE CONTINUED...
Notes on  Baba Yaga: There are many books available for more
Baba Yaga is a Russian folk character.  She is a witch, and eats bad children, yet she is also capable of kindness if a child is respectful and obedient.  Cover notes here identify the sources used for this retelling as: Russian Wonder Tales by Post Wheeler (1912); Old Peter’s Russian Tales by Arthur Ransome, Thomas Nelson and Sons, Ltd. London, (1916); The Russian Grandmother’s Wonder Tales by Houghton, L. (1906); Siberian and Other Folktales, Coxwell, C. (1925).
Montessori Connection 6-9: Botany/ First Knowledge of Plants/ Type: Herbs
1. Read again the part where Baba Yaga, examines, "herbs, leaves, stems, and withered berries". 
2. Think about it: what plant might they have been from ?  Write down two ideas ( parsley, wild blackberries, etc.)
3. If your family gardens, think about how you eat the produce.  Is is always when it is fresh, as when you make a salad from lettuce? Or do you eat some of it dried, as when one gathers rosemary, sage, lavender, or other herbs for later use. 4. Choose one plant for research, ideally by pulling it up, roots and all, from your school garden.  ( A weed is a good specimen for this first lesson in the parts of a plant. ) 5. Follow your teachers guidance while: dissecting and labeling your plant; beginning to research one kind of plant. 
Montessori Connection 9-12: Word Study/ Antonyms
1. Read this story and pay special attention to the part where the horsemen go by. 
2. Title a page in your language notebook: Antonyms.
3. Fold your notebook sheet in half to make 2 columns.
4. Write down the color of the first horse and horseman. 
5. Write down the color of the second horse and horseman.
6. Write down what you think the word antonym might mean. 
7. If you are not sure, read the part where: "Marusia stopped running and stood very still. "; "Baba Yaga ate enough for ten men...she offered nothing to Marusia or the cat."  How did Marusia feel? (Hungry, while Baba Yaga was full!
8. Write down the meaning of the word antonym

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