PREVIEW: Baba Yaga & Vasilissa the Beautiful

[Illustration right by Ivan Bilibin, 1900]

Once upon a snowy forest, a young girl’s mother lay dying. She called her daughter to the bedside, and reached under her pillow.

”Vasilissa, Little Pigeon, hold out your hand to me,” she said, reaching out her own. “Take this tiny doll, and keep it with you, always. After I am gone it will protect you from danger, just as I would do, if I were able to stay. Whenever you are in need of help, whisper your troubles in her ear, and she will guide you safely through. Always listen carefully to her advice. Trust the doll, and she will guide you well.” Vasilissa clutched the tiny doll in her apron pocket; and watched, silently, as her mother slipped through into another world. Over time, Vasilissa’s father took a second wife. His daughter was young, and needed a mother, and the woman he chose already had two daughters of her own: sisters for Vasilissa. Unfortunately, the women he invited to his home were cruel of heart, and jealous of the pretty, obedient child. Though they hid it well whenever he could observe them, as soon as Vasilissa’s father left the hut, she would become the object of their derision. Like Cinderellas before and since, Vasilissa was set the household chores – washing windows and scrubbing floors – while her stepmother and stepsisters sat with their feet up, lazing, chatting, idling the time away. Vasilissa’s bones ached, and her hands chafed, but she remained silent. Her mother was gone and there was nothing she could do but get through the same mindless tasks over and again, over and again. During the daytime, the tiny doll sat in Vasilissa’s pocket whispering that she should bide her time and all would be well, all would be well.  At night, Vasilissa clutched this tiny treasure in her hand, beneath her pillow, and felt some comfort as she slept.

One day, while the hut gleamed, and dinner had been prepared and eaten, a pile of darning was the only task remaining to Vasilissa. Giggling amongst themselves, and with their mother’s blessing, the stepsisters stole the sewing basket and hid it, so that not a needle nor a length of thread could be found in the entire hut. They had a plan to be rid of her forever. Vasilissa, unaware of their plotting, steeled herself, then explained to her stepmother that she was unable to complete the task she had been set.

“Wretched child!” the stepmother cried. “You work-shy good-for-nothing! I would beat you if I could be bothered to raise myself from the plump cushions of my armchair; but as it is, you must still make amends. There is only one thing for it. You must travel deep into the forest, to Baba Yaga’s hut, and beg of her a needle and thread. Don’t you dare return until you can complete your task!”

“But stepmother,” protested Vasilissa, “how will I find the hut? There are no signposts in the forest…”

“Foolish, foolish child,” came the reply, “it is a spinning hut, dancing on chicken legs, and bordered with burning lanterns made of human skulls – how on earth can you miss it?”

TO BE CONTINUED

See Enchanted Times #1 for the full story, Intuition Doll sewing kit, and pre-enchanted tags.

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