The tale of Vasilisa the Beautiful begins by introducing the character of Vasilisa, whose mother dies when she was still young. Like the story of Cinderella, Vasilisa’s widowed father marries another woman, who has two daughters of her own. Vasilisa’s step-mother and step-sisters mistreat her by giving her lots of work to do. Fortunately, whilst on her deathbed, Vasilisa’s mother gives her daughter a magical doll, who helps the maiden to accomplish these tasks. One day, however, Vasilisa’s father had to go to a faraway place and was not expected to be back for some time. Vasilisa’s stepmother took this opportunity to send Vasilisa into the forest which their house was beside.
he purpose of this was to obtain some light from the Baba Yaga, who lived in the forest, as their light had gone out. No doubt Vasilisa was terrified, as Baba Yaga is rumored to eat people. Nevertheless, with some encouragement from her magical doll, Vasilisa embarked on her journey into the forest. When she arrived at Baba Yaga’s hut, Vasilisa asked the old hag for some fire. In this story, Baba Yaga is not depicted as a benevolent character, and she said she would only give the fire to Vasilisa if she managed to complete several tasks.
These tasks, however, were impossible for any normal human being to accomplish. One of these, for instance, was to sort a huge sack of millet seed by seed, and to remove all the black bits from it, all in one night. With the help of her magic doll, Vasilisa succeeded in this task.
In one version of the tale, Baba Yaga did not give Vasilisa the fire she promised but plotted to have her roasted. With the help of her doll once more, Vasilisa managed to escape from Baba Yaga. In the process, she also succeeded in getting the fire she was sent to obtain, which was contained in the skulls that decorated the fence surrounding Baba Yaga’s hut.
When Vasilisa brought the fire back to her house, it burned her step-mother and step-sisters to ashes. Having buried the skull outside her house, Vasilisa moved to the city, where she stayed in the home of an elderly woman. One day, Vasilisa weaved some cloth, gave it to the old woman, and told her to sell it.
Seeing how beautiful the cloth was, the woman decided not to sell it, but to bring it to the palace as a present for the Tsarevich. The tale ends on a happy note, as the Tsarevich married Vasilisa. The old woman and Vasilisa then move to the palace. When Vasilisa’s father returned from abroad, he too was invited to stay in the palace with his daughter. As for the magical doll, it was always kept in Vasilisa’s pocket.
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