ONCE upon a time there was an old
couple. The husband lost his wife and married again. But he had a daughter
by the first marriage, a young girl, and she found no favor in the eyes
of her evil stepmother, who used to beat her, and consider how she could
get her killed outright. One day the father went away somewhere or other,
so the stepmother said to the girl, "Go to your aunt, my sister, and ask
her for a needle and thread to make you a shift."
Now that aunt was a Baba Yaga. Well, the
girl was no fool, so she went to a real aunt of hers first, and says she,
"Good morning, auntie!"
"Good morning, my dear! What have you come
"Mother has sent me to her sister, to ask
for a needle and thread to make me a shift."
Then her aunt instructed her what to do.
"There is a birch tree there, niece, which would hit you in the eye --
you must tie a ribbon round it; there are doors which would creak and
bang -- you must pour oil on their hinges; there are dogs which would
tear you in pieces -- you must throw them these rolls; there is a cat
which would scratch your eyes out -- you must give it a piece of bacon."
So the girl went away, and walked and walked,
till she came to the place. There stood a hut, and in it sat weaving the
Baba Yaga, the bony-shanks.
"Good morning, auntie," says the girl.
"Good morning, my dear," replies the Baba
" Mother has sent me to ask you for a needle
and thread to make me a shift."
"Very well; sit down and weave a little in
So the girl sat down behind the loom, and
the Baba Yaga went outside, and said to her servant maid, "Go and heat
the bath, and get my niece washed; and mind you look sharp after her.
I want to breakfast off her."
Well, the girl sat there in such a fright
that she was as much dead as alive. Presently she spoke imploringly to
the servant maid, saying, "Kinswoman dear, do please wet the firewood
instead of making it burn; and fetch the water for the bath in a sieve."
And she made her a present of a handkerchief.
The Baba Yaga waited awhile; then she came
to the window and asked, "Are you weaving, niece? Are you weaving, my
"Oh yes, dear aunt, I'm weaving."
So the Baba Yaga went away again, and the
girl gave the cat a piece of bacon, and asked, "Is there no way of escaping
"Here's a comb for you and a towel," said
the cat; "take them, and be off. The Baba Yaga will pursue you, but you
must lay your ear on the ground, and when you hear that she is close at
hand, first of all, throw down the towel. It will become a wide, wide
river. And if the Baba Yaga gets across the river, and tries to catch
you, then you must lay your ear on the ground again, and when you hear
that she is close at hand, throw down the comb. It will become a dense,
dense forest; through that she won't be able to force her way anyhow."
The girl took the towel and the comb and
fled. The dogs would have rent her, but she threw them the rolls, and
they let her go by; the doors would have begun to bang, but she poured
oil on their hinges, and they let her pass through; the birch tree would
have poked her eyes out, but she tied the ribbon around it, and it let
her pass on. And the cat sat down to the loom, and worked away; muddled
everything about, if it didn't do much weaving.
Up came the Baba Yaga to the window, and
asked, "Are you weaving, niece? Are you weaving, my dear?"
"I'm weaving, dear aunt, I'm weaving," gruffly
replied the cat.
The Baba Yaga rushed into the hut, saw that
the girl was gone, and took to beating the cat, and abusing it for not
having scratched the girl's eyes out. "Long as I've served you," said
the cat, "you've never given me so much as a bone; but she gave me bacon."
Then the Baba Yaga pounced upon the dogs, on the doors, on the birch tree,
and on the servant maid, and set to work to abuse them all, and to knock
Then the dogs said to her, "Long as we've
served you, you've never so much as pitched us a burnt crust; but she
gave us rolls to eat."
And the doors said, "Long as we've served
you, you've never poured even a drop of water on our hinges; but she poured
oil on us."
The birch tree said, "Long as I've served
you, you've never tied a single thread around me; but she fastened a ribbon
And the servant maid said, "Long as I've
served you, you've never given me so much as a rag; but she gave me a
The Baba Yaga, bony of limb, quickly jumped
into her mortar, sent it flying along with the pestle, sweeping away the
while all traces of its flight with a broom, and set off in pursuit of
the girl. Then the girl put her ear to the ground, and when she heard
that the Baba Yaga was chasing her, and was now close at hand, she flung
down the towel. And it became a wide, such a wide river! Up came the Baba
Yaga to the river, and gnashed her teeth with spite; then she went home
for her oxen, and drove them to the river. The oxen drank up every drop
of the river, and then the Baba Yaga began the pursuit anew. But the girl
put her ear to the ground again, and when she heard that the Baba Yaga
was near, she flung down the comb, and instantly a forest sprang up, such
an awfully thick one! The Baba Yaga began gnawing away at it, but however
hard she worked, she couldn't gnaw her way through it, so she had to go
But by this time the girl's father had returned
home, and he asked, "Where's my daughter?"
"She's gone to her aunt's," replied her stepmother.
Soon afterwards the girl herself came running
" Where have you been?" asked her father.
"Ah, father!" she said, "mother sent me to
aunt's to ask for a needle and thread to make me a shift. But aunt's a
Baba Yaga, and she wanted to eat me!"
"And how did you get away, daughter?"
"Why like this," said the girl, and explained
the whole matter. As soon as her father had heard all about it, he became
wroth with his wife, and shot her. But he and his daughter lived on and
flourished, and everything went well with them.
Ralston, W. R. S. Russian Folk-Tales. London: Smith, Elder, and Co., 1873.