Posted on February 26th, 2014 | by Leslie


Wanderling no. 9

Read my full description of the project here –

Wanderling no.9: “Vasilisa Trilogy”

When her mother dies a young girl is gifted with a magic doll who dispenses advice and keeps her healthy and whole, despite her father’s absence, her step-family’s ill wishes, the dangers of the forest and the witch who lives there, and the rigours of impossible tasks.  The blessing she carries ultimately guides her to a happy life, although she must face many obstacles to achieve it.

Story’s country of origin – Russia

Based on the tale “Vasilisa The Beautiful” as retold by Jane Yolen, Favorite Folktales from around the World (New York: Random House, Inc., 1986), pp. 335-342. Based in turn on the version by Aleksandr Afanas’ev, Russian Fairy Tales (New York: Pantheon Books, 1945, 1973), pp. 439-47.

Yolen writes in her notes (p. 489): “A Russian Cinderella variant, this story includes the famous Russian witch Baba Yaga, whose hut moved about the forest on chicken’s legs. Baba Yaga’s mode of transportation is unique in folklore annals: flying in a mortar steered by a pestle.”


When I was but eight years old
Mother gone and growing cold
Left a blessing in her stead
With her dying breath she said:
Vasilisa, take this doll
It will be your wherewithal
Share your troubles, wait and see
Heed the words it says to thee

Father married yet again
Being handsomest of men
To a widow with two girls
Jealousy beneath their curls
Vasilisa, they would say
Each and every single day
Do the work a servant should
More than what you thought you could

Little doll, I’ll gladly give
All my fortune to you
Tell me now how I should live
Advise what I must do:
Feed me morsels from your plate
I will make the crooked straight
Go to sleep, my sweet, believing
Morning’s wiser than the evening

Years went by of much the same
Such a beauty I became
Suitors came and banished, went
My stepmother’s rage was spent:
Vasilisa will remain
‘Til her sisters husbands gain
Not for her a happy life
Find yourselves another wife!


Little doll, I’m so forlorn
Weathered, weary, weak and worn:
Vasilisa, take your ease
Lay beneath the arching trees
I’ll perform your every chore
Even when they cry for more
Faithful as a blessing, sure
Of a mother’s love so pure



Father’s a merchant, he’s going away
Here with my step-family I must stay
I know they hate me
They try to deflate me
But I keep on thriving anyway

Moved to a new house that borders the wood
They send me in gathering, unlikely for my good
Hoping I’ll cry there
Or lie down and die there
But I keep returning back home as I should

Out went the light, so my sisters said:
You, Vasilisa, will go in our stead
Into the woods to the witch’s house
Bring us a fire, you wretched mouse!

I am justly terrified
Of taking up this quest
I would be in danger
Were it not for being blessed
Little doll, with glowing eyes
Help me now to win my prize
I will see tomorrow, yes
If you will tell me what is best

Shaking I entered the forest alone
Walking the path that my doll had shown me
One day, another
Until I discovered
Baba Yaga’s home!

There were skulls on the fence posts with eyes all aflame
Femurs for doorposts and gates of the same
Fie, I can smell her!
(A voice came to tell her)
Now give me the reason you came!
(Or I’ll eat you)

Grandmother, I come to fetch home a light
Grant me a favour this long, dark night:
If you remain I will do as you ask
If you fulfil without fault each task


Every bright morning the doll set to work
No little detail or duty was shirked:
How is this possible?
This is impossible!
Baba said, child, you’ve a curious quirk

I have a secret, a motherly blessing:
Ah, that is the answer and no need for guessing
Be off with you, dear
I’ll have no blessed ones here
But take home a skull with MY blessing

When I arrived they were still in the dark:
Yaga has gifted us all with this spark!
Flaring its eyes the old skull stared them down
‘Til three piles of ashes lay cool on the ground



There is nothing left
For me in this place
Haunting memories
And empty space
So I’ll go to town
Find somewhere to wait
For father’s return
At a future date

A kind-hearted woman
Childless and bent
Offered me shelter
And board without rent
I said, bring me some flax
The best you can buy
For if I sit idle
Of boredom I’ll die

I can tell you what is coming
I know what will happen next
For I can read my future fortune
Like the pages of a text

Spinning so quickly
This thread so fine:
But how will I comb it?
Little doll of mine:
An old comb and a shuttle
And a horse’s mane
I’ll make you a loom
If you bring me the same

So I wove the linen
And bleached it so white
It passed through a needle
Like thread so light:
Grandmother, sell this
Make back what I owe
No never, my child
To the tsar it will go


The tsar was amazed
And accepted the gift
Rewarded the woman
With all she could lift:
He said, make me some shirts!
But his seamstresses said:
You must find someone else
To sew this instead

So the linen was given
Back into my care
And I sewed a dozen fine shirts
Then I declared:
You can take these all back now
To the tsar while I dress
I have known all along
That my work would impress


Down came the tsar
Demanding to meet
The seamstress who had sewn
His shirts so sweet
I said, I am the lady
For whom you seek
His mouth went dry
And his knees went weak

You’ll be my wife!
I will change forever
Your dreary life
I could do far worse
I thought, than this
All thanks to my little doll
I have all I could wish


For more in the series:
Wanderling no.1 – “But Not Too Bold” –
Wanderling no.2 – “Sedna of the Sea” –
Wanderling no.3 – “The Rift” –
Wanderling no.4 – “Red Bird” –
Wanderling no.5 – “The Last Thing I’ll Beg Thee” –
Wanderling no.6 – “Tantalized” –
Wanderling no.7 – “The Cloud Princess” –
Wanderling no.8 – “My Song is Done” –

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