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- 9 -

Baba Yaga's hut by Ivan Bilibin

Soon afterwards she entered a dark forest. She wandered on and on and it became darker than ever. The tops of the trees seemed to touch the sky. The path was completely overgrown and she had to keep going around fallen trees.

Just as she was thinking she would have to turn back, she came to a clearing in the forest. In the middle of the clearing was a hut on chicken's legs, which spun around and around.

'I'm so tired and hungry,'she thought, 'if only it would stop spinning!'

She watched it for a few minutes until she almost felt dizzy from the spinning and then she said the first words that came into her head:

      'Little hut! Little hut!

      Turn your back on the forest floor

        and turn to face me with your door!

      I want to rest and break some bread

      I want to sleep and rest my head!'


by Ivan Bilibin

 

The hut stopped spinning around and stood with its door side facing towards her. She went inside und saw the witch Baba Yaga stretched out on the stove, her long nose pointing towards the ceiling.

 

The witch Baba Yaga
Click here to see Baba Yaga

 

'Where are you going to, my pretty one?' croaked the witch in a voice older than time itself.

'I am searching for Finist the Bright Falcon.'

'Do you come of your own free will or have you been sent?'

'I come of my own free will.'

'And why are you here?' went on the witch.

'Finist the Bright Falcon was my love, but my sisters hurt him and he flew away. Now I am looking for him.'

'You have a long journey ahead of you, my pretty one.

by Ivan Bilibin

I know Finist the Bright Falcon of the rainbow feathers. He is living on the blue ocean in the three-times nine kingdom and is due to be married. But do not despair - follow your dream and I will help you!

And now you must have something to eat.'

Although the hut looked small from the outside, when Raisa stepped inside she had the feeling of being in an enormous hall. It was packed full of all kinds of paraphernalia, some of which she couldn't even give a name to.

The first thing she noticed in the hut were some twisted, strangely shaped tree roots, many of which looked as if they had faces.There was a pile of what she at first thought were rocks and stones, but when she looked a little closer, she realised that they were crystals and semi-precious stones.

Some pieces of amber lay in a heap on the floor, beside one of the tree roots. Raisa took up a piece to look at it, and saw a large beetle perfectly preserved inside the amber. When she put it back down again she could have sworn that the tree root beside it had changed position.

'I must have touched it with my foot,' she thought, although she could not remember having done so. Afterwards when she looked over at it again, both the tree root and the pieces of amber were no longer there. 'I must have just imagined it,' she thought to herself.

Spider's webs adorned the walls and ceiling.Some wheat sheaves hung over the door. The shelves were lined with ancient books and bottles of potions. Dried herbs hung down from the walls.

There were jars full of the strangest looking creatures, Raisa could not tell whether they were alive or dead.

Sometimes she felt as if the things inside the jars were watching her and for a moment she thought she saw something like eyes following her. But whenever she looked around at them they didn't seem to be moving at all. If turned away, out of the corner of her eye she thought she could see something moving in the jars: something watching her.

'Ah, I see you are admiring my jars with the thousand eyes, my dear, take care you do not look too long at them, they may want you to join them,' said Baba Yaga. Raisa quickly looked away.

There was an old mirror on the wall, which seemed to have a swirling dark mist inside it. Although there was no one standing in front of it, she thought at odd moments that she could see some strange reflections moving in it. 'Take care to keep your eyes off the Mirror of Reality, my dear, it is the one thing that you should beware of while you are under my protection.'

Raisa shuddered and quickly looked away, wondering in which direction it was safe to look.

In front of the large oven was a table and two armchairs with carved bear paws as arm rests. Raisa sank exhausted into one of them. The armchair seemed to mould itself to her body, as if it were holding her in its bear arms. It was a strange sensation, but very comfortable.

When they at last sat down to eat, a toad crawled slowly over to them and sat under the table, where Baba Yaga threw him scraps of food every now and then. Baba Yaga set food in front of her. There was freshly baked bread, mushrooms and red berries.

Raisa had kefir, a jogurt-like drink, with honey, while Baba Yaga drank a large casket of dark red wine. Raisa was amazed at the quantities of food and drink that the old woman consumed.

A large black cat came up to the witch and rubbed itself against her boney legs. 'Her legs are as thin as a skeleton's!' thought Raisa to herself.

 

The witch Baba Yaga by Ivan Bilibin
Baba Yaga

 

'I'm not called Baba Yaga Boney Legs for nothing you know,' the the old crone suddenly cackled.

'How on earth did she know what I was thinking? She must have seen me looking at her legs,' Raisa was thinking to herself, when seemingly for no reason at all Baba Yaga went off into another cackle of laughter.

After they had eaten their fill, Baba Yaga gave her a bed for the night where she slept soundly.

At sunrise, Baba Yaga woke her and said: 'This is my present for you: a silver spindle and golden spinning wheel. When you spin with it, it will spin you a thread of pure gold.

When you come to the blue ocean, in the three times nine kingdom, the bride of Finist the Bright Falcon will be out walking on the beach. When you see her sit down and spin. She will want to buy the spindle from you, but do not take any money for it. Instead ask her to let you see Finist the Bright Falcon.

Go now to Baba Yaga, my middle sister. She will teach you well.'

'But how will I know how to find her?' asked Raisa.

Baba Yaga took a spool of thread, threw in on the ground in front of Raisa and told her: 'Follow this wherever it rolls. It will be your guide.'

 

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