- 3 -

Everyone in the village loved Vasilisa, who was good and kind, but nobody liked Liliya or her daughters.

Because of this, her stepmother and stepsisters began to hate her and did everything they could to make her life a misery.

They sent her out to work in the fields so that her beautiful white skin would become brown and weather-beaten. They barely gave her enough to eat and kept her working hard all day, hoping that would become thin and scrawny, just like themselves.

But Vasilisa kept her beautiful pale complexion and grew strong and healthy, while they themselves became thinner and more horrible by the day.

How did she manage it? Well, the little wooden doll helped her.

The doll did all the work, while Vasilisa sat in the shade or picked flowers. Whenever the others were watching, she would of course appear to be working.

The doll told her how to prepare ointment from a special herb that would keep her skin from becoming sunburnt and brown. And the doll provided her with healthy meals.

That is how the years passed for Vasilisa, and they would have been unbearable had it not been for the doll.

Her father, who had at last begun to realise that he had perhaps been wrong about Liliya and her daughters, began to spend less and less time at home. When he was around, the three harpies tried at least to be civil to Vasilisa.

Years passed, and the three girls were now growing up. The stepmother wanted to see her two daughters married as soon as possible. But it was not an easy task. Somehow, none of the village boys were interested in her bad-tempered daughters. They only came to see Vasilisa.

Whenever they came around, Liliya would immediately fly into a rage. 'Get out of here!' she would yell, 'the youngest will not be married before the eldest!'

One day she decided to get rid of Vasilisa for good. 'We'll get rid of her somehow,' she told her daughters, 'but we must bide our time.'

It happened that Vasilisa's father had to go away for a long time on business. Vasilisa was full of dread and begged him not to go. She tried to tell him what her stepmother was really like.

'That's just plain silly, Vasilisa, for she is fond of you - she says so all the time. But you don't make it easy for her either. Now I have to go away for a few months, so please try to be nice to Liliya and life will become easier for all of us.'

'Nothing I could do would please her Father.'

'My dear, try your best for my sake.'

'Very well, Father, I will try to for your sake, but come back as soon as you can.'

He kissed Vasilisa, gave her his blessing, then said goodbye to the others and departed.

to page 4
(twelve pages in all)