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Baba Yaga by Ivan Bilibin
Baba Yaga in her mortar, driving it along with her pestle
by Ivan Bilibin


The forest became full of a terrible din; the trees began to groan, the branches creaked as if a violent storm were coming, and the old witch Baba Yaga came crashing through the undergrowth in her great iron mortar.

With a pestle in her right hand she urged the mortar along, while her left hand was busy sweeping away the trail behind her with a broomstick.

A host of spirits came in her wake, sending up a terrible howling and screeching until she approached the gates, where they left her and flew silently back into the forest.

She rode right up to the gates in the mortar, all the while chanting in a blood- curdling voice:

                'Little hut, little hut
                Turn towards me with your door
                Turn your back to the forest
                And your face to me!

And the hut immediately stopped spinning, turned to face her and stood still.

Then, to Vasilisa's horror, she thrust her long nose into the air and sniffing all around her, shrieked:

'Well, well - I can smell a Russian bone or two! Who is it? Show yourself!'

Vasilisa, her legs not quite obeying her as they should, shuffled out into the clearing and stammered:

'It's me - Vasilisa.'

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

'My stepmother's daughters sent me to get a light from you.'

'I know them well, as well as their mother. And they will know me too!' cackled the old crone.

Vasilisa's blood almost turned to water as she saw the fierce look on the old witch's face.

'Listen girl! If I give you a light you must work to pay for it. If not, I will eat you for my supper!'

Then she turned to the gates and shouted:

'My solid locks, unlock! Open wide, my tall gates!'

Immediately the jaw-locks unlocked themselves and the gates swung wide open. Baba Yaga screamed at Vasilisa to follow her and then rode into the yard whistling so loudly that Vasilisa thought her eardrums would burst.

Her hands clamped tightly over her ears, she ran behind Baba Yaga into the yard, while the gates crashed shut on her heels, and the jaw-locks snapped together again with a loud gnashing of iron teeth.

3 Crows by Bilibin

to page 8
(twelve pages in all)