Baba Yaga by Ivan Bilibin
Baba Yaga by Ivan Bilibin

The Tsarevnas of the Underground Kingdom

Page 10

As he approached the hut, he saw that it was spinning around very fast, all the while screeching and creaking as it spun. The ear-splitting noise, combined with the spinning of the hut made him feel quite light-headed. Suddenly, not quite knowing where the words came from, he began to chant:

                    'Little hut, Little hut,

                    Turn your door to me

                    And let me come in!'

Suddenly the hut stopped spinning, the noise gradually became less and with one last long creak the hut shuddered slowly to a halt. The chicken legs lowered themselves until the hut, which was still vibrating slightly, was at ground level. The door, which was facing him now, suddely swung open with a long drawn-out sigh.

'Now how on earth did I manage that!' was his only thought as he entered the hut.

He went inside and saw Baba Yaga lying stretched out on her ancient brick stove, her long nose almost touching the ceiling while she snored (not very melodiously, I'm afraid). But from one moment to the next, she pointed her long nose in his direction and roared out in a terrible voice:

'I smell a Russian bone! What are you doing here?'

Shaking with fright, Ivan glanced around and realising she meant him, stammered out:

'The tall sorcerer sent me to ask for the eagle to carry me back to dear Mother Russia.'

'Russian bone, go out to the garden and find the woman there guarding the seven doors. Get the key from her and open them. When you open the last one the eagle will begin to beat its wings. If you are not afraid you may climb onto its back and fly away. Do not forget to take plenty of meat for my pet!'

'What garden? What is she talking about?' Ivan was thinking to himself as he stepped outside, for he he knew there hadn't been a garden in the forest.

To his surprise, the lakes had disappeared and he found himself walking in a well-tended herb garden which was surrounded by a wall. Seven solid oak doors were set into the ancient wall, with a fierce-looking woman guarding them. Although his heart sank at the sight of her, he thought 'Well, if I faced Baba Yaga, and nothing happened to me, surely she can't be any worse!'

But when he came within a few feet of her, she suddenly began to wield a large sword and the wild look in her eye made his blood run cold. He shouted out: 'Baba Yaga told me to get the key!' To his relief, the woman immediately threw down her sword and bade him welcome. She brought him some food and drink and provisions for the journey.

Ivan carried out Baba Yaga's instructions. He climbed onto the eagle's back with as much meat as he could carry and flew away. After a while, he began to feel hungry, so he decided to eat a little of the meat himself. 'After all, he thought, 'there's more than enough for both of us!'

When they had flown for some time the eagle turned its beady yellow eye upon him. With trembling hands, Ivan held out a piece of meat towards it.

With its cruel beak the eagle snatched the meat from Ivan's hand and swallowed it down with one gulp. This was repeated several times during the flight, and each time Ivan was terrified that the razor-sharp beak would take off his hand.

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