Yaga in her mortar, driving
it along with her pestle
by Ivan Bilibin
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
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.
rode right up to the gates in the mortar,
all the while chanting in a blood- curdling
towards me with your door
your back to the forest
your face to me!
the hut immediately stopped spinning,
turned to face her and stood still.
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.'
know them well, as well as their mother.
they will know me too!' cackled the
Vasilisa's blood almost turned to water
as she saw the fierce look on the old
girl! If I give you a light you must
work to pay for it. If not, I will eat
you for my supper!'
she turned to the gates and shouted:
solid locks, unlock! Open wide, my tall
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
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.
(twelve pages in all)