Red Horseman by Ivan Bilibin
went inside the hut and the old witch
threw herself down beside the stove
'Take everything out of the oven and
put it on the table.' Not even knowing
where the oven was, Vasilisa hesitated
for a moment.
up, I'm ravenous!' screeched the old
Vasilisa ran and took the food from
the oven. There was enough meat to feed
a dozen men. She brought a barrel of
mead, beer and red wine and the old
crone swallowed it all at once, making
a terrible gulping noise as it dripped
down her hairy chin.
belching loudly, she began to tear the
meat apart with her long gnarled fingers.
shuddered as she watched the old witch
in a feeding frenzy, crunching the large
bones into splinters with her terrible
She swallowed the lot, leaving nothing
but a crust of bread, a drop of cabbage
soup and a lump of half-chewed fat,
which she spat out onto her plate.
When she was finished eating, she rubbed
a boney hand over her greasy chin, stretched
herself out on the stove and said:
to me well now, and do as I tell you.
Tomorrow, you must clean the house from
top to bottom, weed the yard and cook
for me. Then take the wheat from my
storehouse and pick all the bad grains
out of it. Do not forget even one grain
or I will eat you for my supper.'
With that Baba-Yaga turned her long
nose towards the ceiling and began to
snore loudly. Vasilisa tiptoed over
to the stove and stood listening for
a moment to make sure she was really
asleep. The heat near the stove was
stifling. 'How can she lie on that hot
stove?' she wondered to herself.
Stepping outside into the cool air,
she took the doll from her pocket, and
gave it some of the left over food.
'Eat up little doll and listen to my
tale of woe! I'm trapped in the house
of the old witch and if I don't get
the work done, she will eat me. Tell
me what to do!'
eyes of the doll began to light up and
it said: 'Don't be afraid, Vasilisa.
I will take care of you. Say your prayers,
and go to sleep. The morning is wiser
than the evening.'
Vasilisa felt her fears slipping away
from her and she went back inside. She
said her prayers, and then curled up
on the floor as far away from the witch
as she could and fell into a deep sleep.
she woke early next morning, it was
still dark. She looked out of the window
and saw the white horseman galloping
past the hut, and the sky suddenly became
bright. The fiery sockets of the skulls
flickered once and went out.
old witch was already outside; she let
out an ear-splitting whistle and the
great iron mortar and pestle came rushing
towards her and the broom flew into
her hand. As she climbed into her mortar,
the red horseman came galloping past,
leaped up over the fence of bones, and
at that very moment the sun rose.
(twelve pages in all)