When I was a little girl, Soviet books were freely available, cheap and very popular in India. I had some too but my favourite was Vasilisa The Beautiful: Russian Fairy Tales.
But this was not the book I had. Mine was this:
Now, in a great many of these fairy tales, the heroine, Vasilisa, in this case, is a stepdaughter and her stepmother and stepsisters ill treat her. In this particular story, they send her to get some tinder or some such thing as they've run out. She has to go ask some from Baba Yaga, the witch with the switch.
This is among the many tales that formed my own private set of values. On her way into the house of the witch, Vasilisa first meets resistance from the gate. She oils it. And then there is one thing after another and when she has to flee the witch all the things that she helped help her back.
Emelya and the Pike was also my favourite. This was about a lazy boy who agrees to throw a pike back into the water. The grateful fish then grants him a boon. He can summon its magic power at any time, saying:
By the Will of the Pike, Do as I like!
I also like The Silver Saucer and the Rosy-Cheeked Apple for the girl in this story gets these things from her father and has a whale of a time with them. Obviously, that then draws the jealousy of her sisters upon her and things transpire. Of course, things work out in the end as it's a fairy tale!
Sister Alyonushka and Brother Ivanushka has, again, a wicked stepmother! I think that, had these tellers of tall fairy tales been alive today, they'd have had a great many slander lawsuits flung at them.
|By Matorin Nikolay Vasilyevich [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons|
The Frog Tsarevna, I now find, is actually Vasilisa the Beautiful - at least that's what I'm forced to believe given what the latter throws up there:
Wee Little Havroshechka was not among my well loved tales but quite a delicious one.
Marya Morevna the Lovely Tsarevna , I know I loved it but the story I've quite forgotten! Rereading it now, I find it absolutely spot on - dark and delicious with Koshchei the Deathless who's not quite as cool as Baba Yaga. But he's got my respect, nevertheless:
|Ivan Bilibin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons|
Ivan - Young of Years, Old of Wisdom has always charmed me but, like Maria, he has not held sway over my memory. Here too it is the villain who's caught my fancy: Zmei Gorinich. And it has The Self-Playing Psaltery, the Dancing Goose and the Glee-Maker Cat.
I would dearly love to reread them all down to the last one, The Seven Simeons - Seven Brave Workingmen.
I hope I have stirred your appetite for these lovely stories. In parting, I leave you with "Twelve Months" which I read in another book.