2016: Baba Yaga

Baba Yaga performances

A long time ago, there was a lively Russian village bordered by a great forest. The forest is the home of Baba Yaga, an old witch who controls fire. 

In the village, vendors and school children are excited to be out on market day, dancing and greeting each other warmly. Vasilisa, a young village girl, has been charged to look after the village lantern, which provides the whole village with fire and warmth. Vasilisa’s father returns from his latest trip and presents her with a new doll. He introduces her to his new wife and her two daughters, whom Vasilisa greets courteously. The girls feign politeness toward Vasilisa. When Father is not looking, one of the step-sisters steals Vasilisa’s doll and they both tease her. Father breaks up the girls and invites them to watch the rest of the village present their dances to the newcomers. When night begins to fall, the villagers approach Vasilisa to light their lamps before heading home. Vasilisa explains to her new sisters that since Baba Yaga controls fire, they must keep the village lantern burning at all times. Uninterested, the sisters steal Vasilisa’s doll again and in the ensuing chase knock over the lantern, blowing out the flame. In desperation, Vasilisa tries to relight the lantern but when she cannot, she decides that the only way to get fire is to travel to Baba Yaga’s hut in the woods. The sisters return the doll to Vasilisa and wave their goodbyes, unsure if Vasilisa will return safely from her journey.

Alone and cold in the woods Vasilisa becomes frightened and realizes she doesn’t know the way to Baba Yaga’s hut. She holds her doll and begins to cry. With a flash of light, the Doll magically comes to life. As they dance together, the Doll tells Vasilisa not to worry because she will help her find the way to Baba Yaga’s house. They spy a group of fireflies led by the Black Knight who agrees to lead them through forest. As the first rays of the sun appear, the Black Knight waves goodbye and points to the White Knight and dew drops, who guide Vasilisa until the sun is all the way up. Finally, the Red Knight appears accompanied by a group of mushrooms. The Red Knight brings Vasilisa the rest of the way to Baba Yaga’s house, arriving just as night falls. 

Baba Yaga appears outside her hut holding a lantern full of fire. She is surrounded by spirits who must do her every bidding. Frightened, Vasilisa hides so that Baba Yaga cannot see her. While Baba Yaga is distracted by her dancing spirits, Vasilisa attempts to grab the lantern but is caught by Baba Yaga. Though she is frightened, Vasilisa bravely points to the lantern full of fire and asks for it. Impressed by her bravery, Baba Yaga tells Vasilisa she can have the fire if she completes three simple tasks within one day’s time: cleaning her hut; collecting wood; and filling her pail with water from the well. Baba Yaga explains that if she fails to finish, she will become one of Baba Yaga’s spirits. Vasilisa agrees, and Baba Yaga leaves. Vasilisa, already tired from a full day of travel, cleans the hut, fills the pail and sets off to gather firewood. While Vasilisa is gathering wood, the spirits undo all of  Vasilisa’s hard work. When Vasilisa returns from the forest the spirits steal the wood she has gathered. Unable to complete the tasks, Vasilisa calls on the Doll for assistance. The Doll magically whips the spirits into shape and they agree to help Vasilisa complete her tasks. When Baba Yaga returns after a full day she is shocked and angered to find all the tasks complete. She reluctantly hands Vasilisa the fire since a promise is a promise.

Joyful with her success, Vasilisa returns to the Village. The Villagers, who have been unable to light any fire since Vasilisa left, rejoice at her return. Vasilisa’s Father and new family welcome her home with relief and happiness. Vasilisa is hailed as a hero for her bravery.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *