Waiting for Baba Yaga2019-01-17T02:25:16+00:00

Waiting for Baba Yaga

By Lola Wilcox

Cast of Characters

Vasalisa, the heroine
Little Doll
Step-mother Borislava (Russian for famous battle)
Elder step-sister Katenka (Torture)
Younger step-sister Manya (Bitter)
Messenger
Musician (also voice of Skull, can be voice of the Little Doll, can be chorus)

Baba Yaga, the witch
Linen Shop Owner
Tsar
Red, White, Black Horsemen (could be dancers)
Six White Hands (maybe mimes)

Act One: Home

(Campbell’s Wheel: the characters are at Home in the ordinary world, in ordinary time. The Call comes from the Tsar. The Heroine leaves Home, headed through the Gate In.)

Scene One: Morning at home.

(Musician plays an invocation prelude, perhaps including the theme for each character. Vasalisa enters with imaginary scrub brush and pail.)

Vasalisa: (Singing as she scrubs the steps of the house.)

Now night and sleep are ended.
My next task is our meal.
Step-family will soon call.
Thus my life turns on Time’s vast wheel.

The sun rises on all the world
And on me, scrubbing here.
Shine like the sun, house steps,
And welcome any who come near.

Manya: (Entering with an imaginary hairbrush.) Vasalisa, here’s my brush. Put up my hair. And not like you did yesterday – today I don’t want all those complicated braids. I want swirls lifted….

Vasalisa: Manya, I’m scrubbing the steps.

Manya: I can see that, Vasalisa the Bumpkin. You do the steps every day. At this moment my hair is far more important. A messenger from the Tsar is coming to our village today.

Katenka: (Entering with an imaginary, very long scarf.) Vasalisa, I want to look so beautiful the Tsar’s messenger tells him about me. Here’s my best lace scarf. Take it and drape it around my shoulders. It’s one of the few things you do well.

Manya: She’s brushing my hair, Katenka.

Katenka: Not any more, Manya. She’s draping my scarf. I’m the elder step-sister so I come first. (They squabble.)

Borislava: (Entering, quite angry.) Vasalisa, why are your stepsisters arguing? This argument is all your fault, Vasalisa the Bothersome.

Manya: Mother, she isn’t brushing my hair.

Katenka: Mother, she’s not draping my scarf.

Borislava: Oh, pity me! Why is such a useless girl as you my step-daughter? Did your mother teach you nothing before she died! Vasalisa, you may stay in my house only as long as you do your work!

Vasalisa: This is my father’s house.

Borislava: Your father is not in this house, Vasalisa the Brash. I am.

Katenka: Your father went away on such a long journey that all wonder if he’ll ever come back. Maybe he left to get away from you, Vasalisa the Boring!

Manya: When your father married our mother, he should have warned us about you before she married him. Brush my hair, Vasalisa! Now!

Katenka: Drape my scarf, Vasalisa! I’m first!

Borislava: You will work now, Vasalisa.

Vasalisa: Why are you all so angry?

All three: We are not angry!

Vasalisa: You are shouting at me. My mother taught me a house is not the place for anger like yours. A home should be a place of peace.

Borislava: Vasalisa, you will not criticize me nor your stepsisters. Not ever – do you understand? Now brush the tops of my shoes.

Katenka: I want to look my very best. Everyone will be there to listen to the Tsar’s messenger.

Manya: And I want to look better than you! A messenger does not come from the ruler of all our land very often.

Vasalisa: I was hoping to hear the Tsar’s messenger also.

Borislava: You will not be going anywhere… not with today’s work undone. Besides, there’s nothing the Tsar’s messenger has to say that you need to hear.

(Brushing and scarf tasks are completed by Vasalisa. They leave.)

Vasalisa: (Takes her Little Doll from her pocket.) Oh, Little Doll, what shall I do next? You are my mother’s blessing. I remember the moment she gave me to you just before she died. She said if I give you little things to eat, you would be a help to me when I’m troubled.

(Takes a small cake from her other pocket, feeds the doll.) Here is the best bit of cake from last night’s dinner. Little Doll, what my mother said is true, and I’m very grateful for your help. Look at all the work I have to do! Clean the kitchen, sweep the floors, wash the sheets, prepare dinner, make the beds …. I don’t think I’ll get to hear what the Tsar has to say today.

Little Doll: Vasalisa, you have cleaned the kitchen already. If you wash the sheets they can dry while you go to hear the messenger. The others will stay to talk to every one else, and you can sweep the floors when you return.

Vasalisa: This is possible! I could steal away to hear the Tsar’s message, and be back before any one knows I’m gone. I just have to stay out of sight. Oh, but what about preparing the dinner?

Little Doll: Take one small coin from the money your father gave you before he left. You can buy a dinner ready-made.

Vasalisa: I’ve never touched that money.

Little Doll: The Tsar’s messenger has never come before. You can ask the Linen-Lady where to buy the dinner.

Vasalisa: Yes! The Linen Lady was a friend to my mother and is a friend to me. She will help me. (She puts the Little Doll back in her pocket.)

Under this stone before the fire
A gift without a key.
Hidden from all others
Is money Father gave to me.

(Vasalisa replaces the stone, and exits.)

Scene 2: The Call – the Tsar’s messenger.

(Borislava, Katenka, Manya enter, watching for the messenger, who enters after a minute. Vasalisa appears just in time to hear the message, and leaves immediately after. They do not see her come or go.)

Messenger: (Reading from an imaginary scroll.)

A message from the Tsar, our country’s ruler, on whom the sun rises and sets. Listen well to the Tsar’s words:

My people, the time has come for me to marry. I seek a Tsarina, a woman to help me care for this country. I am looking for a bold, bright, brave, intelligent, industrious, and independent woman. In the near future I will be giving a number of dance parties to which all eligible women will be invited. This will allow me to meet all possible wives, and to choose the one most suited for the work ahead.

Borislava: The Tsar is looking for a bride. This is an opportunity for one of you to be Tasrina. You can be a queen. Think of it!

Katenka: It should be me. I’m eldest. And I’m bold.

Manya: It should be me. I’m … uh … I’m prettiest.

Katenka: You, pretty? Vasalisa is pretty, not you. In spite of her doing all the housework, the young men all notice her.

Borislava: It’s true! Even with the ashes of the fireplace all over her, people say “How industrious your step-daughter is! How intelligent! How independent! She will marry soon!”

Katenka: We don’t stand a chance of being noticed if Vasalisa attends the Tsar’s dance parties.

Manya: Oh, mother, what are we going to do? I want to marry the Tsar! You have to hide Vasalisa somewhere.

Borislava: Never worry – we will plan ahead. I have an idea about how to get Vasalisa out of our way. (They exit.)

Scene 3: The Gate In – Going away to the Witch

(Borislava enters, goes to imaginary fireplace.)

Borislava: Here is the fireplace with Vasalisa’s banked fire for the night. If I pull the banked fire apart, the coals will go out.

(Borislava pulls fire apart, sits in an imaginary chair and begins to knit by the imaginary fireplace. The two step-sisters enter, sit on imaginary chairs, and begin to pin lace.)

Vasalisa: (Enters with imaginary sewing basket.) I’ve finished with the evening chores. I’ll sit down with you by the fireplace and do the mending. (Silence.) Tell me what you heard the Tsar’s massager say.

Katina: He said the Tsar will be looking for a wife.

Manya: He will be giving a series of dancing parties.

Vasalisa: Oh, dancing parties. I love to dance.

Borislava: But you won’t be going. He wouldn’t be interested in a girl covered with ashes.

Katenka: It’s getting on towards night.

Manya: It’s going to be very cold.

Vasalisa: Stir up the fire. I banked the coals this morning, and it’s ready for us.

Borislava: The coals have gone out.

Vasalisa: (Going to the fireplace.) My mother taught me how to bank the fire as a child – my fires never go out!

Borislava: You can see that this fire is out. (All gather at the fireplace.)

Vasalisa: I don’t understand how… look, someone has pulled it all apart. There’s not even an ember for a light.

Katenka: You will have to go somewhere and get a light.

Vasalisa: It’s getting dark. When you saw there was no fire, why didn’t you ask me then to go get a light?

Borislava: I am knitting. I can see well enough by the clicking of my needles.

Katenka/Manya: We are pinning lace, and can see by the pricking of our pins.

Borislava: Go to Baba Yaga and get a light.

Vasalisa: Go to Baba Yaga? The witch that eats human beings? In the center of the forest? In the dark?

Borislava: There’s a little daylight left. Leave now.

(Vasalisa moves downstage until she’s by herself, takes her doll from her pocket, feeds her.)

Vasalisa: Here’s some bread from the Linen-Lady. She is generous to give it to me. Little Doll, what shall we do!

Little Doll: Go to Baba Yaga!

(All exit. Musician plays what suggests the dark forest and Baba Yaga.)

Act Two: Baba Yaga’s House

(In Campbell’s Wheel the heroine must find and enter the Gate In, and begin a journey through the Underworld, the Temenos.)

Scene One: The Forest (Temenos)

(Musician plays an eerie forest theme, and perhaps a Baba Yaga theme.)

Vasalisa: (Enters, feeds the Little Doll.) Here is a little bit of rolled cabbage from their dinner last night. How are we going to find our way through the forest to Baba Yaga?

Little Doll: Is cabbage your only food?

Vasalisa: I already gave you the Linen Lady’s bread. The cabbage roll is all that was left when they finished eating. (The Little Doll eats.)

Little Doll: I think journey’s begin by putting one foot in front of the other. Just walk into the forest, Vasalisa.

(They walk, counter-clockwise, for a little while, and continue to walk while talking. Maybe they have to go over a fallen tree or under low branches.)

Vasalisa: Little Doll, I don’t know why I was sent on this journey to Baba Yaga for a light.

Little Doll: Your step-mother Borislava put the fire out so she could get you out of the way. She wants one of her daughters to marry the Tsar.

Vasalisa: I don’t think the Tsar would marry either of them.

Little Doll: Certainly not with you there. The Tsar is no fool.

Vasalisa: Well, he won’t marry me either.

Little Doll: We will see what we will see. We’re not at the end of this story.

Vasalisa: It’s wicked to send me to a witch that might eat me up! But you said “Go to Baba Yaga!”, and so here we are, in the deep forest, looking for Baba Yaga’s house, as night approaches.

Little Doll: Yes, I did say “Go to Baba Yaga”. (They travel on awhile.)

Vasalisa: These trees are very tall, and old. What’s bad is there is no way to tell where we are.

Little Doll: What’s good is that you are able to walk among them without tripping over a lot of bushes and dead trees. (Vasalisa trips.) Spoken too soon. (They laugh.)

Vasalisa: It was nearly dark when we set out. Twilight lasted a long time. But now night falls around us. Oh, look! There is a horseman, all in black, on a black horse, with a black flag! Oh, hello! Do you know the way to Baba Yaga’s house? Hello! Wait. Please. (Pause.) No help from the black horseman. Oh, Little Doll, what shall we do?

Little Doll: Find a tall tree with a thick branch. You can climb up, sit in the branch’s fork, and be safe.

Vasalisa: Oh, I will! Here, I’ll put you in my pocket so you are safe also. (She mimes climbing the tree, finding the forked branch, settling in, sleeping. Musician plays an interlude, then early bird songs. Vasalisa wakes and stretches carefully. She takes the doll from her pocket.)

Look, Little Doll, the sun is just beginning to rise. See there among the tree branches! All white. And look- a White Horseman! Dressed all in white, on a white horse, with a white flag! Oh, hello! Do you know the way to Baba Yaga’s house? Hello! Wait. Please. (Pause.) No help from the white horseman.

(Vasalisa climbs carefully down from the fork in the tree.)

Oh, look, Little Doll, the sun is up. The sky is red with fire. And look – a Red Horseman! Dressed all in red, on a red horse, with a red flag! Oh, hello! Do you know the way to Baba Yaga’s house? Hello! Wait. Please. (Pause.) No help from the red horseman.

(Vasalisa travels slowly in an exaggerated way to give a sense of time passing. Musician accompanies her. She may come to a log, and mime crawling over it, or discover other obstacles on the path.)

(Slowly, talking to the Little Doll as she travels.) Step-mother Borislava told me to get fire from Baba Yaga. Baba Yaga lives in a house that stands on one big chicken leg, and turns in a circle.

Also – every one knows Baba Yaga eats human beings, and then puts their skulls on the posts of her porch. I don’t want to be eaten up! I don’t want my skull on the porch of her house!

(Vasalisa looks up, startled, because she sees Baba Yaga’s house.)

Look, Little Doll. There’s a clearing in the forest – no trees! And in the middle of the clearing is a wooden hut, with a porch all around it, and on every porch post is a skull! Oh, what shall we do!

(Vasalisa searches in her pockets for something to feed the little doll, drops it, finds something to feed her on the ground – all mimed.)

Little Doll: The hut is standing on one chicken leg, turning slowly as the sun passes by. This is Baba Yaga’s house! Very good, Vasalisa! You found it!

Vasalisa: There’s a door. But no stairs. Here’s a riddle for us: How can we get to the door? How does Baba Yaga get inside?

Little Doll: She flies through the air, standing in her mortar.

Vasalisa: She stands in her mixing bowl for her healing or poisonous plants.

Little Doll: She stands in her mortar steering with her pestle in one hand.

Vasalisa: Her pestle is like an oar for her boat, a stick grinding her mortar.

Little Doll: And with her other hand she sweeps the sky with her broom.

Vasalisa: She sweeps away all traces of her passage with her broom.

Little Doll: Baba Yaga travels in her mortar, with her pestle, her broom.

Vasalisa: Well, we don’t have these things to fly onto the porch! I’ll try to leap up on it! (As the house turns, she makes several attempts before pulling herself onto the imaginary porch.) Here we are. We are on the porch with all these skulls. Human skulls. (Looking.) Maybe a few that are not human. Maybe…

Little Doll: Vasalisa, go knock at the door.

Vasalisa: (Musician sounds knocks, waits, sounds again.) There’s no answer. What shall we do? We could go back home. But we have no light. I guess we’ll go in, and wait until the witch comes home. I hope she doesn’t eat me before I tell her why I’ve come.

This door is made of human bones, and the lock of human teeth. (Vasalisa mimes opening a very large, heavy door. Vasalisa goes in, looks about. This door is a fixed place, now, and Baba Yaga also will come in and out of it. It’s not a heavy door for Baba Yaga.)

There is a lot to be done here – just look at the kitchen! Just look at this fireplace – ashes everywhere! Do you think a witch would mind too much if we clean what needs to be cleaned? I’d rather work than wait around worrying about where she is and when she’ll come home. Maybe I’ll see if there is something I can make for her supper instead of eating me!

(Singing as she cleans the hut.)

Now ash is gone and new fire laid.
My next task is this place.
Then make new bread and soup,
Before we see the witch’s face.

(We see Vasalisa clean the fireplace, then the kitchen, then finds things to make bread and a soup. Musician accompanies with little tunes for different tasks.)

Well, the kitchen is done, and new bread rising. Let’s see what can be done about her bed. Oh, faugh! What a smell. Quick, into the wash bucket with these sheets. We’ll hang them outside to dry.

(Vasalisa goes back out the mimed heavy door she established. She hangs the sheets.)

Vasalisa: All these skulls! Just look at all the spider webs. Here, let’s use this soapy sheet water to wash the skulls on the porch. Some of these skulls have been sitting on these posts for a very long time. Oh, and some of them have not! This looks like a very new one. Oh, dear.

The sun rises on all the world
And on me, scrubbing here.
Shine like the sun, white skulls,
And welcome any who come near.

(She turns and goes back inside, and sweeps, then dances with an imaginary broom through the house, out the door to the porch. Coming back in she gets a rag and dusts Baba Yaga’s imaginary black wooden chair. It’s very large. Musician plays Baba Yaga’s theme. When she finishes dusting, she sits down on it.)

What a big, black, heavy chair! Little doll! Here we are in the great witch’s hut, daring to sit on the edge of her huge wooden chair. Look at the rosy flames crackling; I make such beautiful fires. It’s because I clean out all the ashes and soot, and start each fire from the cinders with fresh kindling. It’s how my mother taught me. My stepmother and her two daughters have not lit a fire since they came to live with us. Talk to me! Little Doll! (Pauses, then gets an apple from the kitchen area.) Here’s an apple. I hope the witch won’t mind you eating it.

Little Doll: You’ve cleaned the whole hut, top to bottom. Washed the bed linens – whew! That took some doing. The house is swept clean. The bread is baked; the soup simmers over a new fire. And look, there is Baba Yaga’s sewing box!

Vasalisa: Right here by this pile of mending. These socks have holes in both the toes and heels. And just look at this jacket! See these torn-out elbows? And the back seam is out. This skirt is torn in so many places, and it needs a completely new hem. And here is a needle and thread. The witch’s needle, so delicate and thin!

(Vasalisa threads the imaginary needle, and begins to sew an imaginary skirt of vast size.)

Vasalisa: (Singing as she sews.)

Little needle, start to go –
Amazing needle, to and fro.
Thin, metal – no bone this.
With it I never miss a stitch!

(Stitches awhile, then repeats song.)

Oh, I’m so tired of waiting I can hardly keep my eyes open. But I’m afraid to close my eyes. What if Baba Yaga returns while I am sleeping! Yet, as afraid of her as I am, I wish she would come. Then I could explain what I’m doing here and she could give me what I need or eat me or … at least we could get this over with.

Little Doll: It’s better to know your fate than to wonder about it.

(Pause. Vasalisa goes to look out the window.)

It is taking forever for Baba Yaga to get here. Where do great witches go in the daytime anyway? She’s probably taking a nap, waiting for dark to hop in her mortar and fly here, steering by pestle, sweeping the air behind with her broom. (She demonstrates.)

Oh, for goodness sake – I’m glad I got up to see if she was coming. I missed the entire side of this window! I’ll just get one of the wet rags I hung by the skulls to dry. And here’s a streak on this window – there, finished. It’s almost dark. Oh, look! There’s the black horseman riding by, all dressed in black, with his black flag. Oh, night is coming!

Wait! What’s that sound? It’s the stirring of pestle to mortar. It’s the sweeping of a broom! She’s coming! Quick, little doll, into my pocket! She may not like that I’ve come into her house. I’ll curtsy, but not bow my head.

Scene 2: Baba Yaga arrives

Baba Yaga: Strong bolts, unlock! Open up, my wide gate! What – already open! Fie, fie! I smell a human smell! I hear a human voice! Who is here?

Vasalisa: I am Vasalisa. Good evening, Baba Yaga.

Baba Yaga: Where are you?

Vasalisa: Here by the door of human bones, whose lock is human teeth.

Baba Yaga: Ah, faugh! Go put away my broom, my mortar and pestle, Vasalisa. Then come back into my house – this time with my invitation.

(Vasalisa goes out the door, puts the things away, comes back and knocks.)

Baba Yaga: Enter at your peril.

Vasalisa: I put the broom, mortar and pestle on the far end of the porch.

Baba Yaga: Although you first entered my house without my invitation, I see you made yourself useful. Why did you clean my house, and prepare the dinner?

Vasalisa: It’s what I do at home. Can I do less for you, great witch? Besides, I must say this house really needed it.

Baba Yaga: You did not come here to clean my house. What do you want from me?

Vasalisa: My step-mother and step-sisters sent me to get a light for our house fire.

Baba Yaga: Yes, I know those sisters. And I know their mother also. Do you always do their bidding?

Vasalisa: I do what I must. And the fire needs a light.

Baba Yaga: Sending you here is their trick. Did you think I would give you the light for free?

Vasalisa: I have noticed that not much comes without labor. I am prepared to work for the light.

Baba Yaga: If you live here, and do the tasks I give you to do, you will earn the light you require. Should you fail, I will eat you up and your skull can join those on the posts on my porch, the ones that you scrubbed so there aren’t any cobwebs.

Vasalisa: I’ll work for you and do what is needed.

Baba Yaga: Get a light from the skulls. Go to the door, and one will come into your hand. Say to it “Fire up!” Bring it in, put it on the table, and serve the meal you prepared. I will sit here in my chair.

Vasalisa: (Goes out, gets imaginary skull, comes back in.) The very first skull came to my hand. I said “Fire up!” and the light inside the skull began to burn. I’ll just put the skull on this corner of the table, and serve your dinner.

Baba Yaga: You are serving me cabbage soup? And fresh bread?

Vasalisa: It’s what I found to make.

Baba Yaga: (Slurping.) I’ve finished. Serve yourself the last of the soup and you can have this end piece of your bread loaf.

Vasalisa: Thank you.

Baba Yaga: It’s given to you freely, as what you gave me was given freely… a proper exchange.

Vasalisa: That’s more than I would have had at home. There I am begrudged even my existence.

Baba Yaga: When you don’t come back those stepsisters will think I have eaten you.

Vasalisa: You may yet eat me.

Baba Yaga: With you gone, your stepmother will try to arrange marriages for them both.

Vasalisa: I wish her the luck of it.

Baba Yaga: (Baba Yaga laughs.) You may make yourself a bed before the fire. In the morning I will give you the first of three tasks. If you fail at any one…

Vasalisa: You will eat me up! Good night, Baba Yaga.

Baba Yaga: (Off-stage, snoring.)

Vasalisa: Little Doll, come from my pocket. Here is fresh cabbage soup I saved you, and a soft piece of my bread. Aid me in my need! Baba Yaga will give me a hard task tomorrow, and threatens to eat me up if I don’t do it.

Little Doll: Fear not, Vasalisa the Bold! Say your prayers. Go to sleep. The morning is wiser than the evening.

Act Three: The Road of Trials

(In Campbell’s Journey, the Road of Trials offers a series of tests that encourage the heroine to develop character. The Nigredo finds the heroine totally alone,
waiting for her transformation to be completed.
)

Musican: Musical interlude. The morning comes. Vasalisa rises, stands at the window, looking out. Baba Yaga has vast snores.

Vasalisa: There goes the White Horseman riding by. Now we don’t need the skull light. How to turn it out? Skull, go out! No. Fire Down! Ah. That’s it. I’ll just put it back on the fence until we need it again. (Does so, managing the heavy door.)

There goes the Red Horseman riding by. Full light is with us now. (Re-enters hut.)

Baba Yaga: (Enters.) You survived your first night in Baba Yaga’s house. Are you surprised to be alive?

Vasalisa: I am always glad to be alive. It is a beautiful day and I am here. What tasks do you have for me, great witch?

Baba Yaga: You have the cleaning and cooking as you did yesterday. But beyond those daily tasks you have wheat to separate. Take the wheat out of the bin, and grain by grain sort the living seed from the dead. I will be about my business, but will return with the black horseman. (Exits through the heavy door easily.)

Vasalisa: Little Doll, come from my pocket. Here is some of the toast from breakfast.

Little Doll: The food is a lot better here.

Vasalisa: Aid me in my need! Baba Yaga has given me a hard task!

Little Doll: Not so hard if we get right to it. As you clean look for a big bowl for water and screens for drying. It won’t take long to clean the house because you did such a good job yesterday.

Vasalisa: Here’s a big bowl. If I take a screen from the window, will that do?

Little Doll: Yes. Put the grain in the bowl and cover it with water. What is living sinks, what is dead floats. We will pour off the chaff, keep the live grain, and put the screens by the fire to dry the grain.

(Mime the tasks; time passes.)

Vasalisa: The living grains are dry and in the bin. We finished this task!

Little Doll: And just in time. Listen, you can hear her coming, mortar and pestle, her broom sweeping the sky.

Vasalisa: Quick, into my pocket, Little Doll.

Baba Yaga: Strong bolts, unlock! Open up, my wide gate! Oh, Vasalisa! You are still here.

Vasalisa: Yes. I have worked for you today.

Baba Yaga: And did you finish the tasks I gave you?

Vasalisa: I have. Here is the clean house, and dinner. I’m serving by the light of the skull’s fire. (Serves her at the table.) And here is the living grain. (Brings her some from the bin.)

Baba Yaga: Looking at my house I see nothing to complain about. (Sifts through the grain bag.) The sorting of the grain is well done. It’s useful to be able to tell what is living from what is dead. Very well, then. My faithful servants, my dear friends, grind my wheat!

Vasalisa: Oh! Three pairs of white hands! They appeared out of nowhere! They are taking the wheat!

Baba Yaga: They will grind it into flour. There is the black horseman! I have eaten my dinner, and now I will sleep. In the morning I will give you the second task. If you fail it…(Exits.)

Vasalisa: You will eat me up. (Takes her doll from her pocket, feeds her.) Tomorrow Baba Yaga will give me a second task, and threatens to eat me up if I don’t do it.

Little Doll: Fear not, Vasalisa the Industrious! Say your prayers. Go to sleep. The morning is wiser than the evening.

(Musical interlude. The morning comes. Vasalisa stands at the window, looking out. Baba Yaga has vast snores.)

Vasalisa: There goes the White Horseman riding by. I’ll take the skull outside. Fire Down! I’ll just put it back on the fence until we need it again. (Does so, managing the heavy door.)

There goes the Red Horseman riding by. Full light is with us now. (Re-enters hut.)

Baba Yaga: (Enters.) You survived your second night in Baba Yaga’s house. Are you surprised to be alive?

Vasalisa: I am always glad to be alive, Baba Yaga. It is a beautiful day and I am here. To tell the truth I like it better here than at home. What tasks do you have for me?

Baba Yaga: You have the cleaning and cooking as always. But beyond those daily tasks you will take this bag, and collect black wool from my fierce, black rams in the pasture just beyond the back of the house. I will be about my business, but will return with the black horseman. (Exits.)

Vasalisa: (Takes the doll from her pocket.) Did you hear that, Little Doll? Here: she left us half a loaf of bread and the White Hands put butter and jam on the table.

Little Doll: I like the food here.

Vasalisa: How are we going to find the pasture at the back of the house when the house turns in a circle all day on its chicken leg? And how will we collect the wool?

Little Doll: Never fear, Vasalisa. Quickly do up the house, and put the soup on. Then we will go to the pasture. The house is so clean it won’t take you any time. Save the mending until we return.

Vasalisa: It is a very large pile of mending. (Exits house by her imaginary door.) Now, how do we find the meadow of fierce black rams?

Little Doll: We go the way you are facing.

Vasalisa: How do you know?

Little Doll: The way begins as soon you put your foot upon the path. (Vasalisa puts foot down.)

Vasalisa: Oh, look! There’s a path. But there wasn’t any path.

Little Doll: A path appears if you put your foot down and start going. (They walk a little while.) And look, here we are!

Vasalisa: Such a big pasture! All that grass is ringed about completely with tall thorn bushes.

Little Doll: And the thorns are very long and sharp.

Vasalisa: And the rams – bigger than any sheep I’ve ever seen. Look at their long curly horns! Even if I get through the thorn bushes, if they butt me with those horns I won’t live to tell the tale.

Little Doll: Why go through the thorn bushes? Look again at the thorns!

Vasalisa: Why, they have caught the wool of the rams. It must be that when the rams push against the hedge the thorns pull out their wool. Oh, look! I can reach the wool on the thorns and fill up the bag in no time! We don’t have to go in there with the rams at all. (She picks, and the mimed bag gets heavier.)

Little Doll: There. You have enough! Let’s go back to Baba Yaga’s house. You can start today’s mending.

Vasalisa: I know how to find the path back – just put my foot on the ground and start walking. (They travel quickly to the house, go in.)

Vasalisa: (Singing as she sews.)

Little needle, start to go –
Amazing needle, to and fro.
Thin, metal – no bone this.
With it I never miss a stitch!

Little Doll: We are here just in time. Listen, you can hear her coming, mortar and pestle, her broom sweeping the sky.

Baba Yaga: Strong bolts, unlock! Open up, my wide gate! Oh, Vasalisa! You are still here.

Vasalisa: Yes. I have worked for you today.

Baba Yaga: And did you finish the tasks I gave you?

Vasalisa: I have. The house is clean, and dinner ready. I’m serving by the light of the skull’s fire. (Serves her at the table.) And here is the sack of wool from your fierce, black rams.

Baba Yaga: Looking at my house I see nothing to complain about. (Looks in the imaginary bag at the wool. Feels it.) The collecting of the wool is well done. It’s useful to be able to get what you need without disturbing the powerful. Very well, then. My faithful servants, my dear friends, spin the wool to cloth!

Vasalisa: Oh! Three pairs of white hands! They appeared out of nowhere! They are taking the bag of wool!

Baba Yaga: They will spin it into thread, and the thread into cloth. There is the black horseman! I have eaten my dinner, and now I will sleep. In the morning I will give you the third task. If you fail it…(Exits.)

Vasalisa: You will eat me up. (Takes her doll from her pocket, feeds her.) Tomorrow Baba Yaga will give me a third hard task, and threatens to eat me up if I don’t do it.

Little Doll: Fear not, Vasalisa the Brave! Say your prayers. Go to sleep. The morning is wiser than the evening.

(The morning comes. Vasalisa stands at the window, looking out. Baba Yaga has vast snores.)

Vasalisa: There goes the White Horseman riding by. I’ll take the skull outside. Fire Down! I’ll just put it back on the fence until we need it again. (Does so, managing the heavy door.)

There goes the Red Horseman riding by. Full light is with us now. (Re-enters hut.)

Baba Yaga: (Enters.) You survived your third night in Baba Yaga’s house. Are you surprised to be alive?

Vasalisa: I am always glad to be alive. It is a beautiful day and I am here. To tell the truth I like it better here than at home. What task do you have for me today?

Baba Yaga: Today? Today is your third and last task. I want you to stand by the window, see what you can see, and tell me what you see when I return with the black horseman. I recommend you do not fall asleep. (Exits.)

Vasalisa: Little Doll, come from my pocket. Here is some soup I saved you, and a piece of my bread. Baba Yaga said this is the last task.

Little Doll: The last task is often the hardest, Vasalisa.

Vasalisa: I’m ready for it. We completed everything she’s given us to do so far. And she didn’t threaten to eat me this time – just warned me to stay awake.

Little Doll: Fear not, Vasalisa the Bright! You will stay awake!

Vasalisa: The day will pass. What do you see out the window? Little Doll? Can you speak? No? Little Doll? Ah, you do not speak. It seems that I must do this waiting for Baba Yaga by myself.

(PAUSE. Time passes. She is looking out the window.) I wonder what Baba Yaga has in store for tomorrow? I’ve completed the three tasks. But then what? Will she give me the light and I go back to the other house? I’m not sure I want to do that… (Time passes. She stands, looking out the window.)

Well, not much is going on out there that I can see. It’s almost mid-day. Half my task is done.

(Time passes. She stands, looking out the window.) Oh, I almost fell asleep! I thought I saw my stepmother’s house and my stepsisters. They were very frustrated! There was no fire in their grate, no food on their table. There were dishes to be done, and clothes to be mended. Oh, they were angry! I am very glad I am here and not there.

(Singing as she watches out the window.)

I’m waiting for Baba Yaga.
The day passes slowly.
Soon waiting is over.
Thus my life turns on Time’s vast wheel.

(PAUSE. Time passes. She stands, looking out the window.) It grows towards dusk. I have waited this whole day for Baba Yaga, and I have not gone to sleep.

Oh! I can hear her coming, mortar and pestle, her broom sweeping the sky.

Baba Yaga: Strong bolts, unlock! Open up, my wide gate! Oh, Vasalisa! You are still here.

Vasalisa: Yes. I have worked for you today.

Baba Yaga: And did you finish the tasks I gave you?

Vasalisa: I have. The house is clean, and the soup is ready to serve by the light of the skull’s fire. And I watched out the window waiting for you all the long day.

Baba Yaga: Looking at my house I see nothing to complain about. The waiting was well done. It is so easy for humans to go back to sleep, and you did not. It’s useful to know how to stay awake. Very well, then. My faithful servants, my dear friends, bring us the dinner!

Vasalisa: The three pairs of white hands bring quite a feast! I only prepared soup.

Baba Yaga: I’m tired of soup. I should have given you a task to find my cellar. On the other hand, you did well not to look in places that are not yours to search.

Vasalisa: I entered your house unbidden and cleaned it. I thought that was quite enough boldness on my part.

Baba Yaga: This is our last night. Sit down and eat. The white hands will serve us. Do you have questions for me? Don’t be silent!

Vasalisa: As you give me leave I do have a question for you.

Baba Yaga: Ask. Not every question has a good answer; if you know too much, you will soon grow old.

Vasalisa: I want to ask about what I have seen. Who is the White Horseman?

Baba Yaga: He is my bright day waking.

Vasalisa: Who is the Red Horseman?

Baba Yaga: He is my Red Sun traveling across the sky.

Vasalisa: And who is the Black Horseman?

Baba Yaga: He is my dark night. All three are my faithful servants. (Pause.)

Vasalisa: Baba Yaga, Keeper of Time, thank you for your answer.

Baba Yaga: Why don’t you ask me more? Why don’t you ask me about the three pairs of white hands?

Vasalisa: You said yourself that one who knows too much will soon grow old.

Baba Yaga: It is well that you ask me only about what goes on outside my house., and not what goes on inside. I eat the over-curious. Well done, Vasalisa the Intelligent. In the morning we will give you what you came for and more. (Exits.)

Vasalisa: (Takes her doll from her pocket.) Tomorrow we finish with Baba Yaga and return home. I don’t look forward to it. But – as you usually say: the morning is wiser than the evening.

(The morning comes. Vasalisa stands at the window, looking out. Baba Yaga has vast snores.)

Vasalisa: There goes the White Horseman riding by. I’ll take the skull outside. Fire Down! I’ll just put it back on the fence until we need it again. (Does so, managing the heavy door.)

There goes the Red Horseman riding by. Full light is with us now. (Re-enters hut.)

Baba Yaga: (Enters.) You survived your fourth night in Baba Yaga’s house. Are you surprised to be alive?

Vasalisa: I am always glad to be alive. It is a beautiful day and I am here. To tell the truth I like it better here than at home.

Baba Yaga: But home you must go. Now I shall ask you something. How is it that you manage the tasks I set for you?

Vasalisa: I am helped by my mother’s blessing. She gave me this doll, who gives me advice in times of trial. (Takes the Little Doll from her pocket.)

Baba Yaga: Your mother’s blessing! I thought so. Well, get you gone, Grand-daughter. Your work is done and I keep no blessed ones in my house. Put this skull on this stick. It is your light for your stepsisters. Take it. This is why they sent you to me.

Vasalisa: Thank you for the light … Grandmother.

Baba Yaga: One more thing…this is a gift from me – it’s the steel needle. You have been using it to do very fine sewing. Going back to using a bone needle would be disappointing. Don’t lose it or…

Vasalisa: (Laughing) … you will come and eat me up. Thank you, Grandmother, for this needle! So small, so delicate! I will make very small stitches with it.

Baba Yaga: Go, Granddaughter. Earn your future. (Exits)

Act Four: Gate Out and Return

(Campbell’s Wheel: The Heroine goes through the Gate Out, choosing to Return to the ordinary world, but as her fully initiated self.)

Vasalisa: I put my feet down, and here is our pathway back to my step-mother and her daughters. I need to carry my gifts from Baba Yaga safely there. The needle I will attach to your blouse, Little Doll, and put you both safely in my pocket. My hands are free now to carry the skull.

If it turns dark we will have the light from the skull to show us the way.

Skull: (Dull voice) Take me to your stepmother and her daughters. I am what they sent you to get from Baba Yaga.

Vasalisa: We are going. (Vasalisa travels on, carefully carrying the mimed skull, the Little Doll in her pocket.) Here we are! It didn’t take us quite so long to get through the forest! But there is no smoke from the chimney, no light in the house! Oh, they’ve come out. They are running towards me. They are screaming at me!

Voices off, variously:
Vasalisa, where have you been! How dare you go away!
You deserted us!
You’re so mean, leaving us here without a light. (etc.)

Skull: Light me. Vasalisa – call up my light!

Vasalisa: Skull, Fire Up! Step-mother, here is the light you asked for from Baba Yaga. Step-sisters, I worked for her, and she gave it to me to bring here for you. (She sees what’s happening off stage.) Oh! Oh dear. The skull’s eyes follow them wherever they go. Oh, the eyes are burning. Oh, there are … three piles of ashes. There they were, and now … there are three piles of ashes.

(She stands still, staring at the piles of ashes for a moment, and then looks at the skull.)

Skull: Do not throw me away, Vasalisa. You may have need of me again one day.

Vasalisa: Perhaps. One never knows what will happen, and it’s better to be prepared. (A little pause as she looks about.) I need you to light the fires tonight. But I think I will not keep you in the house. It’s not good to have Baba Yaga’s skull in the house all the time. I’ll bury you just beyond the doorstep that I scrub every morning.

Skull: That will do.

Vasalisa: It’s late in the day; there is the Black Horseman. Tomorrow I will clean this house from top to bottom. Starting with these three piles of ashes. (Pause as she looks at where they are.) Tonight, we will sit before the fire and think of what we might do next.

(She lights the fire from the skull, and puts it down on the hearth, facing the fire. She takes the Little Doll from her pocket, places it facing the fire as well. She sits; sleeps while music plays. After a time she wakes as the White Horseman comes riding by. She stands.)

Vasalisa: There goes the White Horseman riding by. I’ll take you, Skull, outside now.

Skull: Remember where you bury me!

Vasalisa: I will remember. Fire Down! (Vasalisa digs the hole, and buries the skull.) There goes the Red Horseman riding by. Full light is with us now. I am glad to be alive. It is a beautiful day and I am here… in my own home. My first task is to clean this house! And then…

(Going in the house, she picks up the Little Doll.)

Little Doll, I’ve thought of what I will do. There is a little more gold from my father buried under the doorstep stone. I will go to the Linen Lady. She lives alone in a tiny room behind her shop. I’ll ask her to come and live with me in this house, at least until my father returns from his journey. It is not good to live completely alone.

With the gold under the hearth, I’ll buy some linen cloth from her, and make clothes with my steel needle, my gift from Grandmother Baba Yaga. I’ll sew new clothes for us to wear, and clothes for me to sell from her shop. She can put up a sign in the window: “Fine Clothes for Sale”. Fear not, Little Doll! The morning truly is wiser than the evening. (Vasalisa exits; short musical interlude.)

Act Five: Home with Fruits from the Journey

(Completing Campbell’s Journey, the Heroine is at home again,
and putting what she learned in her journey into action.)

Linen Lady: (Enters with Vasalisa.) Vasalisa the Generous! Here I am with my few things. It is good to think of living here. I loved your mother very much.

Vasalisa: I know you did. You have been a comfort to me through the years since she died. There is plenty of room in this house. Working together we will make a good living.

Linen Lady: All this is a fine idea, Vasalisa. But what will we do if your step-mother returns?

Vasalisa: I know that my step-mother and step-sisters will not be returning.

Linen Lady: Well, then, I am glad to be living here with you. You are intelligent, industrious and independent; we will do well together.

Vasalisa: I have made my first shirt with my new needle. See what you think.

Linen Lady: Vasalisa! What excellent sewing! This shirt is so fine it might fit through the Tsar’s ring.

Vasalisa: Shall we sell it at your shop?

Linen Lady: Oh, my dear, no. This shirt is priceless. The only one to wear such a shirt is the Tsar. I shall take it to him. (Vasalisa exits. The Linen Lady travels, clockwise, to the Tsar’s palace.)

Well, here I am at the Tsar’s palace. I will walk back and forth beneath his window until he sees me.

Tsar: What have you there, Linen Lady?

Linen Lady: I have brought rare merchandise – I do not want to show it to any one else. It is fit only for you, the Tsar, to wear.

Tsar: I will come out, and you can show it to me! (He comes, looks at the shirt.) This is very fine work. I am amazed. What do you want for this shirt?

Linen Lady: It has no price, Tsar! I have brought it as a gift to you.

Tsar: I will accept this gift. I will give you a gift of your own to take home.
I have bought the finest linen to be made into shirts but have no tailor to sew them. I will hire you to take it home, and make a dozen more shirts for me.

Linen Lady: Oh, I am not the one who made this shirt, sire. It is the work of Vasalisa. I live with her in our village. She is bold, bright and brave, an intelligent, industrious, and independent woman. I will ask her to make a dozen more for you. (Linen Lady exits.)

Tsar: The Linen Lady said the tailor is bold, bright and brave, an intelligent, industrious, and independent woman. Perhaps I will be able to stop giving so many dancing parties. (Tsar exits.)

(Linen Lady enters, sees Vasalisa.)

Linen Lady: The Tsar liked the shirt, and wants a dozen more from this very fine linen.

Vasalisa: Well, that goes as we would like. I will set to work. I’ll work without rest until the dozen shirts are finished. Then you can take the shirts to him.

Linen Lady: I do not think that will be necessary, but we will see what we will see. If he doesn’t come here, then I will take them to him.

Vasalisa: Linen Lady, I’ll set my mother’s blessing, my Little Doll, here beside me while I work. (She sews industriously.) I am nearly done with the first shirt.

Linen Lady: And here is the messenger of the Tsar.

Vasalisa: I wonder what kind of person the Tsar is – is he wise? Is he curious? Is he a good man, caring for his people?

Linen Lady: Ask him to come here, and find out!

Messenger: The Tsar wishes to meet the tailor of such fine shirts. He will be pleased you are such an industrious woman.

Vasalisa: Thank the Tsar for his interest in me. Now I would like to know something about him. I invite the Tsar to come here. But to meet me he must come neither walking nor riding, neither dressed or undressed, and meet me neither outside nor inside my house.

Messenger: What did you say?

Vasalisa: That to meet me the Tsar must come neither walking nor riding, neither dressed or undressed, and meet me neither outside nor inside my house.

Messenger: That’s what I thought you said. I will tell him.

Vasalisa: And we will see what we will see. (Messenger exits.) Here’s the second shirt. I can finish half of them by tomorrow.

Linen Lady: I will fold these shirts. Perhaps you should go and make yourself ready. The Tsar may not wait for tomorrow.

(Vasalisa goes to an imaginary mirror, brushes her hair, washes, and dresses in her most beautiful outer apron, singing.)

I wash, ready for a new day.
I brush my hair so clean.
Put on my best apron,
Embroidered with Horsemen of Time.

Linen Lady: Here is the Tsar. Oh, look! He neither walks nor rides! He is on the back of a donkey, and his feet touch the ground.

Vasalisa: That is clever. Really, he is doing both rather than neither. But one has to be flexible.

Linen Lady: He is neither dressed nor undressed! He is wearing a long length of fish net!

Vasalisa: Oh, well done!

Linen Lady: Oh, Vasalisa! He is waiting at the threshold, neither in nor out of our house!

Vasalisa: (Goes to the doorstep.) You are welcome to my house, Tsar.

Tsar: And you are blessed by the work of your hands. I have thought that any as industrious as you should be Tsarina.

Vasalisa: You know me by the work of my hands!

Tsar: Your riddles to test me were those of an intelligent woman. I know that you are an independent woman, yet I ask you now: will you be my wife?

Vasalisa: I will consider it.

Tsar: Will you come with me to my palace?

Vasalisa: If I come, there are four things I will bring with me. The Linen Lady is one if she will come.

Linen Lady: I will come, Vasalisa, with great joy.

Vasalisa: I also will bring my fine steel needle, and the Little Doll that is my mother’s blessing.

Tsar: I would like to see the needle! And the Little Doll that is your mother’s blessing is very welcome.

Vasalisa: I also have a skull of light from Baba Yaga buried just outside the door.

Tsar: Please bring it in case we have need of it in the future. Must it be buried outside the door?

Vasalisa: Baba Yaga’s fire has no place in a peaceful house.

Tsar: It is my greatest desire to live with my wife in a peaceful house, and in a peaceful country where all may be the best they can be.

Vasalisa: Then come, Linen Lady, Little Doll, Skull. We go with the Tsar.

Tsar: Come, all, with Vasalisa the Bold, Bright, and Brave. We go to our wedding. (All Exit.)

The End