This is the second variation I’ve read about this particular tale. This time Vasilisa is a beautiful young woman rather than a plain little girl. But her kindness, sweetness, decency, generosity and courage are the same sort found in the Too Nice of “Baba Yaga and the Wise Doll”. As the witch points out after one of her copious meals, Vasilisa is an excellent cook and remarkable housekeeper but rather short on personality.
Still, Vasilisa is brave (or incredibly docile—take your pick). She walks into a dark, dangerous forest, possibly filled with beasts that might eat her, only to deliver herself into Baba Yaga’s clutches. Unlike Too Nice, she does make herself useful, cooking meals while her extraordinary doll does the household chores.
Baba Yaga here is pictured as a terrifying crone, with black eyes like a cat’s in dim light, lizard-like skin, pointed little teeth, razor-sharp talons and jewelry made out of animal bones. The book emphasizes her cannabalistic appetite but she is very satisfied with the ordinary if sumptuous meals that Vasilisa prepares. You get the feeling that she might be full of interesting tales if someone was bold enough to question her.
The illustrations are luxurious, filled with exquisite detail. The backgrounds, interiors and clothing are rendered in beautiful colors and patterns and an intricate style that makes every picture a wonder to behold. Each page begins with a capital letter filled with color and design and miniature scenes like mosaic tiles.
This book is a visual treat and a lovely rendering of a popular Russian folk tale. It’s a lovely peek into the stories of another culture, even if it doesn’t feature the most proactive of heroines.
Beautiful illustrations in this magical (and spooky) retelling of the Russian version of Cinderella.
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