Episode #13 Russian fairy-tales

Episode #13 Russian fairy-tales

August 30, 2018 0 By Gigi Green

This is my 13th episode, and I think this calls for something creepy. But I want to save some properly creepy/scary shit for Halloween. So today I think I’ll just tell you a couple of Russian folk fairy-tales.

I chose not literary versions but real folklore stuff, from Alexander Nikolaevich Afanasiev who collected those stories like brothers Grimm did in Germany.

So while these fairy-tales are more weird than scary, just in case I’m issuing a trigger warning for parental abuse, neglect and abandonment. And also for violence, murders, cruelty towards animals and tons of patriarchal bullshit. That stuff is not detailed but it’s often a part of the plot.

All right, kiddies, gather round, cause here goes our first story!

It’s a warm-up, so nothing scary here, just some weird shit. It’s called Kolobok. And it’s about… an old Russian spherical fried bread which became alive for no reason.


Once upon a time there lived an old couple. One day the husband asked the wife to bake him a kolobok.
They didn’t have a lot of flour but she scrubbed the bins and swept the granary and gathered enough to make a kolobok.
She made some dough with sour cream, fried a kolobok and left it on the windowsill to cool down.
It just laid there for some time and then – suddenly and without any explanation it came to life and started rolling. It rolled from the sill to the bench, from the bench to the floor, then to the door and out to the porch, from the porch to the yard from the yard out of the gates and off it rolled onto the road.

It had been rolling for some time when it met a hare. The hare said:
– Kolobok, kolobok, I’m going to eat you!
– Don’t eat me, dear hare! I’ll sing you a song!
(Check out my literal translation):

I’m made out of flour
found in the bins and in the granary
I was baked in the oven
And cooled on the window-sill
I ran away from grandma,
I ran away from grandpa,
I’ll run away from you too
Cause it’s just so freaking easy!

And it ran away and the hare didn’t catch it. After that Kolobok had been rolling for some time when it met a wolf. The wolf said:
– Kolobok, kolobok, I’m going to eat you!
– Please, Don’t eat me, dear grey wolf! I’ll sing you a song! This one:

I’m made out of flour
found in the bins and in the granary
I was baked in the oven
And cooled on the window-sill
I ran away from grandma,
I ran away from grandpa,
I ran away from the hare,
And I’ll run away from you too
Cause it’s just so freaking easy!

And it (Can I just call it a he now? In Russian it’s a he) ran away and the wolf couldn’t catch it.

After that Kolobok had been rolling for some time when he met a bear. The bear said:
– Kolobok, kolobok, I’m going to eat you!
But Kolobok was all like:

– Yeah, right! Like hell you will. Just check out my song, bitch!
I’m made out of flour
found in the bins and in the granary
I was baked in the oven
And cooled on the window-sill
I ran away from grandma,
I ran away from grandpa,
I ran away from the hare,
I ran away from the wolf,
And I’ll run away from you too
Cause it’s just so freaking easy!

And he rolled away, and the bear couldn’t catch him.

After a little while he met a fox. The fox in Russian is a she and the rest of the animals were he’s. So the fox said:
– Omg, Kolobok, you are just so cute!
And Kolobok immediately started to sing:

– I’m made out of flour
found in the bins and in the granary
I was baked in the oven
And cooled on the window-sill
I ran away from grandma,
I ran away from grandpa,
I ran away from the hare,
I ran away from the wolf,
I ran away from the bear,
And I’ll run away from you too
Cause it’s just so freaking easy!

The fox was all like:
– Oh, baby, you’re just sooo talented! It’s a pity I’m an old she-fox and getting really deaf. I couldn’t hear half the song. Could you sit here on my nose and sing it again?
And Kolobok did. But she was again like:
– This was so amazing but I couldn’t hear it all. Could you sit on my tongue and sing it again?
And Kolobok, not the brightest piece of bread in existence, believed her and sat down on her tongue. So of course she ate him up before he could even start to sing that silly song again!

A little bit about this fairy-tale

That one you hear from the very early age. But the funny thing is I’ve never in all my life had a spherical bread. Hm.
There’s a very weird-looking Soviet cartoon made in 1956 based on this fairy-tale. I’ll leave a link to ot in the shownotes. It’s on youtube with English subtitles. But it’s slightly different because you apparently can’t show kiddies how the character they’ve been following for 10 minutes is eaten alive so… Yeah.

There’s also a more modern version completely in English with a lot of new details and a bit about a Russian city I like:) And the link to that is in the shownotes too.

Ok, the next fairy-tale is called Morozko. That a pet form of the word Frost. Which means it’s about a folk character called Father Frost. That’s our equivalent of Santa Clause. Although I’d wager he has some pagan origins hidden somewhere. But nevermind that. Let’s begin our story.


Once upon a time some widower with a daughter got married a second time, and of course, she was a bitch and had her own daughter. She would praise her own daughter for everything and scold her step-daughter non-stop. Even though the step-daughter as it usually happens in fairy-tales did her damnest to please the stepmother. And was generally nice, kind and whatever patriarchy expects of a good girl.

So one day stepmother decided she had enough of this goody two-shoes and told her husband to just take her away somewhere. Somewhere where stepmother would never see her and never hear about her. Not to some relatives and their warm house but to some random open field. It was full-blown winter so stepmother hoped the girl would just die already.

And that useless doormat of a father cried and moped around but took his own daughter, put her in a sleigh and drove her to the frozen field. He was so scared of his abuser wife he didn’t even cover the girl with something warm. He put her down in a pile of snow and drove home as fast as he could so he wouldn’t see her freeze to death. Coward.
So the poor girl sat shaking in a pile of snow and prayed. Then came the Frost or Frosty if you wish. He jumped and hopped while looking at her then said.
– Hey, girl! I’m Moroz red nose!
And she answered:
– Hello, Moroz. Welcome! You must have come to take my life.
Moroz wanted to freeze her to death but then he liked her calm and poise and he took pity on her and gave her a fur coat.
She put it on, tucked her legs inside and continued sitting.

Moroz went away for a bit then came back and said:
– Hey, girl! I’m Moroz red nose!
And she answered:
– Hello, Moroz. Welcome! You must have come to take my life.

But Moroz liked her calm and poise so he had no intention of killing her. He actually brought her a huge chest with some nice dowry inside.

She thanked him and sat down on the chest in her fur coat all happy and bright.

The third time Moroz gave her a gorgeous dress decorated with gold and silver. She put it on and started looking really pretty on her chest in a fur-coat. She even began signing, she was so happy.

Meanwhile the stepmom was ready to have a bit of a funeral feast in her… ahem… honour. She baked a lot of pancakes and sent her husband to bring back the body.

The husband left. But the dog that was lying under the table started talking:
– Woof-woof, the husband’s daughter will be brought back with silver and gold, and no one wants to marry the wife’s daughter.
– Shut up, you stupid dog, – yelled the stepmother. – Take that pancake and say that my daughter will find a husband and he will bring back just the bones of his daughter.
The dog ate the pancake and said again:
– Woof-woof, the husband’s daughter will be brought back with silver and gold, and no one wants to marry the wife’s daughter.

Stepmother tried giving the dog more pancakes and then beating it, but the dog wouldn’t change its words.
Soon she heard the gates open and saw a huge chest being brought into the house. And behind the chest her stepdaughter was walking all shiny and pretty in her new clothes.

Stepmother saw her and was like:
– WTF?! Husband, go hitch the new team of horses, you’re taking my daughter to the same field and the exact same place right now!

And the husband did as he was told.

The second girl was sitting in the field when Moroz came. He jumped and hopped but didn’t get a kind word out of her (and this part always makes me mad because bitch, the girl’s freezing! Expecting every freezing person to be nice is just… cruel?) So anyway, the girl wasn’t nice and he killed her.

The stepmother told her husband:
– Go pick up my daughter and bring her home, and be careful, don’t overturn the sleigh, don’t drop the chest!

And so he went but the dog under the table said:
– Woof-woof, his daughter will find a great husband and he will bring back just the bones of your daughter.
The wife was all like:
– Stop lying, you stupid dog! Take this pie and say that my daughter will be brought back in gold and silver.

The dog obviously didn’t listen. Soon the gates opened and the stepmother went to greet her daughter but there was only her cold body. She started crying and screaming but it was too late.

A movie called Morozko

Real folk tales aren’t especially optimistic, are they? If you want more of a happy ending, there’s a 1964 Soviet film that’s loosely based on the version of this fairy-tale. It’s called Morozko and it’s on youtube too. It’s not just English subtitles though, it’s dubbed in English.

I personally think it contains some toxic bullshit standards of female behavior that no person without fully developed capacity for critical thinking should ever watch. So I’ve warned you and I’ll leave a link to it in the shownotes.

About Vasilisa the beautiful

The last fairy -tale for today is Vasilisa the Beautiful. It’s the longest and one of the secondary characters here is (in my opinion) the most interesting heroine in Russian folklore – Баба Яга/Baba Yaga. She is sometimes portrayed as bad or as a comical old woman. For example, in that film Morozko that I’ve mentioned. But she’s much more significant than that because she definitely has deep mythological roots.

Also Yangian psychologists who work with fairy-tales like her a lot. There’s a whole chapter on the fairy-tale I’m about to tell you in the book Women who run with the wolves by Clarissa Pincola Estes.

Oh, by the way, there are films and cartoons with the same name – Василиса Прекрасная/Vasilisa Prekrasnaya – that means the beautiful. But they tell a different fairy-tale. Usually about the frog tsarevna – the princess. The one I’m about to tell you is from the Afanasiev’s book of folk tales. That’s the folklore collector I’ve mentioned before.

Let’s begin.

Vasilisa the Beautiful

Once upon a time in a kingdom, well, in Russia it should be a tzardom far far away lived a merchant. He was married to his wife for 12 years but they only had one daughter – Vasilisa the Beautiful.

She was 8 when her mother died. While the merchant’s wife was on the deathbed she called her daughter, took a doll from under her blanket, gave it to the girl and said:

– Listen to me, Vasilisa! Remember and heed my last words. I’m dying and with my blessing I leave you this doll. Treasure her, always keep her close and never show anyone. If something bad happens, give her some food and ask her advice. She’ll eat and tell you what to do, – the the mother kissed her daughter and died.

The merchant grieved as was proper and began to think about marrying again. He was a fine man so there were a lot of women willing to marry him.

But he liked one widow who wasn’t young and had two daughters of her own close in age to Vasilisa. The merchant thought she would be a good mistress and mother to Vasilisa because she had experience. So he married her. But he was very much mistaken.

Vasilisa was the prettiest girl in the village. Stepmother and stepsisters envied her a lot and made her do all the work around the house so she would get all thin and blackened by the sun.

(On a side note, just check out the completely different standards of beauty in this fairy tale!)

Because Vasilisa did everything she was asked, didn’t say a bad word to them and at the same time she was getting prettier and fatter by the day. And the stepmother and her daughters were getting thinner and uglier by the day. Even though they didn’t do shit around the house. Just because they were angry and evil.

How was that possible? Well, Vasilisa’s doll was helping her a lot. Without her she would never have been able to do all the work. And in return Vasilisa would first go hungry herself but leave the best piece of food to her daughter.

In the evening when everyone went to bed she would lock herself up in her closet where she lived, take out the doll and feed her, all the while saying:
– Please, eat, my little doll and listen to my troubles. I live in my father’s house, but there’s nothing good for me here. Evil stepmother is trying to drive me to my grave. Please, teach me what to do and how to live.

The dolls would eat and then give Vasilisa advice, console her and in the morning the doll would do her work. Vasilisa would sit in the shade and gather flowers. And the vegetable beds would be weeded out, cabbage watered, water brought into the house and the hearth would have a fire in it.

The doll would even tall Vasilisa what herbs to use to get rid of suntan. So her life with a doll was good.

Several years went by, Vasilisa became all grown up and all the eligible bachelors in the village wanted to marry her. And no one spared a glance for the stepsisters.

Stepmother was livid. She told everybody that she wouldn’t allow the youngest daughter to marry before the older ones. And after getting rid of the guys she would take her anger out on Vasilisa and beat her.

One day the merchant needed to go far away and for a long time on business. And stepmother and all the daughters moved to a new house that stood next to a super deep and dark forest.

In that forest there was a clearance, on that clearance there was a house on chicken legs, in that house lived Baba Yaga. She didn’t let anybody close and ate people like chicken.

After the merchant’s wife moved there, she would constantly send Vasilisa into the forest in the hopes that Baba Yaga would eat her. But Vasilisa always came back safe because the doll was helping her find the right way and avoid Baba Yaga’s house.

Autumn came. One evening stepmother put out all the light in the house except one candle, told the daughters to do some knitting, make lace and weave and went to bed.

Of course, one of the stepsisters soon put out that candle too. She made it look like an accident but of course, it was on purpose.
– Omg, what are we going to do without the lights! We need to finish our assignments! – they cried. – We have to go to Baba Yaga to get a fire.

But the first step sister said she could see because the moonlight reflected from her needle, the other said the moonlight reflected from her knitting needles. And since Vasilisa was the one weaving they send her to Baba Yaga.
Vasilisa went to her closet, put dinner in front of her doll and said:
– Please, eat, my little doll and listen to my troubles. They are sending me to Baba Yaga, she will eat me!
The doll ate, her eyes started shining like embers and she reassured her that as long as she had the doll with her, she’ll be alright anywhere.

So Vasilisa put the doll in her pocket and went into the forest. At night, might I remind you.

She was walking and shivering when a white horseman passed her. He was all white, dressed in white, his horse was white and even the horse’s harness was white. He passed and the day started dawning.

She continued to walk and soon the red horseman passed her. He was red, his clothes were red, his horse was red and the sun started rising.

Vasilisa was walking all night and all day and only in the evening she came to the clearing where Baba Yaga’s house stood. The fence around the house was made out of human bones, and it was topped by human skulls with eyes. The gates were made out of human legs and hands. And the lock was human mouth with sharp teeth.

Vasilisa stood in front of the fence petrified when suddenly the black horseman passed her, came to the gates and disappeared. And the darkness fell.

It didn’t last long though. All the skulls’ eyes started shining, so it was light as day in that clearing. Vasilisa was shaking with fear. But she didn’t know where to go, so she just stood there. Soon she heard terrible racket. Baba Yaga came home, she was flying in a mortar, helping herself with a pestle and sweeping her tracks away with a broom. When she came to the gates she smelled the air and said:
– Yew! It smells like Russians! Who’s here?

Vasilisa bowed to her and explained why she came.

Baba Yaga agreed to give her the fire if she would work for her first. Otherwise she threatened to eat her.
Obviously, the girl agreed. So they both went onto the house and Baba Yaga told her to serve her some food that was in the hearth. After she had a huge dinner she told Vasilisa that tomorrow she would leave early. And while she’s gone, Vasilisa should sweep the yard, clean the house, cook dinner, prepare the clothes and separate some wheat from bad grains. (Or the other way around, I’m not sure)

– If you don’t finish everything, I’ll eat you! – she said and went to sleep.

While she was sleeping, Vasilisa had her usual talk with the doll. In the morning when the girl woke up Baba Yaga was already gone. She was just decided which task to do first when she realized the done had done everything except for cooking.

Vasilisa prepared the food and started waiting for Baba Yaga. When she came home, she examined the work, saw nothing to scold about, was slightly pissed about it, but not too much. She ordered Vasilisa to do the same things the next day plus to clear some poppy seeds from dirt. And went to bed.

The next day passed in the same manner. But while Baba Yaga was having dinner Vasilisa just stood there quietly. So Baba Yaga asked why she didn’t talk to her.
– I didn’t dare, – answered Vasilisa. – But if you would let me, I’d like to ask you something.
– You may ask, but not every question leads to good things. If you know too much, you’ll get old fast, – answered Baba Yaga.
– I wanted to ask you, grandma (Baba, by the way, could easily turn into babushka and that’s granny or grandma in Russian. That’s why Vasilisa is calling her grandma), only about the things I’ve seen: when I was walking her I saw a white horseman. Who is he?
– That’s my clear day, – answered Baba Yaga.
– Then I saw a red horseman.
– That’s my red sun. (I’ve mentioned in the episode number 8, I think, that red in Russian shared a root with the word beautiful. So it could be my beautiful sun).
– And the black horseman?
– That’s my dark night. They are all my loyal servants.

Vasilisa wanted to ask about the stuff she saw inside the house and in the yard. But thought against it.

And Baba Yaga said she appreciated people who didn’t ask too many questions. And that she ate those who were too curious. And them she asked how Vasilisa managed to finish all the work on time.

Vasilisa answered that her mother’s blessing helped her.
– Oh, that’s what it is! Then go away, blessed girl. I don’t need blessed people here.
She gave her a skull with the shining eyes from the fence and said:
– This is the fire for your stepmother and stepsisters. They sent you for this.
Vasilisa took the skull and ran back home. When she came to the house the next evening, she wanted to throw the skull away. She thought they couldn’t possibly still need fire. But a dull voice came from the skull:
– Don’t throw me away, bring me to your stepmother.

So Vasilisa went inside. Turned out stepmother and her daughters couldn’t get any fire going in the house. They tried bringing some from their neighbors but it died as soon as they brought it in. So Vasilisa brought the skull inside and the skull immediately started burning the stepmother and her daughters with its stare. They burned till they turned into coals.

And Vasilisa buried a skull, locked up the house and went to live with some lonely old woman all the while waiting for her father.

One day she asked the old woman for some flax plant fibers so she could make some thread. And when the woman brought it to her, she made the finest thread that was ever seen. Her doll helped her to make some special equipment so she could weave some cloth out of it.

And that cloth was so fine the old woman said it was only fit for the tsar. So she gave it as a present to the tsar. But none of his tailors could make him a shirt out of it – the cloth was that fine and light and beautiful.

The tsar asked for the old woman and said to her:
– You made the cloth, now made me shirts out of it.
But the woman explained that it was work of the girl who lived with her. The tsar said:
– Well, then let her make me some shirts.
And Vasilisa made them, and they were so good, that the tsar asked to see her. And of course, when he saw her, he instantly fell in love with her and married her.

Then her father came back, he and the old woman went to live with the tsar and his new wife. And Vasilisa carried the doll in her pocket till the end of her days.
The end.

Well, aren’t you pleased that the last fairy-tale had a happy ending? I know I am! And one day I’ll definitely talk more about Baba Yaga. Cause she’s fascinating!

But now it’s time for the segment: How do you say it in Russian?

Today I’ll go with женщины/zhentchini that’s women and мужчины/muzhchini. That’s men. Notice both words are plural. Single will be женщина/zhentchina and мужчина/muzhchina. You don’t need to know the whole word though for what I have in mind for you. I think you need to know the first letters of both words Ж and M, because in some places that’s how you can distinguish between men’s and women’s toilets. So… that one might prove very useful.

And that’s all for now.
Till next week.
Gigi, from Russia with love and fairy-tales!


Wiki about the Kolobok
Women who run with the wolves on google books
Baba Yaga
Vasilisa the Beaautiful

The featured image is Vasilisa by Ivan Bilibin