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1860 (pub): The Blue Coffer

The following description of a Russian folk-tale was first presented in English by William Ralston Shedden Ralston in 1880:

One girl ... is ordered by a Baba Yaga to heat the bath, but the fuel given her for the purpose turns out to be dead men's bones. Having got over this difficulty, thanks to the advice of a sparrow which tells her where to look for wood, she is sent to fetch water in a sieve. Again the sparrow comes to her rescue telling her to line the sieve with clay. Then she is told to wait upon the Baba Yaga's children in the bath-room. She enters it, and presently in come "worms, frogs, rats, and all sorts of insects." These, which are the Baba Yaga's children, she soaps over and otherwise treats in the approved Russian-bath style, and afterwards she does as much for their mother. The Baba Yaga is highly pleased, calls for a "samovar" (or urn), and invites her young bath-woman to drink tea with her. And finally she sends her home with a blue coffer, which turns out to be full of money. This present excites the cupidity of her stepmother, who sends her own daughter to the Baba Yaga's, hoping that she will bring back a similar treasure. The Baba Yaga gives the same orders as before to the new-comer, but that conceited young person fails to carry them out. She cannot make the bones burn, nor the sieve hold water, but when the sparrow offers its advice she only boxes its ears. And when the "rats, frogs, and all manner of vermin," enter the bath-room, "she crushed half of them to death," says the story; "the rest ran home, and complained about her to their mother." And so the Baba Yaga, when she dismisses her, gives her a red coffer instead of a blue one. Out of it, when it is opened, issues fire, which consumes both her and her mother.*

This tale was translated from the Russian folk and fairy tales collection of I. A. Khudyayof, Velikorusskiya Skazki ("Great-Russian Tales"), published in 1860. This is tale No. 14 in that volume.