1867 (pub): Baba-Yaga and the Brave Youth

The following tale is from a 1945 translation of a Russian folk-tale first published by Alexander Afanasyev around 1867.

There was a brave youth, a cat, and a sparrow who all lived together. One day, the cat and the sparrow went to the forest to chop wood, and they warned the brave youth: "If Baba-Yaga should come to count the spoons, hide and say nothing!" The youth agreed to this, and the cat and sparrow left.

        Sure enough, Baba-Yaga came into the house some time later and grabbed up the house's three spoons... and, though hidden, the brave youth could not keep quiet: "Put down my spoon!" Baba-Yaga seized the brave youth and flew away with him on her magic mortar, steering with her pestle, and sweeping away her tracks with her broom. The cat and the sparrow heard the brave youth calling them, and they scratched and pecked at Baba-Yaga until she dropped the brave youth.

        The next day, the cat and the sparrow went to the forest to chop wood, and again warned the brave youth again to keep quiet is Baba-Yaga should appear... today, both cat and sparrow would be far away in the forest. Again, Baba-Yaga came to count the spoons; again, the brave youth told her to put his spoon down, and again, the brave youth was snatched up by the witch. Luckily, the cat and sparrow heard his call again, and were able to scratch and peck at Baba-Yaga until she released the brave youth.

        On the third day, cat and sparrow strongly warned the brave youth to hold his tongue if Baba-Yaga should invade their home, for cat and sparrow were traveling even farther away to chop wood. Again, Bab-Yaga appeared and snatched up the spoons to count them. She counted them once; and the brave youth held his tongue. She counted them again, and still he said nothing. But the third time she counted them, he could no longer hold back: "Don't touch my spoon!" In an instant the witch had snatched the brave youth up, and started to fly away with him. He called for the cat and the sparrow, but they were too far away to hear him; so, Baba-Yaga took him to her hut and put him in a wooden shed by her stove, then stoked up a new fire to cook him. Baba-Yaga, who had business to attend to in Russia, instructed her eldest daughter to cook the brave youth for her dinner, which her daughter dutifully agreed to do.

        When the oven grew hot, the eldest daughter opened the shed and ordered the brave youth to lie on a pan... he did so, but stretched one leg to the ceiling, and one leg to the floor. "Not like that! not like that!" complained the eldest daughter. "Then show me how!" complained back the brave youth... and when the eldest daughter lay on the pan to show him the correct way to do it, he popped her into the oven, shut the door, and returned to the wooden shed. When Baba-Yaga returned, looking forward to her feast, he informed her he was quite fine but she could dine on her eldest daughter if she wished.

        Not surprisingly, Baba-Yaga now ordered her second daughter to cook him and left... and he tricked and roasted her in the same manner. Finally, Baba-Yaga order her youngest daughter to do the job and then left... and lost her youngest daughter in the same way. To say Baba-Yaga was angry when she returned would not describe her mood!

        Determined to feast on his bones after all of the trouble, Baba-Yaga herself ordered him onto the pan. Once again, he lay down on the pan but stretched a foot to the ceiling and the other foot to the floor. "Not that way! Not that way!" screamed the irate Baba-Yaga. "But I don't know how," protested the brave youth; "Show me." With that Baba-Yaga curled up on the pan to demonstrate the best technique... and the brave youth popped the witch into her own oven, then ran home and said to his brothers: "That's what I did with Baba-Yaga!"

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