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The Female Hero's Journey

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Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave

To read a complete version of the story, click here:

Vassilisa the Beautiful


Baba Yaga is a very popular figure in Slavic folklore. She is an old crone who flies through the air on her mortar and pestle and aids people with pure hearts and eats the souls of those who come to her unclean. Sometimes she lives in a house on chicken legs and sometimes she lives in a gingerbread house. This particular story about her is similar to Cinderella and was first recorded by Alexander Afanasyev.

Before Vasilisa begins her journey, she lives in the "Innocent World of Childhood". Like many other tales, this is a constraining prison where her evil stepmother forces her to do menial labor.


Vasilisa's call to adventure comes when her evil stepmother tells her to go to Baba Yaga's house and get a candle, knowing that Vasilisa will probably be eaten if she does. As is often typical of a heroine's journey, Vasilisa's guide (in this case her stepmother) is also her captor.
Vasilisa has a supernatural aid in the doll her mother made for her. The doll speaks comforting words to her and promises that she will help her on the journey.


Our heroine enters the "Green World" or "Departure Threshold" when she makes the terrifying journey through the woods to Baba Yaga's house. There, she encounters three mystical horsemen, white, red and black, representing dawn, daybreak and nightfall.



Her road of trials takes place when she is given impossible tasks by Baba Yaga. She must sort a bushel of wheat from the chaff, wash linen, cook a gourmet dinner and clean the hut. This fits the "Imprisonment in Domestic Enclosures" stage of the heroine's journey. Vasilisa is in despair until her mother's doll says that she will help her.



The next day she is given similar impossible tasks to do, and the doll continues to help her. Vasilisa's final trial comes at dinner one night when Baba Yaga tells her to ask a question. Vasilisa asks her who the three horsemen are in the forest. Baba Yaga is pleased because she hates answering questions about herself and tells her gleefully.


Next, Baba Yaga asks Vasilisa how she was able to perform all the impossible tasks. Vasilisa simply answers, "By my mother's love", an expression of the "Discovery of Mother" stage of the journey. Baba Yaga, meanwhile is disgusted by the mention of love and tells Vasilisa to get a light and go home.


Vasilisa takes a glowing skull and brings it home. However, when her stepmother and stepsisters see it, it engulfs them in flames. Vasilisa is now free to pursue her own happiness. She travels to the neighboring town and an elderly woman takes her in as her own daughter. This is another "Discovery of Mother" stage where Vasilisa's fake mother (stepmother) is replaced by a real mother figure. It is the Discovery of Female Tradition/Community as Vasilisa learns how to spin and weave. Finally, it allows a "Realease of Creativity" for Vasilisa as she lears to express herself in this new art form.


The elderly woman gives Vasilisa's cloth to the tzar and Vasilisa is called to the palace to cut the fabric. When the tzar sees her, he falls instantly in love and they are married. As a princess, Vasilisa's world is transformed and she lives happily ever after.


For an interesting link about Baba Yaga, try this:

Baba Yaga as the crone archetype