STORY #20: VASILISA & THE MAGIC DOLL
Updated: Jun 17
A Slavic story (with a little bit of teaching about 'AMBIGUITY'!)
This week we're sharing a Slavic story! This is a tale where a little help goes a long way!
So, quick background-bite: This Russian fairy tale was collected by Alexander Nikolayevich Afanasyev - Александр Николаевич Афанасьев - a Russian Slavist and ethnographer (person who studies cultures) who published nearly 600 Russian fairy and folk tales, (making it one of the largest collections of folklore in the whole world! He was basically thought of as the Russian counterpart to the Brothers Grimm!
This story features Baba Yaga - a big player in Slavic mythology - she's a witch, goddess of death and magic. She can look old or young, flies around on a pestle and mortar and lives in a hut that walks about on chicken legs (and is surrounded by a fence of human bones!)
In some versions of this story, Vasilisa lives peacefully with her father after the removal of her evil stepmother and sisters, but this lack of a wedding is quite unusual in a tale like this with a grown heroine!
This fairy tale, many believe, depicts natural conflicts - in this case, between the sunlight (Vasilisa), the storm (her stepmother), and dark clouds (her stepsisters). And some analysts suggest the story is about female liberation because Vasilisa journeys from subservience to strength and independence. (They also suggest Baba Yaga is the "wild feminine" principle that Vasilisa has been separated from, which, by obeying and learning how to nurture, she learns and grows from!)
ACTIVITIES FOR YOUNG CHILDREN - EYFS / KEY STAGE 1 (0-7 years):
1. Listen to Storynory's Vasilisa story (WARNING: parents might want to listen first) - https://www.storynory.com/?s=vasilisa
2. Read some more Russian fairy tales together - https://fairytalez.com/region/russian/
3. Grab some props - of the general household variety - and check out just how hilarious you can make your own re-working of Vasilisa the Beautiful!
4. Using story stones/dice (see my post about outdoor activities for kids), devise your own adventure for Vasilisa!
5. Draw your own witch - https://how-to-draw-cartoons-online.com/cartoon-witch.html
6. Make your own potions - https://redtri.com/pretend-magic-potions-kids-can-make/slide/2
ACTIVITIES FOR OLDER CHILDREN FOR KEY STAGE 2-4 (8-15 years):
1. Learn about Slavic mythological creatures (including Baba Yaga) and try creating your own - https://mythology.wikia.org/wiki/List_of_Slavic_mythical_creatures
2. Create an animation of this version of the fairy tale. Check out the free online animation software out there...and be sure to ask parents before you install anything! https://www.google.com/search?q=free+animation+software&rlz=1C1CHBF_en-GBGB865GB865&oq=afree+animation&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l2.5911j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
3. Read some more Russian fairy tales - https://fairytalez.com/region/russian/
4. Write another adventure for Vasilisa!
5. Sharpen your skills by learning a bit more about ambiguity -
FOR GROWNUPS: (STORY-ORIENTATED ESCAPISM):
1. Read 'Baba Yaga Laid an Egg' by Dubravka Ugresic & Ellen Elias-Bursac (translator). "Baba Yaga is a feature in Eastern European and Russian folklore: a magical creature that manifests as a deformed woman hiding in the woods and kidnapping children. Baba Yaga Lays an Egg takes that myth and weaves it into a tale about what it means to be a modern woman, aging, and love, through the lens of four different—fictional—women living in Eastern Europe." - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Baba-Yaga-Laid-Dubravka-Ugresic/dp/0802145205
2. Check out these recommendations for people who love fairy tale retellings - https://offtheshelf.com/2019/08/fairytale-and-folklore-book-retellings/
3. Browse these articles about witches in fairy tales - https://folklorethursday.com/folktales/fire-and-fur-the-many-guises-of-the-grimms-fairy-tale-witches/ and https://www.npr.org/2015/10/28/450657717/why-are-old-women-often-the-face-of-evil-in-fairy-tales-and-folklore?t=1591190137740