Vasilisa Trilogy

from The Wanderlings Volume One by Leslie Hudson

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about

Upon her mother’s death a young girl is gifted with a magic doll who dispenses advice and keeps her healthy and whole, despite her father's absence, her step-family's ill wishes, the dangers of the forest and the witch who lives there, and the rigours of impossible tasks. The blessing she carries ultimately guides her to a happy life, although she must face many obstacles to achieve it.

Story’s country of origin – Russia

Based on the tale “Vasilisa The Beautiful” as retold by Jane Yolen, Favorite Folktales from around the World (New York: Random House, Inc., 1986), pp. 335-342. Based in turn on the version by Aleksandr Afanas'ev, Russian Fairy Tales (New York: Pantheon Books, 1945, 1973), pp. 439-47.

Yolen writes in her notes (p. 489): “A Russian Cinderella variant, this story includes the famous Russian witch Baba Yaga, whose hut moved about the forest on chicken's legs. Baba Yaga's mode of transportation is unique in folklore annals: flying in a mortar steered by a pestle.”

lyrics

PART I: LITTLE DOLL

Verse 1
When I was but eight years old
Mother gone and growing cold
Left a blessing in her stead
With her dying breath she said:
Vasilisa, take this doll
It will be your wherewithal
Share your troubles, wait and see
Heed the words it says to thee

Verse 2
Father married yet again
Being handsomest of men
To a widow with two girls
Jealousy beneath their curls
Vasilisa, they would say
Each and every single day
Do the work a servant should
More than what you thought you could

Chorus
Little doll, I’ll gladly give
All my fortune to you
Tell me now how I should live
Advise what I must do:
“Feed me morsels from your plate
“I will make the crooked straight
“Go to sleep, my sweet, believing
“Morning’s wiser than the evening”

Verse 3
Years went by of much the same
Such a beauty I became
Suitors came and banished, went
My stepmother’s rage was spent:
Vasilisa will remain
‘Til her sisters husbands gain
Not for her a happy life
Find yourselves another wife!

Chorus
Little doll, I’ll gladly give
All my fortune to you
Tell me now how I should live
Advise what I must do:
“Feed me morsels from your plate
“I will make the crooked straight
“Go to sleep, my sweet, believing
“Morning’s wiser than the evening”

Bridge
Little doll, I’m so forlorn
Weathered, weary, weak and worn:
“Vasilisa, take your ease
“Lay beneath the arching trees
“I’ll perform your every chore
“Even when they cry for more
“Faithful as a blessing, sure
“Of a mother’s love so pure”

Chorus
Little doll, I’ll gladly give
All my fortune to you
Tell me now how I should live
Advise what I must do:
“Feed me morsels from your plate
“I will make the crooked straight
“Go to sleep, my sweet, believing
“Morning’s wiser than the evening”

PART II: BLESSED IS BEST

Verse 1
Father’s a merchant, he’s going away
Here with my step-family I must stay
I know they hate me
They try to deflate me
But I keep on thriving anyway

Verse 2
Moved to a new house that borders the wood
They send me in gathering, unlikely for my good
Hoping I’ll cry there
Or lie down and die there
But I keep returning back home as I should

Lift
Out went the light, so my sisters said
“You, Vasilisa, will go in our stead
“Into the woods to the witch’s house
“Bring us a fire, you wretched mouse!”

Chorus
I am justly terrified
Of taking up this quest
I would be in danger
Were it not for being blessed
Little doll, with glowing eyes
Help me now to win my prize
I will see tomorrow, yes
If you will tell me what is best

Verse 3
Shaking I entered the forest alone
Walking the path that my doll had shown me
One step, another
Until I discovered
Baba Yaga’s home!

Verse 4
There were skulls on the fence posts with eyes all aflame
Femurs for doorposts and gates of the same
“Fie, I can smell her!”
A voice came to tell her
“Now give me the reason you came!
“Or I’ll eat you”

Lift
“Grandmother, I come to fetch home a light
“Grant me a favour this long, dark night”
“If you remain I will do as you ask
“If you fulfil without fault each task!”

Chorus
I am justly terrified
Of taking up this quest
I would be in danger
Were it not for being blessed
Little doll, with glowing eyes
Help me now to win my prize
I will see tomorrow, yes
For you will tell me what is best

Verse 5
Every bright morning the doll set to work
No little detail or duty was shirked
“How is this possible?
“This is impossible!”
Baba said, “Child, you’ve a curious quirk!”

Verse 6
“Well, I have a secret, a motherly blessing”
“Ah, that is the answer and no need for guessing
“Be off with you, dear
“I’ll have no blessed ones here
“But take home a skull with MY blessing”

Lift
When I arrived home they were still in the dark
“Yaga has gifted us all with this spark!”
Flaring its eyes the old skull stared them down
‘Til three piles of ashes lay cool on the ground

Chorus
I was justly terrified
Of taking up this quest
And I’d have been in danger
Were it not for being blessed
Little doll, with glowing eyes
You have helped me win my prize
I will see tomorrow, yes
For you will tell me what is best

PART III: I CAN TELL

Verse 1
There is nothing left
For me in this place
Haunting memories
And empty space
So I’ll go to town
Find somewhere to wait
For father’s return
At a future date

Verse 2
A kind-hearted woman
Childless and bent
Offered me shelter
And board without rent
I said, “Bring me some flax
“The best you can buy
“For if I sit idle
“Of boredom I’ll die”

Refrain
I can tell you what is coming
I know what will happen next
For I can read my future fortune
Like the pages of a text

Verse 3
Spinning so quickly
This thread so fine
“But how will I comb it
“Little doll of mine?”
“An old comb and a shuttle
“And a horse’s mane
“I’ll make you a loom
“If you bring me the same”

Verse 4
So I wove the linen
And bleached it so white
It passed through a needle
Like thread so light
“Grandmother, sell this
“Make back what I owe”
“No never, my child
“To the tsar it will go”

Refrain
I can tell you what is coming
I know what will happen next
For I can read my future fortune
Like the pages of a text

Verse 5
The tsar was amazed
And accepted the gift
Rewarded the woman
With all she could lift
He said, “Make me some shirts!”
But his seamstresses said
“You must find someone else
“To sew them instead”

Verse 6
So the linen was given
Back into my care
And I sewed a dozen fine shirts
Then I declared
“You can take these all back now
“To the tsar while I dress
“For I’ve known all along
“That my work would impress”

Refrain
I can tell you what is coming
I know what will happen next
For I can read my future fortune
Like the pages of a text

Verse 7
Down came the tsar
Demanding to meet
The woman who had sewn
His shirts so sweet
I said, “I am the lady
“For whom you seek”
His mouth went dry
And his knees went weak

Verse 8
“Vasilisa
“You’ll be my wife!
“And I will change forever
“Your dreary life”
“I could do far worse”
I thought, “than this
“All thanks to my little doll
“I have all I could wish”

Refrain
I can tell you what is coming
I know what will happen next
For I can read my future fortune
Like the pages of a text

credits

from The Wanderlings Volume One, released April 16, 2015

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Leslie Hudson Stratford, Ontario

Leslie Hudson is a Canadian singer songwriter and pianist. Her albums range from storytelling styles to bluesy bar rock to dialed-up, full-band homages to pop culture. With lyrical piano skills and a voice that cuts through the crowd, her songs dive deep into archetype and folklore, modernizing ancient voices as she shines a spotlight on the shadowy paths we walk through life, myth and media. ... more

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