Baba Yaga The Witch

Baba Yaga The Witch 

Illustrated By: Jacob Below


Once upon a time an old man, a widower, lived alone in a hut with his daughter Natasha. Very merry the two of them were together, and they used to smile at each other over a table piled with bread and jam, and play peek-a-boo, first this side of the samovar, and then that. 

Everything went well, until the old man took it into his head to marry again.

So the little girl gained a stepmother. After that everything changed. No more bread and jam on the table, no more playing peek-a-boo around the samovar as the girl sat with her father at tea. It was even worse than that, because she was never allowed to sit at tea at all anymore. The stepmother said that little girls shouldn't have tea, much less eat bread with jam. She would throw the girl a crust of bread and tell her to get out of the hut and go find someplace to eat it. Then the stepmother would sit with her husband and tell him that everything that went wrong was the girl's fault. And he believed his new wife. Ah, poor Natasha! She would run into the backyard to hide, wet the small crust with her tears and eat it, all alone.

Then Natasha would hear the stepmother yelling at her to come in and wash up the dishes from tea time, and clean everyone's muddy boots, and sweep and mop the floor till it shone.

One day the stepmother decided she could not bear the sight of Natasha one more minute. But how could she get rid of the girl once and for all? Then she remembered her sister, the terrible witch Baba Yaga, the bony-legged one, who lived in the forest. "I know how to get rid of that brat for good," the stepmother said to herself with a smile.

"I know how to get rid of the brat for good," the stepmother said to herself with a smile.

As soon as the father was out of sight, the wicked stepmother spun around to face Natasha.

"Listen to me," she hissed.  "Today you will go to visit my sister, your dear little auntie, who lives in the forest. You will ask her for a needle and thread to mend a shirt."

"But here is a needle and thread," said Natasha, trembling, for she knew that her aunt who lived in the forest was none other than the terrible witch Baba Yaga.  Feared by everyone, Baba Yaga was known to chase children by riding through the air on her giant mortar, and when she caught them, she would eat them with her iron teeth.

"Smart aleck kid!" snapped the stepmother, knocking the needle and thread out of the girl’s hand.

The stepmother gnashed her teeth, which made a noise like clattering tongs. "Do NOT make me repeat myself.  I TOLD you that you are to go to your dear auntie in the forest to ask for a needle and thread to mend this shirt and I will NOT say it again."

"Then," said Natasha, trembling, "how do I find her?"

“That’s better!” smiled the stepmother with a crooked grin.  Then she twisted the girl's nose, pinching it hard.  "That is your nose!" she said. "Can you feel it?"

Then she twisted the girl's nose, pinching it hard.

"Yes," whispered she.

"You must go along the road into the forest till you come to a fallen tree, then turn left," said the stepmother. "Follow your nose.  It will take you to your auntie. Now off with you, lazy girl!"

The stepmother shoved a small sack in the girl's hand that had a few morsels of stale bread and cheese and some scraps of meat.  She pushed Natasha out of the hut.

Natasha looked back. There stood the stepmother at the door with her arms crossed, glaring. So she could do nothing but to go straight on.

There stood the stepmother at the door with her arms crossed, glaring.

The girl walked along the road to the forest and to the fallen tree, then she turned left. Her nose started to throb harder, so she knew she was going the right way.

All of a sudden, in front of her stood a gate with two doors, and behind the gate was the hut of Baba Yaga. There could be no mistake!  Only the hut of Baba Yaga, the witch, stood high up on giant chicken’s legs.  This evil hut could walk around the yard and chase children itself. Its two front windows stared at her like glaring eyes, and its door gaped open like a giant mouth.

The two gate doors were slightly open.  When Natasha gently pushed them to enter, the doors made a terrible squeaking sound. On the ground she noticed a rusty oil can.  "How lucky," she said, “there’s some oil left.” She poured the few drops left on the hinges of the gates, and the two doors swung open without a peep.

As Natasha walked closer, Baba Yaga's house hopped toward her.

A servant of Baba Yaga's was standing in the yard. She was crying bitterly because of the tasks Baba Yaga had set her to do, and was wiping her eyes on her sleeve.

"How lucky," said Natasha, "that I have a handkerchief." She untied her kerchief, shook it clean, and carefully put the morsels of food in her pockets. She gave the handkerchief to Baba Yaga's servant, who wiped her eyes on it and smiled through her tears.

In front of the door to the hut was a huge, thin dog chewing on an old bone. "How lucky," said the little girl, "that I have some bread and meat." Reaching into her pocket for her scraps of bread and meat, Natasha said to the dog, "I'm afraid it's rather stale but it's better than nothing, I'm sure." And the dog gobbled it up at once and licked his lips.

Natasha reached the door to the hut. Trembling, she tapped on the door.

"Come in," squeaked the wicked voice of Baba Yaga. The girl stepped into the witch's hut. There sat Baba Yaga, the bony-legged one, the witch, weaving at a loom. She had scraggly white hair, a very long nose, and when she smiled, showed a mouth full of iron teeth. 

"Good day to you, auntie," said Natasha, trying to sound not at all afraid.

"Good day to you, niece," said Baba Yaga.

"My stepmother has sent me to you to ask for a needle and thread to mend a shirt."

"Has she now?" smiled Baba Yaga, flashing her iron teeth, for she knew how much her sister hated her stepdaughter. "You sit down here at my loom, and go on with the weaving,” said Baba Yaga.  “I will go and fetch you the needle and thread."

The girl sat down at the loom and began to weave.

Baba Yaga whispered to her servant girl, "Listen to me! Go to the bathhouse. Start up the fire for the bathwater. Now mind you, the water must be very hot.”

“Yes,” said the servant girl, and she left to do her task. 

"A delicious meal I will make of this child!" laughed Baba Yaga to herself.

"A delicious meal I will make of this child!" laughed Baba Yaga to herself.

The servant came into the room where Natasha was weaving to fetch the jug for gathering the bathwater. Natasha said, "I beg you please, do not be too quick in making the fire and heating the water. And would you kindly carry the water for the bath in a sieve with holes, so that the water will run through?" The servant said nothing. But indeed, she took a very long time about getting the bath ready. 

Baba Yaga came to the window and said in her sweetest voice, "Are you weaving, my little niece? Are you weaving, my pretty?"

"Yes, I am weaving, auntie," said Natasha. 

In a corner of the hut, Natasha noticed a thin black cat watching a mouse-hole.

"What are you doing?" she said to the cat.

"Watching for a mouse," said the cat. "I haven't had dinner in three days."

"How lucky," said Natasha, "that I have some cheese left!" She gave the cheese in her pocket to the thin black cat, who gobbled it up. Said the cat, "Little girl, do you want to get out of here?"

"More than anything!" said Natasha, "I fear that Baba Yaga will try to eat me with her iron teeth!" 

"That is exactly what she intends to do," said the black cat.  "But I know how to help you."

Just then Baba Yaga came to the window.  "Are you weaving, little niece?" she asked. "Are you weaving, my pretty?"

"I am weaving, auntie," said Natasha, working away, while the loom went clickety clack, clickety clack.

Baba Yaga went outside again.

Whispered the thin black cat to Natasha, "Do you see that comb on the stool?  Do you see the towel brought for your bath?"  Natasha nodded.  

"You must take them both, at once," said the cat. "Run for it while Baba Yaga is still in the bath-house. She will chase after you and when she does, you must throw the towel behind you.  It will turn into a big, wide river and it will take her some time to cross over it. When she crosses the river, you must throw the comb behind you. The comb will sprout up into such a thick forest that she will never be able to get through it."

"But she'll hear the loom stop if I leave," said Natasha, "and she'll know I have gone."

"Don't worry," said the thin black cat.  "I'll take care of that."  He took Natasha's place at the loom.  Clickety-clack, clickety-clack - the loom never stopped for a moment.

Natasha looked to see that Baba Yaga was still in the bath-house.  Then she grabbed the towel and the comb, and quickly ran out of the hut.

The big dog leapt up to tear her to pieces.  Just as he was going to spring on her, he saw who she was. "Why, this is the girl who gave me that bread and meat," said the dog. "Good luck, child." He lay down with his head between his paws. She petted his head and scratched his ears.

When Natasha came to the two gate doors, they opened quietly, quietly, without making any noise at all, because of the oil she had poured into their hinges before.

Then -- how she ran!

Meanwhile, the thin black cat sat at the loom. Clickety-clack, clickety-clack, sang the loom, but you never saw such a tangle of yarn as the tangle made by that thin black cat.

Presently Baba Yaga came to the window.  "Are you weaving, little niece?" the witch asked in a high-pitched voice. "Are you weaving, my pretty?"

"I am weaving, auntie," said the thin black cat, tangling and tangling the yarn, while the loom went clickety clack, clickety clack.

"Are you weaving, little niece?" the witch asked in a high-pitched voice.

"That doesn't sound like my dinner!" said Baba Yaga, and she jumped into the hut, gnashing her iron teeth. There at the loom was no little girl, but only the thin black cat, tangling and tangling the threads!

"Grrr!" said Baba Yaga and she jumped at the cat. "Why didn't you scratch the little girl's eyes out?"

The thin black cat curled up its tail and arched its back.  "In all the years that I have served you," it replied, "you have given me only water and made me hunt for my dinner. The girl gave me real cheese."

Baba Yaga was enraged. She grabbed the cat and shook it hard.  Turning to the servant girl and gripping her by the collar, she croaked, "Why did you take so long to prepare the bath?"

"Ah!" trembled the servant, "in all the years that I have served you, you have never so much as given me a rag, but the girl gave me a pretty handkerchief."

Baba Yaga was enraged.

Seeing the gate doors wide open, the witch shrieked, "Gates! Why didn't you squeak when she opened you?"

"Ah!" said the gates, "in all the years that we have served you, you never so much as sprinkled a drop of oil on us, and we could hardly stand the sound of our own creaking.  But the girl oiled us and we can now swing back and forth without a sound."

Baba Yaga slammed the gates closed. Spinning around, she pointed her long skinny finger at the dog. "You!" she hollered. "Why didn't you tear her to pieces when she ran out of the house?"

"Ah!" said the dog, "in all the years that I have served you, you never threw me anything but an old bone, but the girl gave me real meat and bread."

"You!" she hollered.  "Why didn't you tear her to pieces when she ran out of the house?"

Baba Yaga rushed about the yard, cursing and hitting them all, while screaming at the top of her voice. Then she jumped into her giant mortar. Beating the mortar with a giant pestle to make it go faster, she flew into the air. There, on the ground far ahead, she soon spied the girl running through the trees, stumbling, and fearfully looking over her shoulder.  The witch quickly closed in on the fleeing Natasha.

"You will never escape me!"  Baba Yaga laughed a terrible laugh as she steered her flying mortar straight downward toward the girl.

Natasha was running faster than she had ever run before. Soon she could hear Baba Yaga's mortar bumping on the ground behind her. Desperately, she remembered the thin black cat's words and threw the towel behind her on the ground. The towel grew bigger and bigger, and wetter and wetter, and soon a deep, broad river stood between the little girl and Baba Yaga.

Natasha turned and ran on. Oh, how she ran! When Baba Yaga reached the edge of the river, she screamed louder than ever and threw her pestle on the ground, as she knew she couldn't fly over an enchanted river. In a rage, she flew back to her hut on hen's legs. There she gathered all her cows and drove them to the river.

"Drink, drink!" she screamed at them.  The cows drank up all the river to the last drop. Then Baba Yaga hopped into her giant mortar and flew over the dry bed of the river to pursue her prey.

Natasha had run on quite a distance ahead, and in fact, she thought she might, at last, be free of the terrible Baba Yaga. But her heart froze in terror when she saw the dark figure in the sky speeding toward her again. "This is the end for me!" she despaired. Then she suddenly remembered what the cat had said about the comb.  She threw the comb behind her, and the comb grew bigger and bigger, its teeth sprouting up into a thick forest, so thick that not even Baba Yaga could force her way through. 


And Baba Yaga the witch, the bony-legged one, gnashing her teeth and screaming with rage and disappointment, finally turned around and drove away back to her little hut on hen's legs.

The tired, tired girl finally arrived back home. She was afraid to go inside and see her stepmother, so instead she waited outside in the shed.

When she saw her father pass by she ran out to him.

"Natasha!  Where have you been?" cried her father. "And why is your face so red?"

"Natasha!  Where have you been?" cried her father. "And why is your face so red?"

The stepmother came out to see what the fuss was all about. She turned yellow when she saw the girl, and her eyes glowed, and her teeth ground together until they broke.

But this time, Natasha was no longer afraid. She told her father everything that had happened. When the old man learned that his wife had sent his own daughter to be eaten by the witch Baba Yaga, he became so angry that he drove the stepmother out of the hut, never to return.

From then on, the father took good care of his daughter and never let a stranger come between them. Over a table piled high with bread and jam, father and daughter would again play peek-a-boo back and forth from behind the samovar, and the two of them lived happily ever after.



Discussion Questions: 

Question 1:  Why did the gates, the servant girl, the big dog and the thin black cat help Natasha escape?

Question 2: Natasha gave small gifts (a soiled kerchief, a few drops of oil, a few morsels of meat and cheese). Why did such small gifts mean so much?


"Baba Yaga" Content Pack

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Lesson Plan


Theater Play Script

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  1. I love it, this is a great kids book for Halloween. My daughter is probably going to read this again because it is so good. Thank you for posting the Baba Yaga story. She loves it and I want to say this is a great book, thank you!

  2. Because Natasha helped them. It meant so much to them with the small gifts because the witch didn’t have them anything but Natasha gave them even though they were small gifts.

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