This is the first ever Baba Yaga tale that I have told and written based off of a collection of other tales I have read. It isn't my favorite and I haven't told it in a long time.
Once, long ago and far away, there lived a man, his wife, and their daughter. Now, as usually happens in these stories, the wife died and the husband grieved. Well, as also happens in these stories, the husband remarried and the step-mother did not like his daughter.
One day, the step-mother called to the daughter and told her to go to her grandmother and complete as many tasks for her as she desired. This idea did not sit well with the girl as she knew that any person with even a sliver of evil within them must be related to a Baba Yaga and, as we all know, these witches like to eat children.
The girl was a clever girl, so she decided to visit her other grandmother and tell her the tale of what was to happen. The grandmother, though, could do nothing for the girl other than prepare her for the trip with bread, cheese, milk, and ham and give her some words of advice. She told the girl to always be kind to anyone less fortunate than herself, no matter how wretched they appeared, for she would never know when she would be the one in need of help. With food in her pack and words in her head, she began her journey.
It doesn't matter how long or how hard the journey was, she arrived at the hut of Baba Yaga. The hut, she saw, stood on two chicken legs and ran about the clearing. This concerned her, but only for a moment as she recalled what to say. “Izboushka, Izboushka. Turn your back to the forest and face me!” The hut settled to the ground and the little girl entered.
“Fou, fou. I smell a Russian child,” said Baba Yaga. The girl told the witch why she was there. “Ah, if it is tasks you are here to complete, I will give you one each day. If you complete them to my satisfaction, I will not eat you. Your first task is to fill my bath.” Before the girl could reply, the Baba Yaga had gotten into her mortar, beat it with her pestle and flew out of sight.
Alone now, the girl searched for something to fill the bath with, but could only find a sieve. Try as she might, the sieve would hold no water. Defeated, she sat on the ground and began to cry when she noticed a flock of birds. They were the most wretched birds she had ever seen. They looked like they hadn't eaten in days. She threw them her bread and it was devoured in seconds. They told her to fill the sieve with mud. She filled the sieve with mud and, lo and behold, it held water. The bath was soon filled and she was, once again, alone.
That was when she noticed some mice. They were the most wretched mice she had ever seen. They looked like they hadn't eaten in days. So she threw them her cheese and it was devoured in seconds. They told her the only way she could escape the Baba Yaga was to find the cat. She began to look for the cat. In her searching, she found a dog. It was the most wretched dog she had ever seen. It looked like it hadn't eaten in days. So she threw it her ham and it was devoured in seconds.
“The cat's in the kitchen,” said the dog. She went into the kitchen where she, sure enough, found the cat. It was the most wretched cat she had ever seen. It looked like it hadn't eaten in days. So she threw it her milk and it was devoured in seconds. The cat told her that the only way she could hope to escape the Baba Yaga was to steal the witch's comb and towel and run. When the witch would draw close behind her in chase, she was to throw the towel behind her. When the witch would catch up again, for surely she would, she was to throw the comb and run home.
Some time later, neither long nor short, the Baba Yaga returned home. Delighted to see her bath was filled, she set out her comb and towel and retired to the bath. No sooner did the witch disappear that the girl grabbed up the comb and towel and took to her heels running. When the witch finally finished her bath and came out to see the child was missing, she was furious. Once more she jumped into her mortar, beat it with her pestle and gave chase to the girl.
When the Baba Yaga could be heard behind her, she remembered the cat's words and tossed the towel over her shoulder, continuing to run. The towel grew into an immense river, so deep and so wide that even the Baba Yaga could not cross it. The witch rushed home and called to her cows, bringing them to the river and telling them to drink until it was dry. Once the river was dry, she once again followed after the girl.
When the Baba Yaga could be heard behind her again, as the cat promised, she remembered the cat's words and tossed the comb over her shoulder and continued to run. The comb grew into a forest so thick and so tall that even Baba Yaga could not cross it. Defeated, the witch returned home and, in victory, so did the girl. She ran to her father and told him everything that had happened. Angry with his new wife, he threw her into a lake and he and his daughter lived happily ever after without her.