Some say that Baba Yaga is a terrible witch. Others say that she is a wise woman. The one thing everyone agrees upon is that trouble always follows when the mischievous Izbushka, her chicken legged hut, decides to wander the woods. On a night very similar to this night, Izbushka rose up on it's chicken legs and began to wander until the woods were no longer familiar. In the morning when Baba Yaga awoke, she made her way to the nearby town.
Within this town sat a poor musician. He spoke to anyone that would listen about his greatness, though no instrument did he have to prove himself.
“I can make the children dance! I can make cows give the sweetest milk! I can make the clouds pour rain onto the fields! For I am the greatest musician that has ever been.”
When Baba Yaga approached him, the man tried to dismiss the terrible looking stranger until he saw her reaching into her caftan. From within the sleeve of her coat she drew a battered flute which she then offered to the man.
“Your boasts are great, but I see you have no instrument to honor them. As a gift, I give you my flute. All I ask in return is your gratitude when next we meet.”
The musician scoffed at the old woman, but he accepted the gift and agreed to return the favor for her generosity.
For months the musician traveled from town to town. When he played, the children danced. When he played, the cows would give the sweetest milk. When he played, the clouds would pour rain upon the fields. He became famous for his boasts.
One day on his travels, he came to a town in desperate need. As his name preceded himself, he was approached by the Kniaz, the Viscount, of the area.
“Oh musician, we have heard much of your wondrous deeds. We could use your help. Our town is plagued with foul beasts that bite us night and day. If you could please help to remove them, we would reward you handsomely.”
The musician's chest swelled. “Of course I can do this. For I am able to make the children dance. I make cows give the sweetest of milk. I make the clouds pour rain upon the fields. For I am the greatest musician that has ever been!”
With that, the musician played his well traveled flute and began to lead the rats from the streets. The pests danced as they followed him out of town where he led them to a stream to drown. When he returned, the people were so grateful that they gathered their fortunes to give to the musician. The Kniaz even offered the musician his own daughter to marry.
That evening the strange old woman appeared once again before the musician. She knocked upon the door of his new home in the town. Instead of being greeted with gratitude, the musician threw the flute back in the old woman's face.
“Old woman, I owe you nothing. You giving me this haggard flute did not help me earn what I have now. It was my own talent and skill. Take back this filthy instrument and I shall purchase one that does me proper honor with my new found wealth.” The musician slammed the door in front of Baba Yaga, giving her none of the gratitude he had promised her.
Having now angered the Baba Yaga, she took the flute he had thrown back at her feet and placed it back within the sleeve of her caftan. “With this flute, you got what you desired.” She drew a golden flute encrusted with rubies out of her other sleeve. “With this flute, you will get was you deserve.”
The next morning when the musician woke, he left his house to see the most perfect flute for the greatest musician that has ever been. He took up the flute, thinking it a gift from the town, and began to play. To his horror, he could not stop playing the flute. Instead, he watched as the children of the town began to dance. He followed them as they left the town and each, one by one, danced into the river where they drowned. When the musician returned to the town, the Kniaz was waiting for him, along with the rest of the town, for none could make the children dance like this musician.
That morning, the musician hung for his deeds. And lucky for all of you, the mischievous Izbushka returned Baba Yaga home once more.
Story by Katrusha the Skomorokh