REVIEW: “Vasilisa the Wise” by Kate Forsyth

Review of Kate Forsyth, “Vasilisa the Wise”, in Skull & Pestle: New Tales of Baba Yaga, edited by Kate Wolford (World Weaver Press, 2019): 5-15 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

This opening tale of the anthology is a straight-up, no frills, no changes retelling of the story originally recorded by Alexander Afanasyev (don’t let the title confuse you: this is story of Vasilisa the Beautiful, not the story of Vasilisa the Wise, which is a version of “The Frog Prince”). Vasilisa is sent by her stepmother out into the darkness to borrow fire from Baba Yaga. Along the way, Vasilisa meets three horsemen, one white as dawn, one red as noon, one dark as night, and once she’s within Baba Yaga’s clutches, she must rely on her wits, her kindness, and the advice of the doll that her mother gave her before she died to perform the tasks that Baba Yaga has set her.

It’s quite a classic fairy tale, with bits recognisable from many other tales in the tradition of the Grimm brothers — the evil stepmother, the trek through the woods, the witch who eats people, the three tasks — and Forsyth’s retelling maintains the classic, antique “voice” of the fairytales of childhood. It sets a good stage for the rest of the anthology.

(Originally published in Vasilisa the Wise & Other Tales of Brave Young Women, Serenity Press, 2017).