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Vasilisa the Beautiful, A Russian Fairy Tale

As a children's book illustrator, Denise has many things to say about the process, her struggles, and children's books on the market today.

Vasilisa the Beautiful, A Russian Fairy Tale

Vasilisa the Beautiful, A Russian Fairy Tale

My Children’s Alphabet Book

If you have followed my Fairy Tale Alphabet book series, you know I created a children’s book using fairy tales for each letter of the alphabet. I tried to keep them global, and not concentrate on only the classic Grimm’s fairy tales. This one is a Russian fairy tale. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

“If you happen to read fairy tales, you will observe that one idea runs from one end of them to the other--the idea that peace and happiness can only exist on some condition. This idea, which is the core of ethics, is the core of the nursery-tales.”

— G.K. Chesterton

Vasilisa the Beautiful, A Russian Fairy Tale

A merchant and his wife had a single daughter known as Vasilisa the Beautiful. When she was eight years old, Vasilisa’s mother gave her a tiny wooden doll. “If ever you are in need, give it a little to eat and a little to drink, and it will help you.” The doll comforted Vasilisa when she gave it a little to eat and drink after her mother died. Her father remarried a woman with two daughters. Her stepmother was very cruel to her, but with the help of the doll, she was able to perform all the tasks asked of her. When young men came wooing, the stepmother rejected them all for it was not proper for the younger to marry first, and no one wished to marry Vasilisa's stepsisters.

While the merchant was on a trip, his wife sold the house and moved them all to a gloomy hut by the forest. One day she put out all the fires except a single candle. Her older daughter then put out the candle, and they were unable to light a fire in the house again. Even lamps and candles that were brought in from outside were all snuffed out when carried inside. So Vasilisa was sent to fetch light from Baba Yaga the witch. With her little wooden doll, she came to a house that stood on chicken legs and was walled by a fence made of human bones. It was the hut of Baba Yaga.

To earn the fire, Baba Yaga told Vasilisa she must perform tasks or be killed. She was to clean the house and yard, wash Baba Yaga's laundry, and cook her a meal. She was also required to separate poppy seeds from grains of soil. Baba Yaga left, and Vasilisa despaired, as she worked herself into exhaustion. The doll whispered that she would complete the tasks for Vasilisa so that the girl should sleep.

When she returned, Baba Yaga was surprised to find all the tasks completed. She then sent the girl home with a skull-lantern full of burning coals, to provide light for her stepfamily. Baba Yaga instructed Vasilisa that she must bury the skull after she lit the fire or something bad would happen to her or her family. The coals brought in the skull-lantern worked and Vasilisa buried the skull according to its instructions, so no person would ever be harmed by it.

After gaining confidence by facing Baba Yaga, Vasilisa decided she didn’t need to stay with her stepmother and stepsisters any longer. She went to Russia's capital city, where the Tsar himself noticed her beauty and he married her.

I had to have this page dark.  Since she needed to bring light, how could you see it unless it was dark?

I had to have this page dark. Since she needed to bring light, how could you see it unless it was dark?

Collage Illustrations

I used several photo references for girls, skulls, and mountain cabins. This collage was one of the last I worked on before publishing my book. I hope you enjoy seeing my progress on the collage. Everything needed to be dark in this image. The forest, the cabin, and the snow added a bitter feel to the task she was sent to do. The problem was picturing a girl holding a skull lantern in the dark and the lighting from below would make her look sinister. But I needed her to look beautiful so I had to simplify the lighting on her face.

Color composition

Color composition

“When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking.”

— Albert Einstein

Published with Lulu

This fairy tale has been shortened to fit into my book along with all the other letters of the alphabet. If you would like to read the full version, you can Google the title and find the story as Vasilisa or Vasilisa the Beautiful.

My book, The FairyTale Alphabet Book, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales from Around the World, was self-published last year with Lulu.com because Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing) refused to allow illustrations that spanned the central gutter of the page. They demanded at least a half-inch margin around the outside, which I could have done, and a half-inch margin through the center margin, which would destroy the look and cohesiveness of the double-page illustrations. I had to find a different publisher who would allow the illustrations the way I wanted them. KDP obviously does not understand illustrated children’s picture books. If you are interested in purchasing the book, go to the Lulu website and put my name or the name of the book in the search.

Did You Notice

In my collages, I use paper from magazines, old wall calendars, catalogs, and circulars. Often I will add things into a collage you can't see unless you are looking for it. In this collage I tried to keep the face and dress clean from words or extra pictures but the background forest has plenty of words in the trees. Also, there are flowers, leaves, and books in the letter V.

The dark background and the light from the skull was added in Photoshop.

The dark background and the light from the skull was added in Photoshop.

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

— Neil Gaiman, Coraline

Final Thoughts

Have you noticed how many countries have their own version of a Cinderella-type story? This is just one more.

I hope you like my story and my fairy tale alphabet book idea. If you are interested you can purchase it on Lulu but not on Amazon. I’d love to read your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Comments

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 04, 2020:

Peggy Woods,

I'm happy you like this one. As a step-mother myself, I always hated putting that into the story, but that's the way they are written. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 03, 2020:

The evil stepmother is a familiar tale. I am glad that Vasilisa escaped the evil clutches of her stepmother and went on to marry a Tsar. Thanks for showcasing another fairy tale and showing us your beautiful art.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on May 07, 2020:

Lawrence Hebb,

Yes. I thought it was similar to Cinderella as well with a few twists. The Baba Yaga is no fairy godmother, though. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on May 06, 2020:

Denise

As I was reading it, I thoughtit was similar to Cinderella!

This was quite a special story.

Thank you for sharing it.

Lawrence

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 22, 2020:

Marie Flint,

I do love the process very much. I've been doing it for 10 years now and I thought I would be tired of it by now but I'm not. I'm intrigued with finding ways to make it work in some of the most difficult and intricate illustrations. I've only been doing children's book illustrations with it for about 5 years but I think it works. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on April 22, 2020:

Baba Yaga is a very prominent figure in Russian and Slavic fairy tales. She can be quite scary, yet very just.

Frankly, I would have like the mother to realize that she need to help her daughters to make some changes if the eldest was to marry first. That would be an entirely different story, wouldn't it?

I continue to be intrigued with your work process on these collage illustrations. You undoubtedly love this work; otherwise, you simply wouldn't have the patience or enthusiasm to do it.

Thank you for being an inspiration for me.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 13, 2020:

William Kovacic,

I'm happy you think it is delightful. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 13, 2020:

Devika Primic,

I'm so glad you think so. I learn something new while doing the research too. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Devika Primic on April 13, 2020:

Russian fairy tales are interesting and didn't think much of it until you enlightened me. I enjoy reading your fairy tales always brings back memories or I learn of a new fairy tale as this one. Your work is incredible!

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on April 13, 2020:

I guess it is a little like Cinderella. I never thought of that. One more delightful tale with artwork to match.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 12, 2020:

Linda Crampton,

The wooden doll is an interesting character, isn't she? Someone compared her to the fairy godmother in other Cinderella stories. I like that analogy. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 12, 2020:

Donna Rayne,

This one kept my attention too even though it was a bit dark. They are old tales, I just re-tell them. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on April 10, 2020:

I love discovering fairy tales from different countries and cultures by reading your articles. The magical doll is an interesting character.

Donna Rayne from Sparks, Nevada on April 10, 2020:

Denise, I loved this fairy tale and it kept my attention. You are an excellent writer and I can't wait to read more of your fairy tales!

Blessings,

Donna Rayne

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 10, 2020:

DreamerMeg,

I thought that too. I think I would have had the confidence to do anything after that. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 10, 2020:

Lorna Lamon,

That is a very good analogy: the doll was the fairy godmother. I hadn't thought of it that way, but it is partly true. I could use a magical doll with chores around my house! Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 10, 2020:

Liz Westwood,

I'm glad you liked it. I am well. I'm working on more collages and book illustrations. Why not? I have the time. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 10, 2020:

Eric Dierker,

It is a bit dark. It is amazing to me how some cultures seem to lean toward the dark side. It is almost as though you have to have come through a really challenging darkness to be worthy of the light. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on April 10, 2020:

A great story, I hadn't heard this one before. It's the kind of task that "makes you or breaks you". No wonder she then felt confident enough to leave that house.

Lorna Lamon on April 10, 2020:

I actually prefer this version of Cinderella and how her doll was her fairy godmother. I'm glad it still had a happy ending. I enjoyed seeing how everything came together. Another beautiful creation.

Liz Westwood from UK on April 10, 2020:

I feel like I am getting a world tour with your fairy tales from different countries. Your collage is made all the more amazing when you explain the materials you have used. I hope you are keeping well.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on April 09, 2020:

I just love the artwork and seeing it progress to a finished product. The tale although well done is a bit dark for me. /happy ending aside/

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 09, 2020:

Ivana Divac,

I'm glad you like it. I did change it a little to make it short enough. I loved the helpful wooden doll. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Ivana Divac from Serbia on April 09, 2020:

You really never cease to amaze me. Your style of writing is out of this world. This fairytale is truly close to my heart, and I really like that you chose to present it here.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 09, 2020:

MG Singh,

I'm glad you like them. I do hope that they keep the interest for everyone, children and adults, all the way to the end. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

MG Singh emge from Singapore on April 09, 2020:

I love your fairy tales. So we'll presented that interest remains to the end.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 09, 2020:

Jason Nicolosi,

Thanks so much. I can use those kudos on YouTube. I'm trying to build an audience and so far I only have about 32 subscribers. I'm glad you like this one. It is a little gruesome with the skull and all but interesting. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Jason Nicolosi from AZ on April 09, 2020:

Wow. Your amazing. I adored this one. Super cool image too. I loved the video as well, and of course I gave it a big thumbs up on youtube.