Vasilisa the Beautiful: Summary, Characters & Analysis

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

'Vasilisa the Beautiful' is a Russian fairytale that features a young girl named Vasilisa and one of the most infamous characters in Russian folklore, Baba Yaga. In this lesson, we will examine the story and discuss the characters.


Do you have something that someone special once gave you that seems to offer you strength and protection when you need it the most? In 'Vasilisa the Beautiful', the young girl, Vasilisa, was given a special doll on her mother's deathbed. Let's find out more about this story.

Vasilisa's Mother

As Vasilisa's mother lies in bed, she hands Vasilisa a doll and says, ''Do as I tell you, my child. Take good care of this little doll and never show it to anyone. If ever anything bad happens to you, give the doll something to eat and ask its advice. It will help you out in all your troubles.''

After a period of grief, Vasilisa's father remarries an evil woman who is more concerned with her own two daughters than with Vasilisa. Vasilisa's stepmother and stepsisters verbally abuse her and force her to work. Vasilisa remains obedient, completes her work, and becomes more beautiful.

Vasilisa feeds her doll milk every day and tells it her problems. The doll comforts Vasilisa and takes care of her. When her father goes away on a trip, Vasilisa is left alone with the others. Her stepmother gives each of them a job to do, puts out all the lights except for one, and goes to bed. When the light goes out, the stepsisters decide that Vasilisa must go to the nearby home of Baba Yaga, an evil witch who eats people, to ask for a light.

Baba Yaga

Vasilisa is frightened, but her doll reassures her. A white horseman, a red horseman, and a black horseman gallop by as she approaches Baba Yaga's hut surrounded by a fence of bones. As Vasilisa is frozen with fear, Baba Yaga flies up behind her in her mortar and pestle. Baba Yaga invites Vasilisa in, but explains she must work to earn the light.

On the way in, Vasilisa passes a tree, dog, and cat that Baba Yaga commands not to hurt her, but warns that if she tries to run away, they will. Baba Yaga feeds Vasilisa a piece of bread and then orders her to work under threat of being eaten. Vasilisa secretly shares her bread with her doll. The doll calls birds from all around to help. When Baba Yaga wakes, the work is complete. Baba Yaga gives Vasilisa another task. Once again Vasilisa feeds her doll a piece of bread. The doll calls the mice to help so by the time Baba Yaga returns, the work is complete.

Baba Yaga becomes angry and decides to roast Vasilisa and eat her. Vasilisa cries and feeds the doll once again. Vasilisa gives the maid a silken kerchief in exchange for taking her time lighting the fire and tickle's Baba Yaga's heels so that she will sleep more soundly and Vasilisa will run away. Vasilisa gives the cat a pie, the dog some bread, and a ribbon to the tree so that they allow her to pass.

Vasilisa's Escape

Vasilisa takes a skull with glowing eyes from the fence, puts it on a stick and takes it home. When Baba Yaga wakes and finds her gone, she is so angry with the cat, dog, and tree for letting Vasilisa go that Baba Yaga forgets about Vasilisa.

When Vasilisa brings the skull into her house, its eyes burn the stepmother and stepsisters to ashes. When Vasilisa buries the skull, a rosebush grows. Vasilisa goes to live with an elderly woman where she spins flax into a fine thread. The old woman sells it to the Tsarevich, the tsar's son. He asks for a shirt made of it, so Vasilisa makes him a shirt. He loves the shirt so much that he asks Vasilisa to marry him.

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