Vasalisa The Wise

"Vasalisa The Wise", 2011 by Gaby De la O, from an original acrylic illustration, 21 x 29 cm.

Russian folk tales were a vital part of my childhood. The Firebird, Father Frost, The Frog Princess, The Sea King... I know them all. Not only because my family is formed of avid Russian lacquered box collectors, but because we would attend every year Children's Book Fairs. Among the most beautiful books, there were the Russian ones, and this is how I got to know the story of Vasalisa.  

This is an illustration I made a while ago. It has been truly inspirational to look at it, and although it's a first attempt to play with digital colours and patterns, I am quite pleased with the results.

This passage depicts Vasalisa carrying Baba Yaga's fiery skull. She has gone through several hardships, and, at last and with a little doll she keeps in her pocket (invisible to your eyes ;) she holds this powerful magic lantern which will help her to find her way back home.

I know this is some how not the sweetest part of the tale, but the strongest and most empowering. Vasalisa, is a one of a kind heroine one can find in fairytales. She depicts a young woman who goes through a path of initiation. So, sorry girls, you won't find Prince Ivan here, but a fearsome encounter with the old woman who lives in the deep. In some versions, Vasalisa hesitates to carry this torch. No wonder, its fiery visage is dreadful. But those versions also say, that the skull speaks to her saying: Calm down and keep going.

It was not long ago, that by reading Clarissa Pinkola Estés' masterpiece Women Who Run with Wolves, I could deeply understand the true meaning behind Vasalisa's story and her encounter with the motherly wild force which is Baba Yaga. I have selected some phrases from the book and I hope, if read well, share these beautiful words with all of you.

"And though she herself is sweet of heart, the skull is not sweet, its work is to be sight full"

"She goes forward in life, feet placed surely one after the other, womanly"

Please note: In English, this fairytale is known as "Vasalisa The Beautiful" I have chosen to name it "The Wise", as I had learned it from the Spanish translation.


Спасибо (Spasiba)


  1. Gaby, the illustration is beautiful!
    One comment: She is "Vasilisa". And "Vasilisa the Wise" and "Vasilisa the Beautiful" are different fairy tales.

    I'll find the originals if you want.))

  2. Hi Katya, sorry to reply this late, I have been quite busy but I'm back in town! you are absolutely correct! I haven't my books here, but I do remember there are several Vasilisas... If you have a link that would be wonderful so we can share it here, what do you think?


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