Marya And The Magic Doll

Once there lived a merchant who had one little daughter. She was always known as Pretty Marya, for she was so graceful and beautiful.

When Marya was relatively small, her mother fell ill and, feeling she was dying, gave her daughter a small doll.

“Guard it carefully and show it to no one,” the mother said. “It will protect and help you.”

The merchant was very lonely when his wife died and thought that he should get married again for little Marya’s sake.

Finally, he decided to marry a widow who had two daughters of her own. The widow seemed to like little Marya, but once she was married, things were quite different.

It soon seemed that nothing Marya did could please the new stepmother or her two daughters. They became increasingly spiteful and unkind to poor little Marya and made her work hard at the household tasks.

When Marya was depressed, she would go to her room and tell her troubles about the little Doll. As her mother had said, the Doll looked after her and protected her.

The Doll would tell Marya to sleep when the work was too hard or heavy. The job would all be done when she woke up the following day.

Marya grew up more and more kind and beautiful while her two stepsisters grew more and more bad-tempered and ugly.

One day, the merchant set out on a long journey. While he was away, the stepmother rented a small house for herself and the three girls. It was on the edge of a deep, dark wood where a terrible old witch lived.

Marya had to work very hard as usual, but she did it all without complaining, only telling her little Doll when she was depressed.

One evening, the stepmother called the three girls and gave each of them a job. One had to make lace, the other was given some knitting, and Marya had to spin flax into thread.

They worked at their tasks by the light of a candle. The fire burnt lower and lower in the fireplace and finally went out. Then the candle began to smoke. One of the stepsisters took a pair of scissors to trim the wick, but she cut it clumsily, on purpose and put it on the flame.

“What am I to do now?” complained the girl who was making lace. “I need light to see what I am doing.”

“I need light to see my knitting needles,” the other sister said. “As the fire has gone out and we have no way of lighting the candle, Marya will have to go and ask the old witch for a flame and bring it back.”

Marya trembled with fear, for the witch was said to be very terrible. The two jealous stepsisters smiled secretly to themselves, for they were sure she would never return and they would be rid of the lovely Marya at last.

In her bedroom, Marya told her troubles to the Doll. “Do not be afraid,” said the Doll. “Only take me with you, and you will come to no harm.”

Marya set off through the dark wood with the Doll tucked in her apron. It was night, and she felt terrified.

After what seemed a long time, a man dressed all in white and riding a white horse passed her, and then the sky grew lighter as the dawn came.

Soon afterwards, a man dressed in red galloped past on a red horse, and soon, the sun began to rise behind the trees.

All through the day, Marya walked until, at last, she came to the witch’s cottage. As she approached, a black horseman rode swiftly on a black horse. Night fell as Marya entered the house to ask the witch for some fire.

“I will let you have it if you complete some tasks for me,” she replied.

Then she told Marya that the paths must be swept, the rooms dusted, the breakfast prepared, the washing done, and seven million grains of wheat mixed with seven million millet must be separated into two piles.

“If you have finished by morning, all well and good,” said the witch. “If not, I shall eat you.” Then she left Marya some thin cabbage soup and hard bread for supper.

As usual, Marya shared her poor meal with the Doll. Then the Doll told her to forget and go to sleep. When Marya woke the following day, all the tasks had been completed.

The witch was very pleased. She seated herself at the table, and Marya served breakfast to her in silence.

“Are you dumb?” asked the witch.

“No,” replied Marya. “I would like to ask you something.”

“Ask then,” said the witch and Marya wanted to know who the three horsemen were, whom she had seen in the wood.

The witch was pleased with the question, for she had expected Marya to be very interested and ask about her magic or her spells as other people always did.

She explained that the three were the clear Dawn, the red Sun and the black Night. “In return, tell me how you managed to complete all the tasks so quickly,” she said.

Marya remembered her mother’s warning to tell no one about the Doll and replied, “My mother’s blessing helped me.”

The witch turned pale. “Go at once,” she said, shoving Marya from the door. “Children who have been blessed are not welcome here.” She thrust a burning brand into Marya’s hand and sent her off home.

Marya made her way back through the forest to the little cottage, guarding the burning brand carefully, and the Doll saw that the flame did not go out.

The two stepsisters were surprised to see her, for they thought the witch would have eaten her by now. They took the burning brand from her without any thanks and lit the candle.

Marya took up her work again. When her linen was finished, it was so delicate and beautifully embroidered that an older woman in the nearby town bought it at once. She took it to the Royal Palace, where everyone admired it so much that Marya was sent for and asked to make a coat for the king.

The king was delighted with his new coat. He sent for Marya to thank her. To his surprise, she was young and beautiful. He immediately fell in love with her, and they were quickly married.

When Marya’s stepmother and stepsisters heard of her marriage, they exploded with rage and jealousy. Returning from his long journey, the merchant found they had all disappeared and was delighted to be rid of his badtempered wife.

He went to live with Marya in the Royal Palace and lived happily to a ripe old age.

The little Doll which had guarded Marya so carefully went with her too, and she kept it until the end of her life in a beautiful velvet box that she had made for it. Still, she never told anyone about the Doll, for she always remembered her mother’s instructions.

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