O nce upon a time an old man, a widower, lived alone in a hut with his daughter Natasha. Very merry the two of them were together, and they used to smile at each other over a table piled with bread and jam, and play peek-a-boo, first this side of the samovar, and then that. Everything went well, until the old man took it into his head to marry again.
So the little girl gained a stepmother. After that everything changed. No more bread and jam on the table, no more playing peek-a-boo around the samovar as the girl sat with her father at tea. It was even worse than that, because she was never allowed to sit at tea at all anymore. The stepmother said that little girls shouldn't have tea, much less eat bread with jam. She would throw the girl a crust of bread and tell her to get out of the hut and go find someplace to eat it. Then the stepmother would sit with her husband and tell him that everything that went wrong was the girl's fault. And the old man believed his new wife.
So poor Natasha would go by herself into the shed in the yard, wet the dry crust with her tears, and eat it all by herself.
Then she would hear the stepmother yelling at her to come in and wash up the tea things, and tidy the house, and brush the floor, and clean everybody's muddy boots.
One day the stepmother decided she could not bear the sight of Natasha one minute longer. But how could she get rid of her for good? Then she remembered her sister, the terrible witch Baba Yaga, the bony-legged one, who lived in the forest. And a wicked plan began to form in her head.
The very next morning, the old man went off to pay a visit to some friends of his in the next village. As soon as the old man was out of sight the wicked stepmother called for Natasha.
"You are to go today to my sister, your dear little aunt, who lives in the forest," said she, "and ask her for a needle and thread to mend a shirt."
"But here is a needle and thread," said Natasha, trembling, for she knew that her aunt was Baba Yaga, the witch, and that any child who came near her was never seen again.