Alionushka is a Russian folktale.
It is a custom in Russia for the family education of a child to start with a lullaby, sung by the mother, and with a fairy tale, told by the grandmother. It is believed that a song and a fairy tale constitute the air of folk poetry and that the baby breathes this in with the music and words. These influence a child's attitude and morality. "A fairy tale is a lie, but it contains a truth, and it is a good lesson for a regular fellow" -- so goes the Russian proverb.
There was once an old peasant who lived with his wife, his daughter Alenushka and his son Ivanushka. When the old man and his wife died, Alenushka and Ivanushka were left alone.
One hot, sunny day, Alenushka and Ivanushka were on their way to work in the field. As they made their way down the road, Ivanushka became thirsty. “Alenushka,” he said to his sister, “I want to drink something!”
“Wait a little, brother Ivanushka, let’s keep going until we reach a well.”
The sun was high in the sky and the well was yet a long way off. They began to perspire as they walked. It was then that Ivanushka saw a cow’s hoof full of water.
“Alenushka, may I drink from the hoof?” he inquired of his sister.
“Don’t drink it, brother, or you’ll become a bull calf!” Ivanushka reluctantly heeded his sister, although he was parched with thirst. They continued on their way.
The sun was still high, the well still a long way off, and it was unbearably hot. Suddenly, Ivanushka saw a horse’s hoof full of water. “Alenushka, may I drink from the hoof?”
“Ah, brother! You’d better not, or you will become a foal!”
Ivanushka sighed and they continued to walk to the field.
They had been walking for a long time now, and were dripping with sweat. The sun was still high in the sky, the well still a long way off, and it was unbearably hot.
This time, Ivanushka saw a goat’s hoof full of water.
“Alenushka, may I drink from the hoof?” he again asked his sister.
“Brother, brother, don’t drink or you’ll turn into a kid (a baby goat )!”
But this time, Ivanushka did not obey his sister and, when she was not looking, drank from the goat’s hoof. At once he was transformed into a kid.
Alenushka called out for her brother and looked for him everywhere, but she found only a white kid that ran after her instead of her brother. Alenushka burst into tears. She sat on a small haystack and cried while the kid jumped about all around her.
Just then a merchant passed by.
He asked, “Pretty girl, what are you crying for?” Alenushka told him about her misfortune.
The merchant replied, “why don’t you marry me? I’ll dress you in rich clothes, gold and silver and your brother can live with us.”
Alenushka thought a little and soon decided to marry the merchant.
They lived well for a long while and the kid lived with them also. He ate and drank from the same cup as Alenushka. One day the merchant had to go on a business trip and Alenushka stayed at home alone.
Suddenly a witch appeared out of nowhere. She stood under Alenushka’s window and with a sweet voice beckoned her to go swimming in the river. She took Alenushka to the river. She tied her to a stone and threw her into the river. Than the witch transformed herself into the likeness of Alenushka, put the girl’s dress on and went to the merchant’s house. Nobody, not even the merchant, suspected the truth and guessed that she was the witch.
Only the kid knew the truth. He was sad and would not eat or drink. Every day he went to the riverbank and called out: “Alenushka, my dear sister! Come out of the water!”
The witch found out and started asking her husband to slaughter the kid. But the merchant felt sorry for the animal. He had already become accustomed to the beautiful kid. But the witch insisted in asking the merchant to kill the animal. At last he could not refuse and gave in. The witch ordered him to light a big fire, to fill a big kettle with water to boil, and to sharpen the knives.
The kid knew that his life was in danger and asked [suddenly the baby goat can speak? If he could speak, why didn’t he tell his sister that he was Ivanuskha his adopted father to let him go to the river to drink some fresh water before his death.
“Go ahead,” said the merchant.
So he ran to the river and lamented mournfully on the bank, “Alenushka, my sister! Come out of the river! A big fire is being lit! The water in the kettle is boiling! Knives are being sharpened! They want to kill me!”
The witch discovered that the kid had disappeared and had a slave go find him. “Go and bring him to me!” she ordered.
The slave went to the bank and saw the kid crying sorrowfully, “Alenushka, my sister! Come out of the river! A big fire is being lit! The water in the kettle is boiling! Knives are being sharpened! They want to kill me!”
Suddenly from the water came the sound of Alenushka’s voice. “Ah, my dear small brother! A heavy stone has sunk me to the bottom of the riverbed! Silken grass is grown around my legs! A pile of yellow sand lies upon my breast!”
The slave ran home and told his master what he had seen. They gathered together the people of the village and went down to the river, threw in a great net and hauled Alenushka to the bank. They removed the stone, bathed her in spring water, and put a nice dress on her. Alenushka returned to life and became even more beautiful than before. The kid jumped for joy and toppled over onto his head. When he had toppled three times he turned back into a boy. The witch was then tied to a horse’s tail and the horse was released into the field.