16 days until Hellboy Day - Vasilisa
Did you ever wonder what would have happened if Cinderella had returned to her abusive step family and immolated them with a cursèd skull? Enter Vasilisa, one of Slavic folklore's most beloved figures and a vitally important character in the world of Hellboy.
Her history in the Hellboy universe faithfully mirrors her folkloric origins, Vasilisa's cruel stepmother felt such jealousy of the girl's beauty and compassion, the very opposite of her own daughter, that she concocted a plan to dispose of the child. Deep in the taiga, in a familiar cottage, with familiar chicken legs and very familiar glowing skulls, Vasilisa found herself knocking at the door of Baba Yaga with the instruction from her stepmother to bring back fire for the family hearth.
As in Slavic folklore and in Hellboy, Baba Yaga was more than a stereotypical cackling crone. Certainly she would have been more than happy to cook and eat Vasilisa, however her motto was to be tough but fair and offered the girl the fire she sought on the condition that she could complete a number of seemingly impossible tasks.
These tasks were easily completed with the aid of an enchanted, ambulatory doll, gifted to Vasilisa by her dying mother. With the agreement fulfilled Vasilisa happily returned home, her way illuminated by a skull, lit from within with a burning soul. In a move that then seems slightly unexpected this skull then burned to death Vasilisa's conniving stepmother and stepsister.
Traditional stories end at this point, with Vasilisa brushing away those that had wronged her and living happily ever after. However, when Hellboy encountered her, in a far off land from our own, she had become something quite different. Though her corporeal form may have been long gone, her soul remained as a rare spirit of goodness and aided Hellboy in his fight against Koshchei the Deathless.
Brandishing the skull granted to her by Baba Yaga, she was able to incapacitate the immortal warrior and eventually gave Hellboy a number of incredibly powerful magical items with which he was able to effect his return to our world.
Vasilisa and Koshchei had crossed paths many times before then, that skull had become a bone of contention for Baba Yaga. The thought of someone else wielding even a small fragment of her own power was unbearable and having captured the capricious caprine capsule containing the soul of Koshchei, she set him the task of killing Vasilisa, and cutting from her heart the magic that the girl had stolen.
This Koshchei readily achieved, being as he was a mighty, unkillable warlord and she a small, pleasant, peasant girl. However the following day she had returned unharmed and so this cycle continued for a long while, until Koshchei discovered that Vasilisa had died many years previously. The guilt of his actions and deep resentment of Baba Yaga caused Koshchei to send the mortal remains of Vasilisa far from the witch's grasp.
In Hellboy's darkest and most desperate battle, fighting for England and to a lesser extent the world itself, Vasilisa returned. Once again she would offer to Hellboy a weapon powerful enough to defeat his foe, though it seems that even she is aware of the price he will have to pay.
Follow her story in:
The Storm and the Fury
Koshchei the Deathless