Russia: Wednesday

This story is part of the Russian Folktales unit. Story source: Russian Fairy Tales by W. R. S. Ralston (1887).


A young housewife was spinning late one evening. It was during the night between a Tuesday and a Wednesday. She had been left alone for a long time, and after midnight, when the first cock crew, she began to think about going to bed, only she would have liked to finish spinning what she had in hand.

“Well,” thinks she, “I’ll get up a bit earlier in the morning, but just now I want to go to sleep.” So she laid down her hatchel—but without crossing herself—and said: “Now then, Mother Wednesday, lend me thy aid, that I may get up early in the morning and finish my spinning.” And then she went to sleep.

Well, very early in the morning, long before it was light, she heard someone moving, bustling about the room. She opened her eyes and looked. The room was lighted up. A splinter of fir was burning in the cresset, and the fire was lighted in the stove. A woman, no longer young, wearing a white towel by way of head-dress, was moving about the cottage, going to and fro, supplying the stove with firewood, getting everything ready. Presently she came up to the young woman, and roused her, saying, “Get up!”

The young woman got up, full of wonder, saying: “But who art thou? What hast thou come here for?”

“I am she on whom thou didst call. I have come to thy aid.”

“But who art thou? On whom did I call?”

“I am Wednesday. On Wednesday surely thou didst call. See, I have spun thy linen and woven thy web: now let us bleach it and set it in the oven. The oven is heated and the irons are ready; do thou go down to the brook and draw water.”

The woman was frightened, and thought: “What manner of thing is this?”

But Wednesday glared at her angrily; her eyes just did sparkle!

So the woman took a couple of pails and went for water. As soon as she was outside the door she thought: “Mayn’t something terrible happen to me? I’d better go to my neighbor’s instead of fetching the water.” So she set off. The night was dark. In the village all were still asleep. She reached a neighbor’s house, and rapped away at the window until at last she made herself heard. An aged woman let her in.

“Why, child!” says the old crone; “whatever hast thou got up so early for? What’s the matter?”

“Oh, granny, this is how it was. Wednesday has come to me, and has sent me for water to buck my linen with.”

“That doesn’t look well,” says the old crone. “On that linen she will either strangle thee or scald thee.”

The old woman was evidently well acquainted with Wednesday’s ways.

“What am I to do?” says the young woman. “How can I escape from this danger?”

“Well, this is what thou must do. Go and beat thy pails together in front of the house, and cry, ‘Wednesday’s children have been burnt at sea!’ She will run out of the house, and do thou be sure to seize the opportunity to get into it before she comes back, and immediately slam the door to, and make the sign of the cross over it. Then don’t let her in, however much she may threaten you or implore you, but sign a cross with your hands, and draw one with a piece of chalk, and utter a prayer. The Unclean Spirit will have to disappear.”

Well, the young woman ran home, beat the pails together, and cried out beneath the window: “Wednesday’s children have been burnt at sea!”

Wednesday rushed out of the house and ran to look, and the woman sprang inside, shut the door, and set a cross upon it. Wednesday came running back, and began crying: “Let me in, my dear! I have spun thy linen; now will I bleach it.”

But the woman would not listen to her, so Wednesday went on knocking at the door until cock-crow. As soon as the cocks crew, she uttered a shrill cry and disappeared. But the linen remained where it was.

Next: The Leshy

(700 words)

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