Once upon a time, two orphan siblings lived in the woods. The girl was called Alyonushka and the boy was called Ivanushka. The girl was the elder and the boy the younger. Although the boy was too young to work, he would accompany his sister as she went to work. One day, the journey to the other side of the forest proved to be too long and too hot for the boy. He grew hungry and thirsty.

An opportunity arose in the path. Ivanushka saw a cow hoof print filled with water. He asked his big sister Alyonushka if he could drink from it. She said no. Then came a second hoof print; this time it was that of a horse’s. Once again, the boy asked his sister if he could drink. Once again, she said no.

There was a well up ahead and the younger sibling would have to wait till they reached it.

One last footprint appeared. This time, it was that of a goat’s. Little Ivanushka did not ask for his sister’s permission. By this time, he was so hot and so thirsty that he got down on his knees and drank. He was immediately transformed into a little white goat; for the footprints on his path had merely been a trick, executed by a witch’s hand.

When big sister Alyonushka realised what had happened, she began to weep. Even though her little brother was now a white goat, she vowed to take care of him forever. In this terrible moment of tragedy, a merchant came by and saw Alyonushka’s plight and plea. The merchant got off his horse and asked Alyonushka why she was crying.

As she told him what happened, he instantly fell in love. He proposed to her right then and there. Alyonushka accepted his proposal and the two were soon married.

The three of them lived happily… but not ever after.

Act II

One day, out of the blue, the witch kidnapped the goat-brother and used him as a decoy to lure Alyonushka to the river. When Alyonushka arrived, the witch captured her, tied her up with rocks and threw her into the river. The little goat-brother, however, having learnt his lesson; managed to escape this time.

When he got home, he was shocked to find that the witch had transformed herself to look like Alyonushka. The Merchant, who had been away during the misfortune, was not able to tell that that was not his real wife. It is funny how deceiving appearances can be. The witch even tried to convince the Merchant to eat the goat. It was then that the merchant realised that something was amiss.

Ivanushka then had the chance to redeem both himself and his sister. He led the Merchant to the river where he found the real Alyonushka. Realising that they all had been deceived by the witch, Alyonushka and the Merchant killed her. This broke the curse that had been placed on Ivanushka and he became a human boy again.

And they lived happily… but probably not ever after.

Artwork by Viktor Vasnetsov

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