Dog Tales by Fred Cartan

Magda and the Magic Dress

Many years ago, in a small village not far, but not near Moscow, there were two charming young ladydogs, Katrin Ivanova and Magda Yurinova. Both were young and poor and talented and liked by all the village. Katrin had long blond fur and blue eyes. Magda had short brown fur and brown eyes. Both Katrin and Magda liked to dance and both were popular with the local young dogs.

Each summer, the village had contests so the young village ladydogs could show off their sewing, weaving, cooking, embroidery, and other household arts. The village elders were proud of their young people. They tried to give fine prizes. All the young ladydogs from the village and even some from other villages would try to win the prizes.

After the contests, the village would also hold dances with musicians to play for the dance and for all to hear. All the village dogs came to eat, to see the handiwork and to enjoy the dances.

That summer, the first contest was for fine weaving. The prize was a fine linen dress with red borders, a red apron, and matching red leather boots. Both Katrin and Magda came to look at it. Katrin thought, "I don't have any dress so fine. I would like to win it." Magda thought, "That is a beautiful dress. If I were wearing it, all the young dogs would dance with me."

Both Katrin and Magda went home to work on their weaving. Katrin wove a fine scarf. Magda wove a tablecloth with silver edges. Both worked very hard. But when the judges decided, they said Katrin had won. She wore the dress to the dance that evening. All the dogs danced with her. Magda thought, "Katrin is pretty in that dress. All the young dogs are dancing with her. I wish I had a fine dress like that." All the young dogs danced with Magda too, but she didn't notice.

The second contest was for embroidery. The prize was a white silk dress with gold thread woven into it and a matching lace headdress with pearls sewn into it. Both Katrin and Magda came to look at it. Katrin thought, "That would be a fine dress to wear to church on Holy Days." Magda thought, "If I win this dress, I will have a dress to wear to the dances, just like Katrin does."

So both Katrin and Magda went home and began to work on their embroidery. Katrin was embroidering blue and yellow flowers on a white scarf. Magda was embroidering her initials on a white handkerchief. She added bluebirds on each side of the initials. Both were very pretty but after looking at all the embroidery, the judges gave the prize to Katrin.

Magda was very unhappy. She worked hard and got no prizes. She envied Katrin the pretty dresses and the fine headdress. Katrin did not wear the new prize to the dance. But she smiled and had a good time. All the young dogs danced with her. Magda sulked, thinking "If I had a fine dress like Katrin all the young dogs would dance with me." Almost all of the young dogs did dance with Magda, but she did not notice.

The next day, Magda went to her old grandmother, Veronika Klathanova. She said, "It is unfair that I do not have fine dresses like Katrin. If I did, all the village would like me and the young dogs would want to dance with me. How can I get a dress like hers that everyone will admire?"

"Magda, you are a silly pup," her grandmother said. "All the young dogs do dance with you. They like you, not your dress." But Magda would not believe her. "Grandmother, I know some of the young dogs still dance with me, but there would be more wanting to dance if I had a wonderful new dress like Katrin's. Don't you know any dog who could help me get a new dress?"

Her grandmother said, "You are foolish, little Magda, but since you are determined, I may know someone who might be able to help you." She thought for a moment and then said, "I am not certain, put perhaps if you go talk to Baba Yaga, she may know."

"Baba Yaga," Magda said, "I do not know her. But if she can help me I will ask her. Where does she live?"

"Baba Yaga is a very old ladydog. She lives in a strange house in the forest, and knows many things, perhaps even magic. If she likes you, she may help you. If she does not like you, she may trick you. Are you sure you wish to ask her for help?"

Magda replied, "I will ask her. I must have a new dress."

"Very well," her grandmother said. "When you go you must take her a gift. Do you know the old bridge where the forest road crosses the stream?"

"Yes," said Magda.

"If you follow the path that goes downstream from the bridge for one half a verst, you will find Baba Yaga's house. It is in a clearing in the darkest part of the forest.

"It is a round wooden house with a thatched roof. There is a small door with a step beneath it. There are two great eyes painted on the house, one on each side of the door. The house stands on four magic feet, like great chicken's feet and they slowly turn the house around and around. You will not be able to talk to Baba Yaga until you make the house stop.

"There is only one way to do this. You must wait until the door faces you, and repeat a secret rhyme. Luckily, I know the rhyme. Listen carefully, Magda, this is what you must say:

Stop little house
Hear what I say
Cease all your turning
I ask you to stay"

The next day, Magda baked a cake with raisins and nuts in it. "Old ladydogs like cakes," she thought. "If she likes it, perhaps she will help me." She put the cake into a basket and set out for Baba Yaga's house. She followed the road through the forest until she reached the stream and then turned and walked downstream for half a verst. There she found the house, just as her grandmother had described it.

She walked up to the house and waited until the door of the house turned to face her. She then repeated the rhyme her mother had taught her.

"Stop little house
Hear what I say
Cease all your turning
I ask you to stay"

The house's feet stopped walking. The house stopped turning. The house's painted eyes seemed to be looking at her. Magda stepped up to the door and knocked. Baba Yaga came to the door. She was a very old ladydog with grey fur and she walked all bent over. She looked at Magda and said, "Come in Magda Yurinova. Tell me why you have come."

Magda said, "I have come to ask you for help. I have a gift for you," and she gave Baba Yaga the cake. "I want a fine new dress like my friend Katrin has," she told Baba Yaga. "But I am too poor to buy one. All the young dogs dance with Katrin. I want a dress that will make all the young dogs to dance with me. Do you know of a dress that I might have that will make everyone look at me?"

Baba Yaga told her, "Yes, I know of a fine dress that everyone will admire. And you will look beautiful wearing it. But it is a magic dress and if you wear it you may be in danger.

"It is said that it was once worn by an angel. If you wear it you must be very careful what you do or say. You must always speak truthfully and kindly of everyone. If you speak unkindly or lie about someone else, the dress will turn into rags and you will receive a terrible punishment. Are you sure you want such a dress?"

Magda said, "I still want it. I will be careful what I say."

"Very well," Baba Yaga said. "I will tell you where you may find it. Tomorrow you must go to the old crossroads. Look for an old oak near the crossroads that has been hit by lightning. Dig between the roots of the old oak. You will find a carved wooden box. The dress you wish is inside it. But remember my warning! And so, goodbye Magda Yurinova."

Magda left the strange house in the forest and went home. The next morning she went to the crossroads. She found the old oak tree and she dug between its roots. She found the wooden box and opened it. There was a beautiful red velvet dress and dark red leather slippers in the box. They both fit her. Magda was very happy. "Now I have a dress as good as Katrin's," she thought to herself.

The next month, there was to be a great dance in the village. Czar Ivan's son, Prince Anton Ivanovich, was to judge the dancers and pick the most beautiful young lady dog.

Magda put on her new dress for the dance. She looked at herself in the mirror. "My, how fine I look," she thought. "All the young dogs will dance with me." And she went off to the dance.

Katrin put on her fine silk dress and the lace headdress with the pearls. She started off for the dance. But on her way there, she came upon a little pup, setting in the middle of the path, crying.

Katrin stopped and said, "Little pup, why are you crying?"

The pup explained "My sister is very sick and my mother sent me for medicine to cure my sister. But we only have one kopeck and the apothecary would not give me the medicine."

Katrin felt sorry for the pup and, since she had little money, she gave the pup her headdress with the pearls. "Take this headdress to the apothecary and trade it for the medicine," she told him. The pup thanked her and ran off to the apothecary.

Prince Anton judged the young ladydogs at the dance. There were many pretty young ladydogs. He called for Magda to come near and awarded her the prize, a bunch of roses from the Czar's garden, tied with silk ribbons. Magda was very happy.

But the prince had also heard what Katrin had done and he called her to come near and gave her the silver cross and chain he wore about his neck. "You have done a good thing. You deserve to have this cross," he told her.

Now Magda was very unhappy. She was not happy with her prize. She wanted a special prize like Katrin had been given. "It is not fair," she told her friends. "Katrin only gave the pup her headdress because she knew that the prince would hear of it and like her."

There was a loud "POUFF" and a cloud of green smoke that covered Magda. When it cleared, all the dogs began looking at her. She looked down at her dress. Her beautiful red velvet dress was gone and she was wearing ugly rags.

All the young dogs looked at her, and pointed. She saw her reflection in a mirror. She had the face of a pig. She threw a scarf over her face. She was ashamed and afraid and ran home to hide.

The next day, she still had the pig's face and the next day. She did not let her parents or her friends see her. Finally she crept to her old grandmother, and told her what had happened. "How can I get my own face back?" she asked.

Her grandmother said, "I do not know, Magda. Perhaps if you go to Baba Yaga and tell her what you have done, she may help you."

Magda made another cake and went back to the forest and Baba Yaga's house. When she stopped the house and knocked, Baba Yaga came to the door. "Magda Yurinova", she said, "What have you done?"

Magda explained what had happened and gave Baba Yaga the cake. "I warned you, child," Baba Yaga said. "I cannot take away the pig's face - not now - but if you do what I say, it may go away after a time."

"You can never get the dress back," Baba Yaga said. "You must take the old ragged dress and put it back into the carved box and bury it again beneath the roots of the oak tree. Then you must go to Katrin and apologise for what you told her friends. Then you must go away from other dogs and you must not look in a mirror for a month. If you do this, your face may slowly return. But most important, Magda Yurinova, you must think why this happened."

Magda cried, but she did what Baba Yaga had told her to do. She buried the ragged dress. On the way to Katrin's house, all the dogs looked at her pig's face, and some pointed and a few laughed. When she talked to Katrin, Katrin did not laugh or point. She said that she was sorry to see the pigs face but that she liked Magda and she accepted the apology.

Magda went home, and worked in the fields where no dog could see her face. She did not look in a mirror. After a month, she looked in a mirror and found that her face was beginning to come back. She stayed away from the other young dogs and after another month, she again looked at herself in a mirror. The pig's face was gone.

Her face was back. Magda was happy. But, when she thought of Baba Yaga's words, she could not understand why this had happened to her.