Not targeting a specific theme or event, Vasnetsov managed to portray in his painting the soul of Russian fairy tale akin to low-key Central Russian nature. The image of Alyonushka, painted from a peasant girl, conveys the suffering of a meek, lonely orphan, abandoned by everybody; such a character can be found in many a tale. She spends an eternity sitting on a white stone, as if turned into stone herself with suffering, her eyes being a mirror of unspoken despair. The girl's gaze pulls you in like a whirlpool. The deep dark water, with an eerie reflection, is pulling at Alyonushka like a magnet. The girl's figure seems to be made of shapes of nature, dying evening colours and foliage patterns and concentrates in itself the inward-turned sadness of autumn nature, which takes care to conceal and safeguard the heroine. Nature consoles her like a mother consoles her baby. The landscape motifs are inspired by poetical folklore images, for example, the swallows that are gathered on a twig above Alyonushka's head are good messengers, helpers in misfortune, while the fluttering aspens are a symbol of rough luck.
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