Snow Maiden - Folk Tales from Old Russia
Once Upon A Time, at the edge of a deep forest, there lived
a poor woodcutter and his wife. As they grew older; they
became sadder and sadder because they had no children.
One day in the dead of winter, the woodcutter and his wife
went to the forest to chop wood. The cold was intense; the
work long and difficult. Hoping to cheer his wife, the woodcutter
said, "Let us make a little snow girl."
So they set to work shaping balls of snow, and in a short
while they had made a "snegurochka" - a snow maiden.
by this sight, the woman sighed, "If only the good
Lord had sent us a little girl to share our old age."
They did not know that The Fairy Spring had been watching
them. Her daughter, Snegurochka The Snow Maiden, had yearned
for the companionship of mortal humans and wanted to live
with the people. But her father Winter, ruled her and would
not release his daughter, Snegurochka.
The Fairy Spring, took pity and decided to set her free.
But before she did, she gave her this warning: "Dear
Snegurochka, you shall be safe from death by the sun's rays
so long as the love for a man does not enter your heart."
Suddenly, a miracle occurred.
The eyes of the snow maiden the woodcutter and his wife
had made twinkled and the breath of life parted her lips.
Snow maiden no more but a real flesh and blood girl.
Snegurochka trembled and spoke: "If you will let me
be your daughter, I will be a good daughter to you, the
joy of your old age."
“My darling daughter, let it be as you desire,”
answered the old man. “Come home with us, our longed-for
little girl!” They took her by her white hands and
led her from the forest.
As they went,
the pine trees swayed goodbye, saying their farewell to
Snegurochka, with their rustling wished her a safe journey
and happy life.
The old couple
brought Snegurochka home to their wooden hut, their ‘isba,’
and she began her life with them, helping them to do the
chores. She was always most respectful, she never contradicted
them, and they could not praise her enough, nor tire of
gazing at her, she was so kind and so beautiful
that no words could describe her.
nevertheless, worried her adopted parents. She was not at
all talkative and her face was always pale, so pale. She
did not seem to have a drop of blood, yet her eyes shone
like little stars. And her smile! When she smiled she lighted
up the isba like a gift of rubles.
They lived together
thus for one month, two months; time passed. The old couple
could not rejoice enough in their daughter.
In the same
village there lived a maiden called Kupava. She was a true
beauty, with hair as black as a raven’s wing, skin
like blood and milk, and arching brows.
day a rich merchant came through town. His name was Mizgir,
and he was young and tall. He saw Kupava and she pleased
him. Kupava was not at all shy; she was saucy and never
turned down an invitation to stroll.
in the village, called to all the young girls, gave them
nuts and spiced bread, and danced with Kupava. From that
moment he never left town, and, it must be said, he soon
became Kupava’s lover. There was Kupava, the belle
of the town, parading around in velvet and silks, serving
sweet wines to the youths and the maidens and living the
The day Snegurochka
first strolled in the street, she met Kupava, who introduced
all her friends. From then on Snegurochka came out to dance
in the sun with her friends daily. A young boy, a shepherd,
pleased her. He was named Lel. Snegurochka pleased him too,
and they became inseparable.
Whenever the young girls came out to stroll and to sing,
Lel would run to Snegurochka’s isba, tap on the window
and say: “Snegurochka, dearest, come out and join
the dancing.” Once she appeared, he never left her
One day Mizgir
came to the village as the maidens were dancing in the street.
He joined in with Kupava and made them all laugh. He noticed
Snegurochka and she pleased him; she was so pale and so
pretty! From then on Kupava seemed too dark and too heavy.
Soon he found her unpleasant. Quarrels and scenes broke
out between them and Mizgir stopped seeing her.
Kupava was desolate,
but what could she do? One cannot please by force nor revive
the past! She noticed that Mizgir often returned to the
village and went to the house of Snegurochka’s old
parents. The rumor flew that Mizgir had asked for Snegurochka’s
hand in marriage.
learned this, her heart trembled. She ran to Snegurochka’s
isba, reproached her, insulted her, called her a viper,
a traitor. She made such a scene that they had to force
her to leave.
go to the Tsar!” she cried. “I will not suffer
this dishonor. There is no law that allows a man to compromise
a maiden, then throw her aside like a useless rag!”
So Kupava went
to the Tsar to beg for his help against Snegurochka, who
she insisted had stolen her lover.
ruled this kingdom; he was a good and gracious Tsar who
loved truth and watched over all his subjects. He listened
to Kupava and ordered Snegurochka brought before him.
envoys arrived at the village with a proclamation ordering
Snegurochka to appear before their master.
subjects of the Tsar! Listen well and tell us where the
maiden Snegurochka lives. The Tsar summons her! Let her
make ready in haste! If she does not come of her will we
will take her by force!”
The old woodcutter
was filled with fear. But the Tsar’s word was law.
They helped Snegurochka to make ready and decided to accompany
her, to present her to the Tsar.
lived in a splendid palace with walls of massive oak and
wrought-iron doors; a large stairway led to great halls
where Bukhara carpets covered the floors and guardsmen stood
in scarlet kaftans with shining axes. All the vast courtyard
was filled with people.
the sumptuous palace, the old couple and Snegurochka stood
amazed. The ceilings and arches were covered with paintings,
precious plates lined up on shelves, along the walls ran
benches covered with carpets and brocades, and on these
benches were seated the boyars wearing tall hats of bear
fur trimmed with gold. Musicians played intricate music
on their tympanums. At the far end of the hall, Tsar Berendei
himself sat erect on his gilded and sculptured throne. Around
him stood bodyguards in kaftans white as snow, holding silver
long white beard fell to his belt. His fur hat was the tallest;
his kaftan of precious brocade was embroidered all over
with jewels and with gold.
was frightened; she did not dare to take a step nor to raise
said to her: “Come here, young maiden, come closer,
gentle Snegurochka. Do not be afraid, answer my questions.
Did you commit the sin of separating two lovers, after stealing
the heart of Kupava’s beloved? Did you flirt with
him and do you intend to marry him? Make sure that you tell
me the truth!”
approached the Tsar, curtsied low, knelt before him, and
spoke the truth; that she was not at fault, neither in body
nor in soul; that it was true that the merchant Mizgir had
asked for her in marriage, but that he did not please her
and she had refused his hand.
took Snegurochka’s hands to help her to rise, looked
into her eyes and said: “I see in your eyes, lovely
maiden, that you speak the truth, that you are nowhere at
fault. Go home now in peace and do not be upset!”And
the Tsar let Snegurochka leave with her adoptive parents.
learned of the Tsar’s decision she went wild with
grief. She ripped her sarafan, tore her pearl necklace from
her white neck, ran from her isba, and threw herself in
From that day on, Snegurochka grew sadder and sadder. She
no longer went out in the street to stroll, not even when
Lel begged her to come. She no longer danced with her friends
and the long cold winter seemed like it would never end.
But Winter did
finally give way, and one beautiful spring morning Lel came
to Snegurochka’s little window and pleaded with her
to come out with him, just once, for just a moment to feel
the return of Spring. For a long while Snegurochka refused
to listen, but finally she could no longer resist Lel’s
pleas, and she went with him to the edge of the village.
“Lel, oh Lel, play your flute for me alone!”
she said. She stood before Lel, barely alive, her feet tingling,
not a drop of blood in her pale face!
With the sun
shining brightly overhead they stopped to rest at a lovely
grove where a melodic stream harmonized with Lel's flute
music, as he played the haunting melody which had become
Snegurocka's favorite song. As she listened she gazed upon
young Lel and an overwhelming feeling of love filled her
heart so that washed all traces of saddness out.
In an instant she knew that this was what her mother had
warned her against, but she also knew that without love
she would never be happy again.
Without hesitation, Snegurochka beconed to her beloved to
play one more song for her and with those words she surrendered
herself fully to the warmth of love. While the golden rays
of the sun shone down on her she began to melt.
Lel saw nothing
but a light mist rising from where she had been. The vapor
rose, rose, and disappeared slowly into the blue sky toward