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.
Moved 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.
Snegurochka knew that she would have to sacrifice
her immortality to live with humans but still she
asked her mother to please release her. So, the Fairy
Spring, took pity on Snegurochka and decided to set
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
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.
they went, the pine trees swayed goodbye, saying their
farewell to Snegurochka, with their rustling wished
her a safe journey and happy life.
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
lived together thus for one month, two months; time
passed. The old couple could not rejoice enough 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.
One 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.
stopped 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 joyful life.
day Snegurochka first strolled in the street, she
met Kupava, who introduced all her friends. From then
on Snegurochka came out to dance with her friends
daily. A young boy, a shepherd, pleased her. He was
named Lel. Snegurochka pleased him too, and they became
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 side.
Snegurochka wanted to sing of love with her friends,
including the shepherd Lel, but her heart was unable
to know love.
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.
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
Kupava 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.
will 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!”
Kupava went to the Tsar to beg for his help against
Snegurochka, who she insisted had stolen her lover.
Berendei 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
Tsar’s envoys arrived at the village with a
proclamation ordering Snegurochka to appear before
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!”
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
Berendei 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
inside 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
Berendei’s 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
was frightened; she did not dare to take a step nor
to raise her eyes.
Berendei 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.
Benendei 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!”
the Tsar let Snegurochka leave with her adoptive parents.
Kupava 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 the well.
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.
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. For a long while
Snegurochka refused to listen, but finally she could
no longer resist Lel’s pleas, and she went with
her beloved to the edge of the village.
“Lel, oh my 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!
took out his flute and began to play Snegurochka’s
favorite air and Fairy Spring called on the flowers
to fill her daughter's heart with love.
listened to the song, and tears rolled down from her
eyes. She was falling in love with Lel, and as her
heart warmed she began to melt. Then her feet melted
beneath her and she fell onto the damp earth and suddenly
saw nothing but a light mist rising from where she
had fallen. The vapor rose, rose, and disappeared
slowly in the blue sky.