The Snow Maiden

The Snow Maiden

(Russia)

Many readers will already be familiar with the tale of the Snow Maiden. It come to us from Old Russia, a land of sparkling forests and frozen palaces. The tale begins, as do so many folktales the world over, with an old childless couple. They are poor and devoutly religious (poverty and piety being de riguer for old childless couples in folktales). While cutting wood in the forest, they take a break to build a snegourochka, a little girl made of snowballs. Lo and behold, the snegourochka comes to life, and she is everything the old couple ever dreamed of in a daughter. She is pretty, respectful and well dressed in fancy boots, cloak and diamond tiara. She helps out around the house and conveniently for her elderly parents, she’s bypassed the diaper stage.

The storyteller would have us believe that this Snow Maiden is a gift from God, a reward for the old couple’s unwavering faith. Given the outcome of the story, however, the exercise seems cruel and pointless in God’s part. For Snegourochka is not a child of flesh but of snow. In some versions of the story, she crumples at the first sign of spring. In others, she lasts until Midsummer, only to be vaporized by the St. John’s Day fires. A few writers hint at the possibility that, like Frosty, she’ll be back again someday, but this is a modern gloss. When the girl is gone, she’s gone and the old couple is left with nothing but a soggy patch of forest floor.

No doubt it was a witch and not an angel hiding behind one of the snowclad fir trees in the forest that day–perhaps Baba Yaga or one of those pesky German witches flown over from the west. “Be careful what you wish for, “ she might have cackled to herself as she worked her magick over the doomed little snegourochka.

Excerpt from:

The Snow People
Linda Raedisch
Lllewellyn’s 2012 Witches’ Companion
An Almanac for Everyday Living