Mae Clair’s Mythical Monday: The Snow Maiden

It’s December, and in a good portion of the U.S., that generally means cold temperatures, icy roads and the chance of snow. Usually.

This year is different. Could be because the Mayan calendar predicts the world is going to end in under two weeks or because the polar ice caps are melting at record rates. Whatever the cause, the weather has been curiously mild. I live in the northeast where we’ve had temperatures climb into the 60s during the day. Lovely, but not fitting with our normal attire of heavy coats, boots and gloves (just for the record, I love heeled boots with long skirts so I’m suffering a mini fashion crisis here). We’ve seen one snowfall, pretty while it lasted, but not enough to amount to anything.

As much as I love warm weather (and wouldn’t mind living somewhere tropical year round), I’ve always held a fascination for stories set in cold climates. A few of my all-time favorite novels have earned that distinction because the author employed a winter backdrop. Snow settings can be beautiful and magical, but also claustrophobic. THE RINGED CASTLE by Dorothy Dunnett (book 5 of the Lymond Chronicles) is an amazing read set in 16th Century Russia that conjures all three of those feelings.

presentRussian folklore is also where I found the legend of The Snow Maiden, a short poignant fairy tale.  There are several variations but all agree on the basics – – a woodcutter and his wife, lonely and childless, decide to amuse themselves one day by fashioning a snegurochka, a maiden from snow. Taken with their creation, they fervently wish her to be a daughter they can love and cherish. Their desire is so strong it weaves an enchantment that brings the snow maiden to life. She appears in a robe and cap of pale ivory that is embellished by pearls and trimmed in white fur. Overjoyed, they take her into their home as their own child.

All is well until the first sign of spring when the snow maiden tells them she must head north to lands where winter still reigns. Upset at the thought of losing her, the woodcutter barricades the door as his wife wraps the girl in her arms to prevent her from fleeing. As she holds her, the snow maiden slowly melts into nothingness. Overcome by grief, the couple mourns throughout the year. The next winter their daughter returns and their sadness becomes joy. The snow maiden promises to stay the season and return each year after that.

In another version of the tale, the snow maiden falls in love with a young man fromIn the Forest the village. One day they wander into a birch wood where the last vestiges of winter are fading and green shoots struggle to push up from the ground. The snow maiden turns her face to the sun and with its touch dwindles into an icy mist that is whisked away by the wind. And so winter must always yield to light and life as winter yields to spring.

I love these old fairy tales. What about you? Are there any special ones that come to mind? Any favorites from childhood that still resonate with you the way snow and winter resonate with magic? Tell me about them. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

20 thoughts on “Mae Clair’s Mythical Monday: The Snow Maiden

  1. I didn’t know about the snow maiden. Beautiful little fairytale. I remember the fairytale of Rose Red and Snow White and the grumpy dwarf they meet in the forest. I can see that picture book from my childhood perfectly in my mind but have no idea what happened to it.


    • I remember fairy tale books from my childhood too, Emma. The one that really stands out is another (I think) Russian fairy tale about the Firebird. I may have to look that one up and do a Mythical Monday post on it someday. I only remember a little about Rose Red and Snow White. It’s weird how some things really stick in my memory of those long ago tales and others are just flashes of memory. Love them all though! 🙂


  2. LOL! I thought I was seeing things, but I’m totally not. It’s snowing on your website! Way cool.

    Of course, I prefer the version of the snow maiden tale where she falls in love, because I’m a hopeless romance addict. But both versions you present here are lovely. Thanks for sharing!


    • Hi, Jessi. Isn’t the snow cool? It’s something Word Press added. You can activate it from your dashboard and it will “snow” on your website until 1/4/13. I thought it worked great with my Snow Maiden post, LOL.

      And I’d have to agree with you about the romantic version. I’m a romantic sap too 🙂


  3. It definitely is a mild one this year. Where I’m from, we hit the record as of yesterday as the most time we’ve gone without snow. I just hope it doesn’t mean winter will last longer!

    Loved the Snow Maiden tales! I’ve actually never heard them before. I really like all the fairy tales out there. There are so many different variations of them.


    • Very weird when your part of the country doesn’t have snow, L.J., LOL. It’s been such a strangely mild winter so far. My husband loves it. I kind of miss the chill and snow – – at lease for December. After New Year’s I’m ready for spring!

      Glad you enjoyed the Snow Maiden fairy tale. I thought it was perfect for this time of year!


  4. Recently a new book came out Fairy tales from the brothers Grimm a new English version by Philip Pullman. I purchased it when I was at Chapters looking for kid books. It’s delightful. Stories i never heard of and new takes on the one I know. Interesting – in snow white – the dwarfs are not named – Disney did that!


    • LOL! Tomorrow (after several days of low 60s) we’re actually dropping into the low 40s. Boots, here I come 😀

      Glad you enjoyed my Mythical Monday pick, Stanalei. It’s fun hunting these things up!


  5. This is lovely! I’m not a fan of snow, or winter, so I’m glad it isn’t acting much like winter here right now. In fact, I was thinking of starting a petition to get rid of winter entirely, if anyone wants to sign. LOL


    • My hubster would be the first in line, Donna. The man hates winter!

      I’m not overly fond of it, but I do enjoy brisk temperatures and snow in December. After that I’m ready to usher in spring again. I’ll happily petition for a much shorter winter. That stretch from January to March is miserable!


    • Ooh, I’m sure I must have seen your review, Sheri. How very exciting. Given it’s going to make your Top Ten list and you called it “enchanting”, I know I’ll be investigating further. Thanks! 🙂


  6. I was wondering how I missed your Mythical Monday, then realized it was cause I was on my way home from El Paso. I’ve never heard about this tale, but think it’s absolutely fantastic! You always come up with the coolest stories. My favorite stories seem to stem more from mythology than fairy tale… How the Valkyrie were made is a favorite of mine…


    • No worries, Kitt. I am so far behind some days, I’m still playing catch-up a week later! I love both fairy tales and myth and, actually, Norse mythology ranks among my favorite. I haven’t begun exploring that on Mythical Mondays yet but will have to keep the Valkyrie in mind. Thanks! 🙂


  7. Pingback: The Greatest Gift « theinnerwildkat

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