Mythical Monday: The Snow Maiden by Mae Clair

I’m cheating today by reblogging a Mythical Monday post I ran in December of 2012, although I think this will be new to most of my readers. Given the craziness of the holidays and the writing projects I’ve been juggling (final edits for my publisher on MYTH AND MAGIC (releasing June of 2015) and trying to wrap up my Mothman mystery so I can submit it), I neglected to come up with a Mythical Monday post today. I hope you don’t mind this trip down memory lane . . .

~ooOOoo~

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.

Beautiful young woman in dressed in old fashioned winter furs and pearlsRussian 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.

Young women standing in forest as sun breaks through the treesIn another version of the tale, the snow maiden falls in love with a young man from 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?

12 thoughts on “Mythical Monday: The Snow Maiden by Mae Clair

  1. Mae, I love the tales of the snegurochka you shared here. The woodcutter and his wife were so lonely without children, and they fashioned her into their beloved daughter– beautiful story. How sad that she could not remain for always.

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  2. Beautiful legends regarding the Snow Maiden. As I live close to Russia I am familiar with the character, but not with these lovely legends. I recall her being always by Old Dad Frost’s-Santa Claus Russian figure- side.
    I have a legend linked to winter that my granny told me when I was a little girl.( I was little once, I swear).
    Legend says that all trees used to keep their leaves during winter. One winter, a little bird couldn’t leave the country because of a broken wing. She tried to take shelter among the leaves of an oak tree, then an elm tree. Both trees refused her, afraid the bird will eat their fruit and leaves. Desperate, the poor bird lay in the snow waiting to die. Suddenly, a fir-tree called her to find shelter on its branches. The bird was saved. But, on Christmas Eve, a terrible wind blew over the forest. All trees lost their leaves except the kind, generous fir tree, that was repaid by God for its willingness to save the bird. And as such the fir tree keeps his leaves no matter how harsh winters are.

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  3. Enchanting post Mae! You know me…I LOVE all fairy tales, myths, and legends. Those concerning the changing of the seasons have always intrigued me. Did they come into being because a young child wanted to know what happened to change them, or is there just a little bit of truth somewhere in there… ;D

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    • A nice thought, Debbie! Like you, I love old folktales, legends and myth (no one would ever guess that, right? LOL!), and it’s always intriguing to wonder how they began. I thought the snow maiden tale was ideal for this time of year! 🙂

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  4. Great post, Mae — thanks for re-sharing! I’m happy to see things that I may have missed the first time around, like this Frostina the Snowwoman legend. 🙂 Your schedule sounds exhausting — hope you have some treats lined up for when you’re all finished.

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    • Frostina, the Snowwoman :D. I think you missed your calling and should have been a stand-up comedian, Donna, LOL. You ALWAYS make me chuckle.

      As for my schedule and treats, right now I’m just planning on enjoying the holidays as they roll around. Christmas and New Years only come once a year, so I am definitely going to make the time to enjoy them!

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