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?

Three Tiers of Characters, by Mae Clair

bigstock-Book-Woman-344985There are good books, great books, and books that rank in the stratosphere. What makes them so phenomenal? Characters.

Strip away the plot, setting and pacing, and it comes down to the personalities that fill the pages.

I’ve just completed my 23rd read of 2013. WOOT! Several of those books were in the 500-600 page range and held me mesmerized for each click of the Kindle. Included was a fantasy series by C.S. Friedman called the Coldfire Trilogy.  Originally published in the 1990s, it was something I’d read before. I remembered being in love with the lead character (boy, is THAT a colossal understatement) and decided to read it again.

After drooling over anti-hero Gerald Tarrant through all three books, I started thinking about what makes me want to reread a novel. I realized I could group the characters I love into a three tier system. Take a look:

Old Friends
These are like the kids you went to school with. They had a hand in shaping who you are. You have amazingly fond memories of them and grow nostalgic whenever their names are mentioned. Years sometimes pass between visits, but you’re always thrilled when they drop by. You never tire of this group. They’re “comfortable” and easily inspire reminiscing. My group includes:

Frodo Baggins and Faramir
Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien

Sir Francis Crawford of Lymond
The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett

King Arthur
The Once and Future King

Heartthrobs
This is the group that makes your heart go pitter-patter. As soon as you meet these guys, you’re smitten. For me, they tend to be down-to-earth, a mixture of alpha and beta hero. This is where most of my favorite characters fall. They require more than just an occasional visit. I’m usually inspired to hang out with them at least once a year or every other year. My list includes:

Phillip Quinn
The Chesapeake Bay series by Nora Roberts

Caleb Hawkins
The Sign of Seven Trilogy by Nora Roberts

James (Gem) Carstairs
The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare  

Jayce Wayland
The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare

Louis Kincaid
The Louis Kincaid Mysteries by P.J. Parrish

blacksunrising

Book one of the Coldfire Saga, Gerald Tarrant on the cover
Cover art by Michael Whelan

 Obsessions
These guys are definitely alpha heroes, no two ways about it. I can’t even say I love them, because that’s far too gentle a description. I’m thoroughly, utterly, unabashedly besotted in lust with them. Who are they?

Aloysius Pendergast
The Pendergast series of novels by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Gerald Tarrant
The Coldfire Trilogy by C.S. Friedman

So what attracts me to them? I discovered some amazing parallels:

Their occupations couldn’t be any dissimilar — Pendergast is a Special Agent with the FBI and Tarrant is an undead sorcerer who feeds off fear. After that, things get interesting.

FriedmanCrown

Book three of the Coldfire Saga, Gerald Tarrant on the cover
Cover art by Michael Whelan

Both are cultured and aristocratic in nature, have a precise manner of speaking, are highly fastidious about their appearance (doesn’t hurt that they’re gorgeous), exceedingly wealthy, have genius level intelligence, and are unquestionably deadly. Both are always calm and unnervingly cool, even when facing impossible odds.

Pendergast is mid-30ish, albino-pale, tall and lean with light blond/whitish hair and silver eyes.

Tarrant is over 900 years old (but looks as he did at at 29), is ghostly pale (a side effect of being undead), tall and lean with light brown hair and silver eyes.

Pendergast’s closest friend is a rough-around-the-edges, heart-of-gold, kick-butt rumpled cop.

Tarrant’s frenemy is a rough-around-the-edges, morally conflicted, kick-butt warrior priest.

Pendergast is a special agent with the FBI, but also holds a PhD and speaks multiple languages.

Tarrant is the most powerful and feared sorcerer ever to walk the planet Erna, but was once revered as the Prophet who established the church of the One God. He is also the first Neocount of Merentha.

Are you sensing a pattern? Do I have a “type?”

These guys have nothing in common with the characters from my other groups but they have a lot in common with each other. There is no question they rule in the fictional realm when it comes to claiming my heart.

How about you? Do you have a type? Please share some of the characters you love and what makes them special.  Do you have a Gerald Tarrant or a Pendergast who has left you besotted?

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!