Russian: Снегурочка, Snegurochka

Very, very long ago in an Old Russian village there lived an old couple: the woodcutter and his wife. They barely made the ends meet, owing to the old man who cut logs in the forest and carried them into the nearest town. They were poor and had no children, so as they grew older they became sadder and sadder. The old woman often asked, "e;Who will take care of us? We are so old." Her husband used to answer, "Don’t worry, old woman. God will not leave us alone, he will help us, if necessary."

One cold winter day they both went to the forest, the old man to chop wood and his wife to help him. The frost that day was severe. The old man said, "Shall we make a little snow-girl to solace us, as we have no child?" In a short time they had made a "Snegurochka" – a Snowmaiden. It was so beautiful that no tale could describe it and no pen could portray it. They were looking at it and becoming even sadder and the old woman said, "If only the almighty Lord had sent us a little girl looking like this Snegurochka."

Suddenly the Snowmaiden’s eyes twinkled and she became alive, may be owing to the strong desire of the poor good people. There was a precious tiara on her head, her hair was white as snow, a brocade cape covered her shoulders, and embroidered boots were on her feet. The woodcutter and his wife were amazed and could not believe their eyes. Snegurochka breathed, trembled and stepped forward. They grew numb thinking they were dreaming. Snegurochka came toward them and said, "Good afternoon, kind folks, do you want to be my parents? I will be a good daughter to you and honor you as mother and father." "You will be the joy of our old age. Come home with us," answered the old man and they led her from the forest.

Snegurochka began to live with the old couple helping them. She was kind and beautiful, always respectful, never contradicted them, so they were very proud of her. But she was always pale and a girl of few words, and this troubled her adopted parents. But her eyes shone like little stars, and her smile lighted up the hut. Time passed. One day the old woman said to Snegurochka, "Why are you so shy, my darling daughter? You always stay at home with us, you don’t have friends. Why do you not show yourself and see people? You should not spend all your time with us, old people." "I am happy here and don’t want to go out," replied Snegurochka.

Festival time came. The streets were lively, strollers were singing from early morning until late night. And Snegurochka finally decided to go outside and to join the merrymaking people. In that village lived many nice maidens, one of them was a true beauty named Kupava. Her hair was black as a raven’s wing, her skin was flourishing. Some time ago a rich merchant came through that country. His name was Mizghir; he was young, handsome and tall. He saw Kupava and he liked her right away. Kupava was not a shy girl, she was dashing and glib, and never turned down an invitation to stroll. Soon Mizghir became Kupava’s lover.

That festive day Kupava, the belle of that place, was parading around in silks and velvets and serving sweet wines to the young men and maidens. When Snegurochka first went out to the street she met Kupava, who introduced all her friends to her. Since then, Snegurochka began to come out more often. There was a young shepherd named Lel, who could play on a flute the beautiful music, they pleased each other and became inseparable. Whenever the young girls came out for walking and singing, Lel would run to the woodcutter’s hut, tap at the window and say, "Snegurochka, my darling, came out and join us in dancing." Once she appeared, he never stepped aside from her.

One day the merchant Mizghir came to the village when the maidens were dancing outside. He and Kupava joined in and were so joyful that made them all laugh. Mizghir noticed the new girl Snegurochka and she stroke him with her tender beauty and whiteness. He liked her; she seemed to him so pale and so pretty! From then Kupava seemed to him too dark and rustic and finally he found her to be unpleasant. There were often quarrels between them and then Mizghir stopped seeing her.

What could Kupava do? She could not be wished-for by force nor return the past. Kupava and other people noticed that Mizghir often returned to the village and visited the house of the woodcutter and his wife. It was rumored that Mizghir asked them for Snegurochka’s hand in marriage. The heart of desolated Kupava trembled when she found out that. She ran to Snegurochka and began to reproach and insult her, she cried, "I will go to the Tsar! I am not going to suffer this dishonor!" She made such a scandal that she was almost forced to leave.

And Kupava went to Tsar Berendey looking for help against Snegurochka, as if she had stolen her lover. Tsar Berendey was wise and gracious ruler; he loved truth and used to solve different disputable questions of his people. He listened to Kupava and ordered Snegurochka to appear in front of him. The woodcutter’s family was frightened, but the Tsar’s word was the law, so they helped their daughter to get ready and accompanied her in order to present her to the Tsar.

Within the Tsar’s palace they stood amazed, the vast courtyard was filled with people, Snegurochka was afraid to take a step and to raise her eyes. Then she looked around and saw the beauty and refinement of internal decoration and began to make the round of the Tsar’s chamber, touching the carved patterns and gold cups, painted icons and rich carpets. Meanwhile Tsar Berendey came in, sat in his gilded and sculptured throne and looked after Snegurochka wondering at her beauty and delicacy. Boyars, wearing tall hats of bear fur trimmed with gold, were sitting on the benches covered with carpets and brocades, bodyguards in caftans white as snow holding silver axes and everyone present waited, keeping silence for the Tsar’s word.

"Come here, young maiden. Come closer to me, gentle Snegurochka," said Tsar Berendey. "Don’t be afraid and answer my questions. Did you commit the sin of severance the two lovers one from another by way of stealing the heart of Kupava’s beloved? Did you flirt with him and are you going to marry him? Tell me only the truth." Snegurochka approached the Tsar, bowed low and told the truth: that she did not know what her fault was, that she was pure in body and soul, that merchant Mizghir had asked for her in marriage, but she did not like him and she refused his hand.

Tsar Berendey took Snegurochka’s hand and looked into her eyes. And he realized that she spoke the truth, but moreover he saw in her eyes that she was unhappy, because she could not love at all, she was like a snowflake – beautiful, fragile but cold, and that she wanted to love, but was not able. He was sorry for her and said, "I see that you are no where at fault. Go home in peace now and don’t be upset." And the Tsar let Snegurochka leave with her adopted parents. Following the girl with his eyes the Tsar thought that nobody could help her except of her real mother – the Spring.

When Kupava learned of the Tsar’s decision she got wild with grief, tore her pearl necklace, Mizghir’s gift, off her white neck, ripped her sarafan (the old Russian dress), and wanted to throw herself in the deep of the well, but Lel saw her, calmed her and talked her out of her resolution.

Meanwhile, spring had come. The sun rose higher and higher in the sky, the snow melted, the tender grass began to shoot, the birds sang and built their nests. But the more the sun warmed, the paler and sadder Snegurochka grew. One spring day young maidens and men strolled and danced in a ring with singing. Then when each youth should choose a maiden for him for dancing, Snegurochka was sure that he would choose her, but he went by and approached Kupava, inviting her for the dance.

Snegurochka was disappointed and felt upset; she rushed deeply to the forest and began to call her mother Spring begging her for help. "Mother Spring," cried she, "What is love, that makes suffer even me, though I cannot love anybody! I want to have feelings like people, I want to love!" Her mother, beautiful, bright and tall woman appeared and responded, "My poor child, you know that it is impossible, due to your father Frost. In my power I can grand you love only for one minute, but then you will die. So I can’t do this, I can’t kill you." "But mother," begged Snegurochka, "The only wish of mine is to feel love. Let me die after it, because anyway I will die without love! Please, Mom!" And Spring agreed through her heartache to fulfill her daughter’s desire. She said, "Farewell, my dear girl" Then she flourished her hands and disappeared.

Just that time Mizghir was sitting beneath a birch and crying about his unhappy love to Snegurochka. Suddenly he heard some noise and saw Snegurochka running headlong between green birches. He stood up, and seeing him, she flung herself into his hot arms. They kissed passionately, Mizghir was happy and called Snegurochka to her adopted parents to ask their blessing for their marriage. But before he can say a word, she disappeared. Only a little puddle remained on the ground.

Thus hot feeling melted the cold Snow Maiden. A light mist rose up and vanished slowly in the blue sky…

Reference

Snow Maiden

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