FOLK TALES: courtesy of Mary Mark Ockerbloom, A Celebration of Women Writers

"Snow-White." by Lilian Gask (1865-)
From: Folk Tales From Many Lands. retold by Lilian Gask (1865-). Illustrations by Willy Pogany (1882-1955). New York, T.Y. Crowell & Company [1910] pp. 29-35.

FROM MANY LANDS: courtesy of Mary Mark Ockerbloom, A Celebration of Women Writers


SNOW-WHITE This is the RUSSIAN version of the myth of the "SNOW-MAIDEN" so popular among all the nations of NORTHERN EUROPE.

O NE fine winter's day, when the frost had spangled the dark green fir-trees, and the ponds and rivers were thick with ice, Ivan and Maria, two Russian peasants, sat by their cottage window. They were looking wistfully at a group of merry children busily engaged in making a huge snow-man; the little people were having a grand time, and though Ivan and Marie were both kind-hearted, the sight of their enjoyment made them very sad. For they had no child of their own, and their cottage was often lonely.

"Fate has been unkind to us, wife," sighed Ivan; and Marie hid her face on his shoulder, and tried to keep back her tears.

After a while Ivan stopped sighing, and his wife lifted her head.

"See how these children yonder are enjoying themselves," he said; "why shouldn't we follow their example? Let us go into the garden and build a snow-woman."

Marie smiled and agreed. They would be children again, she cried, and forget their trouble. The clear dry air brought back the roses to her pale face, and her husband gave her a tender kiss as they passed behind a glistening fir-tree.

"Let us make a little snow-child," she suggested, as Ivan began to shovel the crisp snow.

"Ah! that's a very good idea," exclaimed her husband, and soon he had shaped a little body with dainty hands and arms and feet. While he did this, his wife modelled a little head; it had such exquisite features that when it was fixed in its right place, both stepped aside to admire it.

"It is lovely!" cried Ivan, and Marie sighed so deeply that the soft little curls she had given the little snow-child seemed to stir on the pretty forehead.

As Marie and her husband added some finishing touches, a stranger came down the road, and inquired what they were doing.

W E are making a snow-child," replied Ivan, stepping back once more to admire the little figure. As he did so he saw with intense surprise a gentle quiver of its eyelids. A soft pink colour stole into its cheeks and lips; a deep sigh lifted the little bosom, and the dimpled fingers he had modelled so lovingly uncurled and stretched themselves. There stood before him a living child–a child more lovely than any that he or his wife had seen in their fairest dreams.

"Who are you?" he asked, when he could speak, and his wife leant tremblingly against him, scarcely daring to breathe lest the entrancing vision of the child should vanish from her sight.

"I am Snow-white, your little daughter," replied the figure, throwing her fairy-like arms around his neck as he bent towards her. Marie, in turn received a sweet embrace, and, weeping for joy, they quickly took her into the cottage.

No longer now were Ivan and Marie lonely. Snow-white prattled to them by the hour together, and they were never weary of watching her. Her tiny feet pattered over the snow, like those of some small white elf, and the colder it was, the happier she seemed to be: her favourite playthings were the glittering icicles that hung from the frosted trees. Snow-white's hair was like fine spun silk; her eyes were blue as the heavens, and her skin white as snow. So gentle and sweet were her looks and ways that every one loved her dearly, and the children in the village were never so happy as when they played with her.

The winter passed, and the snow melted. Before the spring sunshine had spread a wave of green over the land, and studded the meadows with brilliant flowers, Snow-white had grown as tall as a girl of twelve. As the days grew longer she lost her joyous spirits and became quiet and sad.

"Are you ill, my child?" inquired her mother; but Snow-white shook her head.

"No, dear Mother, I am not ill," she murmured, but instead of playing with the other children, as she had loved to do before, she stayed indoors, gazing out of the window with dreamy eyes, as if she saw what was not visible to mortal eyes.

"Snow-white! Snow-white! what are you doing?" cried a group of her small companions, peeping in through the open door. "Come with us; we are going to the woods to gather flowers, and dance round the fairy ring."

"Yes! go to the woods with your little friends, my darling," said her mother fondly, tying a ribbon over her pale gold curls, that they might not be ruffled by the wind.

"WHO ARE YOU?" ASKED IVAN

Snow-white left the cottage reluctantly; she would far rather have stayed at home, and her steps were the only listless ones in that merry throng.

When the children had filled their laps with many-hued blossoms, they wove them into wreaths and crowns, for that night they were going to have a festival, and they wanted to look like queens. As the day wore on they returned to their homes, but when dusk had fallen they came back for Snow-white, and once more she went with them. Her soft blue eyes were very wistful as she glanced at her father and mother, but they bade her go and play.

There was a bonfire in the market-place, and the dancing flames leapt high. The sparks flew round in gleaming showers, and the children laughed and shouted.

"Look at us, Snow-white, and do as we do!" said first one and then another, jumping over the fire. Suddenly they saw that Snow-white had vanished.

"Where are you?" they cried, but there was no reply. Snow-white had melted in the heat of the fire, and floated away as vapour to the clouds from which she had first come in soft white flakes of snow. Her friends and playmates searched for her unavailingly, and never again did she sit with her parents by their cottage door.

 

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FROM MANY LANDS: courtesy of Mary Mark Ockerbloom, A Celebration of Women Writers