Contemporary Russian folklore declares that the Snow Maiden is GRANDFATHER FROST’s grandchild and assigns her the role of helping him distribute GIFTS to RUSSIA’s children on New Year’s Eve. The Snow Maiden is usually represented as a beautiful little girl or teenager with long blond braids. She dresses in a light blue robe and cap trimmed with white fur. She may wear a modern, knee-length robe and white boots or a more traditional ankle-length robe. An old Russian legend tells her story. Neither Christmas nor Grandfather Frost appear in this traditional tale. In the twentieth century, Communist officials linked the legend of the Snow Maiden with their chosen gift bringer, Grandfather Frost.
LEGEND OF THE SNOW MAIDEN
Snegurochka is the Russian word for “Snow Maiden.” Many different versions of her tale can be heard across Russia. The outlines of the story remain the same, however.
Once upon a time an old, peasant couple were watching their neighbors’ children romp in the snow. The couple had always wanted children of their own but had reached old age without having any. As they watched the youngsters play, their longing inspired them to build a little girl out of snow. They rolled, patted, and shaped the snow, creating the image of a beautiful little girl with long braids. She was so life-like that they spoke to her, beseeching her to come to life and live in their house as their own daughter. Moments later the snow girl seemed to breathe, then her lips and cheeks blushed pink, and her braids turned from white to golden blond. Their wish had come true! The girl told them that she had come from the land of winter to be their daughter. The astonished couple hugged the girl and took her home with them.
The Snow Maiden was cheerful and good as well as beautiful. Everyone loved her. The old couple took great joy in making a home for her and in watching her frolic with the other children. But as spring approached the Snow Maiden began to change. Little by little, she lost her good spirits and seemed to grow tired or ill. One day she announced that the time had come for her to return to the far north, to the land of winter. The couple begged her not to go. The old woman hugged her daughter tightly and felt drops of water on the surface of the girl’s skin and clothes. This alarmed the old couple, but neither knew what to do. In a few minutes the Snow Maiden had melted away completely.
Her disappearance broke their hearts. They mourned for her throughout the spring and summer. They tried to shut their ears to the laughter of children playing in the sunshine, since it only reminded them of the sweet Snow Maiden. The old couple passed a gloomy autumn, and, soon, winter returned to the land. One evening, as the snow swirled around the eaves of their house, they heard a knock at the door. The sound struck fear into their hearts because they could not imagine who would visit them on such an evening. Soon they heard a familiar high-pitched voice cry, “Mama, Papa, open the door! The winter snows have returned your daughter to you!” The old man flung open the door and there stood the smiling Snow Maiden. The old couple wept and embraced her. Just as before, the three of them passed a joyful winter together. As spring approached the old couple resigned themselves to the Snow Maiden’s disappearance. They did not grieve for her when she melted, though. They knew that the winter snow would return their Snegurochka to them next year.