Once upon a time a peasant named Ivan had a wife called Marousha. They had been married many years, but they had no children. This was a great sorrow to them. Their only pleasure was watching the children of their neighbors.
One winter day, when fresh white snow lay deep everywhere,
Ivan and his wife watched the children playing in it, laughing loudly as
they played. The children began to make a beautiful snowman, and Ivan and
Marousha enjoyed seeing it snow. Suddenly Ivan said, "Wife, let us go out
and make a snowman, too!"
Marousha was ready. "Why not?" she said. "We may as well amuse ourselves a little. But why should we make a big snowman? Let us make a snow child, since God has not given us a living one."
"You are right, " said Ivan, and he led his wife outdoors.
There in a garden by their house they set to work to make a child of snow. They made a little body, and little hands and little feet. When all that was done, they rolled a snowball and shaped it into a head.
"Heaven bless you!" cried a passerby.
"Thank you," replied Ivan.
"The help of heaven is always good," said Marousha.
"What are you doing?" asked the passerby.
"We are making a snow girl," said Marousha.
On the ball of snow which stood for a head they put a nose and a chin, and they made two little holes for eyes.
Just as they finished thier work---oh, what wonder of wonders!----the little snow maiden moved! Ivan felt a warm breath come from her lips. He drew back and looked: the snow maiden's sparkling eyes were blue, and her lips, rosy now, curved into a lovely smile.
"What is this?" cried Ivan, making the sign of the cross.
The snow maiden bent her head and the snow fell from her now golden hair, which curled about her soft round cheeks. She moved her little arms and legs in the snow as if she were a real child.
"Ivan! Ivan!" cried Marousha. "Heaven has heard our prayers." She threw herself on the child and covered her with kisses.
"Ah, Snegourka, my own dear snow maiden," she cried, and carried her into the house.
Ivan had much to do to recover from this surprise, and Marousha became foolish with joy.
Hour by hour, Snegourka, the snow maiden, grew both in size and beauty. Ivan and Marousha could not take their eyes away from her.
The little house, which had held such sadness, now was full of life and merriment. The neighboring children came to play with the snow maiden. They all chattered with her and sang songs to her, teaching her all they knew.
The snow maiden was very clever. She observed everything and learned quickly. When she spoke, her voice was so sweet that one could go on forever listening to it. She was gentle, obedient and loving. In turn everyone loved her.She played in the snow with the other children and they saw how well her little hands could model things out of the snow and ice.
Marousha said, "See what joy Heaven has given to us after these many years."
"Heaven be thanked," replied Ivan.
At last the winter came to an end, and the spring sun shone
down and warmed the earth. The snow melted, green grass sprang up from
the fields, and the lark sang high in the sky. The village girls went about
Sweet spring, how did you come to us?
How did you come?
Did you come on a plow, or on a harrow?
Although the other children were gay with spring, and full of song and dance, the snow maiden sat by the window looking sadder and sadder.
"What is the matter with you my dear child?" asked Marousha, drawing her close and caressing her. "Are you well? Why aren't you happy?"
"It is nothing, Mother," answered the snow maiden. "I am quite well."
The last snow of the winter had now melted and disappeared. Flowers bloomed in every field and garden. In the forest, the nightingale poured out its song and all the world seemed glad, except the snow maiden, who became sadder still.
She would run away from her friends and hide from the sun in dark corners, like a timid flower under the trees. She liked best to play by the water, under shady willow trees. She was happiest at night and during a storm, even a fierce hail storm. When the hail had melted and the sun broke forth again----she began to weep.
Summer came, with ripening fields, and the Feast of St. John was soon to be celebrated. The snow maiden's freinds begged her to go with them to the forest, to pick berries and flowers.
The snow maiden did not want to go, but her mother urged her, even though she, too, felt afraid.
"Go, my darling, and play. And you, children, look after her well. You know how much I love her."
In the forest the children picked wild flowers and made themeselves wreaths. It was warm, and they ran about singing, each one wearing a crown of flowers.
"Look at us!" they shouted. "Come play with us," they urged the snow maiden. "Follow us."
They went on, dancing and singing. Then all of a sudden they heard, behind them, a sigh.
They turned and looked. There was nothing to be seen but a fast-melting little heap of snow. The snow maiden was no longer among them.
They called and called and shouted her name, but there was no answer.
"Where can she be? She must have gone home," they said.
Back they ran to the village, but no one there had seen her either.
During the next day and the day following, everyone searched. They went through the woods and looked through every thicket, but no trace of the little snow maiden was to be found.
Ivan and Marousha felt that their hearts would break, and for a long time Marousha cried, "Snegourka, my sweet snow maiden, come to me!"
Sometimes Ivan and Marousha thought they could hear the voice
of their child. Perhaps, when the snow returned, she would come back to