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The Story Of King Frost

from The Yellow Fairy Book





From the Russian.

There was once upon a time a peasant-woman who had a daughter and
a step-daughter. The daughter had her own way in everything, and
whatever she did was right in her mother's eyes; but the poor
step-daughter had a hard time. Let her do what she would, she
was always blamed, and got small thanks for all the trouble she
took; nothing was right, everything wrong; and yet, if the truth
were known, the girl was worth her weight in gold--she was so
unselfish and good-hearted. But her step-mother did not like
her, and the poor girl's days were spent in weeping; for it was
impossible to live peacefully with the woman. The wicked shrew
was determined to get rid of the girl by fair means or foul, and
kept saying to her father: 'Send her away, old man; send her
away--anywhere so that my eyes sha'n't be plagued any longer by
the sight of her, or my ears tormented by the sound of her voice.
Send her out into the fields, and let the cutting frost do for
her.'

In vain did the poor old father weep and implore her pity; she
was firm, and he dared not gainsay her. So he placed his
daughter in a sledge, not even daring to give her a horse-cloth
to keep herself warm with, and drove her out on to the bare, open
fields, where he kissed her and left her, driving home as fast as
he could, that he might not witness her miserable death.

Deserted by her father, the poor girl sat down under a fir-tree
at the edge of the forest and began to weep silently. Suddenly
she heard a faint sound: it was King Frost springing from tree to
tree, and cracking his fingers as he went. At length he reached
the fir-tree beneath which she was sitting, and with a crisp
crackling sound he alighted beside her, and looked at her lovely
face.

'Well, maiden,' he snapped out, 'do you know who I am? I am King
Frost, king of the red-noses.'

'All hail to you, great King!' answered the girl, in a gentle,
trembling voice. 'Have you come to take me?'

'Are you warm, maiden?' he replied.

'Quite warm, King Frost,' she answered, though she shivered as
she spoke.

Then King Frost stooped down, and bent over the girl, and the
crackling sound grew louder, and the air seemed to be full of
knives and darts; and again he asked:

'Maiden, are you warm? Are you warm, you beautiful girl?'

And though her breath was almost frozen on her lips, she
whispered gently, 'Quite warm, King Frost.'

Then King Frost gnashed his teeth, and cracked his fingers, and
his eyes sparkled, and the crackling, crisp sound was louder than
ever, and for the last time he asked her:

'Maiden, are you still warm? Are you still warm, little love?'

And the poor girl was so stiff and numb that she could just gasp,
'Still warm, O King!'

Now her gentle, courteous words and her uncomplaining ways
touched King Frost, and he had pity on her, and he wrapped her up
in furs, and covered her with blankets, and he fetched a great
box, in which were beautiful jewels and a rich robe embroidered
in gold and silver. And she put it on, and looked more lovely
than ever, and King Frost stepped with her into his sledge, with
six white horses.

In the meantime the wicked step-mother was waiting at home for
news of the girl's death, and preparing pancakes for the funeral
feast. And she said to her husband: 'Old man, you had better go
out into the fields and find your daughter's body and bury her.'
Just as the old man was leaving the house the little dog under
the table began to bark, saying:

'YOUR daughter shall live to be your delight;
HER daughter shall die this very night.'

'Hold your tongue, you foolish beast!' scolded the woman.
'There's a pancake for you, but you must say:

"HER daughter shall have much silver and gold;
HIS daughter is frozen quite stiff and cold." '

But the doggie ate up the pancake and barked, saying:

'His daughter shall wear a crown on her head;
Her daughter shall die unwooed, unwed.'


Then the old woman tried to coax the doggie with more pancakes
and to terrify it with blows, but he barked on, always repeating
the same words. And suddenly the door creaked and flew open, and
a great heavy chest was pushed in, and behind it came the
step-daughter, radiant and beautiful, in a dress all glittering
with silver and gold. For a moment the step-mother's eyes were
dazzled. Then she called to her husband: 'Old man, yoke the
horses at once into the sledge, and take my daughter to the same
field and leave her on the same spot exactly; 'and so the old man
took the girl and left her beneath the same tree where he had
parted from his daughter. In a few minutes King Frost came past,
and, looking at the girl, he said:

'Are you warm, maiden?'

'What a blind old fool you must be to ask such a question!' she
answered angrily. 'Can't you see that my hands and feet are
nearly frozen?'

Then King Frost sprang to and fro in front of her, questioning
her, and getting only rude, rough words in reply, till at last he
got very angry, and cracked his fingers, and gnashed his teeth,
and froze her to death.

But in the hut her mother was waiting for her return, and as she
grew impatient she said to her husband: 'Get out the horses, old
man, to go and fetch her home; but see that you are careful not
to upset the sledge and lose the chest.'

But the doggie beneath the table began to bark, saying:

'Your daughter is frozen quite stiff and cold,
And shall never have a chest full of gold.'

'Don't tell such wicked lies!' scolded the woman. 'There's a
cake for you; now say:

"HER daughter shall marry a mighty King."

At that moment the door flew open, and she rushed out to meet her
daughter, and as she took her frozen body in her arms she too was
chilled to death.





Next: The Death Of The Sun-hero

Previous: The Snow-daughter And The Fire-son



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