: The Pink Fairy Book

Slavonic story. Contes Populaires Slaves, traduits par Louis Leger.

Paris: Leroux, Editeur.

Once upon a time there lived a peasant called Ivan, and he had a wife

whose name was Marie. They would have been quite happy except for one

thing: they had no children to play with, and as they were now old

people they did not find that watching the children of their neighbours

at all made up to them
or having one of their own.

One winter, which nobody living will ever forget, the snow lay so deep

that it came up to the knees of even the tallest man. When it had all

fallen, and the sun was shining again, the children ran out into the

street to play, and the old man and his wife sat at their window and

gazed at them. The children first made a sort of little terrace, and

stamped it hard and firm, and then they began to make a snow woman. Ivan

and Marie watched them, the while thinking about many things.

Suddenly Ivan's face brightened, and, looking at his wife, he said,

'Wife, why shouldn't we make a snow woman too?'

'Why not?' replied Marie, who happened to be in a very good temper; 'it

might amuse us a little. But there is no use making a woman. Let us make

a little snow child, and pretend it is a living one.'

'Yes, let us do that,' said Ivan, and he took down his cap and went into

the garden with his old wife.

Then the two set to work with all their might to make a doll out of

the snow. They shaped a little body and two little hands and two little

feet. On top of all they placed a ball of snow, out of which the head

was to be.

'What in the world are you doing?' asked a passer-by.

'Can't you guess?' returned Ivan.

'Making a snow-child,' replied Marie.

They had finished the nose and the chin. Two holes were left for the

eyes, and Ivan carefully shaped out the mouth. No sooner had he done so

than he felt a warm breath upon his cheek. He started back in surprise

and looked--and behold! the eyes of the child met his, and its lips,

which were as red as raspberries, smiled at him!

'What is it?' cried Ivan, crossing himself. 'Am I mad, or is the thing


The snow-child bent its head as if it had been really alive. It moved

its little arms and its little legs in the snow that lay about it just

as the living children did theirs.

'Ah! Ivan, Ivan,' exclaimed Marie, trembling with joy, 'heaven has sent

us a child at last!' And she threw herself upon Snowflake (for that was

the snow-child's name) and covered her with kisses. And the loose snow

fell away from Snowflake as an egg shell does from an egg, and it was a

little girl whom Marie held in her arms.

'Oh! my darling Snowflake!' cried the old woman, and led her into the


And Snowflake grew fast; each hour as well as each day made a

difference, and every day she became more and more beautiful. The old

couple hardly knew how to contain themselves for joy, and thought of

nothing else. The cottage was always full of village children, for they

amused Snowflake, and there was nothing in the world they would not

have done to amuse her. She was their doll, and they were continually

inventing new dresses for her, and teaching her songs or playing with

her. Nobody knew how clever she was! She noticed everything, and could

learn a lesson in a moment. Anyone would have taken her for thirteen

at least! And, besides all that, she was so good and obedient; and

so pretty, too! Her skin was as white as snow, her eyes as blue as

forget-me-nots, and her hair was long and golden. Only her cheeks had no

colour in them, but were as fair as her forehead.

So the winter went on, till at last the spring sun mounted higher in the

heavens and began to warm the earth. The grass grew green in the fields,

and high in the air the larks were heard singing. The village girls met

and danced in a ring, singing, 'Beautiful spring, how came you here?

How came you here? Did you come on a plough, or was it a harrow?' Only

Snowflake sat quite still by the window of the cottage.

'What is the matter, dear child?' asked Marie. 'Why are you so sad? Are

you ill? or have they treated you unkindly?'

'No,' replied Snowflake, 'it is nothing, mother; no one has hurt me; I

am well.'

The spring sun had chased away the last snow from its hiding place under

the hedges; the fields were full of flowers; nightingales sang in the

trees, and all the world was gay. But the gayer grew the birds and the

flowers the sadder became Snowflake. She hid herself from her playmates,

and curled herself up where the shadows were deepest, like a lily

amongst its leaves. Her only pleasure was to lie amid the green willows

near some sparkling stream. At the dawn and at twilight only she seemed

happy. When a great storm broke, and the earth was white with hail, she

became bright and joyous as the Snowflake of old; but when the clouds

passed, and the hail melted beneath the sun, Snowflake would burst into

tears and weep as a sister would weep over her brother.

The spring passed, and it was the eve of St. John, or Midsummer Day.

This was the greatest holiday of the year, when the young girls met in

the woods to dance and play. They went to fetch Snowflake, and said to

Marie: 'Let her come and dance with us.'

But Marie was afraid; she could not tell why, only she could not bear

the child to go. Snowflake did not wish to go either, but they had no

excuse ready. So Marie kissed the girl and said: 'Go, my Snowflake, and

be happy with your friends, and you, dear children, be careful of her.

You know she is the light of my eyes to me.'

'Oh, we will take care of her,' cried the girls gaily, and they ran off

to the woods. There they wore wreaths, gathered nosegays, and sang songs

some sad, some merry. And whatever they did Snowflake did too.

When the sun set they lit a fire of dry grass, and placed themselves in

a row, Snowflake being the last of all. 'Now, watch us,' they said, 'and

run just as we do.'

And they all began to sing and to jump one after another across the


Suddenly, close behind them, they heard a sigh, then a groan. 'Ah!' They

turned hastily and looked at each other. There was nothing. They

looked again. Where was Snowflake? She has hidden herself for fun, they

thought, and searched for her everywhere. 'Snowflake! Snowflake!' But

there was no answer. 'Where can she be? Oh, she must have gone home.'

They returned to the village, but there was no Snowflake.

For days after that they sought her high and low. They examined every

bush and every hedge, but there was no Snowflake. And long after

everyone else had given up hope Ivan and Marie would wander through the

woods crying 'Snowflake, my dove, come back, come back!' And sometimes

they thought they heard a call, but it was never the voice of Snowflake.

And what had become of her? Had a fierce wild beast seized her and

dragged her into his lair in the forest? Had some bird carried her off

across the wide blue sea?

No, no beast had touched her, no bird had borne her away. With the

first breath of flame that swept over her when she ran with her friends

Snowflake had melted away, and a little soft haze floating upwards was

all that remained of her.