The Snow Child
Frosty the Snowman – ‘a jolly happy soul, with a corn cob pipe and a button nose and two eyes made out of coal’ – is far from the first or last tale of a figure made from snow who becomes animated by mysterious means. Throughout the world, there are stories of snow people – women, men and children – coming to life before melting away. In the Snow Child an elderly couple, desperate for a child, make themselves one out of snow.
“Well, I know now. I know a little more how much a simple thing like a snowfall can mean to a person”
― Sylvia Plath
Once there was an elderly couple who lived together in a small village. Though they loved each other deeply, they still felt sorrow, for in all their years of marriage they had not been blessed with a child. Now, it was too late. They would watch the children of the village play, and grief would fill their hearts that they had no child of their own.
One year, winter came sharp and fast, with large storms that poured flurries of tall, deep snow across the village. Once the storms were over, the children of the village ran out to play, and the husband and wife looked on in sorrow.
Eventually, the husband got up from his chair and decided to play in the snow himself. He would make a snow person, he decided, and convinced his wife to join him.
Together they made the snow child they wished they had had, crafting legs and hands and feet from snow. They took the most care with the head, crafting a face in the snow, with eyes and a nose and even a carefully formed mouth. Which, as they watched on in amazement, took a breath.
The man cried out in horror and the woman with joy as the snow child began to move, wriggling its legs and arms. The woman swept up the child, delighted to be gifted one at last. As the woman held her new daughter, the snow fell away, revealing a human child beneath. The snow child appeared perfectly normal, though her hair and skin was pale.
The child grew fast and, being curious and kind, soon befriended many of the children in the village. The cottage became filled with the laughter and playing of children, and it seemed to the husband and wife that all their dreams had come true.
But winter could not last forever.
Eventually the snow melted away, and with it the snow child’s good cheer. As spring bloomed around them, flowers springing forth along the riverbanks and lambs frolicking in the fields, the snow child grew paler, and more withdrawn. She stopped seeking the company of her friends, and the cottage, once more, fell silent. Her mother and father grew more and more concerned for her, but the snow child could not tell them what she was wrong, or why wept.
Finally, spring passed too, and on the night of midsummer, the snow child’s friends came to her house, asking if their dear friend could come and celebrate the summer with them. The elderly woman was struck with a sudden fear, reluctant to allow her daughter to leave. The snow child also hesitated. But she cared for her friends, and had no good reason to reject their kindness. So, she accompanied them.
Throughout the day the children played with each other, and it was as though it were winter again. The snow child was bright and cheerful, gathering flowers and dancing with her friends. As evening approached, the children lit a bright fire, taking turns at jumping across it in a long line. The snow child did not play, at first, but finally her friends convinced her, and she took her place at the end of the line.
One by one the children leapt over the flames until the last child had jumped.
Triumphant, she turned to the snow child, no longer behind her. A great cry went up among the children when they realised that their friend was missing. They searched tirelessly for days, but she was not to be found, for the fire had melted her away and the snow child was never seen again.