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Legend of the Snow Maiden

Legend of the Snow Maiden
      As in all things Russian, even legends are complicated! To begin, there are two legends of the Snowmaiden, or Snegurochka, as she is known in Russian. The first legend starts here:

A long time ago in the forests of Russia there lived a peasant by the name of Ivan with his wife, Maria. Although they loved each other very much and had many friends, they were unhappy because they had no children. One winter day, they watched the village children build a snowman. "Let's build a snowman, too!," said Ivan. And they proceeded to craft a pretty little maiden out of snow. Struck with their creation, Ivan said, "Little snowmaiden, speak to me." Maria exclaimed, "Yes, come to life so you can romp and play like the other children!" Before their very eyes, Snegurochka became a real girl. "I have come from the land of winter, ice and snow," said the little girl. She ran and hugged them. There was joyous singing, dancing and celebrating in the village that night. All that long Russian winter Snegurochka romped and played with the other children. Everyone loved her. She, Ivan and Maria were very happy.

Then one day, when the first signs of spring appeared, Snegurochka came to Ivan and Maria, and with tear-filled eyes told them that she must go away to the land of snow. They begged her to stay. Upset, Ivan shut the door to the hut so the snowmaiden couldn't leave, and Maria hugged her tight. But as she held the little girl, the child melted away. Ivan and Maria wept bitterly. 

All spring and summer they were lonely. Summer turned into fall and fall into winter and once again it was cold and icy outside. One night a familiar voice was heard. "Mother! Father! Open the door! The snow has brought me back once more!" Ivan threw open the door and Snegurochka ran into their arms. All that winter she lived with them and played with the other village children. But in the spring she had to go back to the land of snow, whence she had come. This time Ivan and Maria did not weep, knowing she would return once more when winter appeared on the land. And so it was that the snowmaiden brought warmth and joy to Ivan and Maria during the long, cold, Russian winter for many, many, many years.

The second legend is very different from the one you just read. 

It is set in the Kingdom of Tsar Berendai and tells the tale of Fairy Spring and Mighty Winter, who in order to protect their young teen-age daugher Snegurochka from the deadly glance of Yarilo the Sun, hide her in a simple village. There she is left under the protection of the Spirit of the Woods. She falls under the musical spell of the village shepherd boy Lel but soon discovers that her love is unrequited. To further complicate things, Mizgir, a wealthy young man enters the scene. Just as he is to marry his betrothed, Coupava, Mizgir falls head-over-heels in love with Snegurochka, who is oblivious to him. Mizgir halts the wedding ceremony. Coupava becomes distressed and sets off to the palace of Tsar Berendai to complain and plead her case.

The Tsar, acting as judge, calls for Mizgir and Snegurochka to appear before him. When Snegurochka arrives, the Tsar, captivated by her beauty, explains to her that it is a sin not to love. The Tsar then hosts a lavish feast. Attending is Lel, who plays a beautiful song prompting the Tsar to grant him freedom to kiss any girl. He choses not to kiss Snegurochka, who has come to the realization that she loves Lel, who kisses Coupava instead. Watching the proceedings, Mizgir quickly confesses his love to Snegurochka. She, in turn, runs away, protected by the Wood Spirit, who then leads her back to her mother, Fairy Spring. Taking pity on her daughter and her need to love, Spring grants Mizgir a wedding to Snegurochka. But when Yarilo the Sun, shines on Snegurochka, she vanishes into a mist and disappears forever.