The Snow Queen (a fairy tale)

Submitted into Contest #227 in response to: Start your story with a description of the cold, using lots of sensory detail.... view prompt

1 comment

Fantasy Fiction Drama

Once upon a time, when magic filled the mountains and valleys of ancient Russia, there was a small village called Zhigansk. It was nestled in a valley at the foot of the Verkhoyansk Mountain range. A deep, lush forest with clear mountain streams surrounded it. The village folk worked hard but loved the life they were living.  They gave thanks to the gods of the four seasons by celebrating with song and dance.

The summer god is Anatoly because his name means “Sunrise.”  The village folks give him thanks and praise for a good growing season. Ludmila is the goddess of fall. She gathers all the seeds and grains and keeps them until planting begins the following year. She is the most beautiful of the goddesses with her bright red, yellow, and burnt orange hair and forest green sarafan.  Second only to her in beauty is Liliya, the goddess of spring, with golden yellow hair, sky blue eyes and, as her name suggests, lily-white skin. She wears a sarafan with embroidered sleeves depicting spring flowers.  The villagers praise her for her abilities of renewal and rebirth.

 Alas, winter is the least favorite season of the village, who claim that her heart is too cold. She is tall and slender, bordering on gaunt.   Her hair is slate gray braided and falls well past her waist. Her eyes are narrow and the color of the stormy winter sky. She has high cheekbones and a slim, pointed chin and, unlike Liliya, her complexion is pale and deathlike. Upon her head, she wears a Kokohnik headpiece that, instead of being studded with jewels, has ornaments made out of ice.  Her cape is sable, and her valenki boots are sealskin lined with ermine fur. This goddess goes by the name Emiliya.

Despite her season, she does do good.  Emiliya’s snow is rich in nitrogen and sulfur which benefit the soil. The spring snowmelt fills the rivers and streams with fresh, clean water for drinking and watering crops. Perhaps the farmers and villagers don’t realize these things and take them for granted. They don’t offer her praise and offerings like they do the other divine beings.

Toward the end of this year, the four deities gather to discuss how the year is progressing.  With sparkling eyes, Anatoly chuckles lightly. “Oh, what a great summer we’ve had. All the wheat fields are packed with tall, healthy stalks of wheat. The boughs of the apple trees are nearly touching the ground with fruit! Thank you, Liliya, for providing such gentle southern winds to help thaw the ground.” He fixes his gaze on Emiliya and taps his foot. “Though it did seem thicker than usual this year.”

Folding her arms, Emiliya arches an eyebrow. “It was the same as the year before, no more, no less.” Anatoly huffs in return.

Waving her hand nonchalantly, Ludmila proclaims, “Well, despite the frost, the sight of the golden heads of wheat is breathtaking.  They flow like waves on the ocean with a slight breeze. Soon the wheat and corn will be ready for the harvest, and the silos shall be abundantly packed in preparation for winter.   Emiliya dear, please show a little mercy this year if you can. It was so cold last year that the villagers used nearly all their firewood just to stay warm!”   Emiliya sighs heavily, her frosty breath visible in the air. “It’s not my fault if they don’t prepare properly. They know winter is cold.” Ludmila dismisses Emiliya with a shrug of her shoulders and continues.   “I do look forward to the Fall Festival when all the villagers will gather in the village square and feast while giving praises of thanksgiving for the abundance they will have received. I also enjoy the many flowers available due to Liliya’s gentle spring rains, bringing them forth in such vibrant colors.”

Modesty flushes Liliya’s cheeks when she notices Emiliya sulking. Stamping her foot, “Oh, Emiliya, what is it now? I often notice you are so gloomy! No wonder the people say they hate winter. What is there to like about it?”

“I provide entertainment.   There’s ice fishing and sledding as well as skiing.” Emiliya snaps.    Liliya places her hands on her hips, elbows turned out.  She leans toward Emiliya. “Emiliya! These poor people are trying to survive! They don’t have the luxury to play!” Turning to her companions, she speaks out of the corner of her mouth. “So many times I’ve heard the folks pray to me for an early spring. Can you believe it? I even heard two talking just the other day, saying that their idea of a perfect year would be spring, summer, fall, and spring again!” The three laughed heartily.  They do not notice the tear escaping Emiliya’s eye and freezing on her cheek.

She has also heard complaints about how they hate winter. Her heart pains her until Liliya faces her once more. Liliya, the goddess of flowers and light, soft breezes and gentle rain, grins an evil grin, “If only there were a way!”  

Wincing, Anatoly reprimands Liliya. “Watch your tongue!” 

Ludmila agrees. “Yes, that’s much too rude!”

 Liliya waves her hands in the air. “I was only joking!” But it is too late. The sadness in Emiliya’s heart has turned to hatred and frozen over, locking it deep inside to fester.

Emiliya wraps the corners of her cape around herself and summons a strong north wind to carry her away. Staggering backward, Ludmila scolds, “Now look what you’ve done!” Liliya looks to the Verkhoyansk mountains, “Don’t worry. She’ll be back.”

 Anatoly looks down and sees the tear lying among the stones. Biting his lower lip, he wondered what the result of this feud would be.

From high atop Mount Nikishova, the highest mountain in the Verkhoyansk Range, sits Emiliya’s ice castle. From its parapets, she can look down into the village below. She grins her teeth and plots ways to get even with these ungrateful peasants. “Hate my winter, do they? It’s too cold for them. They rub their hands together and hide their faces behind wool scarves. If they think 0 Celsius is cold, wait until they see what I have planned for them!” A sinister laugh rattles deep in her throat. Glaring down from her castle walls, Emiliya watches the villagers cheerfully prepare for their fall festival. Snarling, Emiliya rubs the point of her chin.

“Ah, yes, the fall feast. In two weeks, the townspeople will gather in their harvest and join in the village common to sing songs of praise to spring, summer, and fall. They will feel so grateful for the bounty provided, but no one will sing a song to me, not one! What if winter comes two weeks earlier this year and stays a month late? That ought to teach them!”

Emiliya scans the skies until she sees a cold front moving over the northern seas. “This should do nicely,” she sneers maliciously. Emiliya stretches her hands and controls the cold front, causing it to swing low over the northern seas. There, it picks up an abundance of moisture. Next, Emiliya hurls the front high into the upper atmosphere, where all that moisture turns to snow and ice. Casting an evil eye toward the village, Emiliya hisses, “If you hate my winter so badly, you’re going to love this!” Displaying tremendous power and control, Emiliya sends the cold front cascading down the face of the mountain range. It is traveling at over 161 kilometers per hour heading straight toward the village.

As clouds blot out the sun, the temperature begins to plummet. In the village, all heads turn toward Mount Nikishova and are horrified at what they see. A wall of wind and snow is racing toward their homes like an avalanche. Women scream for their children to get into their homes.  They snatch up the little ones in their arms and run. Farmers drop their tools where they are and race in from the fields to herd the livestock into the shelter of the barns. Shutters are closed, and doors are barred against the approaching terror.  The ground shakes at the sound of trees snapping in half or up-rooted as the avalanche, several kilometers wide, reaches the forest’s edge.  At -23 Celsius, the apples instantly freeze on the trees, as do the vegetables on the ground. The hay, wheat, and corn fields vanish beneath the snow and ice-rushing wall of disaster.

Wooden fences and corrals explode and splinter from the impact as the storm advances to the village. The colossal wind rips off shutters and roof coverings and topples stone chimneys. People huddle down inside their homes, weeping in fear. The storm rages on until the village is nearly buried.

A smile of satisfaction lies across Emiliya’s harsh features. “Perhaps now they’ll honor the Snow Queen.” Wrapping her cloak around her shoulders, she rides a stream of arctic air to the valley below. She turns and looks back at the path of destruction her anger has wrought.  The scene brightens her face as she turns and stares at the once full-of-life fields, now buried beneath three feet of snow and ice. Emiliya boldly throws her cloak open as she heads to the village.  She treads so lightly that she leaves no marks. She halts as Anatoly appears in front of her.

Swiping his hand toward the chaos before him, he growls. “Emiliya! Have you gone mad? I insist you tell me the meaning of this!”

Emiliya purses her lips. “OH!  You insist, do you? Alright, I’ll tell you. No, I’ve not gone mad.  I’ve gone angry. Angry because no one ever says it’s because of the abundance of water I supply that the farmers have enough for their plants! It’s because you never tell them that the soil is so fertile from the snow that I’ve deposited that their crops are so healthy.  No! Instead, when the villagers say it would be better only to have three seasons and cut me out, YOU LAUGH!  You and the other two laughed. Do you know how much that hurt?”

Ludmila staggers from the ruined woods and collapses. “Why, Emiliya, why? I’ve never done anything to you.”

“That’s right. You’ve never done anything for anyone other than yourself, Ludmila. You take all the credit and praise for a bountiful harvest when Anatoly and I have done all the work! He provides the perfect amount of sunshine and climate, and I give the fertilizer and water. You, on the other hand, deliver nothing but color. I’d say you are pretty well worthless. 

 Ludmila snivels.  “It wasn’t me who said we only need three seasons. It was Lilya!“

Intertwining her fingers, Emiliya hisses, “Liliya. I’m afraid we won’t be seeing much of her next year. In fact, we won’t be seeing her at all! Liliya, the fair goddess of spring, is buried beneath several meters of snow, and I don’t plan to end winter til the end of June!  Emiliya laughs uproariously. “It looks like those pitiful peasants will have their wish after all. Three months a year. Except it will be winter, summer, fall, and winter again! What a surprise for them.”

Emiliya notices Anatoly trying to use the sun to melt the snow. Pushing her palms down, she lowers the temperature even lower. “Your sun is useless.  It will have no effect if the air is too dry and fridged.”

 Anatoly cups his hands and pleads.  “ But what about the children? Why make them suffer?”

Arching her eyebrow, Emiliya asks, “Why not? If their parents never teach them to honor me they won’t I’ll continue to be neglected. Now, I must go into the village and see how they feel about me after they’ve seen what I can do.” Standing straight and puffing out her chest, Emiliya strides into the village.

Looking this way and that, Emiliya wears a little smile of success. Many smaller buildings are entirely buried under snow, loose shutters swing in place, and several stone chimneys have fallen. Placing her hands on her hips, Emiliya stops in the center of the village, satisfied with her revenge. Suddenly, she hears a strange squeaking sound, and her eyes scan the village. Emiliya sees a small hand rubbing the frost from a window pane. Soon, it is replaced with the face of a small girl. The child’s eyes grow wide with surprise and wonder as she calls to her mother. “Mother! Come see the beautiful lady standing in front of our house!”  Emiliya thinks, “Impossible! No human can see us. This child can’t see me, can she?” The girl’s mother demands she leave the window because it’s too cold. “There is no one out there.  If there were, they would freeze to death.”

The child insists. “But Mother, she is there! She is tall, slender, and wears a magnificent fur cape and a bejeweled kokohnik.” Worry creases the mother’s brow.   Stammering, “D-d- Does this woman have a braid?” “Oh, yes! A long gray one hanging down her back!”  The mother wails, Get away from the window, child! That’s the goddess of winter. Come to finish us off!”

 The girl whispers. “The goddess of winter? My, but she so beautiful and elegant. And look at what she’s done. She has created a wonderland of snow and ice that sparkles and shines like pearls and diamonds. What’s her name?” The mother trembles,   “Emiliya.”

“Emiliya? I might love this goddess, Emiliya. She’s a spectacular goddess indeed.

Emiliya’s hands fly to her heart as she feels her knees buckle. She weeps, “That little girl said she loves me!  She has paid me the highest of honors. I can ask for no more.  Perhaps there is hope that things can change! Perhaps.” Emiliya turns her palms up toward the sky, and the temperature rises. Soon, the snow begins to melt.

December 07, 2023 03:28

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

1 comment

Mary Bendickson
18:49 Dec 07, 2023

A little love goes a long way. Delightful descriptions and story telling.


Show 0 replies
RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.