Snegurochka (The Snow Maiden)

Vatnetsov Snegurochka
Scanned from A. K. Lazuko Victor Vasnetsov, Leningrad: Khudozhnik RSFSR, 1990, ISBN 5-7370-0107-5

Snegurochka (The Snow Maiden)

Snegurochka, or The Snow Maiden, is a character in Russian fairy tales. Snegurochka is said to live deep in the winter forest.

The true roots of this feminine character are unknown but some believe they can be traced back to Slavic pagan beliefs. A version of a folk tale about a girl made of snow and named Snegurka was published in 1869 by Alexander Afanasyev in the second volume of his work The Poetic Outlook on Nature by the Slavs, where he also mentions the German, Schneekind (“Snow Child”). In this version, childless Russian peasants Ivan and Marya made a snow doll, which came to life. According to the legend the old man and woman who made her used two deep blue beads for eyes, made two dimples in her cheeks, and used a piece of red ribbon for her mouth.

One day she went into the woods with a group of village girls to pick flowers. It began to get dark and the girls made a fire and began playfully jumping over the flames. Snegurochka also jumped, but suddenly she melted and turned into a white cloud.

Another version of the tale tells of how Snegurochka melts when she falls truly in love with a human boy called Lel.

In some parts of Russia people still follow the ancient tradition of drowning a straw figure in the river or burning it on the bonfire to dispel the winter. This custom symbolizes the transition from winter to spring.

Read a version of this story here.