Friday, March 20, 2015

The Snow Maiden: A Spring Fairy Tale ("Snegurochka")

All images from Snegurochka - Russian animated film 1952 by Soyuzmultfilm
Did you know the opera version (by Rimsky-Korsakov) of this Russian fairy tale's full title is: The Snow Maiden: A Spring Fairy Tale? While the character of Snegurochka is a Winter character, the fairy tale she is most commonly used in (and variants) is actually a Spring tale.

The Snow Girl is, according to Russian folk tale sites, a slightly different tale with a different emphasis, even though many of the elements appear the same.

Here's a little summary of the story of this not-so-straight forward character from Russian folklore, as told by Alexandr Ostrovsky (from
It has been winter for fifteen years because the Sun God is angry that Frost and Spring have had a daughter together: Snegurochka. Now on the verge of adulthood, she decides to escape the cold and lonely forest and join the world of the mortals. She is attracted by Lel’s seductive songs but is unable to express her feelings for him. Snegurochka’s friend Kupava is engaged to Mizgir, but when he sees Snegurochka he falls in love with her instead and breaks off the original engagement, leaving Kupava upset and angry at her betrayal.
She seeks solace in the arms of Lel. Meanwhile Snegurochka begs her mother to grant her the capacity for human love and warmth. At a mass spring wedding, Snegurochka professes her love for Mizgir as a ray of sun strikes her and she melts away. The Sun God is appeased by her death and all celebrate the coming of spring. 
Spring, love and... death. 

Is it talking about how love - or lust - at first sight, isn't usually a lasting state, or that it isn't nourishing for the soul? Or that love, after changing you - sometimes beyond recognition, heals?

Seen in this light, it's not too distant a story from Persephone, is it? I haven't seen Snegurochka and Persephone linked except in visuals like the one at the right, though (which shows the Snow Maiden crowned and veiled with her mother's - Spring's - flowers).

The concepts - and character - have been explored in plays, movies, ballets and, of course, the opera, which alone suggest that something fundamental about the human condition and journey resonates with people in this seasonal tale.

Happy First Day of Spring to all those in the Northern Hemisphere (and Happy First Day of Autumn to our fairy tale folk living below the equator!)

1 comment:

  1. a faerie tale for Spring...


    and I really need to bring Spring, to my "Here there be whimsey" blog...

    thank you...