Gateway to the Classics: The Red Indian Fairy Book by Frances Jenkins Olcott
The Red Indian Fairy Book by  Frances Jenkins Olcott

The Snow Man


Once there was a hunter who with his family lived in a lodge apart from the other lodges of his village. And why he lived apart was this:—

One day in the early Spring he was hunting in the woods. The Sun shone warmly, and the snow was melting. As he walked along he heard the lumps of snow go "Snip! Snap!" with a zipping sound.

"Ah! Ha! Master Snow," laughed he, "so you are afraid of the Sun, are you!"

Immediately a voice replied: "Oh, you need not speak that way to me! I come because I am sent by my master the North; he tells me to stay only a little while, and I must obey him. The Sun helps me to disappear. But since you have made fun of me, I will put you to a test. Next Winter, Beware !"

The hunter stopped, stared, and listened, but did not see any one. And as he turned to hurry away from the spot, he heard the voice say again: "We shall see who is the greater, you or I! Next Winter, Beware !"

The man was frightened out of his senses, and ran home with all speed, and when he reached his lodge in the village, he told his wife and children all about it. After that he went to the next lodge, where lived a very old man together with some ancients, and told them what had happened.

"If you heard the Snow Man speak," said the ancients, "what he said he will do, that he will do!"

But the old man said: "It is no wonder that the Snow Man was angry with you if you made fun of his melting away. But since he has made a wager with you, my Grandson, you must be ready to meet him next Winter. Indeed, all your time from now on must be spent in getting ready."

"What shall I do to get ready?" asked the hunter.

"You must begin now," said the old man, "to kill Deer, Bear, Buffalo, and all other large creatures that you can find. You must press out their fat and oil, and put it all in skin bags. You must also fill some bags with pitch. Then you must cut and lay aside a great deal of gummy wood full of knots. After that you must build yourself a lodge apart from every one, with a door to the south. Take Pine pitch and fill up all the cracks in the walls, and hang a closely braided mat before the door, so that nothing can get through. Inside you must build a fireplace with a small smoke-hole. Then carry into the lodge your supply of wood and the skins full of fat, oil, and pitch. You will need all you can get, for the contest will be long and hard."

"All right, Grandfather," said the hunter. And the poor fellow immediately fell to work, and spent the whole Summer and Autumn hunting by night, and cutting wood and preparing the other things by day. He made a great quantity of grease and tallow cakes and bars of all sizes, and filled skin bags with oil and pitch. And he built his lodge as the old man had told him to do.

Well, as Winter approached, the hunter trembled with fear, and bidding his family good-bye, entered the lodge and shut himself in. At first he made only a little fire, but by and by, as the cold increased, he heaped on more wood.

One night a fierce wind arose, and tore around outside the lodge, shrieking, "Boo-oo-oo-oo!"

"He is coming, now!" thought the hunter. But no one came.

Then the wind blew and blew and blew,—"Boo-ooo-oo-oo-oo-oooooo!"—and the hunter felt himself getting very cold, so he made a rousing fire. The trees and bushes outside snapped and cracked louder and louder, as the wind tore through them. "He is surely coming, now!" thought the hunter. But no one came.

The hunter stirred the fire, and the cold grew worse and worse, and the wind howled and shrieked, and tore the trees apart. "I wonder what he looks like," thought the hunter. But no one came.

The time seemed very short, but it was already Mid-Winter, and the hunter did not know it!

Well, at last he saw him. In the tightly pitched and chinked lodge, with its closely woven mat over the door, a Manlike-Object-of-Snow walked about. It passed close to the hunter, and at the same moment its icy breath filled the lodge, and the fire began to go out.

But the hunter rose up, and threw on more wood keeping back the better sort. The Manlike-Object-of-Snow sat down opposite him, and stared at him with its icy eyes. The lodge grew colder and colder, and the hunter shook in every limb, and the fire shrank and almost went out. But the hunter remembered what the old man had said, and he piled on more wood.

The time seemed very short, but the Winter was almost over, and the hunter did not know it!

After that he felt his limbs getting numb, so he piled on the best wood, and stirred the fire, and the flames sprang up and threw out heat. And the Snow Man groaned. Then the hunter began to throw the grease and tallow on the flames, and they shot up and blazed and sputtered, and threw out a fearful heat. And the Snow Man groaned again, but still he sat there with his icy stare, and his breath numbed the hunter's limbs.

The time seemed very short, but Winter was just over, and the hunter did not know it!

At last the man began to throw on the pitch, and piled up his largest logs, and the Snow Man groaned horribly, and grew smaller and smaller, and gasped and groaned again. Then the hunter poured on the oil, and soon only a little lump of ice lay where the Snow Man had sat. At that a voice cried out:—

"Ho, my Grandson! You have conquered! You are greater than I, so I give up to you!"

But the man did not stop. He continued to pour on his oil, and throw on the pitch, and heap on wood; and the Snow Man cried:—

"Oh, stop, my Grandson! I have spoken the truth. I will return to the North where I have power. And you shall live in this lodge, and become a great hunter. Your wife and children may always go barefooted in the snow, and I will not hurt them. Your name from now on shall be 'The-Man-who-Mastered-the-Winter.' "

Then the Snow Man disappeared, and the hunter lifted the mat at the door. And, lo, the Sun shone, the grass was green, the flowers were blooming, the birds were singing, for Winter was gone and the Springtime was there!

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