A Tale of the Snow Queen
There was once a young woman who was not especially kind, nor especially brave. In fact, there was nothing particularly special about her at all, save that she was human, and that kind was of a sort that was never entirely similar to one another. Perhaps it was because her life had nothing of challenge or consternation to develop her character. Or perhaps it was because only little was expected of her. Or even that she had never witnessed need. And perhaps it was all of that which had made her heart a bit small, a bit cold, a bit distant, and little inclined to care.
One winter’s day she wandered about the forest to be free of village prattle and intrusions on her thoughts, when she came upon a pack of mice, seven in all, who looked frozen with cold. They appeared dead, but for the faintest beating of their hearts. A spark of compassion lit within her, and it seemed a fate of gross cruelty that snow and ice should cause the animals such pain. A sudden desire to nurse them back to health welled up in her. Thus, she lifted their little bodies into her scarf and held them close to her breast.
It was then that the wind circled back and touched the tips of trees in a rustling sound that caused the woman to look up; she knew then that her act of mercy had cost her. For the sun had sunk too low. The trees had began to look like silhouettes against the sky. Worse still, the wind was from the North. And the North wind had a mind of its own when dusk fell. The young woman rushed carefully down the path, hugging the mice to her body, spurred by the whisper of the wind that played at her back. But it was too late.
The North wind came, fully gusting, and scooped her up as though she weighed no more than a leaf. The woman turned amidst the wind, her body like a feather — but her stomach sunk as though it were made of lead. She tossed and turned above the trees and mountains, holding desperately to the animals until suddenly she found herself set aright in the court of the Snow Queen.
A throne of ice so clear it might have been glass stood in the center. It was empty, for the Snow Queen stood before the young woman on the floor of the chamber, swathed in fur, a scepter of ice in her hand. And the look on her face was that of wrath.
‘You have accused the snow and ice of cruelty,’ the Snow Queen said, a voice resolute and deep that echoed about the court. ‘Is this not so?'
The young woman trembled and fought for courage. But she could think of nothing to say in response. Filled with dread, and a limp tongue, she took her bundle from her breast and laid the mice down before the queen.
‘I have no power to bring the dead back to life,’ the Snow Queen said.
The queen would have sent the young woman back with a flick of her wrist had the woman not found the daring to say, ‘But they are not yet dead, majesty.’
The Snow Queen turned slowly and cast her eyes down on the tiny bodies before the young woman. ‘This is so,’ she said, and a hardened stare turned on the woman. ‘Tell me, why do you care for the fate of such as these? They are no subjects of yours.’