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The Snow Man, by Manfred Kyber, tr. WmJackson

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 Once upon a time there was a snowman who stood in the middle of the deep snow-covered forest, and he was made entirely of snow. He had no legs, and his eyes were made of coal—that’s all he had, and that’s not much. And he was cold, terribly cold. That’s what the grumbling old icicle that hung nearby said too, though he himself was even colder. “You are cold,” he said reproachfully to the snowman.

The snowman was hurt. “Well, you’re cold too,” he answered.

“Yes, but that’s something else again entirely,” said the icicle with a superior tone.

The snowman was so offended that he would have gone away if he had had any legs. But he had no legs and so he remained standing there, though he did decide to speak no more with the unfriendly icicle.

Meanwhile, the icicle had discovered something else to be irritated about and to criticize: a weasel ran along the path and with a hurried greeting passed the two of them. “You are long, much too long!” the icicle shouted after him. “And if I were as long as you are I wouldn’t even go out on the street!”

“Look who’s talking!” growled the weasel, surprised and offended.

That’s something else again entirely. I’m above you and beyond reproach,” said the icicle with impudent smugness, and he crackled too, in the sheer chill of the frosty air.

The snowman was furious to hear this rude manner of treating the folks who passed through the forest, and he turned himself as far as possible from the icicle.

Then someone laughed high above the snowman in the branches of the snow-laden fir tree, and when the snowman looked up, there sat a beautiful, soft, white snow-elf; and she shook her long flowing hair, so that a thousand little snow-stars fell straight downwards onto the poor snowman’s head. Then the little snow-elf laughed all the more loudly and heartily.

The snowman, however, felt a very strange mood coming over him, and he did not know what he should say, and then finally he said: “I do not know what this is.”

“That is something else again entirely,” sneered the nearby icicle.

But the snowman was in such a strange mood that he didn’t even hear the icicle. He just looked high above himself into the fir tree, where, up in the crown of the tree the snow-elf swayed, and shook her long flowing hair so that a thousand tiny snow-stars descended.

The snowman wanted very much to say something to that little one up there above him, about whom he knew nothing, and he wanted to say something about the feelings he had, which he didn’t know how to understand or describe, and which the icicle had said were something else again entirely.

The snowman thought for a terribly long time, until his coal eyes were actually almost popping out of his head just from his thinking. And finally he knew what he wanted to say, and so he said:

“Snow-elf in silver moonlight,

You shall be my heart’s delight!”

Then he said no more, for he had the feeling that the little snow-elf must say something, and to be sure that too was not wrong. The little snow-elf, however, said nothing, but laughed so loudly and heartily that the old fir tree, which was not prepared for such a commotion, was startled and became cross when the branch shook, and even noisily creaked.

Then it happened that the poor cold snowman became so burning hot around his heart that he actually began to melt, and that was not good. First his head melted, and that is the most unpleasant part—after that the going gets a little easier.

But the little snow-elf sat silently high above in the white crown of the fir tree, and she rocked and swayed and laughed and shook her long flowing hair, so that a thousand little stars of snow drifted down. The poor snowman melted more and more, and became smaller and more wretched, and all this was happening because of his burning heart. And so it continued, and before long the snowman was barely a snowman anymore, and then Christmas Eve came, and the little angels polished the golden and the silver stars in heaven so that they would shine brilliantly in the holy night.

And then something wonderful happened.

When the little snow-elf saw all the stars on that holy night she got into a strange mood, and she looked to where the snowman stood below, now nearly melted away. Then it was that the snow-elf also began to burn hotly around the heart, and she scurried down from the high treetop and kissed the snowman on the mouth—as much of it as there was left. And as the two burning hearts came together both of them quickly melted, so that even the icicle had to wonder about it— so distasteful and incomprehensible did the whole affair seem to him.

So, only the two burning hearts remained, and the snow queen had them brought to the crystal palace which is so beautiful and everlasting, never melting away. And for those two all the bells rang that holy night.

But as the bells rang, the weasel came out again, because he liked the sound of the bells, and then he saw that the couple was gone. “The couple has indeed vanished,” he said. “That must be Christmas magic.”

“Oh, that’s something else again entirely,” said the icicle thoughtlessly, and the weasel indignantly went back inside his home.

On that spot however, where the two had melted, there fell thousands upon thousands of tiny soft white flakes, so that nothing more could be seen or said about them. Only the icicle remained hanging there just as tightly as it had hung in the first place, and it will never melt from a burning heart; nor will it come into the crystal palace of the snow queen. For it is something else again entirely.

__________________

The German original of this story, “Der Schneemann” was first published in Manfred Kyber's book, Märchen, Stuttgart/Heilbronn: Walter Seifert Verlag, 1922. I translated it from that book. W.Jackson

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