A Girl in Winter

This is a lovely story from Bulgaria.  

One year the wicked Winter Witch decided she wanted stop Spring from coming and make Winter the only season on Earth, so she could be in charge all the time.  So she hid the Sun behind dark clouds and covered the Earth with heavy snow.


One morning the people in a small mountain village woke up and found their houses buried under the snow all the way up to the roofes. The snow was so deep that they had to dig tunnels between the houses just to get from one neighbour to the next!  After a few hours, they all managed to get together and have a meeting, to decide what to do.


“We need is to send someone to the very highest mountain peak, to the palace of the good wizard, Father Frost. We can ask him to help us!” said someone. Everyone nodded. This was definitely the right thing to do. 

“So, who’s going to go?” asked another person. But no-one put up their hand.   It was a very dangerous trip and no-one was especially keen. 


“I would go” said one old man. “But I’m old and slow, and I might not get there in time to save us all from the freezing winter….” Everyone nodded. He would have been a great person to go 20 years ago, but now, he was wobbly on his feet and besides, he had his grand-daughter to look after. 


Suddenly a small voice piped up: “Then I will go!” It was his grand-daughter!


“No, not you!” the neighbours all cried: ” You are too young!” “You don’t even have a warm coat!”, “No hat and scarf!”, “Not even woollen mittens!”.


“I’m not afraid!” The little girl said – “My feet are strong and I’m as fast as a mountain goat! and you’ll all lend me warm clothes, won’t you?” 

“But you’ll freeze up there, with no shelter to hide from frost!” said the people.

“I will not.” the girl said firmly. “I have a warm little heart, full of love for everyone. It will keep me warm.”

“Go, my child.” the old man said. “I know your good heart and I trust it.”

The children, who were all her friends, gave her their warmest clothes and soon, the little girl was ready to go. 


She waved back at her friends and started for the snowy mountain peak a quick pace. She went further and higher, and soon she could see the glittering ice on top of the highest mountain peak. 


All of a sudden, the whirlwinds, woke up from their sleep and noticing the little figure in the snow, became furious:


“Who dares to walk on  our property?” Let’s show her who we are!” They screamed. “Let’s blow at her so hard, until she forgets where she’s going!”


And they started whirling fiercely around the girl. But she huddled into her friend’s warm coat, and went bravely on. The whirlwinds got very tired, and one after the other, fell on the ground gasping for breath. “What a strong girl!”they  said. “We are exhausted, and she’s not even tired…” “No human being has ever beaten us, let alone such a fragile little girl… Let’s call our sisters the Blizzards for help.”


So they called for the Blizzards…When the Whirlwinds told them how they couldn’t tire out the little girl, the Blizzards were very angry and they roared and threw themselves after her. It was a tough struggle, but the little girl had her strong, warm heart and used to to stand up to the Blizzards. She would not be afraid or weary. She just had to remind herself where she was going, what she had to do and why she wanted to do it. 


The Blizzards fell on the ground exhausted.“We can’t stop her! Let’s call our Mother for help!” “Mother, mother!” they all screamed. ”Come and help!”


Their mother was the Frosty Winter Witch. 


She came at once, and said: “I saw everything. Now listen to me: When you can not defeat someone by force, turn things the other way round. Let’s be  good to her!”

“What do you mean? To kiss her?” a whirlwind asked ironically.

“Nothing of the sort.” the Frosty Winter said:  “Let’s trick her by pretending to be polite and kind!” 


So the winds stopped and the blizzards went away. And instead, the Frosty Winter Witch appeared before the girl in disguise. She dressed herself like a beautiful young woman in a sparkling white gown, with long white hair and a crown of icy diamonds. 


“Am I dreaming, or is this some good miracle?… the girl thought.  “This beautiful lady has the face of an angel, and she’s singing me a lullaby! Oh, how safe that makes me feel - I’ll sit here for a while and rest mt eyes…” she said to herself. “I’m so near to the Palace. No more than an hour walking left…I’ll be on time…”


The little girl sat down and closed her eyes. The Frosty Winter Witch grinned in delight: “Sleep, little girl. Sleep, sleep forever!”  And she left the sleeping girl on the freezing hill, confident that she had stopped the only person who could get in the way of her terrible plan to cover the world in winter forever.


The little girl slept on, smiling happily. But as time passed her pink cheeks became at first red, then blue, then waxy yellow… She was slowly freezing…!!


Until all of a sudden, something stirred in the snow. Then there was a squeak. Then a tiny head burst out of a hole in the snow. It was a little white mouse! Its shiny black eyes fixed on the girl. “Someone’s in trouble!” squeaked the mouse. Then lots more little holes opened in the snow, and a whole gang of mice peeped out of the holes. They ran to the girl, and started massaging her feet and hands to try and warm her up. 


But mice were so little, they decided to call their friends the rabbits for help. One by one, a family of rabbits (a very big family) popped out of the snow and ran to the rescue. And then from the pine trees jumped a squidgeon of squirrels, and before very long, the girl was covered with white and brown fur all over as the animals warmed her up with their tickly, furry bodies. Very soon, her cheeks turned pink and she opened her eyes…


She thanked her new friends for saving her life, and told them why she was here and where she was going. “I’ve got to reach Father Frost and ask his help to stop the Winter Witch from taking over the earth!”


“We’ll help!!” cheered the animals. And off they all went to the Ice Palace. 


When they got there, they knocked at the gate, but no one answered…


“What might have happened to Father Frost?” the animals wondered.

“Let’s try to open the door! It’s not locked!”. They opened the heavy gate and the girl stepped in, followed by her friends. A glittering icy corridor lead them to a big crystal hall. And there, on a gorgeous throne of carved ice, Father Frost was fast asleep sitting on his icy throne, dressed in silver embroidered clothes. Two squirrels jumped in his lap and tickled his face with their furry tails. 


A mighty sneezing sound made them all freeze with fear. But Father Frost opened his blue eyes and smiled: What are you doing here, little friends?”

And the little girl told him everything.


“You mean, I have slept here, while the wicked Winter Witch was trying to stop Spring from coming? Throughout  the whole winter?” he asked, astonished. “I think she decided to outsmart me and stay on Earth forever.!… But I will not let her! Thank you little ones for waking me up! Now I’ll restore the natural order and give everyone what he deserves.”


Then he blew on his silver whistle and in an instant, all his friends appeared in the big crystal hall. He ordered them to go and find the Winter Witch and bring her to the palace, so he could lock her down in the cellar until next year. He also told them to clear all the clouds from the skies, so the sun could melt the snow. 


The little girl’s journey home was much easier. The new friends parted, promising to help anytime when needed. 


And when she reached the village, all the snow had gone and the village shone in the springtime sunshine. Everyone cheered the return of the brave little girl. They picked the first snowdrops and give them to her and the children of the village sang her special songs and danced a special dance.