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Snegurochka (The Snow Maiden)
December 13, 2011 18:07


Snegurochka, i.e. Snow Maiden, is an indispensable New Year's character from Russian fairy tales, the charming granddaughter of Father Frost, his constant companion and assistant. Sometimes she is depicted as a little girl, and sometimes as a young lady.

In ancient legends Snegurochka appears wearing snow-white clothes and an eight-beam wreath, embroidered in silver and pearls. It suggests about her likeness to the image of Slavic goddess Makosh, the patroness of femininity, marriage and birth giving. But there are also other versions about the origin of the snow-white beauty. According to one of them, Snegurochka took shape from the ancient slavic rite of funeral of goddess Kostroma, who was either burnt down or drowned in river as a farewell to the winter.

Snegurochka appears in Russian folklore as the character of a folk fairy tale about a girl who was made of snow and came to life. This plot was studied and published by Alexander Afanasyev in the second volume of his treatise “The Poetic Outlook on Nature by the Slavs” in 1869.

In 1873 Alexander Ostrovsky inspired by Afanasyev’s fairy tales wrote the play “Snegurochka”. In it Snegurochka is the daughter of Father Frost and Spring and she perishes during the summer ritual of honoring Yarila, the god of the Sun. She is a beautiful pale-faced and fair-haired girl wearing a white-blue fur coat, a fur cap, and mittens.

At first the play was not a success with public. However in 1882 Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov staged the same-name opera, based on the play, which made a triumph.

The image of Snegurochka was further developed in works of teachers who prepared scenarios for children's Christmas matinees in the late 19th-early 20th century. In the pre-revolutionary time yet figurines of Snegurochka were hung up on fur-trees, girls dressed up in costumes of Snegurochka, and fragments from fairy tales, Ostrovsky's play or the opera were performed on stage.

Snegurochka took its present-day in the Soviet Union in 1935, after the official permission of the New Year celebrations. In books about organization of the New Year of that period Snegurochka appears on a par with Father Frost, as his granddaughter, assistant and a mediator in his communication with children. In the beginning of 1937 Father Frost and Snegurochka for the first time made their appearance at the New Year matinee in the Moscow House of the Unions. It is interesting to note that in early Soviet pictures Snegurochka is more often represented as a little girl, and only later she “grew up” into a young lady.

During the post-war period Snegurochka was an almost indispensable companion of Father Frost in all the New Year’s celebrations and greetings. On New Year's Eve students of theatrical schools and actresses moonlighted as Snow Maidens. In amateur performances fair-haired usually play the part of Snow Maiden.

For the well-known Soviet film “Snegurochka” (1968) an entire village of the Berendeys (people from the fairy tale) was constructed by the River Mera. After the end of shootings the wooden scenery was transferred to a place near Kostroma to lay the foundation for Berendeyevka park with Snegurochka’s tower, in which she now receives guests all year round.

By the way, in Japanese folklore there is the character Yuki Onna (i.e. “snow woman”), who can be possibly related to the image of Russian Snegurochka.

The Russian punk band Sector Gasa has a song dedicated to Snegurochka on their Christmas Eve Night (1991). The song, in turn, is a play upon the well-known song performed by Anatoli Papanov and Klara Rumyanova “Tell me, Snegurochka where you have been” from the popular Soviet cartoon series “Nu, pogodi!” (Part 8).

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Sources:
shkolazhizni.ru
Russian wiki


Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: New Year Russian Holidays Russian Winter Russian Customs  

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