The Snow Man
It is so delightfully cold,Ф said the Snow Man, Уthat it makes my whole body crackle. This is just the kind of wind to blow life into one. How that great red thing up there is staring at me!Ф He meant the sun, who was just setting. УIt shall not make me wink. I shall manage to keep the pieces.Ф
He had two triangular pieces of tile in his head, instead of eyes; his mouth was made of an old broken rake, and was, of course, furnished with teeth. He had been brought into existence amidst the joyous shouts of boys, the jingling of sleigh-bells, and the slashing of whips. The sun went down, and the full moon rose, large, round, and clear, shining in the deep blue.
УThere it comes again, from the other side,Ф said the Snow Man, who supposed the sun was showing himself once more. УAh, I have cured him of staring, though; now he may hang up there, and shine, that I may see myself. If I only knew how to manage to move away from this place,ЧI should so like to move. If I could, I would slide along yonder on the ice, as I have seen the boys do; but I donТt understand how; I donТt even know how to run.Ф
УAway, away,Ф barked the old yard-dog. He was quite hoarse, and could not pronounce УBow wowФ properly. He had once been an indoor dog, and lay by the fire, and he had been hoarse ever since. УThe sun will make you run some day. I saw him, last winter, make your predecessor run, and his predecessor before him. Away, away, they all have to go.Ф
УI donТt understand you, comrade,Ф said the Snow Man. УIs that thing up yonder to teach me to run? I saw it running itself a little while ago, and now it has come creeping up from the other side.Ф
УYou know nothing at all,Ф replied the yard-dog; Уbut then, youТve only lately been patched up. What you see yonder is the moon, and the one before it was the sun. It will come again to-morrow, and most likely teach you to run down into the ditch by the well; for I think the weather is going to change. I can feel such pricks and stabs in my left leg; I am sure there is going to be a change.Ф
УI donТt understand him,Ф said the Snow Man to himself; Уbut I have a feeling that he is talking of something very disagreeable. The one who stared so just now, and whom he calls the sun, is not my friend; I can feel that too.Ф
УAway, away,Ф barked the yard-dog, and then he turned round three times, and crept into his kennel to sleep.
There was really a change in the weather. Towards morning, a thick fog covered the whole country round, and a keen wind arose, so that the cold seemed to freeze oneТs bones; but when the sun rose, the sight was splendid. Trees and bushes were covered with hoar frost, and looked like a forest of white coral; while on every twig glittered frozen dew-drops. The many delicate forms concealed in summer by luxuriant foliage, were now clearly defined, and looked like glittering lace-work. From every twig glistened a white radiance. The birch, waving in the wind, looked full of life, like trees in summer; and its appearance was wondrously beautiful. And where the sun shone, how everything glittered and sparkled, as if diamond dust had been strewn about; while the snowy carpet of the earth appeared as if covered with diamonds, from which countless lights gleamed, whiter than even the snow itself.
УThis is really beautiful,Ф said a young girl, who had come into the garden with a young man; and they both stood still near the Snow Man, and contemplated the glittering scene. УSummer cannot show a more beautiful sight,Ф she exclaimed, while her eyes sparkled.
УAnd we canТt have such a fellow as this in the summer time,Ф replied the young man, pointing to the Snow Man; Уhe is capital.Ф
The girl laughed, and nodded at the Snow Man, and then tripped away over the snow with her friend. The snow creaked and crackled beneath her feet, as if she had been treading on starch.
УWho are these two?Ф asked the Snow Man of the yard-dog. УYou have been here longer than I have; do you know them?Ф
УOf course I know them,Ф replied the yard-dog; Уshe has stroked my back many times, and he has given me a bone of meat. I never bite those two.Ф
УBut what are they?Ф asked the Snow Man.
УThey are lovers,Ф he replied; Уthey will go and live in the same kennel by-and-by, and gnaw at the same bone. Away, away!Ф
УAre they the same kind of beings as you and I?Ф asked the Snow Man.
УWell, they belong to the same master,Ф retorted the yard-dog. УCertainly people who were only born yesterday know very little. I can see that in you. I have age and experience. I know every one here in the house, and I know there was once a time when I did not lie out here in the cold, fastened to a chain. Away, away!Ф
УThe cold is delightful,Ф said the Snow Man; Уbut do tell me tell me; only you must not clank your chain so; for it jars all through me when you do that.Ф
УAway, away!Ф barked the yard-dog; УIТll tell you; they said I was a pretty little fellow once; then I used to lie in a velvet-covered chair, up at the masterТs house, and sit in the mistressТs lap. They used to kiss my nose, and wipe my paws with an embroidered handkerchief, and I was called ТAmi, dear Ami, sweet Ami.Т But after a while I grew too big for them, and they sent me away to the housekeeperТs room; so I came to live on the lower story. You can look into the room from where you stand, and see where I was master once; for I was indeed master to the housekeeper. It was certainly a smaller room than those up stairs; but I was more comfortable; for I was not being continually taken hold of and pulled about by the children as I had been. I received quite as good food, or even better. I had my own cushion, and there was a stoveЧit is the finest thing in the world at this season of the year. I used to go under the stove, and lie down quite beneath it. Ah, I still dream of that stove. Away, away!Ф
УDoes a stove look beautiful?Ф asked the Snow Man, Уis it at all like me?Ф
УIt is just the reverse of you,Ф said the dog; УitТs as black as a crow, and has a long neck and a brass knob; it eats firewood, so that fire spurts out of its mouth. We should keep on one side, or under it, to be comfortable. You can see it through the window, from where you stand.Ф
Then the Snow Man looked, and saw a bright polished thing with a brazen knob, and fire gleaming from the lower part of it. The Snow Man felt quite a strange sensation come over him; it was very odd, he knew not what it meant, and he could not account for it. But there are people who are not men of snow, who understand what it is. УAnd why did you leave her?Ф asked the Snow Man, for it seemed to him that the stove must be of the female sex. УHow could you give up such a comfortable place?Ф
УI was obliged,Ф replied the yard-dog. УThey turned me out of doors, and chained me up here. I had bitten the youngest of my masterТs sons in the leg, because he kicked away the bone I was gnawing. ТBone for bone,Т I thought; but they were so angry, and from that time I have been fastened with a chain, and lost my bone. DonТt you hear how hoarse I am. Away, away! I canТt talk any more like other dogs. Away, away, that is the end of it all.Ф
But the Snow Man was no longer listening. He was looking into the housekeeperТs room on the lower storey; where the stove stood on its four iron legs, looking about the same size as the Snow Man himself. УWhat a strange crackling I feel within me,Ф he said. УShall I ever get in there? It is an innocent wish, and innocent wishes are sure to be fulfilled. I must go in there and lean against her, even if I have to break the window.Ф
УYou must never go in there,Ф said the yard-dog, Уfor if you approach the stove, youТll melt away, away.Ф
УI might as well go,Ф said the Snow Man, Уfor I think I am breaking up as it is.Ф
During the whole day the Snow Man stood looking in through the window, and in the twilight hour the room became still more inviting, for from the stove came a gentle glow, not like the sun or the moon; no, only the bright light which gleams from a stove when it has been well fed. When the door of the stove was opened, the flames darted out of its mouth; this is customary with all stoves. The light of the flames fell directly on the face and breast of the Snow Man with a ruddy gleam. УI can endure it no longer,Ф said he; Уhow beautiful it looks when it stretches out its tongue?Ф
The night was long, but did not appear so to the Snow Man, who stood there enjoying his own reflections, and crackling with the cold. In the morning, the window-panes of the housekeeperТs room were covered with ice. They were the most beautiful ice-flowers any Snow Man could desire, but they concealed the stove. These window-panes would not thaw, and he could see nothing of the stove, which he pictured to himself, as if it had been a lovely human being. The snow crackled and the wind whistled around him; it was just the kind of frosty weather a Snow Man might thoroughly enjoy. But he did not enjoy it; how, indeed, could he enjoy anything when he was Уstove sick?Ф
УThat is terrible disease for a Snow Man,Ф said the yard-dog; УI have suffered from it myself, but I got over it. Away, away,Ф he barked and then he added, Уthe weather is going to change.Ф And the weather did change; it began to thaw. As the warmth increased, the Snow Man decreased. He said nothing and made no complaint, which is a sure sign. One morning he broke, and sunk down altogether; and, behold, where he had stood, something like a broomstick remained sticking up in the ground. It was the pole round which the boys had built him up. УAh, now I understand why he had such a great longing for the stove,Ф said the yard-dog. УWhy, thereТs the shovel that is used for cleaning out the stove, fastened to the pole.Ф The Snow Man had a stove scraper in his body; that was what moved him so. УBut itТs all over now. Away, away.Ф And soon the winter passed. УAway, away,Ф barked the hoarse yard-dog. But the girls in the house sang,
УCome from your fragrant home, green thyme;
Stretch your soft branches, willow-tree;
The months are bringing the sweet spring-time,
When the lark in the sky sings joyfully.
Come gentle sun, while the cuckoo sings,
And IТll mock his note in my wanderings.Ф
And nobody thought any more of the Snow Man.