The trees where red and yellow and the air filled with funny birds when winter came to the forest. But as soon as they saw him the trees quiver and lost their leaves – and all the bird flew away. Nobody was glad when winter came, and everyone would be happy if he left.
I will show them what I’m capable of, winter thought and whirled snow over the land and blew frost over the trees. He iced the creek and dressed the spruce with glistening icicles. But no one seemed to appreciate it.
The roe deer kicked its hoofs in the snow saying the winter had frozen their food. The squirrel laughed and said he, indeed, had food hidden somewhere, although he could not remember where… The crows was croaking, the fox barking, the elk mooed and the owl rolled his eyes.
”Isn’t spring here soon, mother?” said the young hare and huddled close to her mother’s warm fur.
”Yes, my child,” said mother hare, and everybody turn to listen to her, even winter who hid in the shadows. ”Spring will soon be here”, she said, ”and with her come warmth. When spring walks the land flowers follow in her tracks, trees unfold their leaves and birds come flying from the other side of the world, just to sing her grace. Then we be set free from the grim winters hold. As long as winter is here, spring can’t come. But when she comes, winter most go away.”
Winter had never heard of spring before. This ended the wild and playful times of his youth. Gone was his will to frost and freeze, storm and blow. When the other winters played freeze-down and frost-bite or tried to make hundred kinds of snow, he preferred to thaw in his forest and think of spring. He wanted so much to see this woman whose beauty made the land bloom and birds sing. He would not leave then, no way. He would dress up with his finest snow garb and salute her as a queen.
That’s how winter began to long for spring, just as everybody else. The air got warmer and the sun lingered longer in the sky for each passing day. The inhabitant of the forest became more and more happy and energetic – all except winter who felt tired and worn down. It’s just typical that I will catch a cold now, he thought, when spring may arrive any minute.
In this moment a bird chirp:
”Spring is coming, spring is near.
Soon gone is the cold that winter bore.
Spring is coming, don’t you fear.
Soon the winter’s story is no more.”
Winter wanted to look beautiful when spring came, and he dressed the forest in its fairest robes. He combed over the bare spots with snow and threw frost on the mischievous creak. He busied himself with high and low and made everything white and crisp.
Then the animals started to complain.
”Why don’t the old gray wolf realize that his time is up?” muttered the old black bear who had crawled out of his lair and was freezing in a paw.
”He thinks he can stop spring!” squeal old Mrs. Mouse who had lit a pine needle fire to warm her self.
”That he cannot,” said the fox and shook snow out of his fur. ”He can only delay her, never stop her.”
The spring came closer and winter was nervous. The snow melted and the ground started to shine through like ugly wounds here and there. The icicles lost it grip and fell to the ground. It was itching and tickling everywhere. Winter felt old and tired. His tears fell heavy from the trees and made the ground sour.
And spring was close now. For each day that pass the sun stayed up a bit longer in hope of seeing her. Birds came flying in from all over the world. They sang that spring was on her way. All the animals who had been hibernating woke up. It was a marry delight, a joyful festival.
Everybody was happy but Winter. He was shabby and miserably. If spring came now I could not show my face, he thought and his tears fell heavy from trees and bushes, making the ground wet and soggy.
But finally she came, young and slender. The trees barely had enough leaves to cover her up. But there she was – and oh so beautiful! She came when day and night were of equal length, the last day before winter had to make his escape.
They stayed up all night talking and had only eyes for each other. When morning came, Winter was just a gust of wind flying home to his parents in the north. And spring was left all alone.
A year would pass before they could meet again. And from that day the two friends only have that one-day a year. That’s why spring, with all her splendour, brings with her a sense of melancholy. And every year the streams of spring sing about the love between winter and spring that last for one day only.
If you listen carefully you can hear it.
Illustration by Mariagrazia Orlandini.
This fairy tale in Swedish: Vinterns saga.