Father Frost and His Son


(A Lithuanian fairy tale)

Old Father Frost had a son, Little Frost, who was an impossible braggart. My father has grown so old that he can hardly do his job anymore, the youngster decided. But I’m young and strong. I can freeze people better than anyone! No one can escape my icy nip or equal the mighty force of my hoary blasts. I can conquer all!

The first thing Little Frost saw when he went down the road was a gentleman riding along in a fine sleigh pulled by a sleek, well-fed horse. The gentleman was stout, and he wore a warm fur coat. He had a thick blanket draped over his lap to keep his legs nice and toasty.

Little Frost whispered, “No matter how tightly you wrap your warm things about you, nothing will save you from my chilly fingers.” He slipped under the blanket and crawled up the sleeves of the warm fur coat. Then he curled himself under the collar and tweaked the poor fellow’s nose.

The fine gentleman ordered his servant to hurry the horse along. “Otherwise I’ll freeze!” he cried.

Little Frost’s cold became even more bitter. He wore down the rich man’s resistance, tweaked his nose even harder, turned his hands and feet icy, and made the air too cold to breathe.

The gentleman was now too cold even to shout. In fact, by the time they reached his house, he had to be carried in from the sleigh; he was barely alive.

Little Frost flew back to his father and began to brag about what he had done. “See what a fine boy I am!” he boasted. “See what an important gentleman I’ve frostbitten! Look what a warm winter coat I managed to get through!”

Old Father Frost laughed and said, “So you think you’ve done something really fantastic, eh? See that peasant over there wearing the tattered coat and leading the skinny nag? He’s on his way to cut firewood in the forest. If you can make him freeze with cold, then I’ll really believe you’re strong!”

The peasant reached the forest, took out his ax, and started to chop down the trees. My how the wood chips were flying! Little Frost grabbed him by the hands and feet and even slipped under his collar. But the harder Little Frost tried to freeze the woodcutter, the faster the peasant swung his ax. He warmed himself so well with his work that he even took his mittens off.

That was a great surprise to Little Frost, and he thought, “Well, I’ll just slip inside these mittens and fill them so full of cold that they’ll turn to ice! Then he’ll sing a different tune.” So Little Frost crouched inside the mittens while the peasant chopped away.

When the sleigh was filled with firewood, the peasant declared, “Now I can go home.” He picked up his mittens and tried to put them on, but they were frozen as hard as steel.

“Aha! What are you going to do now?” Little Frost chortled.

The peasant grabbed his ax and started beating the mittens with the back of the ax head. All the while he whacked away at the mittens, Little Frost, who was trapped inside, howled and roared with pain. Then the peasant started home with the firewood.

Little Frost limped back to his father, moaning all the while.

As soon as Old Father Frost caught sight of Little Frost, he asked, “How is it that you’re limping along so, Son? And why are you moaning so pitifully?”

“That peasant really wore me out,” answered Little Frost. “And he gave me a working-over besides.”

Old Father Frost burst out laughing and said, “Let that be a lesson to you, my son. It’s easy enough to get the best of an idle man. But you can never freeze a fellow who stays busy—he’s got his work to keep him warm!”

[illustration] Illustrated by Shauna Mooney