Smarty Pants Podcast

A Solstice Send-Off

A Slavic folktale to tell around the holiday fire

By Stephanie Bastek | December 23, 2020
Russian postal stamp block depicting Snegurochka (Wikimedia Commons)
Russian postal stamp block depicting Snegurochka (Wikimedia Commons)

The Snow Maiden—not to be confused with the Snow Queen, Snow White, or Frosty the Snowman—is a popular Slavic folktale about an elderly couple and a miraculous child born from snow. In addition to being a charming story about the passing of seasons, it references a number of folk rituals, from jumping over fires on the summer solstice to mock funerals marking the Yuletide. Philippa Rappoport, a lecturer in Russian culture at George Washington University, explains how folktales and rituals overlap, and reads aloud her own version of this wintry tale. This episode originally aired in 2018.

This is our last episode of the year, and we want to hear from you about what you’d like to hear in 2021! If there are any subjects or guests you would especially like to have on the show, send us an email at And, of course, help us find more listeners by rating us on iTunes and telling all your friends.

Go beyond the episode:

  • Read six versions of “The Snow Maiden,” classified by folklorist D. L. Ashliman as tales of “type 703,” or, relatedly, nine different spins from across Europe on “The Snow Child” (“type 1362 and related stories about questionable paternity”)
  • Watch the 1952 animated film The Snow Maiden, based on the Rimsky-Korsakov opera of the same name
  • Listen to Kristjan Järvi conduct an excerpt from Tchaikovsky’s Snow Maiden with the Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir

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