A wintry tale of youthful arrogance, a frozen Lord, and a lesson learnt through hard work.
Old Frost and Young Frost
– A Lithuanian Fairy Tale –
Once there lived Old Father Frost, and he had a son—Young Frost. And such a braggart was this young one that you would be hard put to it even to tell about it. To hear him, you would think there was no one in all the world more clever and stronger than he.
One day Young Frost said to himself:
“My father has grown old, and he does his work badly. I am young, and I am strong, and I can freeze people far better. No one can hide from me, no one can get the better of me. I can lick anyone!”
And Young Frost set off in search of someone to freeze. He flew out on to a road, and he saw a lord riding in a buggy drawn by a sleek, well-fed horse. The Lord himself was big and fat, he had on a warm fur coat, and his legs were covered with a rug.
Young Frost looked the lord over and laughed.
“Ha!” said he. “You can wrap yourself in furs all you will, but it isn’t going to save you. The old man, my father, may not have been able to cope with you, but I can: I’ll chill you to the marrow. So hold tight! Neither your fur coat, nor the rug will help.”
And Young Frost flew up to the lord and began plaguing and worrying him: getting under the rug, and creeping into his sleeves, and stealing under his collar, and nipping his nose.
At that the Lord ordered his coachman to whip up the horse.
“I shall freeze to death!” cried he.
And Young Frost continued to plague the lord more and more. He nipped his nose till it hurt, chilled his hands and feet and took his breath away.
The lord moved this way and that, he fidgeted on his seat and he shivered and shrank with cold.
“Drive faster!” cried he to the coachman. “Faster!”
But after a while he stopped shouting, for he had lost his voice.
When he reached his house, he was carried half-dead out of the buggy.
Young Frost now flew to Old Frost, his father, and began boasting and bragging.
“Look at me, Father!” he cried. “Look at me! I am very strong! You’ll never be able to keep up with me! Just see what a big, fat lord I froze! And what a warm coat I crept under! You could never do it! You could never freeze anyone so big and strong!”
Old Frost smiled.
“You little braggart!” said he. “Do not be in such a hurry to boast of your strength and daring. It’s true you froze that fat lord and crept under his warm coat. But that is nothing. Look over there. See that skinny muzhik in his threadbare coat riding on the scraggy horse?”
“Yes, I see him.”
“Well, he is on his way to the forest to chop wood. Just you try and freeze him. If you succeed, then I will believe you when you say that you are strong!”
“Humph! Here is a wonder indeed!” Young Frost cried. “Why, I’ll freeze him in a moment!”
And Young Frost rose up into the air and flew off to overtake the muzhik. He caught him up and fell on him and began plaguing and harassing him. He flew at him now from one side and now from the other, but the muzhik rode on and never stopped. Then Young Frost began nipping his feet, but the muzhik jumped from his sledge and ran alongside his horse.
“Just you wait!” thought Young Frost. “I’ll freeze you in the forest!”
The muzhik came to the forest, he took out his axe and he began chopping down the spruces and birches so that the chips flew to all sides!
And Young Frost would give him no peace. He caught him by the hands and feet and crept under his collar. . . .
But the harder Young Frost tried to freeze him, the faster the muzhik swung his axe and the more trees he chopped down. In the end, so warm did he get that he even took off his mittens.
Young Frost continued to harass the muzhik until he was quite worn out.
“Never you mind,” said he to himself, “I’ll get the better of you, anyway. I’ll chill you to the bone when you are on your way home.”
He ran to the sledge, and seeing the muzhik’s mittens, crept into them. He sat there and he laughed, saying to himself:
“I’d just like to see how the muzhik is going to put on his mittens. So stiff have I made them that one can’t thrust one’s fingers into them!”
There sat Young Frost in the muzhik’s mittens, and the muzhik went on chopping the wood and seemed to have no thought for anything else. He chopped till he had a whole cartload ready.
“Now,” said the muzhik, “I might just as well go home.”
He took his mittens and tried to put them on, but they were as hard and stiff as rock.
“Well, what are you going to do now?” Young Frost said to himself, laughing.
But the muzhik, seeing that he could not put on his mittens, took his axe and began striking them with it again and again.
The muzhik went thump-thump! over the mittens with his axe, and Young Frost went oh-oh! inside them.
And such a trouncing did the muzhik give Young Frost that Young Frost ran from him, barely alive.
The muzhik drove home with his wood, urging on his horse with loud cries. And Young Frost tottered off, groaning, to his father.
Old Frost saw Young Frost and burst out laughing.
“What’s the matter, son,” asked he, “why are you tottering so?”
“I’m completely knocked out, trying to freeze the muzhik.”
“And why are you groaning so piteously?”
“Who wouldn’t, in my place! My sides ache from the whipping the muzhik gave me.”
“Now let this be a lesson to you, my son. It’s easy enough to worst the thumb-twiddling lords, but no one can get the better of a muzhik. And don’t you forget it!”