Download the story: Gift from a Tiny Snow Queen
Every year in December, a cabin at the foot of a snowy mountain became the temporary winter home of Giuliana Goffa’s large extended family. Even though everyone else in the family looked forward to a week of downhill skiing and peppermint hot chocolate, Giuliana preferred so many other activities that didn’t involve being wet and cold. With school out of session, she wanted to curl up in the corner of the library of her home, on a footstool that looked like a pumpkin . She wanted more time to get acquainted with all of her literary friends—Belladonna the fairy, Jillian the Empress of the forest of Rudd, and Errol the prince who painted himself into adventure after adventure.
“You can bring those books with you, Giuls,” her father had told her as he found a place for her suitcase in the back of the car.
“And look what I bought you.”
Her mother Sophia handed Giuliana what she thought was a book, but when she opened it there were no words inside. “There’s no story here.”
“That’s because it’s a blank book. You can make up your own story.” She also gave her a purple and silver pen which Giuliana had to admit was quite pretty. She put both into her bag after gathering up some of her books with the stories already inside. She kept her bag in her lap as they rode for hours in the crowded train.
Once the Goffa family arrived at the cabin, open suitcases and clothing filled the large room on the first floor, the room where the children would sleep on mattresses on the floor. Giuliana counted the pillows and knew that every one of her twenty cousins were there. Through the window, she could see them running around the property and a couple had already climbed the nearest hill to slide down it on the top of what looked like a a piece of cardboard.
Her mother placed her hand on Giuliana’s shoulder. “Now, Giuls, I know you don’t think this is the funnest thing ever, but try to have fun so that no one calls you the grumpy one again this year.”
“But, Mom, I don’t like to ski and I’m not good at playing chase.”
“Okay, I’ll make you a deal. If you go out tomorrow morning with all of us and…”
“I don’t want to fall in the snow!”
“If you go out with us and do some cross country skiing, no one will expect you to ski down the hill. I will make sure that no one calls you grumpy, because at least you tried. The rest of the weekend you can have the sitting room all to yourself and drink as much hot chocolate as you can hold.”
“Absolutely.” Giuliana knew her mother always kept her word.
“And, Giuliana,” she added with a twinkle in her eye. “Keep a look out. There are all kinds of surprising things hidden here that you’ve probably never noticed before.”
Before she could ask the question, “What kind of things?”Sophia had already left the room for outside.
After a night spent with her cousin Boris’ rolling his feet over her face, Giuliana pulled on her warmest clothes and thickest coat and let her father Luigi help her put on her skis. He sent the rest of the children up the hill so that Giuliana could enjoy a nice ride over the sparkling landscape. Her parents, before they joined her, and her aunts and uncles shouted their support of her as she made her way outside.
It didn’t take long for Giuliana to find her skis stuck front tips down in the snow instead of gliding over the glittering white powder. The adults shouted more support and suggestions on how she could free herself and get upright again, which she finally managed to do. With her poles, she pushed herself over the open land below the mountain while her cousins’ shouts of glee sounded in the distance.
After much groaning and effort, Giuliana found herself exhausted and quite a distance from the cabin with her parents far ahead of her. She opened her eyes all the way and turned around. “That’s quite enough,” she said, and struggled to reverse her skis to get going in the right direction. After that, she rested a few minutes and began her trip back to where she started. What she didn’t realize was that the difficulty she felt making the return had something to do with her climbing the small hill near the cottage instead of going directly. She didn’t learn of her mistake until she found out that it didn’t take any effort to move her ski poles and the wind was whooshing past her cheeks.
“Ahhh!” she shouted in terror as she moved quickly toward the cabin with the adults rushing to help her, but they were too far away. When she finally opened her eyes fully, she saw the smallest patch of red moving in her path, and she quickly maneuvered to avoid it which caused her to spin and slide onto her side in the snow.
That afternoon she found herself alone in the parlor with a book, the side where she fell feeling very, very sore, but nothing had been broken, according to her Aunt Liesl, the doctor. “At least I have that behind me.” She opened her book and settled into the chair which was almost as comfortable as the one in her library at home.
“Excuse me.” The voice was high pitched but very small.
Giuliana looked all around her, expecting to find her annoying cousin Lorenzo playing a prank. She went back to reading.
“My subjects do not ignore me when I talk to them.”
Giuliana’s eyes darted upward and she saw something move on the shelf in front of her. “What?” She blinked several times before she made out the small figure dressed all in red. “Who are you?” She closed her book and set it aside, but didn’t remove her hand in case she wanted to use it to swat what she thought was a very well-dressed and large insect.
“My name is Regina, Queen of the Snow.”
“The snow? What snow? The snow all over? Or just the snow right here? Or…?”
“I’m the snow queen and no one has ever questioned the expansiveness of my reign.”
“Expansiveness of…well, I just wanted to know what makes you the queen of snow, and having been around snow for all my life, every winter, I’ve never met you before.”
Queen Regina circled a little wand over her head that sent out tiny flickers of light. “See.” It started to snow but just around where she stood on the shelf.
“Ooookay.” Giuliana finally let go of the book and let it slip to the floor. “So, where’s your castle?”
“In the forest.” She tapped the snow from her small feet with her wand.
“Excuse me if I don’t believe you.”
“You don’t believe me! Then who do you think I am?”
“I don’t know. Some kind of garden variety faery?”
“Hmmph.” The tiny figure crossed her arms. “And I came to reward you for saving my life.”
“Saving your life?” Then, Giuliana remembered the red patch. “Was that you who I saw in the path?”
“Yes. And you came hurtling toward me, but I assumed you’d sacrificed yourself to save me.”
Giuliana decided that she liked being a hero “I would never want to see anything happen to the Queen of Snow.”
“The Snow Queen.”
“Right. So what’s my reward?”
“I’ll grant you a wish.”
“A wish? A wish for anything?”
“It has to be something I can easily do.”
“Even with your wand?”
“My wand is just for snow.” She waved it again over her head and more snow fell over her.
“Okay, so…what would I want?” She tapped her chin with her new purple and silver pen.
“I want two things.”
“Two things. I don’t know if that would be possible.”
“They’re easy things. One, I want to see your castle. And two, I want you to tell me your story so I can write it in my blank book.”
“My story? I don’t know if I have much of a story to tell.”
“It doesn’t have to be very exciting. I have this very nice book that I have to put a story in.”
“Well, I guess I could tell you my story to grant your wish, on the way to my castle.”
“Yay!” For the first time, Giuliana believed that this might be the best vacation ever.
Dressed again in her warm clothing, still damp from the earlier fall, and her warm coat still dusted with white, Giuliana managed to pull on her own skis and set off for the forest to return Regina to her home.
Nestled in Giuliana’s ear, Regina began her story. “My parents were named Queen Donatella and King Silvio and I was the oldest of all the…turn here.”
Giuliana had to resist scratching the ear while it occurred to her that she was having a much easier time moving her arms and legs and skiing ahead. “Okay, I turned left. And?”
“Good. Watch for the holly and turn right there. Now where was I? Oh, yes, I am an only child and I became queen two months ago.”
“And why were you near the cabin?”
“I thought I’d try what you do. I planned to use my wand to create those sticks like you wear on your feet and go down the hill, like you all do. And I did it, but when I fell in the snow, I couldn’t find my wand to help me stand up again. That’s what I was looking for when you came along. I have to say that even as the queen of snow, I don’t really like falling through it.”
“Me, either. Although I’m not the queen of anything.”
After they reached the holly, Regina directed her to a place past the thickest boundary of the forest. She pointed to one tree, and Giuliana didn’t notice anything unusual until they got very close. There, carved into the trunk of the largest of the trees was an ornate castle of wood, with turrets and windows and even tiny flags flying.
“I’m sorry but there’s not too much more of the story. I would invite you inside of the castle, but, of course, you wouldn’t fit.”
“Of course.” Giuliana set her on a branch that snaked into the door. She could hear very small voices coming from inside.
She bowed. “Thank you, Giuliana for bringing me here.” As she finished her bow, the front door flew open and lots of tiny people flew through it to welcome their queen.
Giuliana left the castle and Regina behind and realized that she’d heard very little of the story. “There’s a castle. And lots of people. And…” But what a gift the Queen of Snow had given her. She had a story that would fill her book, her own story–a story of finding a little queen, discovering a castle carved in a tree, and, most of all, of learning to overcome her fear of doing something difficult that she could had never been able to do before. Nobody would ever call her grumpy again.