The snow has returned like an unwelcome yet relentless visitor. Just a few years ago it seemed that snow would be a thing of the past, we had gone years without seeing any of the swirling white menace.
Whether it is down to climate change or not I couldn’t say but snow is back in our winters with a vengeance. Transport stops, noses and fingers turn red, bread sells out within minutes of reaching the shop shelves.
But snow can also be such a wonderful thing, it makes even the ugliest scene seem enchantingly beautiful. And of course snow has featured, starred even, in some great works of literature.
James Joyces seminal short story collection ‘Dubliners’ ends with a long story, a novella itself really, called The Dead. Here is how it ends:
“Yes, the news­pa­pers were right: snow was gen­eral all over Ire­land. It was falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, fur­ther west­wards, softly falling into the dark muti­nous Shan­non waves. It was falling too upon every part of the lonely church­yard where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and head­stones, on the spears of the lit­tle gate, on the bar­ren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the uni­verse and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the liv­ing and the dead.”
In this reading snow represents the death of Gabriel’s dreams, the end of what he had thought of as reality, the freezing of the love that he thought he had shared with his wife.
The incredible Japanese novelist Yasunari Kawabata tackled a similar theme in the achingly beautiful ‘Snow Country’ (check it out – it deservedly gained Yasunari the Nobel prize for literature). Again, snow represents the flip sides of one coin: beauty and death, the thing that makes beauty so extreme and powerful is the very knowledge of its fragility – the certainty of its death. Beauty and love will dissolve away like the all encompassing snow that will soon melt away leaving no traces behind.
My new children’s novel ‘Tortoise Soup’ (coming soon – check back here for details) also contains a scene where the poor little tortoise Byron battles in vain against a blizzard:
“It was a cold night on the moors as Byron continued his slow walk northwards. The great north wind had begun to howl across the desolate landscape and at times it blew Byron back so that he seemed to be getting further away from Ruby rather than closer to her. The sky had been darkening for some time but suddenly it began to grow lighter again. A solitary white flake floated down from above and landed right upon Byron’s nose.
‘Brrr, what was that?’ thought Byron, but as he bravely struggled on against the wind the flakes began to fall faster and faster until the air itself looked completely white. Byron panicked now, he had never been out in snow before, but he could feel himself growing colder and colder. Snow was settling onto his shell and his legs were growing heavier and slower. The little tortoise tried to carry on walking but soon it was a struggle even to move his limbs.
Byron had no strength left, he flopped his head down onto the cold moorland floor and lay sprawled out as the snow piled up on top of him. ‘If only I could have seen Ruby again, just one more time’ he thought and the image of her pretty face gave him one last burst of energy. He began to dig into the ground with all his strength but he made slow progress with the frost covered soil. He dug and dug until he toppled into the little hole that he had made but all too soon the snow fell in upon him until there was nothing to show where he had been except a small white mound.”
The great Finnish writer and artist Tove Jansson wrote a short story about snow. It was called ‘Snow’. Here is a recording of me reading it.

I hope that you enjoy it and if you are going out remember the Norwegian saying: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”
Please post any snow related comments below!


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