Daughter of the Snow


Released on October 11, 2022



I walked through the cold blizzard, carrying my ill daughter on my back.

Pushing through the flurries of white snow, I arduously trekked through even more white snow on the ground.

My feet left deep footprints in the snow, as my tired body continued.

My mind began to wander as I walked.

There had also been a blizzard, just like this one, on the day when I lost my mentor.

Still, I must go to that place that I swore I would never go back to again - the place where my mentor died.

***

Years ago, I was the apprentice of a woodcutter named Mosaku.

Of course, as he was my teacher, I would address him as Mosaku-sensei.

One night, as we were making our way back home after a hard day of woodcutting, a sudden blizzard caught us unawares.

Unfortunately, our village was on the other side of a river, and the person in charge of ferrying people across this river had left the boat on the other side - seemingly having forgotten about ferrying us over to this side of the river just this morning.

As swimming in this weather wasn't an option, Mosaku-sensei and I were left with no choice but to take shelter inside the boater's hut.

Since it was just a place for the boater to take a rest in between river crossings, there was barely anything in the hut - there wasn't even a place to start a fire for warmth!

Nonetheless, we counted ourselves lucky for even having found shelter in this blizzard.

Thus, without much else that we could do, we grabbed whatever blankets that we could find, and we laid ourselves on the floor to try and get some sleep.

I had barely fallen asleep when a strange chill woke me.

As I shuddered awake, I glanced over at my mentor.

And to my fright, there was a creature looming over him.

The creature took the form of a strikingly beautiful woman dressed in white. But yet, its form was also one of an inhuman creature - one with skin as white as snow itself, dark navy hair, an expressionless face, and indescribably frightening eyes.

Was she... a yuki-onna?! A 'woman of the snow'?!

I laid there, as if frozen.

I could only watch as the creature blew her breath all over my mentor. Even in a room as cold as this, I could see her ice-cold breath, and it seemed to be freezing my mentor as he slept.

"Mosaku-sensei!" I cried out!

The creature turned towards me.

I stumbled back, trying to get away.

As the creature approached me, she let out a breath of air, and that slight breeze chilled me to my bones.

I froze, as if unable to move.

The creature circled around me, as I sat there helplessly.

"You are young and beautiful," she said, "And perhaps you will become a fine man."

I found myself unable to speak.

"I shall spare you," she said, "but if you tell anyone about me, I will kill you."

Then, with one last look at me, she left.

I fainted.

When I next awoke, it was morning.

As I opened my eyes, I saw my mentor lying still on the floor.

"Sensei!" I cried out, as I hurried over to him.

But, his body was cold to the touch - he had been frozen to death.

***

After that night, I had sworn that I would never go back to that hut.

But, for my sick daughter, I had no choice.

Even through this blizzard, I could feel my daughter's freezing breath on my back.

She breathed heavily, gasping in pain as her illness tormented her body.

"Not long now, dear," I said, trying to comfort her as I continued towards the hut.

As I carried her on my back, I began to think about her mother - my former wife, Oyuki.

***

It had been a year or two after my mentor had died, when Oyuki showed up in my life.

After I had buried my mentor and recovered from that night, I continued my work as a woodcutter.

I had kept silent about the creature that I had seen.

Had I really seen her, or was I just delirious from the cold that night?

Nonetheless, life continued on.

One night, as I was heading home, carrying the wood that I had chopped down on my back, I met Oyuki.

She was a quiet and beautiful woman.

She was reserved and had a great amount of self-control over her emotions - which could come off as emotionless, but I could always tell what she was feeling. Or, at least, that's what I thought.

And she had this beautiful black hair, which looked dark blue when it was under certain light.

That night, as I was heading home, we noticed each other as we were walking down on the same road.

We began to talk.

She told me about how she had just lost her parents, and about how she was travelling to stay with some relatives in Edo.

I told her about my work as a woodcutter, and about how my mother had been pestering me to get married.

As we walked and talked, a spark of love ignited between us.

And that was how our life together began.

We would get married and have children, and we would live many years of our lives together.

That was, until that one day - that one accursed day.

One night, as Oyuki was quietly sewing by the light, I looked at my beautiful wife.

As the light flickered, and her hair gave off that dark blue hue that it sometimes had, a memory that I had not recalled for a long time struck me.

"My darling wife," I said, chuckling, "Seeing you in that light, and dressed in white, reminds me of something that had happened to me a long time ago."

I began to tell her about what had happened to me that night when Mosaku-sensei died.

"But, thinking back on it," I said, as I finished my story, "It must have been a nightmare caused by the cold."

Suddenly, my wife turned to me, and... she was no longer my wife!

In my wife's place, was the yuki-onna that I had seen all those years ago!

"I told you, Minokichi," she said to me, "that if you ever tell anyone about what you had seen, I would kill you."

The yuki-onna began to approach me, and, once more, I froze in place.

I felt the room grow cold, as if her very presence lowered the temperature.

As she approached me, she turned and looked at the door to the room where our children were sleeping.

Then, she turned to me again, and said, "But, once more, I shall spare you - for you have given me children whom I love, and I do not wish to see them without their father."

"Take good care of our children," the yuki-onna said to me, "Or I shall return to take your life."

Then, she left, dispersing into the air as if snow.

And that was how our life together ended.

***

My daughter and I had finally reached the boater's hut.

To get across the river, I had to 'borrow' the boater's boat - for which I will have to apologize for tomorrow.

For now, I laid my daughter down on the floor, and I drape over her a blanket that I had brought with me.

As my sick daughter breathed heavily, I could see the cold, white air coming out of her mouth - it was an ice-cold breath that chilled the air as it escaped from her lungs.

This strange illness was the reason that I had brought my daughter all the way out here, in the middle of a blizzard.

I place a hand on my daughter's head, trying to comfort her, "Hold on, my dear. Stay strong."

Then, looking at the hut around us, I called out, "Oyuki! Are you there? Please, we need your help!"

I waited.

But, except for the blizzard outside, there was only silence.

I called out again, "Oyuk-"

The door to the hut suddenly opened.

Snow began to fly into the hut, and it began to gather and take shape.

And from the snow, was formed a creature that took the guise of a woman dressed in white - but one with skin as white as the snow itself, dark navy hair, an expressionless face, and frightening eyes.

"O-Oyuki?" I said, my voice quivering.

"Minokichi," the yuki-onna said to me, "why have you brought our daughter here?"

"S-She's ill!" I said, "Look!"

I pointed to our daughter, "Her breath is ice-cold, and she's been in pain and high with fever."

"I brought her to a doctor," I continued, "but it was of no use, and we both know why!"

Oyu- The yuki-onna approached our daughter - she glided, as if she was floating.

Placing a hand on our daughter, the yuki-onna looked over her.

For a moment, I felt as if I was looking at Oyuki again.

But, that was not to last.

"She is a daughter of the snow, like me," the yuki-onna said, "I must take her with me."

For a moment, stunned by her words, I could do nothing.

But then, a fiery anger took over me.

"No!" I yelled out, "You've taken my mentor from me! You've taken my wife from me! I won't let you take my daughter from me as well!"

The yuki-onna responded, "I am still your wife."

My anger grew, "You ceased to be my wife when you left us!"

The yuki-onna paused, and, just for a brief moment, I felt as though I could see a stunned expression on that expressionless face of hers.

Then, she said, "Regardless, she must come with me. And if you won't let me..."

Gracefully, she turned away.

Then, she turned back to me, and unleashed a torrent of cold winds from her mouth.

I felt my body go cold, as her breath began to freeze me.

I cried out in pain.

"N-No! Please!" I yelled out, looking into my former wife's eyes.

But, all that I could find there were those frightening eyes on that expressionless face of hers.

"Stop..." a weak voice cried out, "Please..."

It was our daughter.

The yuki-onna stopped, and I dropped to my knees.

I clenched my body and shivered, unable to move from the cold that was still inside my body and in the air around me.

The yuki-onna approached our daughter, and picked her up.

As the yuki-onna carried our daughter towards the door, I tried to call out.

But, no words came out.

The yuki-onna turned to face me, one last time.

"Live, my beloved," she said, "Remember our other children. Live and take care of them. But, don't look for us again."

And with those last words, Oyuki carried our daughter away with her.

I struggled to follow, trying to get my body to move.

I cried out in pain as my cold body fought against me.

And when I had finally reached the door...

I was too late.

Oyuki and our daughter had already disappeared into the blizzard.



Commentary:
A retelling of and a sequel to "Yuki-Onna" by Lafcadio Hearn (Koizumi Yakumo), which you can find in "Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things", a collection of Japanese folk tales that Hearn translated and/or retold.
(You can find "Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things" on Project Gutenberg, if you want to read the original for yourself.)
As you may have noticed, this is a sequel (and retelling) to a story about a yokai from Japanese folkore by a writer who was born in (what is now) Greece.
This may appear to be a strange choice, but there are a few details that I would like to point out.
Firstly: Hearn became a Japanese citizen, and was adopted into a samurai family through marriage (hence his new name, Koizumi Yakumo; he took his wife's family name, Koizumi). His writings were some of the West's first introductions to Japanese culture and literature.
Secondly: in his book, Koizumi says that the story was told to him by a farmer, who told him that it was a legend of the farmer's village. So his version does have a basis from a Japanese source, if he is to be believed.
Thirdly: from what I can tell, Koizumi's version has a presence in Japan itself as well, with it being part of the Kwaidan (1965) film, as well as me encountering an animated version of it on BonBon Academy's YouTube channel (unfortunately, I do not know Japanese, so I could not tell you what exactly that channel is). Also, from the research that I've done, it seems that his works have a huge following in Japan as well.
Lastly: to give a comparison, most of what we think of as Lancelot's character nowadays actually comes from French writers; so, "foreign" influences on legends and stories aren't bad things, per se. Though I would hesitate to call Koizumi's influence "foreign", considering his history.
And so, after being inspired by his version of the story, and doing a lot of research into this, I decided to go ahead with my idea for this story.
And now, just some miscellaneous items to wrap this up.
In Japan, sensei is an honorific given to one's teacher or a master of a craft. In this case, Mosaku is Minokichi's teacher - so he addresses his teacher as Mosaku-sensei.
Yuki-onna are traditionally depicted as having black hair, but more modern depictions have given them blue hair. I decided to go for dark navy to give them a hair colour that humans don't naturally have, but kept it dark.


If you enjoyed this story, you can follow me on Twitter or subscribe to my newsletter for updates on new stories!



Previous - Archive