The one with the frozen mountain, the little town, and the cold journey.
From the top of her frozen mountain, the lady of ice and frost allows a little town to plunge into eternal winter, not expecting anyone brave enough to come to confront her.
Special thanks to my sensitivity readers Andie, Jane and Felix!
- Follow this podcast on Tumblr or Twitter!
- Check out composer Kai Engel, who wrote the theme song “Holiday Gift”.
- Penny for a tale? You can tip your storyteller on Ko-fi!
- Read the full transcript below:
[Gentle theme music]
Laura: Hi, you can call me Laura, I’m here to tell you a story if you like. You found one of my Patchwork Fairy Tales. This is the one with the frozen mountain, the little town, and the cold journey.
The Frost Lady
There once was a mountain that rose up so high and majestic it looked like a palace. The peak of the mountain wore snow like it was a veil and a ring of misty clouds was draped around it like a fur cape.
All this made it very clear this was not an ordinary mountain. This mountain was the abode of the Frost Lady. She was once both feared and revered by all, for the Frost Lady was both beautiful and powerful. Clouds and chilling winds would come and go at her command. It was her kindness that cooled the weather in the hottest of summer and her mercy that called back the bitter cold when it was time for winter to end.
The mountain that was her home knew her to be his lady, so did the land her mountain overlooked. But mankind has a shorter memory than her surroundings and people began settling closer and closer to the mountain that their ancestors used to dread.
One day the Frost Lady looked down and saw a little town quite near the foot of her very own mountain. Her icy gaze passed over it and she grew angry with the human folk that had built on her land without deference to her.
She watched them day and night and her anger grew when she did not even hear herself mentioned, except to frighten little children.
“Do not stray too far from town and onto the mountain,” the parents told their children. “Because you will lose yourself there and freeze to death.”
“I will not,” almost every child would protest.
“Well, then the Frost Lady will capture you just as you turn around to go back home.”
The Frost Lady was a proud creature and she resented being spoken about like a childish nightmare. Stealthily she sent her frosts down the mountain. They crept slowly down through the stones, they streamed down with the water and floated across the land on breaths of air.
Slowly but steadily they came to dim the sunlight and to turn the air sharp. They made the plants and trees draw back inside themselves and halt their growth. They made the earth cold and hard and when all the land seemed still and breathless, the snow came.
The people of the town were frightened. They had not noticed the cold at first and when they had noticed it, they had been sure it would go away again. But it didn’t. It stayed and now snowstorms blew across the land and heaped snow against every house.
The townspeople began speaking of everlasting winter and ancient curses, and in their fear some of them remembered the Frost Lady. So now they began speaking of her. Of how she lived on top of the mountain and how she ruled all that was ice and cold and snow. They talked of her with hushed voices and bent heads and some of them said that there was truth in the children’s stories. That if you ever went onto the Frost Lady’s mountain you would lose yourself. Lose yourself and never come back again.
Such was the talk of the townspeople as they shivered and tried to fight the cold. Because even though they were frightened, they did fight. Those that could hunt went out hunting for wild animals and those that were strong enough to wield an axe braved the snow to chop down trees for firewood. And all the weavers and tailors made cloth and clothes as thick and warm as they possibly could.
Among these weavers was a married couple. A husband and wife that were rightfully called the best weavers in town. They knew how to make fabric that hardly let through rain or wind. But the Frost Lady’s snow stuck to your clothes so it melted and drenched your clothes as soon as you stepped inside.
“Not even our heaviest full cloth can stand up to this weather,” the weaver sighed one night at her loom.
“That is because this weather was wished upon us all,” her husband answered from his cutting table.
Near the fire, threading his father’s spool, sat the weavers’ only child, who they called Ansel. He lifted his head and said:
“Perhaps if someone would go there and tell the Frost Lady of our suffering, she might lift the cold and let summer come back again.”
“You mustn’t say such things!” his mother whispered. “We could never send anyone to the Frost Lady…”
Because by now everybody knew that anyone who would dare to go up that frozen mountain was sure to lose themselves there, so they would never come back.
Ansel knew the stories too, he was not a child anymore, but still called a boy, not yet grown so old that he did not remember his bedtime stories. So Ansel was silent and sat with his parents near the fire, listening to the roaring snowstorm outside.
The bitter cold stayed. Snow and ice covered land and water alike and the people in the town grew pale and weary. Hardly anyone dared to go outside the town anymore.
As the days went by and the cruel cold grew worse, the weavers’ son began to get restless. Someone had to go and talk to the Frost Lady on top of the mountain, but nobody dared. And all for the fear of losing themselves, Ansel did not fear that very much at all. Because it had taken him long, very long, to find out who he was. Too long for anyone to take it away from him. How could they even take what they didn’t know he had, because he wasn’t Ansel. He wasn’t even the weavers’ son, she was the weavers’ daughter.
One day maybe she could tell her parents this, explain to them that they’d gotten it wrong. Ask them to forget about Ansel and call her Ida instead. But now, with all the world in frozen misery, it never seemed the right time. Because by now life in the town was really very bad. People were almost starving and many people had fallen ill.
So one ice cold morning when the sun was overhead, glaring down without giving any warmth, Ida made up her mind. She was busy hanging the washing outside to freeze dry in the temporarily windless weather, with her best friend the butcher’s daughter working beside her. And as they tried to hurry as best they could to keep themselves warm, Ida told her friend she planned to go to the Frost Lady.
“Oh you can’t go!” the butcher’s daughter cried out.
“Someone must go,” Ida said. “And I really think it should be me.”
“Please don’t,” the butcher’s daughter begged. “I don’t know what I would do if you did not come back.”
“I could lose myself a million times over,” Ida said warmly. “And never forget you are my friend.”
The butcher’s daughter cried two tears that froze on her cheeks immediately.
“You must not tell anyone I am going,” Ida said, brushing the frozen tears away with her glove. “But when I am gone, you must tell my parents where I have gone so no one will come look for me.”
The butcher’s daughter promised to do as she asked and they hugged each other through their coats and shawls to say goodbye.
The weather only turned colder, but in the morning the sky was still clear and the weavers’ daughter set out. She walked through the deep snow, every step heavier than the last, but her eyes were fixed on the Frost Lady’s mountain and she did not stop walking.
When she reached the mountain Ida bowed deeply and spoke loudly:
“I am coming to ask for your mercy, Your Highness, so please give me leave to climb your mountain.”
There was no answer, only the icy wind howling, so Ida took a deep breath and went bravely on.
She walked and walked. The mountains were not only steep. They were crafty mountains, sometimes rising so gradually that Ida almost forgot she was climbing ever higher. With every other step she asked herself if she still knew who she was or if she had lost herself already. But no matter how high she came, she did not feel any different.
Still, did this not discourage her, it made her braver.
“I have nothing to lose, Your Majesty,” Ida muttered to the frosty sky. “And everything to gain.”
At length she came to a narrowing of the road. Ice-covered stone boulders edged the path on either side and among them, something stirred. A creature, mostly stone and ice and with movements that made the ground creak, rose to prevent her from going further. Ida held still.
“Do you wish to see my mistress, the Lady of Frost?” the solidly frozen creature asked solemnly.
“Yes, I do,” Ida said brazenly.
“Then you must give me your name,” the creature said.
Ida wasn’t fazed. She merely smiled thinly and nodded her head. “They call me Ansel,” she answered. “Take it.”
All the frozen boulders flanking the path groaned and what they groaned was unfamiliar, because the weavers’ daughter had forgotten the sound of the name she was given. Still, she did not miss it, and as she was allowed to continue on, her brow furrowed with the determination not to lose herself, she remembered that her name was Ida. She had named herself thus and that was something she would never forget.
So Ida carried on. Her feet were cold and she walked more slowly now, but she never stopped.
At length she came to the opening of a tunnel and she was eager to enter it, for it would mean some shelter from the icy wind, but inside of it the air was so cold it hurt her eyes and Ida cried frozen tears that nearly blinded her as much as the sudden dark did.
When she finally saw light in front of her she went towards it hastily, on numb feet, and once more walked out into the open air. She looked out for the next creature, for she was sure there would be one.
It was waiting for her by a crystal cold mountain stream with a stone bridge built across it. In the middle of the bridge lay a creature with frost for hair and ice for skin. As soon as the weavers’ daughter stepped onto the bridge, it opened its eyes and looked at her.
“Do you wish to see my mistress, the Lady of Frost?” it asked solemnly.
“Yes, I do,” Ida said, her breath a nearly frozen mist in the air.
“Then you must give me your reflection,” the creature said.
The weavers’ daughter bent over the shimmering film of ice that covered the stones of the bridge and saw her own face. It was a perfect reflection, caught in the coldness, but she did not feel like it belonged to her. She hadn’t for a long time.
“Then take it,” she said indifferently and as the creature gave her a small nod the reflection faded away before her very eyes.
Immediately passing across the bridge, Ida carried on walking, still determined to meet the Frost Lady and save the town. With every slippery step she realised though, that no matter how hard she tried, she could not remember what she had looked like just now in the ice’s reflection. But, even in that emptiness, she did remember what she truly looked like, in her mind’s eye, and that was enough for now.
So on she went, even though the cold now wound around her from all sides. The icy chill carried tiredness with it, but Ida ignored them both. She walked, ignoring the cold, ignoring the fatigue, ignoring even the frozen creatures that waited along the road. They did not ask her for further offerings, they merely watched her go with icy eyes. Watched her go on and on until a tall, glittering gate of dripping ice rose up before her to block the way.
A slow-moving creature, heavy with icicles hanging from its arms, stood before the gate and looked at Ida. It would not move.
“Let me pass,” Ida told it wearily.
“Behind this gate are the Frost Lady’s quarters,” the creature said forebodingly.
“I know that,” she said. “Now let me pass.”
The creature shook its head and the icicles tinkled.
“One more thing you must give away before I will let you see Our Lady,” it said. “And you must choose what to give me.”
“What do you want then?” Ida asked.
“You must give me the memory of yourself, of everything you are… Or the memory of everyone that ever knew you.”
“No,” said Ida immediately. “I shall not give you that. So you must take the memory of myself.”
“Are you sure?” the creature asked.
“I am,” she said.
“Then give my mistress my regards,” the creature said with a bow and it stepped aside to let her pass.
Barely sure of if she was still breathing, Ida stepped through the gate of glittering ice. She walked on smooth floors of frozenness which reflected everything except herself and without even realising it fully, she forgot who she was supposed to be. She forgot the weavers’ son, forgot the boy that had befriended the butcher’s daughter, forgot the growing young man that helped the townsfolk with their work. But in the same moment she remembered, in the depths of her being, through all the frozen fog and numbness, that she was the weavers’ daughter. That somewhere a long way down the butcher’s daughter missed her best friend. That at the foot of this mountain was a town full of people she cared for that hadn’t properly met her yet.
Ida’s eyes wandered. Everything gleamed and sparkled. Here the cold was beautiful, not cruel and savage like down in the town. The Frost Lady’s abode was truly a castle and everything was made of ice and snow.
“Welcome,” a voice like icicles in the wind spoke right in front of her.
Ida stood stock still and looked up, staring.
The Frost Lady smiled thinly at her and rose from her raised throne, scattering snow everywhere.
“You have come a very long way just to become no one,” she said coolly.
“I am not no one.” Ida’s lips were nearly too cold to speak, but her voice rang out clearly all the same. “My name is Ida and I have come from the town below to ask you to lift the cold.”
It had been an immeasurably long time ago since the Frost Lady had been addressed in such a way. She stared at Ida in shock and surprise. Not for as long as the humans below had spoken this common tongue had anyone managed to reach her with a name to call themselves.
“You are very brave, young mortal,” she said tentatively. “I can respect bravery.”
But Ida had not come for compliments. She could feel the chill trying to settle in her bones and she remembered the town, the home she wanted to make for herself there.
“My town is freezing to death,” she said earnestly. “We are cold and hungry and if you do not allow warmth to return to our lands we shall die.”
The Lady pursed her pale lips. “I see,” she said. “And why have you come, instead of any other person, and all on your own too?”
“I came because everybody was afraid that they would lose themselves here,” Ida replied. “But I wasn’t.”
The Lady no longer looked quite so frozen, no longer quite so unmoved. “Why not?” she asked.
“I knew who I was when no one else did,” Ida replied, her eyes fixed on the pale face. “There is no way I could ever forget.”
Above Ida’s head, chandeliers hung with icicles tinkled with the strength of her voice.
The Frost Lady sank back down onto hear seat. “Your people don’t respect the cold,” she spoke angrily. “You come here, wielding your name like a weapon, but you come from people who barely know mine.”
“You must let me go back down,” Ida said. “I will tell them all about you. We will not forget about you again.”
“You do not fear me,” the Frost Lady hissed.
“But I will not forget you,” Ida vowed. “I’ll make sure they remember. You will not be lost to us again.” She lifted her face in the cold. “I promise that, on my own name, and my own face, and everything I am.”
And the ice around glistened wet with melting water, because a vow like that carries heat inside of it.
The Frost Lady watched it all with her white face growing even paler still and finally she raised her voice once more.
“I will not return to you what was taken, you have given it freely and you shall not have it back.”
“And that is not what I asked you for,” Ida said, quietly now, but with warmth still clinging to her lips.
“Then I shall give you what you came for!” the Lady burst forth. “Now go, girl, and leave me! As soon as you return home my cold will draw back. I will keep my word. See to it that you keep yours.”
Ida nodded and in a gust of chilling wind she dragged herself outside again. Yes, the chill was deep inside her limbs, and the cold air clung to her skin like a veil, but the heat of her triumph glowed in her chest. Down the mountain she marched, away from the Frost Lady’s palace, and the further she got the warmer she grew. Soon there was no more ice around her and without the frozen glitter dazzling her eyes, the weavers’ daughter could see that on her feet her shoes had almost been completely been worn away on the cold stones of the mountain, and that the freezing winds had worn the fabric of her coat to bare threads.
It was no matter now, though, because with every step Ida grew warmer. Faster she went, faster and faster. She was almost leaping once she reached the foot of the mountain and she broke into a run when she finally saw the town. She ran, rushing into town and with her came a thawing of the ground and a warming of the air.
Gloriously Ida felt the sun break through the blizzard clouds behind her. A short moment she looked over her shoulder back at the icy mountain and when she turned towards the town again, she heard a great shout.
It was the butcher’s daughter. She came storming at her, shawls flying and arms outstretched.
“Is that you?” she yelled. “Is it really!”
“No,” Ida answered. “It’s me instead.”
A moment later the butcher’s daughter jumped at her and threw her arms around her neck.
“Oh, I’m glad, so glad that you’re back,” the butcher’s daughter said. “You were gone for such a long time. But how well you look!”
“I do?” said Ida.
“You do. You look much more like you,” the butcher’s daughter smiled, and as if she felt the need to prove it, she held up the silver locket she wore round her neck, so that her friend could see herself in it.
And to Ida’s surprise, there was her reflection. A reflection she finally recognized as her own. Because she looked like herself now, completely herself in fact. And high above her the sun was shining again and the whole town was coming outside to see it.
A second cry made the weavers’ daughter look up.
Her parents, their faces grey with worry, came rushing towards her and as soon as they reached her they hugged her until she could hardly breathe.
“Oh my child,” her father cried.
“My child,” her mother sobbed. “My little, my little…”
“Ida,” the weavers’ daughter breathed, exhaling the last of the icy cold.
“My little Ida,” her mother beamed, hugging her closer still.
“You spoke to the Frost Lady,” her father gasped, his big hands clasping both her shoulders.
“Yes, and she listened,” Ida smiled.
The townspeople looked up at the sky. The sun was shining warmly and the wind was mild. Life was waking up in the earth and the cold fear in the peoples’ hearts began to thaw.
And while everybody was looking at the kind sunshine, with her parents on her right and her best friend on her left, Ida began to tell them about the Frost Lady. About ice covering ground and boulder, snow glittering hard as glass, wind shrill and cutting like steel. But in the mild warmth slowly surrounding them these things were easier to hear, so everyone listened, and solemnly so, to the weavers’ daughter who they knew they had liked for years, but felt they had only just properly met.
And for as long as that town stood there at the base of that mountain, its people told each other the story they all knew never to forget, of the Frost Lady high in her palace of ice and the brave young woman who saved their home.
Laura: And with that last word stitching up the very last sentence, this story has its proper end.
Thank you so much for listening, lovely of you to stop by. If you want to listen to more of these, or find out about my other projects, check out patchworkfairytales.wordpress.com. You can also find me at laurasimonsdaughter.tumblr.com which is full of folklore and urban fantasy. You can also find this podcast on its own Tumblr, or on Twitter.
There’s another tale to tell some other Wednesday but until then…
Sing to the stars, dance your shoes to nothing, and be safe~
Copyright Laura Simons, please do not copy my stories without my permission, lest you insult the fae.