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Literature / Morozko

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The stepdaughter meeting Morozko. Illustration by Ivan Bilibin

Morozko (Russian: Морозко, Morozko), as well known as Father Frost, King Frost or "The Story of King Frost", among other names, is a Russian Fairy Tale collected by Alexander Afanasyev in Narodnye russkie skazki (Народные Русские Сказки), Andrew Lang in The Yellow Fairy Book and William Ralston Shedden-Ralston in Russian Fairy Tales: A Choice Collection of Muscovite Folk-lore.

Once upon a time there was an old woman who had a daughter and a stepdaughter. And she constantly doted on her daughter, even though she was a spoiled brat, and mistreated her husband's daughter, despite being a kind, good-hearted kid.

One day, determined to get rid of her stepdaughter, the old woman orders her husband to drive the girl out into the fields and leave her to die. The old man does not dare to disobey his wife, so he abandons his daughter at the edge of the forest.

When night falls, the stepdaughter is visited by Father Frost, who asks several times if she is warm. Over and again the girl insists she is not cold at all, even though she is visibly freezing, causing Father Frost to have pity on her. Father Frost wraps her up in furs and blankets, gives her a chest full of jewels, gets her into his sledge and drives her home.

When the old woman sees her stepdaughter alive and pushing a huge treasure chest through the door, she orders the old man to take her daughter to the same spot. The old man does so and rides away. Shortly after, Father Frost arrives at the place, but the daughter gets to insult him until he gets mad and freezes her to death.

In the morning, the old woman sends her husband away to retrieve her daughter and her box of jewels. However...

At that moment the door flew open, and she rushed out to meet her daughter, and as she took her frozen body in her arms she too was chilled to death.

The version collected by Shedden-Ralston presents several significant differences: the stepdaughter is given a name (Marfa); the stepmother has two biological daughters (named Prascovia and Mashka) and she uses trickery to make her husband abandon his daughter; when his daughters get killed, she tries to put the blame on her husband, but the man finally snaps and calls her out.

It can be read here, here, here, here or here. For the Shedden-Ralston version, click here.

The 1964 Russian film Morozko is very loosely based on the fairy tale.

Compare with The Brothers Grimm tale "Mother Holle".


  • Abusive Parents: The old woman abused her stepdaughter psychologically to the point the poor child cried every night.
  • An Aesop:
    • Respect the Winter or it will kill you.
    • Parents must love and respect your children, regardless of their origin.
  • Ambiguous Situation: The final line in several versions: "At that moment the door flew open, and she rushed out to meet her daughter, and as she took her frozen body in her arms she too was chilled to death." It is unclear whether it means the old woman has been literally frozen to death or "merely" overwhelmed by blood-chilling horror.
  • Cassandra Truth: The dog foretells the old woman's stepdaughter will become rich whereas her daughter will die. Its warnings are not appreciated by the old woman, who tries to bribe and threaten it into changing its tune.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: The daughter is extremely rude and demanding to Father Frost, a powerful and ancient spirit of cold and Winter, until he inevitably gets mad and freezes her to death.
  • Domestic Abuse: The old man is completely cowed into submission to his wife, and in some versions the old woman does not hesitate to blame him for her daughter's death.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: The old woman sends her stepdaughter in the woods to die. However, the woodlands are home to Father Frost, who is willing to be benevolent and helpful... as long as you are not a rude disrespectful ass, so incurring its wrath.
  • Doting Parent: The old woman loathes her stepddaughter but has her biological daughter completely and utterly pampered:
    "The daughter had her own way in everything, and whatever she did was right in her mother's eyes".
  • Enchanted Forest: The snowy, densely forested area near from the old couple's hut is home to Father Frost, the benevolent but short-tempered spirit of the Winter. No one sane dares to walk into those woods when night falls.
  • Hard Truth Aesop: "You should not go out of your way to be needlessly rude, confrontational or uppity to powerful people who can destroy you easily and with no consequence because it will not end well for you".
  • Henpecked Husband: The old woman's husband is completely incapable of standing up to his wife, not even to protect his own daughter.
  • An Ice Person: Generally, Father Frost simply brings winter to certain areas (winter/cold follows him everywhere), but he can also use his power to freeze people to death in an instant if they piss him off.
  • Kill It with Ice: Father Frost freezes the daughter to death when her repeated insults get him mad.
  • Knuckle Cracking: Father Frost cracking his knuckles and gnashing his teeth is a sign that he may be about to unleash waves of extreme, deadly cold upon someone.
  • Minimalist Cast: The tale only features the titular Father Frost, the old married couple, their two daughters... and the family dog.
  • Nameless Narrative: Father Frost is the only character identified by name.
  • No Name Given: No character is named in the story.
  • Offing the Offspring: The old woman attempts to murder her stepdaughter; she unintentionally gets her daughter killed off instead.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: The old woman walks out of the door and runs into her daughter's frozen corpse.
  • Parental Abandonment: The old man's daughter is abandoned in the nearby woods by her father at her stepmother's behest.
  • Parental Favoritism: The old woman pampers her biological daughter and mistreats her stepdaughter.
  • Rule of Three:
    • Father Frost asks the stepdaughter if she is feeling warm three times.
    • The dog announces the stepdaughter's fortune and the daughter's demise three times.
  • Santa Claus: Father Frost presents some traits associated to Santa Claus: he is an old man who lives in a snowy land, gives presents to well-mannered kids and rides a sledge.
  • Secondary Character Title: The titular Winter spirit takes pity on and helps the heroine when she is abandoned in the woods.
  • Spoiled Brat: The old woman's daughter has been thoroughly pampered since she was a child, and as a result she has grown into a rude, entitled and disrespectful child who is too stupid to understand you should not go out of your way to piss some people off.
  • Talking Animal: The family's little dog foretells over and again that the old woman's daughter will die, and her stepdaughter will live and become rich.
  • Through His Stomach: The woman feeds the dog pancakes so it stops saying her daughter will die. The dog happily eats up her pancakes and goes on saying her daughter will die.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The daughter finds herself in the middle of a snowed forest, at night, without more company than an old but powerful elemental spirit, and she begins insulting him.
  • Useless Bystander Parent: The old man does nothing to defend his daughter from his wife's cruel mistreatment, and when old woman demands he abandons his daughter in the woods to die, he goes along with it, even if reluctantly.
  • Wicked Stepmother: The old woman hates her stepdaughter, mistreats her every day, and outright attempts to get her killed.
  • You Must Be Cold: Father Frost wraps the stepdaughter in a thick fur coat when she is forced to spend the night in his snow-covered forest.