The stein seen here is one of four in a limited edition set produced by Villeroy & Boch Mettlach in 1986. The nicely made porcelain set depicts scenes taken from Russian Fairy Tales. Each stein deals with one fairy tale, and depicts three different scenes encircling the body. The porcelain inlay in the pewter-rimmed lid repeats the focus of the central scene from the body. The thumblift is the Mettlach Abbey. The base of each stein, which includes an impressed Mettlach Abbey trademark, gives the name of the series (Russian Fairy Tales), the titles for each of the scenes on the body and the model number (1526 through 1528).
The Snow Maiden stein is model number 1526; the three body scenes, seen left to right below, are Snegurochka at the Court of Tsar Brendei, The Snow Maiden and Snegurochka and Lel, the Shepherd Boy.
In a village in the Kingdom of Berendei, there lived an old couple, Fairy Spring and Mighty Winter. They were very unhappy because they didn't have any children. One cold and frosty morning when the neighborhood children were playing in the snow, their pain became so great that they decided to make the daughter they had always wanted from snow. They carefully formed the snow-girl's features, dressed her in a silken gown and placed red leather boots on her feet and a jeweled crown on her head. They had barely finished when the girl's lips began to redden, and she came alive.
"Don't be afraid", she said to them. "Let me be your daughter." The old folks were happy to hear these words and led her into their cottage. They called her Snegurochka ("sneg" meaning snow, hence Snow Maiden). Snegurochka was a kind and respectful daughter, but she never went out and perhaps for this reason she was very pale and wan.
When Snegurochka was sixteen years old, her parents realized that they should allow her to go into the world. It was time for them to leave and make way for Spring, and they feared that while they were gone the sun-god Yarilo would glimpse their daughter and she would die of his merciless rays. They went to the Spirit of the Wood, who promised that he would guard her from all harm, but he laid his conditions: Snegurochka would be safe from death so long as love for a man did not enter her heart.
On the way to the village she met a young maiden named Coupava. She was a beautiful and loud girl who flirted with all the lads. Coupava introduced Snegurochka to her friends, and since that time Snegurochka went out sometimes to communicate with her new friends.
Lel, a shepherd boy, fell in love with Snegurochka, and she felt a strange new happiness and joy whenever she was with him. They became fast friends and spent much time together.
One day a rich young merchant, Mizgir, came to the village and joined the youths and maids in their dancing. Coupava fascinated Mizgir, and within a few days they were lovers. He showered her with gifts of jewels and clothing, which Coupava flaunted before all the villagers.
One evening Mizgir saw Snegurochka, and from that time on his interest in Coupava waned. Now he found her too loud, and bold for his taste in comparison with shy and fragile Snegurochka. It was rumored in the village that Mizgir had asked for her hand in marriage.
When Coupava heard this, she was furious! She went to the Tsar and told him that Snegurochka had enticed Mizgir away from her. She begged the Tsar to have Snegurochka punished for her wicked behavior. The Tsar of Berendei was a mighty but benevolent ruler who always had the good of his subjects at heart. He listened attentively to Coupava and ordered that Snegurochka be brought to him.
Snegurochka was so fearful in the presence of the mighty monarch that she did not dare to even lift her eyes to look upon him. The Tsar told her not to be afraid, but to answer truthfully if she really had stolen the heart of Coupava's love, knowing that they were betrothed. Snegurochka answered that, although Mizgir had indeed asked for her hand in marriage, she refused him, because she loved Lel, the shepherd boy. The Tsar realized that the girl was speaking the truth and let her go home.
From that day on Snegurochka didn't want to go out to stroll and talk with young people. Even Lel, whom she loved so much, couldn't persuade her to leave her cottage. Spring finally came to the village and, as it grew warmer, Snegurochka became sadder and paler. One beautiful, sunny day Lel came to her window and asked her to go out. Again she refused, but finally she could resist no longer.
She came out of her cottage and walked with him toward the forest. When they reached a lovely glade, Snegurochka said to him: "Play for me, my dearest friend. Play one last song for me, Lel!" Lel took out his flute and began to play the charming refrain, which was Snegurochka's favorite tune. As she gazed upon him, love for Lel filled every fiber of her being, and she knew that these were the emotions that she had been warned against by the Spirit of the Wood. Great tears appeared in her eyes - and suddenly she began to melt! In a few minutes she had vanished completely and there was nothing but a wisp of white mist which lifted slowly toward the heavens. People enjoyed the hot sun and forgot about Snegurochka's death. Only in cold winter they remembered the love which warms hearts and formed this tale.