An early version of The Snow Merchant

I wrote this version of The Snow Merchant around March 2010. It’s not very long at all, but back then I thought it might be a short picture book instead of a novel. It’s strange to think how different the story was back then, at the beginning. Stories are like that, though. That’s the first rule of Stories (and of Alchemy too): Things Change.

 

In a time before snow,

in a winter so dark,

a man came to the land of Albion.

He opened the door to the first pub he saw.

He fainted in the arms of the first girl he met.

Her name was Lettie, the landlord’s daughter.

It was the coldest weather Lettie had ever known, and he was by far the coldest guest.

His teeth were blue.

His hair was white.

His fingers were blue.

The whites of his eyes were blue and his pupils were white.

He dropped a bag full to bursting on the floor. No one went near it.

“You’re frozen!” she told him.

“I know,” he told her. “I shall never be warm again.”

“We’ll see about that,” she told him. “I make very good soup.”

She sat him down in the warmest armchair by the roasting fire.

She pulled off his boots.

She piled on blankets.

She took the cat from the mat and put it on his lap.

She boiled the water for the soup.

The other villagers stared.

“He’s an angel,” said Sally Hay.

“He’s a devil,” said Matthew Cray.

“He’s a guest,” said Lettie. “Now chop the vegetables for the soup.”

They all did as they were told.

And still, no one went near his bag except Fumbles the cat.

The man shivered and everyone chopped.

Sally Hay chopped chillies into chunky cubes.

Billy Ironson squashed a butternut squash.

Matthew Cray grated ginger.

Lettie stirred and sifted.

The soup steamed and simmered.

“It’s ready,” she said.

The man sniffed.

The man sipped.

The man slurped.

Everyone watched the man.

No one watched the bag, full to bursting.

No one watched Fumbles the cat.

The man started to glow.

His icicle beard melted.

His frosty eyebrows dripped into his eyes.

His lips melted into a smile.

“That is good soup,” he said.

“You’ll never taste better,” said Lettie.

And they laughed together and drank cocoa.

Sally Hay played the accordion, Matthew Cray plucked the six-string and Billy Ironson sang rude songs.

The man joined in. More villagers came.

No one noticed when Fumbles left, dragging the full-to-bursting-bag with him.

Lettie felt happy and warm. She stared out the window.

“What’s that?” she asked.

The villagers all looked as the world turned white.

“Oh no!” said the man. “Who let the cat out with my bag? My snow, my snow is everywhere!”

“What’s snow?” Lettie asked him.

“My greatest invention,” said the man.

“What does it do?” asked Sally Hay.

“It makes winter beautiful,” said the man.

“Why are you sad?” said Matthew Cray. “It’s a wonderful invention.”

“I am sad because I am a Snow Merchant and I have no more snow,” said the Snow Merchant. “And I have not travelled everywhere yet. I have been to the mountains, some of the forests and a few of the villages. Each time I came to a new place, I sold the people there a little of my snow. Now there is none left, my bag is lost and I still had the deserts, and the savannahs, and the prairies and the jungles to visit. Now none of these places will know how beautiful snow is.”

And he started to cry.

“Don’t cry,” said Lettie. “Why don’t you invent something else? Something different for the places where it doesn’t snow?”

The Snow Merchant sat up.

“It would take a long time,” he said. “Almost forever.”

“I’m sure they won’t mind waiting,” Lettie said.

“But I can’t think what to make!” he said.

“You will in the end,” Lettie told him.

The Snow Merchant broke into a smile.

“Of course!” he said. “How can I thank you enough?”

He picked up his empty bag and vanished into the white world.

The villagers looked out at the incredible sky.

Then they brought the cat inside and fed him some soup.