When my husband and I go on hikes, I’ll often ask him to tell me a story, and give him a prompt. Sometimes he’ll take the bait and run with it, or sometimes he’ll volley it back to me, or we’ll take it in turns. On this particular trip into the woods, I asked him to tell me about the snow elves.
He clarified: “Snow elves, or snow faeries?” I had to admit that I couldn’t answer, because there is none fluent enough in both their language and ours to make an adequate translation. Sometimes they are called faeries, sometimes elves, and sometimes even gnomes. In truth, they are like all of these things, because there is quite a lot of variety in the world of the snow faeries.
While we disagreed at first about their migration patterns (having both heard different theories on the subject), and how they actually made snow, we came to discover one universal truth about them.
They thrive on hygge, in particular the brand of hygge that comes with snow and ice. When people are bundled up in scarves and coats and mittens for sledding or playing in the snow, or else cozied up with books and blankets and cocoa by the fire, that’s when they’re at their best. It isn’t exactly their food, but it is what nourishes them and supports their particular magic.
And so, their primary job in life is to make snow in order to create the feeling the hygge. Case in point, just when we arrived at our location and began our afternoon walk in the woods and were so bundled up and excited to be away from buildings and cities and roads, the snow kicked up in flurry that could only be described as festive. The flurries were light, though, and sadly don’t show up in these photos.
The snow elves (or faeries, or gnomes) don’t always succeed. The weather has to be ripe for their coming, and there has to be some existing hygge to attract them in the first place – because without at least a little hygge they won’t have anything to feed upon in order to have the energy they need to make more snow. It’s a complicated and reciprocal balance.
That’s why snow storms tend to come in clumps. It’s not always the case – occasionally the snow elves will ride into a strong burst of hygge and make snow out of what seems to be just plain old cold air.
And then they’ll turn that cold air into magic, if you’ll let them.
That’s the main thing about snow elves: they need some cooperation. Part of their complex reciprocality means that someone has to love the snow. It doesn’t take that many people. If you hate the snow, and yet find yourself inundated with it, then chances are good that your neighbor is loving the cold enough for the both of you, or that there are some children nearby who just cannot wait until their next snow day. You could try to overpower them with your own sheer cynicism, but it’s probably a losing battle.
Eventually, everyone will tire of the snow, and the elves will retreat as the spring elves (the flower faeires, the tree faires, the creek elves, etc.) come out of hibernation to feast on the new excitement. The traveling snow elves will likely be ready to return to their homes in the mountains, and in the extremes of the North and the South. We still don’t know why some choose to travel and others do not, but I suppose they’re allowed some unpredictability. There’s really no telling when they’ll come and go, and when we’ll get snow next.
So you might as well enjoy it a little, if you can.