An extract from The Snow Maiden by A. Ostrovsky
The story of Lel and Kupava is incredibly romantic and it has become a symbol of pure, genuine and sincere love. A long time ago, this story existed as a folk legend but since the 19th century, it is better known thanks to Alexander Ostrovsky’s fairy tale and Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Snow Maiden, upon which it was based.
The central character of this tragic story is The Snow Maiden (Snegurochka), daughter of King Winter and Fairy Spring, who dies as soon as her heart is warmed by love. Lel and Kupava find happiness after going through their own difficulties; Lel is rejected by the Snow Maiden, who, in turn, causes Mizguir to leave Kupava, his bride-to-be.
In this ‘love rectangle’, each character has a part to play. Kupava, for instance, represents lively, earthly, human and feminine origins. The features of handsome shepherd Lel draw on Slavic mythology. Ostrovsky’s contemporaries assumed that Lel was the god of love and marriage in ancient Rus’, somewhat similar to the Cupid. However, modern researchers disagree with this point of view. Lel holds a truly magical power over women’s hearts in the fairy tale, to the point that he is not allowed to spend the night in houses where there are young eligible women. Interestingly, both characters go a long way to find their true love. Kupava gives upon a marriage of convenience, while Lel overcomes his frivolous nature in order to truly understand his beloved Kupava. While the Snow Maiden and Mizguir are literally burning with passion, Kupava and Lel learn true, genuine love.
The Snow Maiden is set in a pre-Christian era because Berendey’s kingdom welcomes the arrival of spring and summer in a typically pagan way. Alexander Ostrovsky was extremely careful with the folk element when working on his version of the story, which is why the motives and storylines borrowed from folk culture are so organically intertwined with his story.
The stone carvers strived to preserve this charm, and Lel’s lyrical nature is emphasized through the delicate colour range. Meticulous craftsmanshipbecomes apparent in his clothes: an embroidered shirt, bright check trousers and an elaborate pattern on the boots. Patterned malachite used for the base and the grass carved out of ophite with equal care bring together the characters of the same folk tale — Lel and Kupava.
Seeing Lel, she hurries to him.
At last once more I find you, whom I love.
My dearest friend, my Lel, my only joy!
My heart once more can feel, for you have saved me
From insult cruel, and from deepest shame.
You have restored to me my pride in life,
And with your kiss made me the equal of the happiest!
Well did I know which heart would overcome me!
In your sweet eyes my ravished glance is lost;
At last my soul its place of refuge finds!
Snegurochka shows herself among the bushes, watching Lel and Kupava.
O mother, they’ve deceived me!
Mother, O Fairy Spring,
I weepand I implore you;
I want to love!
Give me, mother mine,
A heart like other maidens have!
I want to love!
I want to love!
Mother, O Fairy Spring!
I want to love, or else I want to die!
Hard stone carving studio “Svyatogor”
Author: Grigory Ponomaryov
Carvers: Viktor Korobeynikov, Stas Shiryaev
Finishers: Igor Manturovsky, Alexey Atemasov
Jeweller: Dmitry Babushkin
Materials: chalcedony, malachite, ophite, jasper, flint, moss agate, walrus tusk, bronze
Dimensions: 34 × 31 × 31 cm