Judith Clay – Zita Murányi: Prince Winter

Beyond the Seas, International Fairytale Project in Hungary
El Proyecto Internacional de Cuentos Allende Los Mares, Hungría

Translated by Luca Szabó

Whenever he entered spring or summer, the air froze around him. Winter came with hard, crunchy snow, ice and mud everywhere. In his wake, degrees plummeted, people started wearing thick, warm coats, children’s faces glowed red, and their fingers seeked safety in the warm, rough palms of the adults. Even bears hid in their caves, and birds stopped chattering.
Only the prince of Freeze knew that under his skin summer and lively spring kept changing places – green meadows grow flowers, in the morning, rabbits rush to welcome the sun, and to say thanks to him for bathing the world in golden light. There were only two seasons, loud spring and cheeky summer, even foggy autumn had no place here. It never rained, people didn’t know anything about thick coats, mittens, and they’d never heard of umbrellas. When Prince Winter yawned, furry ears of rabbits tickled his neck, which made him open his thin blue mouth so wide that children rushed for their caps. This made him angry with the rabbits, and he scolded them, his most faithful mates, but in vain – rabbits were that playful.

Illustration made by Judith Clay, german artist

Illustration made by Judith Clay, german artist

Be it day or night, they kept tickling Prince Winter’s neck if they were in the mood for it. “Rabbits, rabbits!” he would sigh when nobody heard him. He sat there days on end and kept moaning.

He had a long, sad nose and a handsome face that was sour and long because of all the sadness and the tears he dropped here and there – these earned him the nickname Prince Blue. Princesses who he didn’t dare go up to, not even in his wildest dreams, called him that behind his back. They called him Prince Blue because everything that was to be found in the empire of forever lasting winter – the cold, sadness, sky, earth, ice and flowers – was blue, and they knew only these. If Prince Winter had only known that the princesses were angry with him because of the little iceballs the drops of unexpected showers turned into, and because of the waves of the lakes that turned into ice in a moment! He might not have spent so much time moaning then. He might not have suffered that cheek from the little rabbits, and he might not have let the stars go skating without him on the edge of the sky at night.
I don’t remember which cold they were in when a travelling circus arrived in Winter City – that was what the snub nosed princesses called Freeze. The news of what an exciting performance the circus was planning spread like fire throughout the outlandish empire. All citizens of Freeze, no matter if they were very young or very old, had the same thought: Prince Winter should be in that circus; maybe that could make him laugh. They didn’t even have to nag him too much, because he was in the mood to go to the circus. He had heard so much about those wonderful women, those ethereal, delicate creatures who fly in the air, swing on the trapeze. He always thought they had to be real beasts. Not to mention the dwarves, those funny, short creatures who warm up by riding vehicles smaller than themselves around the arena, standing on their hands. If nothing else, the performance of the the wandering rabbits got his attention all right. What can they know that his hares don’t? He kept thinking about that with his skates on his feet – he was so deep in thought that he didn’t remember to take them off.
But when he arrived at the circus, something unexpected happened, something that not even he had seen coming. He was only starting to feel the wandering rabbits, and he hadn’t even seen the flying, slim acrobat ladies. He only had to open the accordion door to the big top, and spring began to prick his skin. He breathed in the air of the circus, and he was swept along by this new experience: the lions in their cages, the miniature horses that weren’t even as tall as his knee and kept yawning in their cages next to the entrance. A half-smile was beginning to show in the corner of his mouth.
First you would have had to lean in really close to see any trace of change in his face, but just as suddenly as hiccoughs or sneezing might attack someone, an unexpected and broad smile expanded on his face. If anyone who knew the Prince had been standing right next to him, that person would have said he was guffawing with warmth and depth so powerful that it could have melted the heart of all the citizens in Freeze.
So much was enough of the circus for Prince Winter. He was starting to leave the colourful crowd, because he was still scared by the strange hubbub made up of the roar of lions, the low-pitched, rough voices of the clowns and many more, when he happened upon a tiny cage. Maybe the smell directed him to it, maybe not. Whichever was the case, I’m sure that not so long ago the sight of the wandering rabbits would have made the Prince’s heart gloomy, but now that he had experienced the taste of laughter, he didn’t want to be sad ever again. He quickened his pace, and left the big top. He barely had time to close the colourful accordion door.
How surprised he was by what he saw outside! In waters, in forests, in meadows spring was storming. Trees were growing blossoms and leaves, meadows were dotted with sweet smelling flowers. Only the face of the blond princesses was glowing redder than the poppies. Prince Winter had only seen anything like this in his dreams. His skates jumped off his feet, because there was no more ice left to skate on – it lived on in the sly blood-freezers of the princesses.
Despite all this happiness, Prince Winter’s heart died within him sometimes and his eyes started to sting when he remembered those tiny cages in the big top. When that happened, snow started falling in huge flakes, and the children in Freeze rushed to get their slides and skates, not to mention their coats that were stowed away in their wardrobes, and the mittens that were hiding on the bottom of their drawers. It was written on their faces that they were happier than in summer, spring or autumn. They knew they had to be quick: this is the only time this year that it’s cold. Nowadays there’s winter in Freeze only once a year, but then it’s so harsh that you could think it was winter all over the world.

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