Kosetsu

A Japanese Myth

High in the mountains of Japan, enclosed in a forest of tall cedar trees, was a small hut, owned by an old, childless couple. They had caring hearts, doing small deeds of kindness for animals and travelers that appeared at their doorstep. But to the couple's great sadness, travelers didn't come often due to the unfortunate luck that terrible storms were quite frequent, winds would howl, blowing snow every which way, piling up mountains of it, and making it hard for travelers and locals alike to walk anywhere, or find food.

One day, a great blizzard struck the mountain where this small cabin was perched, wind tossing snow all about. The old couple huddled inside next to their warm fire, safe from the horrifying weather outside. The fire warmed their tired feet, keeping them from freezing in the cold.

Suddenly, they heard a frantic banging on their door, and the old man quickly got up and opened the door, the force of snow and wind blowing him backwards. In the outline of the door was a woman, dressed in a long white kimono, she had long black hair that tumbled down her back in waves, almost transparent skin, and pure black eyes that seemed to glow a mesmerizing and dangerous darkness. She seemed to become the snow, only her eyes, ruby lips, and raven hair making her real. Behind her were no footprints, but the snow whisked around so much the man thought nothing of it.

The woman quickly darted in past the man, clutching a small bundle to her chest, as the door banged shut, pulled by the horrific winds. The old couple gaped at the woman, who hadn't spoke yet, only clutching the small bundle in the corner of the house, rocking it back and forth gently, and humming a slow, eerie tune.

When she finally turned around, she stared at the couple with her glowing eyes, as if evaluating them.

"I beg that you do not think me rude, I was very cold, and I had to find shelter." The woman spoke in a crystal voice. The couple smiled, nodding that it was alright, not trusting themselves to speak.

"I have come here to the mountain for I am lost, I must find my husband, as we were separated during the storm. I shall depart after the snow ceases to fall, if I may stay here." The couple accepted happily, for they had not had a visitor in so long. They sat her down next to the fire, but she seemed to shy away, giving them the bundle of cloth she held to put near the flames. The old woman took it in her arms, and peeked in, gasping when she saw two pairs of dark eyes studying her.

A small baby nestled in between the warmth of the fabric, a small patch of black hair taking root on her small head.

"This is my daughter, Kosetsu. She has been traveling with me. I cannot take her down the mountain with me. You are kind people, if you would be willing to take care of her, as if she was your own daughter, I shall come back for her as soon as I am reunited with my husband. But first, promise me that you shall not allow her out in the snow." The young woman asked the couple. The couple, who were thinking of how lonely the months were with no company, immediately accepted and agreed to the odd request, for they had always wanted a daughter to bring joy and light into their cold lonely home. The woman was obviously relieved and lay back, sinking into a deep sleep. When the morning came, the couple woke up next to the fireplace, the fire still glowing with warmth, but the beautiful woman was nowhere to be seen. The only sign that she had ever been in the small hut was the small child, Kosetsu, a name that meant snowfall, who remained wrapped in the blankets.

As time passed, their new daughter grew quickly, turning into a beautiful girl, with pale skin, and dark eyes, red lips, and silky hair. Her beauty glowed, and she resembled her mother more and more with time. The old couple cherished her, and kept their promise to the woman, and kept her safe inside when it snowed. But one of the Kosetsu's favorite things to do was to sit by the small window and watch the snowflakes fall, yearning to escape the warmth of the hut and run in the icy wind. She didn't understand her parents rule that she cannot take even one step out into the storms. But being a loyal and obedient daughter, she stayed inside.

When Kosetsu received her first doll, she treasured it, for it was made and given to her by her father and mother. She would never leave to go anywhere without it, dragging the doll behind her, and making kimonos and sandals for the doll in her spare time. As the year faded into the winter months, it started to snow more often, making it hard for the old couple to find food, as no rice had come to the village. That winter they were forced to live on what they could find in the harsh landscape that surrounded them. The old man stayed out longer and longer into the night, risking getting lost in the darkness and snow storms to look for roots. He always made it home before a snow storm began, until that one night, he had always made it home for a blizzard struck, much like the one in which the beautiful woman had appeared with Kosetsu. The girl was stuck inside with the old woman, waiting anxiously for the old man to return. As the night wore on and he didn't return, the old woman decided to step outside, just to call him, to guide him through the blinding snow. When she opened the door to call out, she was knocked over by the swirling winds, and dragged out into the freezing snow.

Kosetsu, being the faithful and loving daughter that she was, was faced with a hard decision. She could obey the rule that her parents had always laid down for her and stay inside while her parents froze to death, or she could step outside and rescue her old mother and warm her by the fire. She decided that her duty to her parents was to stand by them, and to make sure that they were kept safe. If she only stayed out long enough to bring her mother back in, what was the worst that could happen?

So she walked up to the open door, fighting the powerful gusts of wind, and took her first step into the snow. As soon as she put her foot down, she felt an overpowering feeling, a yearning, a calling from the snow. She could not resist its power. Her face turned even paler, turning almost translucent, her kimono faded into a snow white color, her lips turned to a blood red, her hair growing until in flowed back into the wind, and her dark eyes turning pure black, shining dangerously.

Suddenly, her mother appeared, her real mother. Again, her footsteps did not leave footprints, as she seemed to float over the snow. The storm easing into a softer rhythm as she neared, only her face and long hair visible, just like her daughter's. She was carrying with her the old man and the old woman, and gently laid them down next to the fire, her daughter watching, smiling. She looked as if she had found her home among the relentless storm. With a gust of snow, they awoke cold and tired, to see the sight before them. The old woman cried out when she recognized her beautiful adoptive daughter next to her mother.

"Allow me to introduce myself. I am called Yuki Onna, queen and goddess of snow. It was I who arrived at your door many years back. I had hoped that my daughter would stay with you, but the snow has found her, and she has become like me, a spirit of the snow, lost in the icy world, to be cold and live among the snow forevermore. Only the fact that you took in my daughter as your own and raised her with love and kindness, I spare you from an icy death." Yuki Onna said, and then joined hands with her daughter, and with a cold flurry of snow, they disappeared, leaving in their place the daughter's doll, which she never went anywhere without. The wood had become a pale color, and the original gentle pink kimono had turned deathly white, and dark, deadly black eyes decorated its once happy face. They knew their daughter was gone.

The old couple never saw their beloved, loyal daughter again, but people say they have seen from the safety of their warm homes, two women one younger than the other, walking hand in hand in the blizzards, floating over the deep snow with ease, without leaving any footprint. The snow goddesses, freezing travelers caught in the snow with one final icy breath.