The Ill-tempered Snowman

THE ILL-TEMPERED SNOWMAN.

It was dawn on an icy-cold Christmas morning. The sun was emerging from over the horizon and standing on the top of a hill was the snowman. He had been there for about three weeks and was looking the worse for wear.

There was a stick underneath his arm. If he had originally had a hat and scarf, it had long since been stolen. One of the stones that had been his eyes had fallen off, so he only had one eye.

The carrot that was placed in the middle of his face to represent his nose was now rotten and had become black and shrivelled, and the small stick that was his mouth had slipped down slightly at one end, so that his mouth was crooked – he was not a pretty sight!

And he was cold! Oh was he cold! The wind at the top of the hill was relentless and he had almost become solid ice! He gazed straight forward with his one eye and watched as the sun rose a little higher in the sky. “That looks as though it might be warm”, he thought to himself. The large red golden ball did indeed look as though it might be warm. “I think I’ll just go a little nearer and see if it is!”

He carefully picked up one foot and shook away the loose snow. Then he did the same with the other and clumsily began to walk down the hill, clump, clump, clumpety clump, clumpety, clumpety clump.

As he made his way down the hill, the snowman noticed an old woman gathering sticks for her fire. She was wearing a big red woollen shawl. “Ooh! That looks warm”, he thought. He went over to the old lady and said, “Give me that shawl!” “I will not!” replied the old lady. “I made this for myself many years ago to keep me warm on a cold day like today!”

“Cold?… Cold? You don’t know the meaning of the word!” said the snowman. “Do YOU have a pillar of solid ice running down the centre of YOUR body?” “No, I haven’t” said the old lady. “Well I DO!” responded the snowman, nastily. “So give me that shawl, or I’ll hit you on the head with my stick!”

Well the old lady didn’t want to be hit on the head, so reluctantly, she handed the shawl to the snowman. And without so much as a ”Please may I?” or even the hint of a “Thank you very much!” the snowman took the shawl and wrapped it tightly around his shoulders. With that, he set off once again down the hill, Clump, clump, clumpety clump, clumpety, clumpety, clump. Followed (at a safe distance!) by the old lady.

A little further down the hill, the snowman came upon a young boy who was making snowballs and throwing them at a tree. The snowman noticed that the boy was wearing a pair of bright red woollen gloves. “Ooh! They look warm!” thought the snowman. “Give me those gloves!” he demanded. “I will not!” the boy replied, “My mother knitted them for me. They keep my hands warm on a cold day!” “Cold?…Cold? What do you know about cold? Bellowed the snowman. Are YOU covered with snow from head to foot?” “No”, said the boy “I’m not”. “Well I AM! The snowman shouted back. “And if you don’t give me your gloves right now, I’ll hit you on the head with my stick!”

Well the boy didn’t want to be hit on the head so he reluctantly took off his gloves and handed them to the snowman. And without so much as a “Please may I?” or even the hint of a “Thank you very much!” the snowman took the gloves and put them on his hands. He drew the old lady’s shawl more tightly around his shoulders and set off again down the hill, with a clump, clump, clumpety clump, clumpety, clumpety clump! Followed (at a safe distance!) by the old lady and the young boy.

When he got nearer the foot of the hill, he noticed an old farmer sitting on a bench, tying up his bootlace. The farmer was wearing a bright red woolly hat. “Ooh! That looks warm”, thought the snowman, when he saw the woolly hat. “Give me that woolly hat!” he demanded of the farmer. “I will not!” answered the farmer. “My wife knitted it for me to keep my head warm on a cold day!” “Cold? ….Cold? What do YOU know about cold?” the snowman angrily replied. Do icicles drip from the end of YOUR nose?” “No” said the farmer, “They don’t”. “Well they DO from mine!” said the snowman, “And if you don’t give me your hat, I will hit you on the head with my stick!”

Well the farmer didn’t want to be hit on the head and so he also handed over his warm, woolly hat. And without so much as a “Please may I?” or even the hint of a “Thank you very much!” the snowman pulled the hat down over where his ears would have been (if he’d had any!), pulled his gloves further onto his hands, wrapped the shawl even tighter around his shoulders and continued to the bottom of the hill, with a clump, clump, clumpety clump, clumpety, clumpety clump! Followed (at a safe distance!) by the old lady, the young boy and the old farmer.

When he arrived at the foot of the hill, the snowman saw a village. At the edge of the village was the schoolhouse and standing in the doorway of the schoolhouse was the schoolmaster – wearing a pair of bright red velvet slippers!

“Ooh! They look warm!” thought the snowman. He clumped up to the schoolmaster and rudely demanded, “Give me those slippers!” “Certainly!” replied the schoolmaster, But if take them off here I’ll get my feet wet. Why don’t you come inside where it’s warm?” The snowman went into the schoolhouse and the schoolmaster led him into his living quarters. There was a big fire burning in the grate. “Now then”, said the schoolmaster, pulling a chair towards the fire, “Why don’t you sit here and warm your feet while I go and take my slippers off.” The snowman sat in the chair and the schoolmaster pushed him even closer to the fire and left the room.

By this time, the old lady, the young boy and the old farmer had arrived outside the schoolhouse and were peering in through the window.

The schoolmaster returned and said to the snowman, “I’ll give you my slippers shortly but I was just about to make some hot soup, I’ll bring you some,” He pushed the chair even closer to the fire and then noticed the old lady and her companions looking in though the window. “Come in” he said to them, you look colder than the snowman, would you like some soup?”

The three came in. They looked over towards the fireplace. All they could see was a chair and on the floor beneath the chair, a very wet shawl, a wet pair of gloves and a wet woolly hat, all floating in a great pool of water! The schoolmaster picked up the wet clothing, wrung out the water and placed the items on a clothes-horse. “There”, he said, “We’ll hang them here to dry”. He picked up a mop and mopped up the water that had been the snowman. There was also a small, black stone and a piece of stick, which he threw on to the fire. The larger stick he used to poke the fire.

“That’s the snowman sorted”, said the schoolmaster. “Serves him right! Now who’s for soup?”

Adapted from 'The Snow-Man' by Mabel Marlowe (Oxford Book of Christmas Stories -1986) Back to Christmas Tales