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There once was a little boy who loved the snow. He lived for winter, and the six cold months were the happiest of the year. He would play forever in the snow, losing all sense of time and the area around his house would become peppered with towers and deep tunnels. But one day, a week after his fifth birthday, his parents made him stay inside.
The little boy was angered. Up in his room he decided to run away. He piled his toys and a sandwich in a knapsack, making sure he had his little shovel for digging snow. He tied up his knapsack around a stick, and wrapped his warmest cloak around his shoulders. And he jumped out the window.
Winter had been smothering the land for two months now, and the snow was four feet deep. The boy sunk in up to his waist, and struggled to the firewood pile where his snowshoes were. He wasn’t cold, despite the wet that was slinking between the fabrics of his tattered brown pants. He couldn’t remember the last time he had been cold.
His snowshoes on, the little boy shambled his way up the slope of the mountain, quickly leaving the foothills where his village sprawled behind. He clambered up to the very top of the mountain, a round expanse of snow that never melted. The little boy unrolled his knapsack and took out his little shovel. He began to pile up snow together, patting it down with his shovel, wiping his dirty, windswept hair out of his eyes. And within minutes, he had lost track of time.
Interviewer: And what had you been planning on doing up there, with your shovel?
Snow King: To be honest, I can’t remember. I remember the climb up the slopes and the first mound of snow I piled, but I can’t remember the intent, the anger I was feeling.
Interviewer: But we all know what came out of that pile, don’t we? * smirks* What do you think they first thought when they saw the tips of your castle above the trees?
Snow King: Again, I don’t know. I was up there, not down in the village. I suppose they thought it was something made from the gods, because who else could build a castle of ice and snow?
Interviewer: And were any explorers daring enough to come up and check it out?
The mom and dad of the little boy were heartbroken, and they immediately set out to find their son. The whole village looked, but they never found him and his budding snow fort. Generations came and went, and the little boy became something of a legend. They would tell newcomers to the village about the specter that haunted the mountain, the remains of a kid who ran away from his parents. Mothers would threaten their kids with the little boy’s ghost.
Centuries after the disappearance of the little boy, and a tall, ragged man and his short, ragged donkey worked their way up the slopes of the mountain. The man reached a wall of ice and tied his donkey to a conifer. He removed two pick axes and a coil of rope from a sack on the donkey’s back and began to climb up the ice.
At the top, he had a clear view of the castle. The villagers had been so surprised when they saw the tip of one of its towers above the trees that they hired the man to find out what it was. The castle was made completely out of ice, and decorated in snow. It was blocky and simple, as if the product of a child’s mind and not a great architect.
A gust of snow-filled wind threatened to knock his knit hat off as he struggled through the waist deep snow towards the castle. The trees were all behind him, and there was nothing blocking his view of a small child working on the base of one of the castle’s tall, round towers.
The little boy looked towards him and called out, “Did my parents send you, to take me back? Because I don’t wanna. I wanna build my castle.”
The man was surprised. “Who are you? Did you build this?”
The little boy peered at the man. A good distance still separated them. He whacked the ice with his shovel and said, “I’m being a king now. I building myself a castle to rule from.”
“How long have you been up here, little boy?” the man asked, closing the gap between them.
“Dunno,” the little boy said, sitting down and piling snow into a mound. “An hour. Maybe more. I dunno.”
“I think I should take you back to your parents.” The man said, reaching out to grab the little boy.
“Don’t wanna!” The little boy cried, jumping to his feet and swinging his shovel about his head. The man saw how torn up the kid’s clothes were. “Go ‘way!” The little boy yelled, grabbing snow and flinging it at the man. The man covered his face, surprised. The snow bounced off his gloves.
The little boy chased the man away, whacking him with his shovel and flinging snow and ice. The man didn’t want to hit him with his ice picks, and he didn’t want to get hurt in trying to apprehend the kid, so he just went back down the ice wall and led his donkey back to the village.
The legend of the little boy grew and grew. He was given a new name, Snow King. Many more tried to bring the boy home, but he chased them all away. And eventually they just decided to leave him alone. His ice castle grew bigger and bigger, but it didn’t bother anyone and they didn’t bother it.
Interviewer: And really none of them could take you away?
Snow King: I was five and angry! Of course they couldn’t. Have you ever tried to pick up a screaming five year old? It’s hard enough without the five year old wielding sharp objects! None of them got close!
Interviewer: *Laughs* Well, except for me.
Snow King: *Frowns* except for you.
Seven hundred years since the little boy first ran away, another man from far away decided to bring the boy home. Technology had advanced, and the man was from a land called America, where there were guns and steel and a device the man called a web slinger. He had brought the web slinger with him.
The villagers crowded around the man and his fancy, modern toys, pestering him with questions. Their technology had not improved, and the villagers were still wearing the simple dresses and tunics as seven centuries ago. The man looked down at them arrogantly, and then raised a fist. “I intend to bring an end to this nonsense about a Snow king. I will reveal once and for all what is going on here, and bring home whoever is up there.” The crowd cheered but he stopped them with a finger. “For a price.”
Interviewer: I suckered them good, didn’t I? Seven thousand dollars! Ha ha!
Snow King: It was cruel of you to prey upon their ignorance and curiosity.
Interviewer: What do you care, Snow King? You hated them, remember.
Snow King: I was five, remember. Out of the snow, I age. Rapidly. Look, already my skin is that of an eighty year olds. I’m not the kid I was. I know right from wrong.
Interviewer: Oh, shush.
The man stepped through the entrance to the snow castle and found himself in an antechamber. A throne room. A kid sat upon a throne made of snow. He was naked, his clothes worn away by the centuries. It was as if he couldn’t feel the cold of the snow. But the man did. The man shivered uncontrollably.
The kid spoke. “Don’t take me home. I don’t wanna.”
The man raised the web slinger and pulled the trigger.
Snow King: When you took me out of there, you ruined the mystery, shattered the legend. It crushed the townsfolk.
Interviewer: I brought them to the light, and put an end to their superstition. So what if they didn’t revere you as a god anymore?
Snow King: You brought modernization to an area that was stuck in the past. But what if they wanted to stay like that?
Interviewer: They only wanted their primitiveness because they did not know the alternative.
Snow King: *Pause* You know, there’s a certain timeless quality to snow. A certain primitiveness, as you put it. The snow deserves to stay simple and uncomplicated, pure. Mysterious. You sullied that snow like a dog does. You ruined it. Took away its magic.
Interviewer: I think we’re done here.
Snow King: I think so too.
The Snow King returned to the mountain. He had taken a plane and landed on the airstrip in the middle of the city that had been his village. He took a tram to the top of the mountain and stood where his castle had been. The top of the mountain was bare and rocky, and people milled about. The snow had melted. He searched around for a little and finally found the spot where he had built that first mound. He bent down, his back creaking, and picked up an ice shard. And then he sat down, cradling his little shard. And he stayed like that for a long while.