Once upon a time, there was a young man who lived alone out in the woods. He hadn’t always been alone – his family had been with him until recently, but an unforgiving winter had gotten the best of them and they had all frozen to death. Fortunately, winter had soon drawn to an end and the white blanket that had covered the earth had withdrawn from the heat of the sun until there remained nothing but a few lonely patches of coarse, wet snow.
The young man, still grieving from the loss of his family, felt vindicated by the melt. As he approached a lonely patch he said, “Ha! What a miserable sight you are!” and kicked it. “You think you can just freeze everyone to death?” He added, tauntingly, “Well, here I am!” Suddenly, a chilling voice was heard that sent shivers down his spine as it replied, “Just wait till I return!” The young man stood aghast at the thought of the snow’s return and took a moment to collect his thoughts. To survive, he soon realized, he would have to be prepared. And so, he went straight to work, determined to withstand what would certainly be the coldest winter of his life.
Throughout the summer, the young man worked. He checked his net every day and harvested many fish, most of which he smoke-dried over a fire. The fish oil he collected into pails made of birch bark, which he stored in a cache with the dried fish. He then gathered firewood, especially dry wood that burns easily, and piled it up near his home. As the winter approached, he went to work on his winter lodge, a wigwam which he insulated with thick layers of moss. As the temperature dropped, he was troubled by the thought of seeing the snow return.
Finally, the winter was upon the young man. On the coldest of winter days, he sat by the fire and listened to the north wind blow. One evening as the night approached, the wind started howling. The young man, anticipating the worst, felt chills as he heard footsteps approach in the distance. Suddenly, the door flap blew open. With his eyes on the door, the young man watched in horror as a stranger whose body resembled snow entered his lodge. As the visitor seated himself on the opposite side of the fire, the lodge grew increasingly colder – frost covered the ground and climbed the walls as icicles formed from the ceiling. As the fire flickered, the young man was spurred into action.
Outside the lodge sat piles of firewood and pails of fish oil. The young man quickly retrieved his stash while his guest focused on freezing him to death. As the temperature dropped, he worked at rekindling the dying flames as they flickered in and out existence. Constantly adding firewood and oil, the flames gradually intensified to the point where the lodge had warmed back up.
The frost retreated and the icicles dripped. The young man looked over at his guest and noticed that he too was dripping. “That’s it!” Said the melting stranger. “I can’t stay here any longer, it’s way too hot!” As he rose to his feet in a hurry to leave, he added “You’ve bested me, so I’ll never bother you again.” Having met his match, never again would the snowman visit the young man who lived alone in the woods. Nonetheless, the young man learned there were consequences to being disrespectful, but he also learned that nothing beats being prepared.