Midwinter Magic

Three Original Christmas Fairy Tales

Cover for MIDWINTER MAGIC: A stylized glowing reindeer leaps against the blue Northern Lights

Once upon a time, magic left the world for a night. It sighed back in through the scullery door in the morning with the cat, but by then, the Queen of the Northern Elves had fallen into a deep sleep, and, greatly diminished, the returned magic could not wake her.

From the author who brought you The Purrfect Christmas and A Gingersnap Cat Christmas comes a collection of three enchanting original yuletide fairy tales, written in the tradition of Jane Yolen and Ursula Vernon.

Excerpt:

Reindeer Sisters

Once upon a time in the cold lands, there lived nine reindeer sisters. In spring, they traveled the tundra far and wide, looking for lichens, sedges, and green grasses to eat.

From time to time they would pass by the human villages. There, the cattle would look up from their milking. “You there, reindeer sisters! You are silly to live out on your own in the world. For without human walls, the weather grows cruel in winter. You should come live with us, and then our humans would put you up in a warm barn with hay to live out the storms.”

The eldest sister answered: “No thank you, good cow, for we are wild reindeer, proud and free, and our coats keep us warm and our feet keep us fed, pawing as we do through the snow for our dinners. But thank you very much for your concern.”

And then the sisters continued on the forage path. In time, they passed another human village. There, the horses looked up from their herding.

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“You there, reindeer sisters! You are dull to live out on your own in the world. For without humans about you, the world is silent. You should come live with us, and then our humans would talk to you and give you names.”

The eldest sister answered: “No thank you, good mare, for we are wild reindeer, proud and free, and the songs and stories our mother taught us are fine company during all our travels. But thank you very much for your concern.”

And then the sisters continued on the forage path. But four of the sisters raised their heads at the horse’s words. “Names? Why, we’ve never had names before. It sounds quite fine to have a name and to be known by others.”

They discussed this among each other while they chewed their cud. But the next morning, even the eldest sister agreed it would be fine to have a name. “Though if we are going to get names,” she snorted, “we ought to be the ones giving them to ourselves, for we are wild reindeer, proud and free.”

At this the sisters nodded and stamped their approval. They trekked out beneath the spring sun, thinking about what they might name themselves.

In time, they passed a third human village. There, the sheep looked up from their grazing.

“You there, reindeer sisters! You are mad to live out on your own in the world. For without human shepherds, the world is full of tireless wolves who will eat you! You should come live with us, and then our humans would set watch over you while you eat, and you will be safe.”

The eldest sister paused before she answered. All of her herd, save one other, had raised their heads to the sheep’s words. Only the youngest sister kept her head down, chewing far too fiercely on the grass.

Then the eldest sister answered: “No thank you, good ewe, for we are wild reindeer, proud and free, and the scents in our noses and the sounds in our ears alert us before any wolves can get close. But thank you very much for your concern.”

And then the sisters hurried off down the forage path. But when they found a shadowed grove of trees, they stopped, and gathered to talk.

“I think the ewes might be onto something,” said one. “You remember last winter.”

At these words, every one of the reindeer sisters’ gazes turned to their youngest sister. She was sniffing and pawing around an abandoned fox’s den, trying to ignore the conversation. But that only made the scars on her haunch brighter in her sisters’ eyes. The sisters chewed their cud solemnly, thinking back to the night when the wolves had almost carried off the youngest sister. Only the fierce kicks of the largest sister had saved her. The wolf had barely left with its life—but though the youngest sister’s wounds healed, her gait had never been the same after that, never could she run as fleetly as she used to. And another winter was coming. And with it, more wolves.

“Maybe…” said one of the reindeer sisters.

“Perhaps…” said another.

The youngest sister tore up a clump of grass with her antlers and tossed it against a tree, pretending it was a wolf.

“Sisters! Think of what you’re saying!”

They all turned to look at the eldest sister.

“We are wild, we are free—if we go to live with the humans, we might be safe, but we’ll lose all that makes us reindeer!”

They looked at her in silence, save for a little chewing.

One sister dared: “I’ve heard other reindeer have done it. Far from here.”

The eldest gave her a cold stare. “Just because others have done it doesn’t make it right.”

The largest sister brayed. “And just because you are the eldest doesn’t mean you are always right!”

Finally, the youngest sister couldn’t bear any more. She leapt into the middle of her siblings.

“Sisters, please! Don’t fight—that only makes us more like the wolves. I…I want to be safe, but I also want to grow up proud and free, like all of you.” She reared, pawing the air. “Isn’t there some way we can save ourselves from the wolves without losing our freedom?”

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