Reviewed by Tara Grímravn
For half of the world, winter has already begun knocking on doors and tapping at the windows, whispering around the shutters like an old man begging for entry. Of course, it’s probably just the wind. But what if Old Man Winter really did come to your house and ask for a night’s shelter from the cold? Would you let him in? The fantasy story featured at Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores this December tells the tale of one family who did just that.
In “Book of Winter” by Caroline Friedel, a small girl named Lentetje and her family are huddled in their cottage during a snowstorm. Winter has lasted many years and their food supplies are running out. As her parents discuss whether they should kill and eat their last goat, a knock at the door shakes them out of their gloomy deliberation. When they answer the door, an old man with blue eyes the color of a frozen lake and a long white beard stands on the other side. Agreeing to let him stay for the night, he gives them a sack of much-needed food and offers to show them a special book that he carries with him everywhere he goes—the Book of Winter. He then tells them a story of why spring has not yet returned to the world.
Friedel’s story is a very nice reimagining of the myth of Old Man Winter and the belief in seasonal deities said to be active at different times of the year. I particularly enjoyed the Slavic (or possibly Germanic) “Old World” feel of the tale and Friedel’s treatment of the theme of rebirth that was present throughout. This really was a great story to end the year with as many of us around the world settle in with the cold of winter and wait for spring.