• Once upon a time, long ago and far up in the cold North above the arctic circle, where the Northern Lights dance above the glistening snow, magic was not uncommon. Great ice giants roamed the forbidding icy mountains, trolls terrorized the people, and witches & wizards cursed or helped as they saw fit. The people lived in constant terror, and so were comforted by the many tales and stories of the great men who fought against the evil creatures.
    This story is not like those.
    You see, deep in the woods and far from any towns there lived a poor woodcutter who had many children, and not the means to feed and clothe them all adequately. Though these events are set in motion by his decision, do not even begin to think this is his tale.
    On a Thursday evening in late autumn, before the first snowfall, a great storm rolled through the village where the woodcutter and his family lived. It was, as they say, the storm to end all storms. So, as the family huddled by the hearth for warmth and each ate their spoonful of stew, a knock came upon the front door, and the woodcutter was not surprised. He knew well that storms often happened as great fates were being set in motion. And, being a poor woodcutter, he felt like it was about time something extraordinary happened around here.
    He answered the door. A massive white bear was there, standing on its hind legs like a human being, holding open a small book, and looking positively quizzical (which is quite difficult to do when you’re a bear).
    “Good evening to you,” said the bear, eyes fixed on the book.
    The woodcutter stroked his beard, calculating.
    “Same to you,” he said.
    “Um, let’s see…er…will you give me your youngest daughter in marriage?” asked the bear in the monotone voice of one who is reading out loud. “Hmm, where was I…daughter…marriage…ah, yes: If you do, I’ll make you as rich as you are now poor.”
    A smile played upon the woodcutter’s lips.
    “Ilka! Someone’s here to marry you!” he called into the house.
    There was the sound of approaching thudding footsteps from inside, and all the sudden a large, piggish girl who was probably about 10 years old, stuck her round face out the door.
    “Oh really, Papa? Goody, goody!” she squealed.