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What Happened To Faina At The End Of Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child?

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At the end of The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, Faina disappears. Not literally – no one sees it happen, but she is nowhere to be found. There are so many possibilities, both realistic – as much as you can use such a word when you’re dealing with magical realism – and truly fantastical (if sad). I know that everyone is going to have their leanings towards one idea or another, and I like the possibility of discussing them all through a blog post (and your comments also, I hope!)

There is the prospect that, as a ‘snow child’, Faina simply melted into the ground as did the snowman in the famous Christmas tale. We can assume that by the time she disappears, Faina had completed her mission – I believe most people are of the opinion that Faina appeared to Jack and Mabel because Mabel, especially, wanted children and was feeling lonely. So, if Faina had completed her mission, and if she had been ‘created’ by Mabel’s hopes, then there is every chance she simply faded away.

Faina having faded away, melted, certainly fits the way she ended her days, ill. The sickness turned her into a sort of shadow of herself, so there is every chance she did just disappear or return to the snow she had arisen from. Though, we can suppose, a human illness, the event did not take her away in the usual human way. Her body was gone.

This begs the question: did Faina die or did she simply leave? Perhaps the illness had only so much of a hold over her. Maybe it was a convenient moment during which she could leave. Maybe her time with the families was simply up. Perhaps she was ‘called’ to be elsewhere. Depending on what or who Faina was, the possibilities here are endless.

If Faina didn’t die, did she run away? Could it be presumed, if this were the case, that Faina was trapped by her situation with Mabel, Jack, and her newest family? Certainly the idea of captivity could also fit in with the idea of death. Who is to say Faina isn’t a creature who fades away when captured by humans? (The mythical selkies comes to mind here.)

The fact that Faina did not take her child with her, a person whom most people would see as being the most important to her (and certainly if Faina was magical in some way she would surely want to take her half-magical child) supports the idea of captivity, of ultimately being unhappy. It’s important to remember that the story is never told from Faina’s perspective so we’ll never know what was going on in her head.

But if Faina did literally disappear, there would have been no choice involved.

We can assume that the truth was as Ivey wrote it from the third-person perspective – Faina stayed with Mabel and Jack because Mabel needed her. And it’s just as possible that Faina really loved Garett as much as it’s possible she was simply following human traditions and ways of life. If she was there just for Mabel then in giving Mabel the joy of being a mother and then a grandmother she had surely fulfilled her purpose. Indeed by providing a grandchild, Faina may have left but she had provided a permanent child for Mabel to care for.

If she didn’t die, Faina may later have returned. She may have returned for her husband and child, who don’t know what happened to her. She may have simply needed to go back into the woods and be free, maybe recharge, for a while. Unless Ivey decides to tell us one day, we are not likely to ever find out.

And that is surely very suitable – it puts us in the same position as the families in Alaska.

Have you read The Snow Child, and, if so, what do you think happened to Faina?

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Isi

February 26, 2014, 6:29 pm

In my opinion, Faina disappears forever because she has stayed until his family got finally everything they needed to be happy.

Charlie

February 27, 2014, 12:52 pm

Isi: Agreed. I like the way it ended but still feel sorry for the child and Garett. That said, if she’d stayed for them it wouldn’t have been natural to who she was – a cycle of being held back.

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