Once upon a time there was an old man named Vania who wished to adopt a little girl. A neighbor told him of an orphaned girl who was not wanted by the family who lived in her parents' old home. Vania had intended to adopt a boy, since he did not know much about girls. But he remembered her parents had been pleasant people and thought, "If Dara's like them, I'd never be sad again."
Vania went to Dara's cabin and found her in the corner with a cat on her knees. The new mother of the house told him that she found caring for Dara to be a nuisance. Vania asked Dara if she would like to live with him and told her about how he was a hunter, and how in the winter he looked for the stag that no one ever sees;not for food, but to see his silver hoof.
Dara was curious about the stag but Vania would only tell her more if she came with him. So, taking her cat, Moura, the new family headed to Vania's house. They were happy together. Vania would hunt, Dara cleaned and cooked, and Moura chased mice. Now Vania wasn't lonely, Dara wasn't scared, and Moura wasn't skinny.
Vania finally told Dara about the White Stag. His right forefoot had a silver hoof. When he paws the ground with it, jewels fly out. Dara asked question after question about the stag until Vania was tired of answering them.
That winter Vania planned to spend the winter in a small hunting cabin where there were deer. Dara begged to go with him. Vania thought it would be too dangerous, but she kept asking until he gave in. Dara said goodbye to Moura, but Moura came after them, as the villagers whispered about how crazy Vania was to take a child into the forest for the winter. But the little family was glad to be all together.
Vania caught lots of deer and they were happy. One day Dara saw a quick shape dart outside the window-a stag with five-pointed antlers. She ran to the door but saw nothing. "I must have been dreaming," she said.
The next night Dara heard the clattering of hooves-over the rooftop, and down to the door. Dara tiptoed to the door and opened it. There was a stag with five-pointed antlers and a solid silver right hoof. She was so excited she couldn't speak, but clapped her hands. The stag laughed and ran off.
The next night Vania should have returned home from the village, but still he had not come, and Dara was lonely. She noticed that Moura was missing, and went outside to search for her. On a hill of snow she saw Moura, and before the cat stood Silvershod. Their heads were nodding and they appeared to be talking. Moura went off, and Silvershod followed. Dara watched them as they went out of sight.
Then Silvershod appeared again, leapt on top of the hut, and began striking with his hoof-sapphires and rubies and emeralds and diamonds fell from the roof, heaps and heaps of them. Just then Vania returned, amazed.
Suddenly Moura leapt up beside him with a strange cry, and in an instant both animals were gone. Vania pulled off his hat and filled it with jewels. Dara suggested they leave the rest in the snow, to see them sparkle in the sun. The two went into the house, and it began to snow.
The next morning Vania went out to dig the jewels from under the snow-but no matter how much he dug, the jewels had disappeared. However, those he had collected the night before were enough to make himself and Dara comfortable for the rest of their lives. Vania and Dara were happy together, but they missed Moura, who never returned. Neither she nor Silvershod were ever seen again.
"Silvershod" is a Russian tale found in The Fairy Tale Book. It seemed an appropriate wintry tale for this time of year, especially given the snowstorm that just went through most of the country.