The Snow Queen and her spawn

Posted on January 12th, 2014
The Snow Queen and her spawnThe Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen
Published by Reitzel in 1845
Pages: 40
Location: Europe, Scandinavia
Mode of travel: Boat, Reindeer, Sledge, Walking
Read it on Wikisource
*** Suitable for children and adults of any age ***

Gerda's friend Kay is missing presumed dead, but she can't rest without him. Half accidentally, half on purpose she sets off into the wide world to look for him. As she escapes the home of an enchantress, breaks into a palace and gets kidnapped by robbers, her own powers grow, until finally, she reaches the castle of the Snow Queen where her friend is held captive. Has she got what it takes to rescue him?

Verdict: one of the best fairy tales ever – and free!

More about The Snow Queen in a minute, but first this. I was inspired to reread The Snow Queen because Disney just released Frozen, very, very, very loosely based …  Even my adult friends told me Frozen was good and I should see it. My verdict on that one: I’m still friends with them, but I’m not sure I would pass the recommendation on.

FrozenA princess lives a cloistered life then becomes a fugitive because she can’t control her magic wintery powers. Only the true love of her sister can save her and their kingdom… What Disney should have done here is invested less effort in writing a new plot that isn’t as good as the original, and, given that they give the story a musical treatment, more effort in composing decent music.The animation is really very beautiful, the soundtrack sucks and the story is meh… I would probably watch this again, with the sound turned off and some classical music on in the background. On the other hand it’s not nearly as comical in a stupid way as the US and UK DVD covers respectively (why are they different?) make it look. So yeah, it’s that good – and that bad! I give it three stars… no two… okay two and a half. (Amazon USA, Amazon UK)

Gerda’s Journey

A lot of illustrations focus on the cold beauty of the Snow Queen but what really interests me is Gerda’s journey. And Kay’s of course. They actually start very similarly. Kay fastens his sledge to a stranger’s sleigh for fun and finds himself carried off by the Snow Queen. Gerda steps into a boat to ask the river for news of Kay and is carried off likewise, to the house of an enchantress. The Snow Queen kisses Kay to make him forget his previous life, the enchantress gives Gerda magic cherries for the same reason. He is trapped in eternal winter, she in eternal summer. Kay has an impossible occupation, a logic puzzle that can’t be solved by logic, Gerda has nothing to do but listen to flowers tell their silly self-centred stories all day long. It’s an allegory of course – Kay is trapped in an emotionless world of rationality, Gerda in a world of triviality and shallow pleasures. But Gerda escapes..

white_witch_and_edmund_by_autocon_femme-d32e2luThe caption says ‘Confusing Edmund Pevensie since 2005′, but it should be 1950, the publication date of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or even 1845 considering the obvious connection between this scene and the kidnapping of Kay in The Snow Queen. The White Witch gives Edmund turkish delight instead of a kiss. I would fall for that, any day. (book from Amazon USA, book from Amazon UK, film from Amazon USA, film from Amazon UK)

Actually, Gerda doesn’t escape the enchantress entirely under her own steam. The old woman gets careless and leaves one rose lying around to remind Gerda of the summer days she spent with her friend. But unlike Kay, Gerda still has the capacity to be touched by that memory and act on it. Her tears call back the roses of the garden long buried underground and they bring her news from the Land of the Dead: Kay is not there. She’s going to have to make a descent into another kind of Underworld. It’s quite mysterious. Sometimes I think I get it and other times, I’m sure I don’t. Maybe I’ll add more to this page later, as it comes to me.

 Ronia the Robber's DaughterI love the primeval nature of the forest and the robbers. I’m sure Astrid Lindgren’s Ronia, the robber’s daughter living in her half ruined castle and roaming the magical forest must have something to do with the robber girl in The Snow Queen, even is Ronia is a bit less wild and her story also has a Romeo and Juliet kind of theme. I never read this book as a child, but it was my daughter’s No1 favourite. (Amazon USA, Amazon UK)