As I mentioned in my initial post, I’m really excited to share The Snow Queen with you! I remember reading so many fairy tales when I was a kid, but for some reason, when I signed up for this project, I immediately thought of this story. It was a favorite as a child, and I absolutely love the adaptations that have been done with this story. One of my favorites just happens to Narnia. I know, you’re probably thinking, what?!?! Don’t worry… I’ll elaborate later this month. But for now, I want to introduce you to the story of The Snow Queen.
Beware…it’s a long one!
The Snow Queen is a fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen, first published in 1845. It is a tale the centers on the struggle of good and evil as experienced by a little boy and girl, Kai and Gerda. The tale is told in seven stories that weave together, and it is one of Andersen’s longest fairy tales.
Why I love it
At the heart of this story lies a beautiful allegory, and it is one that every time I finish it, I feel warm and happy inside. For me, the ending is metaphorical, and even after rereading it this time around, I have yet to discover where the story takes a turn.
Ultimately, it is deep and beautiful and a fairy tale that is not necessarily about Princesses or damsels and a happy ending, but about saving and sacrifice all the same.
*All pictures taken and my summary adapted from http://hca.gilead.org.il/snow_que.html#4
Which Describes a Looking Glass and the Broken Fragments
Part one introduces readers to an evil hobgoblin/sprite/the devil who creates a magic mirror that distorts reality by taking everything good and making viewers see things as worthless. The devil wants to take it up to heaven to make fools of the angels as God, but as he gets closer and closer to heaven, the mirror begins to shake and eventually breaks into pieces. The mirror fragments are blown all over the world and wedge themselves into people’s eyes and hearts, turning them cold and wicked.
A Little Boy and a Little Girl
Kai and Gerda are neighbors who are the best of friends, and grow vegetables and roses together in little window boxes. One winter day, Kai’s grandmother tells them about snowflakes, sharing tales of how they are white bees and the largest of all the flakes is the Snow Queen. She flies around when the snow is thickest, and comes back to the villages in the evening, breathing on window panes leaving shapes like flowers and castles.
One evening while Kai was watching out the window, he saw the largest snowflake land on his windowsill and slowly begin to grow into the shape of a woman dressed in white. She waved at Kai and he was frightened. Then the Spring came.
While Kai and Gerda were playing one day with roses, they began to talk of the Christ-child. Suddenly, the clock struck twelve and something struck his heart and flew into his eye, and he became wicked.
Then the winter came once again, and Kai went off to play with the boys of the village. As he was doing so, a stranger came into town on a magnificent winter sled. Kai attached his own small sled to the runner of the magnificent one and went away with the stranger. As they came to a place of stopping, the stranger stood up and Kai realized it was the Snow Queen. He thought she was beautiful and lovely, and when she scoop him up to take him to her castle in the clouds, he didn’t say no.
The Flower Garden of the Woman who Could Conjure.
Poor Gerda was deeply saddened by Kai’s absence and when Spring came once again, she had given up hope that he was dead and gone. But the sunshine heard her cry and said he didn’t believe it. And so, Gerda put on her new red shoes and set off to find her friend.
Gerda came upon a river which she thought had taken her friend. She told the river she would give it her shoes if the river gave back her friend. When she threw them in, the river washed them back to her, and so she climbed upon a little boat on the bank to take her shoes out further. The boat floated her down the river to a little bank full of flowers. It was here, after reveling in the beautiful garden on the bank, that Gerda meets the old women. The old woman asks Gerda her story, and Gerda tells of her friend and their time with the roses asking if the old woman had seen him. She had not, and as Gerda rested, the women decided she wanted the child to stay with her. As to not remind her of her past life, the old woman buried all of her rose bushes, and charmed Gerda into staying.
Seasons passed before Gerda realized she had been tricked. She began to talk to the flowers to find wisdom about traveling and finding her friend. Finally, she found the gate to the garden and was able to escape, only to realize autumn had come and the world was dark.
The Prince and Princess
As Gerda travels along, she meets a crow who begins to tell her a story about a lonely Princess. Men come from all over to win her hearts, but have no such luck. Suddenly, the crow begins to describe Kai who went to the princess not to woo her, but to hear wisdom. The Princess and Kai were taken with each other, and so he stayed. At this point, Gerda begs the crow to get her into the palace, believing Kai to be the new prince
The crow is able to sneak Gerda into the palace because his betrothed crow lives inside. Finally, Gerda comes to the Prince and Princess’ room, and her heart is heavy for she discovers the Prince is not Kai. The Princess rewards the crow and his love for helping Gerda, and offers Gerda a place to stay.
After a night spent in the palace, Gerda asks for boots and a carriage so that she may continue on to find Kai.
Little Robber Girl
As Gerda is traveling away from the palace, her carriage is robbed. And older robber decides Greda will taste good and as she tries to kill her, her daughter bites her on the ear, stopping her. The little robber girl says Greda will be her friend, and must live. However, the little robber girl admits to Gerda that she will be the one to kill her.
As she was avoiding sleep, Gerda began to listen to the pigeons for they told her of seeing Kai with the Snow Queen. They tell her that most likely the Snow Queen was headed up to Lapland, and as Gerda talks in her sleep, the little robber girl threatens her again. But it is the little robber girl who helps her in the morning. She distracts her robber mother, and then sets their reindeer free, persuading the animals to run home to Lapland and take Gerda with them.
The Lapland Woman and the Finland Woman
The reindeer stops at a little hut during the journey where it’s occupant, a Lapland woman, tells them they have one hundred more miles to go to Finland if they wish to reach the Snow Queen. The Lapland women writes a notes to the Finland woman who will be mush more able to help Gerda. However, when they reach the Finland woman, the woman can not give her the help the reindeer wants Gerda to have–the power of twelve men– but she does tell her of the piece of mirror stuck in Kai’s eye and heart.
When asked if she can give Gerda the power to conquer this issue, the Finland woman explains she can give Gerda nothing more than the power she already has inside of her, talking of Gerda strength. The woman explains to the reindeer that neither one of them must help Gerda–she must save Kai herself.
Because of that, the reindeer takes Gerda into the forest, drops her off, and then suddenly leaves. Gerda becomes scared and begins to say the Lord’s prayer. As she does, her breath turns into a legion of angels that helps her to go forward to the Snow Queen’s castle with courage and safety.
Of the Palace of the Snow Queen and What Happened There at Last
As the story comes back around to Kai, readers learn of how vast, empty and cold the Snow Queen’s palace is. In the middle of her empty hall lies a frozen lake upon which the Snow Queen sits. She calls this lake the “mirror of reason.”
Though Kai’s heart is a lump of ice, he is working on a task the Queen has given him. In order to be his own master and out from under her rule, he must spell out the word ‘eternity’ from ice shards, but is never able to do so.
In this moment, the Snow Queen leaves to to ice over other countries, and Gerda comes into the palace. She is so happy to have found Kai, she hugs him, yet he sits as still as ice. Gerda begins to weep warm tears and sing the Christ-child song the two used to sing together. Kai begins to weep and the mirror piece bursts out of his eye. Gerda kisses him and he become alive again, and so the two spell out the word eternity.
The two leave and travel the path Gerda has traveled to find Kai, only backwards. They meet the people and animals she befriended. As they finally reach their home, Spring arrives and the roses are in bloom. They pass through their doorway and are suddenly grown.
They sit upon their chairs of childhood, memories of the Snow Queen vanishing while Kai’s Grandmother, sitting in God’s sunshine, reads from the Bible. The two finally understand the words of their song and summer, bright, warm summer, blossoms.
Book Talk: What do you think of the story? If you have time to read the full version, and not my super-long-summary, what does the ending say to you?