The Snow Queen (According to Cassie)
Hello again! Enjoy your month off? I know I did. But NaNo is done, my 50,000 words are written, and I am ready to dive back into another fairy tale, so without further ado, let’s look at Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen!
So, basically, there was this demon who had this mirror he’d made that distorted the world when you looked in it. Kinda like a fun-house mirror except for the part where it turned you into a horrible human being. Because looking into the mirror made the bad things seem bigger and more serious and the good things all disappear, and this demon got quite a kick out of watching people look into the mirror.
One day, some of the other demons decided that they wanted the angels of heaven to look into the mirror, just to see what would happen, but it turned out that the power of heaven was too much for the mirror, and as the demons flew up with it, it shattered into a million pieces and rained down on the world below.
This caused problems. Specifically, it caused major problems when a shard of the glass struck a person in the eye, causing him or her to see the world through this distorted view, or even worse, when the glass got into a person’s heart, and turned it cold and useless. And this, sadly, is what happens to Kay.
Who is Kay? Well, he’s a young boy who lives in a small village and is best friends with a girl named Gerda. Kay and Gerda do everything together; they are inseparable. They live next door, they have adventures, they listen to Kay’s grandmother tell stories, and they love to hear the tale of the Snow Queen, a horrible women of ice and cold. And everything is fine and lovely until a piece of this mirror falls into Kay’s eye and through to his heart.
Overnight, he changes. He calls Gerda names and becomes mean and cruel to her and his grandmother and all his other friends. He abandons them to play with the older boys, but one night, a mysterious driver hitches his sled to the back of her automobile and drives away with Kay, who, it should be noted, doesn’t really put up much of a fight to this.
But after some time riding on a sled being pulled by a car, Kay decides this isn’t really something he enjoys (no shit, Sherlock), and so he asks to come up with the driver. She consents, and so he climbs into the car with none other than the Snow Queen. She asks if he is cold, and when he says yes, she kisses him twice, the result being that he quite forgets his grandmother and Gerda and his home and everything except the beautiful Snow Queen beside him.
And the next morning, when Kay is discovered missing, the town turns out to search for him. What they find, however, is a hole in the ice of the river and Kay’s sled half-submerged. The boys tell anyone who will listen that they saw Kay hitch his sled to the back of an automobile the night before for a joyride, and well, they all fill in the rest. Everyone believes that Kay got reckless and died as a result. Gerda, too, believes this, until the sun and the sparrows tell her otherwise. Desperate to get Kay back, Gerda goes down to the river, and offers it her new red shoes if it will just give her Kay back. This, as you might imagine, doesn’t work. So Gerda takes the logical next step – she jumps in the river, hoping it will take her to Kay.
For some reason (magic), Gerda doesn’t drown, but is instead carried down the river until she washes up by the home of an old woman, who fetches her out and dries her off and takes her into the home to take care of her. And by take care of her, I mean that in the most absolute sense of the phrase – Old Woman is looking for a pseudo-daughter, and as she combs Gerda’s hair and sends her off to sleep, she steals away Gerda’s memories, to keep Gerda there forever as her very own.
And this works, for a while. But eventually, Gerda starts to notice that something is up, and the lack of roses in the gardens triggers her memories of Kay. She asks the roses where he can be found, and here Anderson takes us through every frickin’ flower in the damn garden as each one speaks in riddles and poems and nonsense that doesn’t tell Gerda a damn thing, until she gets fed up and leaves the Old Woman’s home, which is . . . surprisingly easy. Seriously. For all the trouble this lady went to keep Gerda there, when Gerda walks out the gate, she’s nowhere to be found. Eh, whatever.
Gerda continues her wandering, trying to track down Kay, and eventually she meets a crow who tells her that Kay has been taken by a princess, though, like the flowers, he goes on for pages and pages before offering any useful information. But he tells Gerda that Kay is the betrothed of this princess, having won her hand in a great contest. Gerda insists on being taken to him, and the crow obliges.
But when Gerda reaches the palace and meets the prince, she discovers that the crow had absolutely no idea what he was talking about, because Kay isn’t there. But the prince and the princess take pity on her, and agree to take her further in their coach, to a new land where she might be able to find Kay.
Unfortunately, as Gerda rides in this coach, it is set upon by robbers, and Gerda is kidnaped by a little robber girl, who basically wants to keep Gerda as a pet, much like the Old Woman from before. Gerda wins the robber girl over, though, with the story of how she is following Kay, trying to get him back, and when the wood-pigeons tell her that they saw Kay going away to Lapland with the Snow Queen, the robber girl gives Gerda a reindeer and sends her off to find her friend.
So Gerda and the reindeer travel north, and along the way, they meet another woman, who tells Gerda that Kay is with the Snow Queen, and more, she tells them where the Snow Queen can be found, and that Kay has got a piece of glass in his heart that makes him want the Snow Queen’s home more than the home he left behind. And she tells Gerda that she has all the tools she needs to defeat the Snow Queen, but that she has to discover what they are for herself. Also, apparently, Gerda has been traveling this whole time without shoes, which seems like a tremendous oversight to me.
Meanwhile, Kay has been in the palace of the Snow Queen, basically existing as her plaything, solving puzzle after puzzle. But there is one he can’t solve. The Queen promises him that once he can, she’ll give him the world and a pair of skates. Personally, it seems to me that the gift of the whole world would include the skates, but whatever.
The Snow Queen leaves, and once she’s gone, Gerda arrives and throws open the doors to the ice palace, and true to Anderson’s form, the Snow Queen’s magical super protective winds turned on Gerda as soon as she enters, are quieted as she prays and angels come down to protect her.
Anyway, the winds taken care of, she runs to Kay, who doesn’t recognize her. She starts to cry, and her warm tears fall on his chest and melt his frozen heart. Then, when he looks at her, she sings their childhood song, and it wakes him up, and his own tears wash out the sliver of glass in his eye, and he’s freed. With the distorting glass out of his eye, he can solve the final puzzle that he couldn’t before, and so he is his own master, and gets the world (and a pair of skates), and Gerda kisses his face and eyes and hands, melting the Snow Queen’s influence wherever it is.
And hand in hand, they head home, meeting in reverse all of Gerda’s friends, and when they finally return home, they realize that they have been gone so long that they’ve grown up, though they remain children at heart.
And . . . the end.
Thoughts on the original:
I’ll be honest, I was remember this story to have a lot more in common with the Hallmark movie adaptation that was my first introduction to it. So seeing that a lot of my favorite elements weren’t actually in Anderson’s original was a bit disappointing. However, I do still think there’s the seed of a good story in here, mainly in the relationship between Gerda and Kay. I love that this is a story where the girl goes and rescues the boy. Other than that, though, there’s a lot of room for improvement.
So what will I look for in an adaptation?
Reign it in! Seriously, this story? It’s kinda all over the place. Everyone that Gerda meets has some story to tell her, and it is very rarely relevant. I would like it if the story could relate back to itself every once in a while, cut what is superfluous, and just generally become tighter and more manageable.
Explore and define the relationship between Gerda and Kay. One of the things that I really do like about this story is that this relationship is really open-ended. It’s described as a very close friendship, but never clearly defined as a romance, which means that there are lots of different ways to take this. You could make Gerda and Kay actually brother and sister, leave them just as close platonic friends, or make them lovers. Their ages are also not firmly set, so there’s some potential there as well. Explore it.
Define the Snow Queen. Here, in the titular character, we have this super scary villain, supposedly, and yet . . . I dunno. I never really knew what her game was. Why did she kidnap Kay? Had she kidnaped others? What was she trying to achieve, exactly? And what was it that made her a villain? Just being winter?
Give meaning to the journey. This is perhaps one of my biggest things – Gerda goes off on this huge quest, but it doesn’t seem to change her at all. What’s the purpose? Why are you including these scenes and these people? How do they challenge or help? Give the quest some impact.
So! That all being said, here’s our lineup! And for the first time this year, the majority of these novels are ones I haven’t read before!
Week 1: Winter's Child by Cameron Dokey
Week 2: Frost by Wendy Delsol
Week 3: A True Princess by Diane Zahler
Week 4: Breadcrumbs by Ann Ursu
Feel free to read along, and I’ll see you on Friday!