The Snow Queen Wrap Up
So, bear with me for a moment, because I’m going to sneak a fifth review into this wrap-up. I’m sorry, or you’re welcome, whichever you’d prefer. :)
So every once in a while with a fairy tale, there’s one adaptation you encounter that defines that fairy tale in your mind from then on out. Or at least, that’s true for me. For “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” that’s Jessica Day George’s Princess of the Midnight Ball. For “The Goose Girl,” it’s Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl. For “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” it’s Edith Pattou’s East. And for “The Snow Queen,” it’s the Hallmark movie from 2002.
This movie was my first exposure to the fairy tale, and though I know I read the original story at some point, it’s always been eclipsed in my memory by this movie and the story that it told. Now, don’t get me wrong – a lot of things about the movie are not great. The acting, for one. And the special effects. And then there’s that ice skating polar bear . . . But despite all that, I adore this movie. I love it. And not in an ironic way. I love this movie. I watch it every year. And what makes it one of my favorite movies despite the wooden acting and the inconsistent accents and that vaguely racist Asian child is the way it tells this story.
In the movie, Gerda and Kai are teenagers. They have not been friends their whole lives. In fact, they don’t even meet until Kai comes over the mountain to work as a bellhop in Gerda’s father’s inn. And when he does, he finds this girl who is closed off and reserved and doesn’t like winter because, long ago, it took her mother’s life. And it wasn’t just winter. It was the Snow Queen. But Kai brings Gerda out of her shell. He reminds her how to live and have fun again. And so when he disappears, she has to follow him.
And he doesn’t disappear randomly. The Snow Queen doesn’t just happen to take him – she’s searching for the pieces of that shattered mirror. She wants to put it back together and use it to make the world winter always. He takes Kai because he’s the final piece of the mirror.
And Gerda doesn’t just follow him into this world, through her obstacles. She has to traverse the seasons. The old woman in the cottage is the embodiment of spring. The princess she meets is the Summer Princess, and she’s not kind and helpful; she wants to keep Gerda there to prolong summer. The robbers are the voices of autumn, reduced to a robbing troupe because the Snow Queen steals more and more of autumn’s time each year.
And when Gerda finds Kai, she doesn’t just free him and leave. She confronts the Snow Queen. She uses her warmth and fire to melt a little of the Snow Queen’s coldness. She restores balance to the seasons. She plays a larger role.
I love this movie. It is everything I want an adaptation of The Snow Queen to be. And that’s why I’ve snuck this mini review in here. Because it you ask me what the best adaptation of this fairy tale is, it’s not any of the books I read this month.
Because overall, this was a pretty disappointing month. No one really wants to tackle this story, it seems, and those who do (with the exception of Ursu) don’t want to tackle some of the hardest parts of it. There is so much more that I wish the novel’s I’d read this month had done. Two weren’t even full adaptations, just novels using the story as an inspiration. But Winter’s Child was poorly motivated and even Breadcrumbs had a tendency to meander. Hallmark’s movie tied it all together. Hallmark’s movie tightened the story the way it needed to be tightened, despite the fact that it’s three hours long.
So the wrap-up for the month is this: if you want a solid adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, watch the Hallmark movie from 2002, look past the poorly directed actors, and enjoy the ice-skating polar bear.
Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu does come highly recommended. Frost by Wendy Delsol was good, but confusing because it doesn’t stand on its own as an adaptation. A True Princess by Diane Zahler was more Princess and the Pea than Snow Queen, and not terribly well done. And Winter’s Child was just disappointing.
Notable Novels: Check out Wizard of London and The Snow Queen, both by Mercedes Lackey. They almost made the reading list, but her books, though wonderful, are terribly intricate and complex and therefore difficult to summarize. Both worth a read, though.
January’s fairy tale is Snow White!