For December, I wanted to review at least one story that fit the season but wasn’t necessarily a Christmas story. I searched through my books and came across the collection of Best Loved Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen. I bought this massive book years ago but never even opened it. Andersen’s stories were the inspiration for many Disney movies and other productions; such as: “The Little Mermaid”, “The Ugly Duckling”, “The Princess and the Pea” and “Thumbelina”. He also wrote “The Snow Queen” and that is what I’m reviewing today. The full story is available online for free and I’m going to include a link after my final thoughts so that you can read it if you’d like. Let’s get into the review for this oddly dark fairy tale!
The History & Story Layout
“The Snow Queen” is an original fairy tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. The tale was first published December 21, 1844 in New Fairy Tales. The story centers on the struggle between good and evil as experienced by Gerda and her friend, Kay (sometimes spelled Kai).
The story is one of Andersen’s longest and most highly acclaimed stories. It is regularly included in selected tales and collections of his work and is frequently reprinted in illustrated storybook editions for children.
“The Snow Queen” is a tale told in seven ‘stories’:
- About the Mirror and Its Pieces
- A Little Boy and a Little Girl
- The Flower Garden of the Woman Who Knew Magic
- The Prince and the Princess
- The Little Robber Girl
- The Lapp Woman and the Finn Woman
- What Happened at the Snow Queen’s Palace and What Happened Afterwards
I unfortunately haven’t read many of Hans Christian Andersen’s stories. I’m definitely more familiar with Disney’s “everyone gets a happy ending” fairy tales. I chose to read “The Snow Queen” primarily because one of my all time favorite video games is Dark Parables: Rise of the Snow Queen. In the game, the stories of “Snow White” and “The Snow Queen” are meshed together. However, it is mostly inspired by “The Snow Queen” with a similar story line, characters named Gerda and Kai (or Kay) and a cursed mirror. Thanks to that game, I was familiar with the overall story but I am so glad that I chose to read the actual fairy tale because I LOVED it.
“The Snow Queen” was weird in the best possible way. It had the typical good verses evil struggle but instead of good always winning, evil frequently went unpunished. The story begins with a troll (or demon) creating a cursed mirror that would reflect the worst aspects of people and life. The mirror is broken and the shards fly all over the world. One of the main characters, Kay, gets one in his heart and one in his eye; unbeknownst to him. His sweet personality changes and he becomes negative, even to his best friend, Gerda. Soon after, the Snow Queen lures Kay away with her and takes him to her home in the icy north. Gerda then goes on a fantastical adventure to save her friend.
This story has everything you would expect there to be in a fairy tale: a grand adventure, talking flowers, helpful animals (that also talk) and royalty. What makes it different than what we’re used to today is the more negative aspects that are mixed in. This story makes frequent references to death. Gerda meets some talking flowers and well, here’s some excerpts of what they say to her:
“Many thanks!” said little Gerda; and she went to the other flowers, looked into their cups, and asked, “Don’t you know where little Kay is?”
But every flower stood in the sunshine, and dreamed its own fairy tale or its own story: and they all told her very many things, but not one knew anything of Kay.
Well, what did the Tiger-Lily say?
“Hearest thou not the drum? Bum! Bum! Those are the only two tones. Always bum! Bum! Hark to the plaintive song of the old woman, to the call of the priests! The Hindoo woman in her long robe stands upon the funeral pile; the flames rise around her and her dead husband, but the Hindoo woman thinks on the living one in the surrounding circle; on him whose eyes burn hotter than the flames–on him, the fire of whose eyes pierces her heart more than the flames which soon will burn her body to ashes. Can the heart’s flame die in the flame of the funeral pile?”
There’s also this one…
“What do the Hyacinths say?
“There were once upon a time three sisters, quite transparent, and very beautiful. The robe of the one was red, that of the second blue, and that of the third white. They danced hand in hand beside the calm lake in the clear moonshine. They were not elfin maidens, but mortal children. A sweet fragrance was smelt, and the maidens vanished in the wood; the fragrance grew stronger–three coffins, and in them three lovely maidens, glided out of the forest and across the lake: the shining glow-worms flew around like little floating lights. Do the dancing maidens sleep, or are they dead? The odour of the flowers says they are corpses; the evening bell tolls for the dead!”
“You make me quite sad,” said little Gerda. “I cannot help thinking of the dead maidens. Oh! is little Kay really dead? The Roses have been in the earth, and they say no.”
That’s a lot of death talk for a fairy tale and that’s not even all of it. There’s also some casual murder thrown in. These negative topics are casually written in with the positive ones and it makes for a jarring, but captivating, read.
As for the Snow Queen, she’s neither good nor evil, she just is. Her motives for kidnapping Kay are never given, she doesn’t treat him badly and she allows him to be rescued by Gerda. I like to think she was just lonely.
“The Snow Queen” is beautifully written and was a much more entertaining read than I expected it to be. I will be reading more of Hans Christian Andersen’s works in the future.
“The Snow Queen” was the main inspiration for one of Disney’s most popular movies, Frozen. I personally haven’t seen Frozen so I can’t say how close it is to the original story but you’ll have to let me know how similar they are. Have you read this story or any of Andersen’s other fairy tales? Let me know which one is your favorite! Thanks for reading and have a great day!
*Here’s the link to the full story: “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen