Book Review

The Snow Queen

by Hans Christian Andersen
The Snow Queen, by Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tale The Snow Queen was originally published in Danish on December 21, 1844. It’s a very short story—though Andersen’s longest fairy tale—about the struggle of good and evil. I originally was interested in the story because I’d heard that the Frozen movies were loosely based on it. The word “loosely” is important to note.

The tale opens with a troll and his minions carrying the magic mirror he created up to heaven. This mirror has the power to amplify all things bad and ugly, but it distorts everything beautiful and good. As they approach heaven, intent on mocking God and his angels, the mirror falls to the earth, shattering into billions of pieces, which, when caught in a person’s eye or heart, make them see only ugly things in the world and feel only coldness.

The protagonist of the story is a little girl, Gerda, who travels a great distance through the snow to rescue her best friend, a little boy named Kay, from the Snow Queen, who had bewitched and kidnapped him after pieces of the mirror got into his eye and heart.

It’s a wonderful little story, though I’m sure it makes more sense set in its own Danish culture. After setting off to retrieve little Kay, Gerda comes upon an old sorceress living in the forest, who captivates Gerda for a while until the little girl is reminded of her missing friend and begins to cry. Her tears cause a rose bush to grow in the garden of the sorceress, and the rose bush tells Gerda that Kay is not among the dead underground. So Gerda sets off again to find him. Along her journey, Gerda receives help from several other characters: a crow and his fiancée, a princess and her prince, a little robber girl, a reindeer named Bae, and two women with cottages along the route to the Snow Queen’s ice castle.

Upon entering the ice castle, Gerda sees Kay using ice pieces to try to spell a word which will free him. Gerda runs to Kay and embraces him, her tears melting away the mirror splinter in his heart, which leads to his own tears dislodging the piece in his eye. The two friends dance together, and their dancing causes the ice and splinter pieces to fall, spelling the word “eternity”—the very word that can free Kay from his bondage.

The two children return home to their village to everything just as it was, though they themselves had changed; they’d grown older. The fairy tale ends with the line, And they both sat there, grown up, yet children at heart, and it was summer—warm, beautiful summer.

At 60 pages, The Snow Queen is a very short read. It’s a nice little story with plenty of interesting characters and a nice lesson about triumphing over evil without the use of physical strength or tactical skill. Gerda’s assets throughout the story are her kindness and prayers, along with help from new friends. Kay’s grandmother plays a small, yet important, role, and at the end of the tale, she opens her Bible and reads from Matthew 18:3.

Except ye become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of God.