I’m cutting off the fanfare and jumping straight into looking at the original Snow Queen because it is one massive fairy tale.
The Snow Queen was written by Hans Christan Andersen, which was published in 1844 in a collection of fairy tales. Andersen starts his story by explaining that a mean hobgoblin built an evil mirror that distorted everything good in the world. The hobgoblin ran a school for demons (Go figure) and one day his students take the mirror and fly off with it. The clumsy demons-in-training drop the mirror and it shatters, scattering all over the world. Each piece of the mirror–no matter the size–contained the strength of the whole mirror.
Enter, stage right, our protagonist and her BFF: Gerta and Kai. Gerta and Kai are next door neighbors and are quite poor. They get along like siblings, build gardens together, and listen to Kai’s grandmother tell stories. One unfortunate day, Kai gets a fleck of the mirror in one of his eyes so everything good and beautiful looks horrid and ugly. If that’s not enough, a shard of it pricks his heart–turning it into a cold lump of ice. This gives Kai quite the change of attitude. He no longer likes Gerta because she looks horrid to his mirror-hazed eyes, and he is generally uncaring because of his cold heart.
A little bit of time passes, and Kai continues to be mean to Gerta and his grandmother. One day he goes sledding alone, where he meets the beautiful and mystical Snow Queen. The Snow Queen still looks beautiful to Kai because she is neither good nor bad, so her image isn’t changed. Kai grows smitten with her–or something, I’m not sure how else you would describe it–and goes back to her winter palace with her.
Back in the village everyone assumes Kai is dead, except Gerta who sets out on a journey, hoping to find him. This is where things get a little…odd. Gerta throws her new red shoes–which she liked more than anything–into the river. The river argues with her a while before giving her a boat, which she hops in to. The boat takes her to old woman, who sort of hypnotizes Gerta into forgetting what she was doing and turns her into an adoptive daughter. Because…reasons?
Eventually, with the help of the old woman’s talking flower garden, Gerta snaps out of it and continues on her journey. She meets a Crow, who tells her about a boy who won the heart of a princess and married her. Gerta goes to see the newly wed pair, hoping the prince is Kai. (Spoiler, it’s not!) The prince and the princess dress Gerta up and send her on her way in a fancy coach. The coach is eventually waylaid by a group of bandits. The leader of the bandits–an older woman–was going to kill Gerta, but the woman’s daughter–the little Robber Maiden–stops her and claims Gerta as a sort of pet.
The Robber Maiden has a fascination with animals, is verbally abusive, and has a dagger that she loves to flash everywhere–she almost stabs Gerta several times while flinging it around. Eventually Gerta wins the little Robber Maiden over after telling her all about Kai. The Little Robber Maiden gives her a reindeer to ride and instructs the animal to mind Gerta and take her to the Snow Queen.
Whew, are you still with me? Hang in there, we’re about to reach Kai!
Gerta and the Reindeer set off but are forced to stop at the houses of the Lapland Woman and the Finland Woman. Gerta is told she must continue to the Snow Queen’s palace alone, and she sets off without boots or warm clothes. She nearly dies until she starts praying and some angels come help her.
Meanwhile, Kai is unknowingly freezing in the Snow Queen’s Palace. He is pretty close to dying–though he doesn’t know it–and he’s trying to complete a puzzle to spell out a word he doesn’t know. (Yes. I can’t even. I love this fairy tale a lot, but this part never fails to throw me.) The Snow Queen is off making it snow, so when Gerta busts in she is able to confront Kai alone. She cries on his chest, melting his heart of ice and washing away the mirror shard there–re-warming Kai’s heart. Kai then cries–washing away the speck of mirror in his eye–clearing his vision and returning him to normal. The end. NOT!
Gerta and Kai begin the journey back home, first by running into the reindeer (and a friend) who carry them back to the home of the Finland woman, and then to the Lapland woman’s house. Both of the old ladies give them directions and provisions, and they set out south. They run into the Robber Maiden, who congratulates them and swaps stories before they part. Gerta and Kai make it all the way back to their village, where Kai’s grandmother reads to them. After arriving home, they both realize they have become adults, but they are blessed because they continue to have the heart of children. Also, it’s pretty heavily implied–in my opinion at least–that they are in love. THE END!
Champions, feel free to stretch–that was quite the long haul. I really trimmed the story down and glossed over a lot of the details, so if you’re interested in the story I suggest you read the full account. The story gets pretty Alice-in-Wonderland several times in there, and Andersen adds quite a few Biblical and religious references as well, so it’s a bit of an odd combination, but I am absurdly fond of this fairy tale. I love how many female characters there are, and I especially love how strong they are. (Although I find it a little strange that the title character is only seen twice, and she has very few lines.) It’s a refreshing read when most fairy tales cast females as damsels in distress–Little Mermaid, anyone?