Fantastical Reimaginings: The Snow Queen 

Fantastical Reimaginings

Fantastical Reimaginings: “The Snow Queen”
Elizabeth B.

Whether you’ve been around small children belting out “Let it Go” or not, if I mention the words “fairy tale” and “snow queen,” you’ll probably picture “Frozen”: a magical girl runs from her kingdom into a wintery forest, singing about her newfound freedom…

The Snow Queen
Image from Wikipedia
 
Just kidding! That’s not “The Snow Queen.” At least, it’s not the original version, though I’m sure Hans Christian Andersen would love Disney’s “Frozen” just as much as the next person. The original story is one of my favorites. Like all the best fairy tales, “The Snow Queen” is way darker than you’d expect, full of sacrifice, heartache, attempted robbery and snow bees. Find out more about this story’s history and retellings below!

History
Hans Christian Andersen, Disney’s favorite Danish writer, is the hidden hand behind several fairy tale classics. If you’ve called yourself an “ugly duckling,” sung along with Ariel in “The Little Mermaid”, or watched “Frozen”, you’ve enjoyed one of Andersen’s 3,381 written works. Hans Christian Andersen’s life was no fairy tale, though. Psychologists speculate that Hans Christian Andersen suffered from bipolar disorder and he wrote many unrequited love letters to men and women. The fairy tales he wrote frequently deal with loneliness and unrequited affection – they may or may not end happily. Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” was first published in 1844 and remains one of his most popular stories.  

The Original
In Andersen’s original story, childhood friends Gerda and Kai are inseparable. They play together and listen to Gerda’s grandmother tell tales of the cold-hearted Snow Queen, ruler of the snow bees. When young Kai gets a shard of evil mirror in his heart and eye, Kai begins to avoid Gerda. He then meets the Snow Queen, who freezes his heart and takes him away to an icy palace. Gerda goes to save him. 
Of all of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, this is one of the wildest. There’s a bunch of demons who just – oops -  accidentally drop the world’s most evil magic mirror and break it. The Snow Queen can erase your memories, but so can ordinary gardeners. There’s talking ravens and surprise doppelgangers, a talking reindeer and bandits and a jigsaw puzzle made of shards of ice.
And at the heart of all of it, a question: when should you fight for a broken relationship or friendship, and when should you accept it’s over? Unlike many Andersen fairy tales, though, this story ends happily: Gerda saves Kai and cold winter gives way for spring.

“The Snow Queen” Retellings
So, how much has this classic fairy tale changed over the years? Are the retellings similar or impossibly different? Find out more about similar tales below!

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 Disney's Frozen
Disney’s “Frozen”
Picture book available on Hoopla
“There’s beauty and there’s danger here…Beware the frozen heart.”
Sisters Elsa and Anna are separated when Elsa’s icy powers almost hurt her sister. As adults, Elsa hides her emotions and avoids Anna, who feels lonely and hurt by this change. When Elsa’s powers spiral out of control, she flees the kingdom and runs away to create an icy palace. Anna goes to save her, along with the help of Kristoff and his “talking” reindeer Sven.  
“Frozen” isn’t exactly like “The Snow Queen” - no children are kidnapped and the snow queen isn’t evil. Just like the original story, though, “Frozen” focuses on frozen hearts, talking reindeer and emotionally distant best friends. There’s even a fun homage to the original author and his frequent crushes: at her first ball, Anna meets and instantly plans to marry a red-headed prince named Hans.

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 Breadcrumbs
“Breadcrumbs” by Anne Ursu 
Available on Hoopla
“People who come here looking for things…they don’t usually find what they want.”
Hazel and Jack have been best friends for years, but now that they’re entering middle school, he’s started ignoring Hazel, and wants to hang out with the other boys at school. Hazel knows that it’s not just them growing apart: it has to have something to do with that strange pain in Jack’s heart and eye at recess. And she’s right: Jack’s heart has been frozen. When he’s taken into a mysterious forest by a witch, Hazel follows to get her best friend back. 
“Breadcrumbs” starts much like Hans Christian Andersen’s original tale: a boy changes because of an evil magic mirror; he’s kidnapped; a girl follows him to save him. This story focuses on the youth of its protagonists: maybe it’s a witch, or maybe these changes are just part of growing up. Once Hazel enters the forest, the story begins to change: this forest is full of fairy tales, and Hazel’s journey won’t be nearly as safe or easy as she originally thinks.

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 "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe"
“The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” by C. S. Lewis
Available through Hoopla
“‘You have a traitor there, Aslan,’ said the Witch.” 
When Lucy and her siblings find a magical wardrobe to a land trapped in eternal winter, three of them meet talking badgers and magical beings. One brother, Edmund, instead meets the frozen land’s ruler: an icy sorceress in a magical sled who offers Edmund candy, kisses him, and tells him to bring his siblings to her. When Edmund fails to follow through on his bargain, the White Witch of Narnia comes for him instead.
“The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” has many elements that aren’t in the original “Snow Queen”: Hans Christian Andersen doesn’t write about lampposts, epic battles or talking lions. But the beginning of the story is still the same: when a boy is tricked and taken to a winter palace by an icy woman, those who love him must save him from a terrible fate.

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"The Raven and the Reindeer" 
“The Raven and the Reindeer” by Ursula Vernon
Not available through library (yet!)
“Once upon a time, there was a boy born with frost in his eyes and frost in his heart.”
Gerta is in love with her best friend, Kay. Kay doesn’t seem to feel the same way, but that’s okay: even if he doesn’t talk with her in front of his friends or seek her out in his free time, he did kiss her once, and she knows the real him. Right? So when Kay is taken away by a beautiful and deadly snow queen, Gerta follows, determined to save him.
“The Raven and the Reindeer” follows the original tale closely: a frozen heart, a distant best friend, a talking raven, a far-reaching quest across the land. Ursula Vernon’s version of the fairy tale focuses on Gerta and Kay’s relationship: is their relationship an even one, or is Gerta’s affection unrequited? When Gerta meets a robber girl – a violent ally in Hans’ original tale, and a helpful one here – Gerta starts to question why she’s chasing after Kay and if he even cares about her the same way.
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What’s your favorite “Snow Queen” retelling? Does Sven count as a talking reindeer? Should Gerta chase Kay, despite everything, or have I given Hans Christian Andersen’s hero a bad rap? I hope you enjoy these fairy tale retellings. Happy reading!

Posted by svanholb@auroragov.org On 26 June, 2020 at 12:56 PM  

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