Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Snow Queen: An Introduction

There are about a million fairy tales in the world, but interestingly, there are only about forty the main populace has heard of. Of course everyone knows Cinderella, Snow White, and The Little Mermaid (with much thanks to Disney). Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, and The Princess and the Pea, are the next notch down, but you still know the stories. And finally, perhaps you might draw a blank on Bluebeard, The Brave Little Tailor, or The Red Shoes, but you've probably heard the titles.

The Snow Queen might garner similar head scratching. It is a tale by Hans Christian Andersen, first published in 1845. As one of his longest and most imaginative stories, The Snow Queen is often considered his magnum opus. It has been adapted to film/TV 15(ish) times. Just like my Wuthering Heights series, I will be watching these adaptations, comparing and contrasting them, and ultimately deciding on how entertaining and/or accurate they are.

This is mostly for my own enjoyment. I am currently writing a novel adaptation of The Snow Queen and I wanted to see the different ways some of the more difficult plot points were dealt with.

Plot Summary
Once upon a time, The Devil (sometimes a troll) creates an evil mirror that distorts the appearance of whoever looks into it, making them look ugly and magnifying their more unflattering traits. One day the Devil decides to take his mirror to Heaven so he can mock God and the angels, but the mirror instead breaks into a million pieces which are carried on the winds and fly into the eyes of the innocents, making everything they see ugly and bad.

Meanwhile, a little boy named Kay and a little girl named Gerda grow up next door to one another in a city. They spend their idyllic youth growing roses together on the adjoining roof between their buildings. Come winter, Gerda's grandmother (sometimes Kay's grandmother) tells the children of The Snow Queen, the mythical being in charge of all that is winter. She appears at the window and frightens both the children.

Not long after, Kay is struck by a piece of mirror. His personality turns sour and he is especially cruel to Gerda. One night, the Snow Queen appears again and Kay is taken to her palace in the north. She kisses him twice so he can not feel the cold and so he can forget about Gerda.

By spring, Gerda sets out on a journey to find Kay. After floating down a river, a benevolent witch finds her and decides to adopt Gerda against her will. To prevent her from thinking of Kay, the witch magically hides her roses and combs the girl's hair to help her forget. Eventually Gerda flees and meets a crow who informs her that Kay may have recently wed a princess. Gerda soon discovers that it is not Kay, and the princess and prince wish her luck by giving her warm clothes and a gold coach. But as she travels through the forest, Gerda is captured by robbers where she is imprisoned by the robber girl. Gerda tells her story and the robber girl releases her, sending her off with one of her reindeer. Lastly, Gerda meets both the Lapp woman and the Finn woman who offer some sustenance on the last leg of her journey.

Gerda finally arrives at the Snow Queen's palace, which is empty except for a frozen Kay. The boy is working on a puzzle to form the word "eternity". If he succeeds, the Snow Queen promises him all her power and a pair of skates. Gerda embraces Kay and her warm tears melt his heart. Kay begins to cry and the evil mirror piece it dislodged from his eye. The children dance and the puzzle pieces magically form the word "eternity". Without a final confrontation with the Snow Queen, Kay and Gerda leave the palace and return home.

1 comment:

Kevin Casey said...

Ooh! I look forward to this one. I've never heard of the Snow Queen story before. Maybe I always thought it was a part of the wardrobe books? The image from Red Shoes of bodyless feet dancing on after getting cut off is as horrifying to me now as when I first heard the story. Thank you for reminding me of it.

(Also my little capcha that I have to type in to prove I'm human is relevant: scaryper.)