The Snow Queen

The Snow Queen is a pretty good fairy tale. Some reckon it’s Hans Andersen’s best work, and maybe it is the best expression of the similar themes he explored in many of his stories. It’s a remarkably female story with nearly all the important characters being brave young girls, clever princesses or wise old women. The plot revolves around sweet Gerda, risking her life on an epic mission to save her male friend who has all but lost himself to something alluring and destructive. Girls don’t generally rescue boys in children’s books, (save for Philip Pullman’s, His Dark Materials, which was clearly inspired by this tale) and as such, it stands alone as an adventure of female resilience, determination and love.

I imagine there are a few versions of it, but the general story goes like this: Firstly, a wicked sprite breaks his magic mirror sending shards of glass around the globe. These splinters of glass, if caught in someone’s eye, will affect their judgment and distort all things good and beautiful.  Major ‘uhoh’.

Now we come to Gerda and Kai (or Kay); two best friends that live next door to each other in a cramped, but cheerful, garret.  They are not wealthy or grand, but enjoy simple pleasures like growing roses in pots and listening to Grandma’s tales.

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One night she tells them of the mysterious Snow Queen, who flies through their village in the darkness, peeping in at the windows. Kai is fascinated and spies her later that night.

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Unfortunately, Kai receives a splinter of the malicious glass to his eye and another to his heart immediately becoming an unpleasant, mocking, and generally disruptive fellow. He is mean to poor Gerda and runs off after the Snow Queen one night. She kisses him twice, making him forget everything, turning his heart almost to ice. She warns that another kiss would kill him then whisks him away to her kingdom.  Everyone in the village thinks Kai is dead but Gerda refuses to give up, and sets after him.

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She runs into a witch who has talking flowers in her garden. Which is odd. The witch isn’t too bad, but does try and make Gerda forget about her mission. She knocks about with a wacky crow who sends her to a kingdom of a clever princess who is trying to find an intelligent husband. She gets waylaid by a gang of cannibal thieves, headed by a bearded lady, and made the pet of the ruthless, yet awesomely bad-ass, robber girl.

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She rides a reindeer to the wise Lapp woman, and then to the wise Finn woman for sage advice and dried fish. She loses multiple pairs of shoes, but finally Gerda does indeed make it to the palace of the Snow Queen.

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She finds Kai, alone, sitting, almost frozen to death, on the “mirror of reason”. He is struggling to spell out the word ‘eternity’ with shards of ice. If he can do this the Snow Queen has promised him that he will be his own master once more, and will gift him “the world and a new pair of skates”.

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Gerda makes it through the palace’s defences by repeating her evening prayer, and breaks the spell over Kai by weeping burning tears over his heart. Kai’s own tears wash away the splinter from his eye. They return to their village, as “two grown-up persons; grown-up, and yet children; children at least in heart; and it was summer-time; summer, glorious summer!”

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Phew! Epic or what? And so many female characters too. I think I actually lost count of how many there were. Ok, now I get to my point. Disney’s new(ish) movie, Frozen is based on The Snow Queen. Apparently. From what I can see, the Disney version revolves around two princess sisters that fall out over misapplied special freezey powers that get triggered by jealousy over a guy. I doubt if the wise women, cannibal grannies, clever princesses or pistol packing robber maidens made it to the final cut. There is a wacky snowman, that I imagine sounds like Nathan Lane or something equally irritating.

Now, I think I know why they did this. No self respecting five year old wants to dress in Gerda’s peasant clothes. There has to be a proper princess, with a nice dress that will retail in Disney stores for about $40. A perky princess with eyes bigger than her face. Not a clever one that wants a clever husband. Five year old Disney fangirls know quite well that princesses must marry the first cute person they see, generally when waking out of a magic induced coma.

And The Snow Queen can’t just be a cipher for addiction or that seductive, but dangerous ‘thing’ that makes our loved ones turn into distant assholes that hurt us.  She has to have a full back story, about not being hugged enough or something. And let’s give her  X-Men style super powers, like Storm, or whatever her name was while we are at it. She literally has to be a snow producing Snow Queen, otherwise the kids will fall asleep and we really need them awake if we are ever going to shift the units of merchandise. Sure it’s cute, it’s about sisters, it’s about deep sisterly love. But really? Did the ONLY fairy tale that has female driven adventure, and a male to be rescued, really have to be changed to be about sisters working through their compatibility issues?

And what of the pistol packing robber girl, with her cruel tendencies, and complex motivations? Change that character into some bland bloke that helps the bug eyed nice princess, the one who doesn’t have the weird freezey powers. Nix the cannibal bearded lady thief completely. Disney can’t be doing with thieving cannibal ladies, with beards. They don’t look half as good on Happy Meal boxes as bug eyed, perky princess do. Puts the kids right off their nuggets.

And every five year old Disney fan knows you can’t have a girl rescuing a boy in a movie. That is like Disney 101. I mean, no matter how much you disguise the fact and remove all taint of femaleness from the title. No matter how many ‘butch man, riding on a reindeer’ style movie ads are plastered on the sides of buses.  You absolutely cannot have a girl rescuing a boy. It’s like breaking Disney Law. What was that crazy Hans Andersen thinking when he wrote this enduring children’s classic anyway?  When a story written in the 19C, turns out to have too many interesting female characters that have to be removed in order to sell ‘product’ you know something is pretty rotten in Denmark. Actually, that’s unfair. Denmark’s probably really cool. It’s just Hollywood that has it’s head up its arse.

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About oddboggle

Here are the letters I write to Sarah, aka Sarge, who will be sadly missed but never forgotten.
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