Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On The Snow Queen, Part 2

Snowflakes and Roses

. . . Kay said, "Oh, something struck my heart, and I have got something in my eye!" 
The little girl put her arms round his neck, he blinked his eye, there was nothing to be seen. 
"I believe it is gone," he said, but it was not gone.  It was one of those very grains of glass from the mirror, the magic mirror.  You remember that horrid mirror, in which all good and great things reflected in it became small and mean, while the bad things were magnified, and every flaw became very apparent. 
Poor Kay! a grain of it had gone straight to his heart, and would soon turn it to a lump of ice.

In Story Two of The Snow Queen, the mirror shards act as stepping stones connecting the mischief of the magic mirror to the body of the tale and disclosing why the mirror is significant to the characters.

But the mirror shards that lodge into into Kai's heart and eye don't appear to have any effect on the plot, other than to make Kai cruel to Gerda.  Unless perhaps, they have some bearing on Kai's going out to sled with the boys in the square, where he is picked up by the Snow Queen.  Then the Snow Queen's kiss finishes the process of turning his heart into a lump of ice, the process started by the mirror shard.

Arthur Rackham

Though the devil's mirror and the Snow Queen are not direct accomplices, their methods are similar.  The glass shards make Kai blind to the living beauty of the roses and only able to appreciate the inorganic geometry of the snowflakes.

"Do you see how cleverly they are made," said Kay.  "Much more interesting than looking at real flowers, and there is not a single flaw in them, they are perfect, if only they would not melt."

This is the doing of the magic mirror shard.  But it couldn't have been more appropriate if the Snow Queen had contrived it herself.

The bitter winter season must have been a harsh reality for Scandinavians and other northern Europeans, hence the ancient emphasis on the winter solstice and pre-Christian traditions of looking forward to the end of darkness.  For people before our modern age, summer was an essential to life, a time of year without which they would not have the means to survive.

No doubt related to pagan winter deities, the Snow Queen acts as an embodiment of the winter season--not necessarily evil in intention but ruthless in execution.  Nature is indifferent and, short of miracle, follows only those laws that have been set out for it.  So the Snow Queen is beautiful and meticulous:

She was delicately lovely, but all ice, glittering, dazzling ice.  Still she was alive, her eyes shone like two bright stars, but there was no rest or peace in them.

So reason, science, and logic without imagination and emotion are utilitarian but barren as ice.

[Read Part 1 here.]



  1. Wow, I never realised the mirror didn't play an important part in driving the plot! I must admit I've never read the tale, but the animated film is one of my favourites from my childhood. In it, the Snow Queen takes Kai because she wants to remake the mirror to use for her own evil gains, so needs to kill him to retrieve the pieces inside him (after using his puzzle skills to remake it, of course...) Also, in the film, the mirror shards make him very competitive against the other people sledging in the square, and because he wants to go faster than everyone else he hooks his sled on to the Snow Queen's, and that's how she lures him. I really want to read the story now! Thank you for these posts, they've really put me in a nostalgic, festive mood xx
    (p.s. the film I refer to is this one:

    1. I haven't seen that one. Thanks for the link.

      I do recommend you read it. It's very short, though long for a fairy tale.

  2. I really like how you end this, with the science and reason contrast.

    Your reflections make me wonder if the Snow Queen, like the restless bite of cold in winter, is somehow connected to death--maybe the death of childhood, or of the soul, something like that. Just a thought.

    1. I think there's a high probability. c:

      Anderson seems to be championing childlike faith throughout.


Don't be shy. Leave a comment!