Brrrrrrrr! Hear that book clubbers? That’s the sound of winter. We couldn’t think of an appropriately frosty novel written by a women so why not read one that has a strong female character? Well indeed. The Snow Queen is winter personified. And that’s snow-joke.
In all honestly, only two of us braved the wind and drizzle to the eccentric-antique-dealer-interior of the Bridge café, and exactly 50% of us had read the book so look upon this as a one-women interpretation of the Snow Queen rather than an informed discussion.
The Snow Queen opens with a sequence I definitely don’t recall from the 1995 cartoon (voiced by Helen Mirren and Hugh Laurie). An evil troll has made a trippy mirror that distorts the world to magnify the bad and ugly. The troll and his troll pupils (incidentally he runs a troll school) try to take the mirror up to heaven to play tricks on the angels but they drop it. This does not bode well for the rest of the story.
We are then introduced to two rosy cheeked children with a smidge of pre-pubescent sexual tension: Kai and Gerda, who are busy bonding over the roses in their adjacent window boxes. But oh no! Kai gets some of that troll glass in his eye and heart and starts behaving like a total douche. He trashes the window box and is mean to Gerda before stomping off to go sledging in the town square where he attaches himself to the Snow Queen’s sled. By spring time everyone has decided that Kai is dead but not Gerda. Sounds like time for an epic journey!
Apparently the Snow Queen was the inspiration behind Disney’s Frozen. Even though these are two very different stories the comparisons are easy to see both in the overarching story, namely the strong determined female character who goes on an arduous adventure to save someone they love, and in that adventure itself, which features: a cast of helpful animals, witches in creepy houses, talking flowers which will not shut up about themselves (who knew flowers were so self-involved?), various accommodating local folks people and baddies that actually turn out to be goodies with hearts of gold, like the little robber girl that hooks Gerda up with a helpful reindeer, although not before telling her: “You’d better lie still now…or I’ll stick my knife in your belly”. Luckily for us there’s even a cutesy neatly wrapped up happy ending which I won’t spoil for you.
Of course Walt Disney borrowed/stole a huge amount of stories from Hans Christian Andersen demonstrated by the Disney versions of The Ugly Duckling, The Little Match Girl (more on her later) and The Little Mermaid (worth a read if you don’t mind horrible, horrible endings). However as a child of the late 80s I can’t help but think of Disney as the original storyteller of all my favourite talking animals which made the whole thing feel a little bit familiar.
Bonus Winter Story: The Little Match Girl
If you need one sad winter story that’s makes you glad to be at home next to a roaring fire then read this one: it’s only three and a half pages long. Testament to Andersen he really does squeeze a lot of emotion into this little storylet. The Little Match Girl in question is a scrawny frozen wretch who’s not had much luck selling her merchandise. Exhausted, she sits down in the snow and decides to light a match for a bit of heat which seems to give her a series of wild hallucinations culminating in the face of her dearly departed granny. Desperate not to lose her, she lights all her matches and her grandmother is all smiles and warmth. Of course it transpires that little match girl froze to death. Thanks Andersen. No cutesy Disney ending for her; she had to be chipped off the pavement in the morning.