The Snow Queen

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Basic Plot Summary: A troll creates a magic mirror that distorts perception and when it shatters, pieces go into the eyes and heart of Kay, a boy who lives next to his best friend, Gerda. The mirror pieces cause him to treat Gerda cruelly and he hitches a ride with the Snow Queen, who makes him forget everyone he loves. Although everyone believes him dead, Gerda never gives up the search for her friend and she encounters a sorceress, a prince and princess, a robber girl, a talking reindeer and women from both Lappland and Finland during her quest to find Kay. She finally finds him in the Snow Queen’s palace and the power of her love causes him to cry, dislodging the mirror splinter from his eyes and bringing back his memory. They return home and discover that they have changed and grown up.

This very long and complex story, in seven parts, was first published in 1844. There are a lot of religious elements to the full story, including prayers and angels and the troll at the beginning is said to symbolize the devil. To me, the story feels like a giant scavenger hunt and if there is a bigger message about adolescence and maturity (as some believe), it’s mired in all the travelling from one place to another for me. Mostly, it just seems strange and convoluted. It’s been adapted for theater, opera, ballet and multiple film and television versions. Disney’s megahit, Frozen, started as a version of this story and then took a left turn somewhere around the point when a talking snowman came into it.

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The Snow Queen – This version sticks very close to Hans Christian Andersen’s original story including a prologue in which we see the troll with his magic mirror. Bagram Ibatoulline’s acryl-gouache artwork is absolutely gorgeous, with a wonderful use of color and contrast between the blues and whites of the Snow Queen’s world and the warm colors that surround Gerda throughout her journey to Kai. The final picture of the two friends sitting together in the rose garden is lovely. (HarperCollins, 2013)

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The Snow Queen – Because author Natacha Godeau took her text from the original story, this is another version that doesn’t stray from its source. The prologue here actually proposes that the troll sees the friendship between Gerda and Kay and detests it so strongly that he creates the magic mirror as a direct response to it. Giorgio Baroni’s artwork uses a lot of dark colors that contrast beautifully with the snow scenes. But overall, the story seemed rushed and scattered to me and I didn’t enjoy this version as much.  (Auzou Publishing, 2013)

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The Snow Queen – This is the debut book from Canadian librarian Ken Setterington. The story here is separated into seven distinct chapters, following the seven parts of the story. It follows the original closely, but tones down the religious elements of the story, leaving more to the reader’s interpretation. The real draw of this version is the artwork, which is done in scherenschnitt (the art of paper cutting) by Nelly and Ernst Hofer. This incredibly detailed art form involves precise cuts with tiny scissor and is an art that Hans Christian Andersen enjoyed and practiced himself. The book itself is a lengthy read, but that’s true of most versions of this story and the artwork makes this one really special. (Tundra Books, 2000)

And what did we learn? What I take away from The Snow Queen is that you are never truly lost as long as there is someone who loves you enough to keep looking for you.

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