Welcome to day one of Winter Faerytale Week here at White Rose of Avalon. For this first post, I have chosen the topic of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. In particular, I will be comparing and contrasting it with the Disney film based on it, Frozen.
The story of the original fairytale is much longer in timespan than the Disney animated film. The Hans Christian Andersen story takes place over years, with all of the seasons eventually being represented. The Snow Queen of the original tale is a villain, so to speak, who takes a young boy named Kai with her to her Ice Castle. It is left to his best friend Gerda to find him and save him from the Snow Queen. It takes her many months to get to him, being distracted several times and getting embroiled in several other side plots before finally reaching her destination. It is their bond that will eventually break the Snow Queen’s spell over Kai, allowing him to be saved!
Now, this may seem rather unfamiliar to those familiar with the Disney film. Disney chose to make their Snow Queen a protagonist rather than an antagonist or straight-up villain. Elsa has ice magic that she must hide from all the people that surround her, as encouraged by her parents after her powers nearly kill her sister through an accident that took place during playtime. In this film, Anna takes the place of Gerda in trying to save a loved one from the Snow Queen, but in this case, she is trying to save her beloved sister from herself as she has isolated herself in an Ice Castle in order to get away from society. Disney takes a chance to poke fun at the love at first sight trope that they themselves promoted so deeply over their early princess films by having Anna get engaged to Hans after spending only a few hours in his company and singing one song about how right they are for each other. Elsa tells her sister she cannot marry a man she literally just met. It also proved to be the inciting incident that exposed Elsa’s ice powers to everyone. Anna ends up not marrying Hans, who is discovered to be the true villain of the tale, but instead forms a bond with Kristoff. In some ways, Kristoff takes on the Kai role, in that Anna has a special bond with him that becomes romantic, and in the original story, a romantic interest between the two characters of Gerda and Kai can be implied. At the end of the film, we get to see Anna and Elsa make sacrifices for one another. It is the sacrifice for the true love of sisters that ends up saving Anna’s life and thawing her frozen heart. This is much like Gerda’s love for Kai melting the ice within his heart in the original tale.
I must note that the television series Once Upon a Time made use of the original story in a way that blended both versions of the tale in its fourth season. This Snow Queen character was the aunt of Elsa and Anna. She even casts a spell on a mirror which comes directly from the prologue of the original Hans Christian Andersen tale. Although it is the Devil who cast this mirror spell in the original, the spell itself is the same. It is a shard of the mirror that causes such discord and hatred to be expressed by people that gets caught in Kai’s eye making him susceptible to the Snow Queen in the original. I truly appreciated this way of bringing the story full circle!
I hope that you have enjoyed this analysis of the different interpretations of The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen. Do you have a favorite version of this tale? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is the Snow Queen. I found the image on https://www.pinterest.com/pin/157555686944684941/.
- The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen
- Frozen (2013)
- Once Upon a Time (2011)
When thinking of similarities between the two media, what first comes to my mind is that both have a reindeer. Andersen’s Snow Queen seems like a force of nature, an antagonist to be sure but more of a representation of an idea than evil for its own sake. And that also makes me think of the White Witch of Narnia, who’s likely based on the Snow Queen but is purely evil.
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Oh I definitely agree that the White Witch of Narnia is a truly evil echo of the Snow Queen. My main point in the contrast is that the original Snow Queen of Andersen is an antagonist (and some read villainous figure, but I agree she is more of an antagonist than true villain) while Elsa is made into a protagonist and kind of a combination of both the Snow Queen and Kai. This is seen through the Gerda character (in Frozen this is Anna) saving her.
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