Snow Queen | Annotated Tale

The annotations for the Snow Queen fairy tale are below. Sources have been cited in parenthetical references, but I have not linked them directly to their full citations which appear on the Snow Queen Bibliography page. I have provided links back to the Annotated Snow Queen to facilitate referencing between the notes and the tale.

I am in the process of finishing these annotations and hope to have them finished sometime in 2007. I'm uploading the work in progress now for back-up purposes and to share what is already completed.


Special thanks to Francesca Matteoni for providing many of the annotations to this tale. She is a researcher (Ph.d) in early modern history at the University of Hertfordhire (UK). Her research subject is the exploration of blood beliefs in early modern Europe. Matteoni's annotations are designated by FM.

Heidi Anne Heiner provided additional annotations designated with HAH.

Christine Ethier provided additional annotations designated with CE.



Wullschlager, Jackie. Hans Christian Andersen: The Life of a Storyteller. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Written from Dec 5-10 1844 (252). 

Critic Naomi Lewis says of the tale that "the pace of inspiration rather than worked out thought" (qtd on 252).

"The psychology is flawless - the adolescent mix of thrill and terror as the adult world opens up, the realization that academic study barely counts in the whirl of life" (254).

Gerda doesn't grow up (254). The tale is a variation of "woman's redemption of man" (254) which is way Gerda cannot grow up, her innocence must save Kai (254). The redemption plot was a favorite theme in the 1800s (254).

eight "strong woman characters" (254) ". . . and only one male, a victim, the boy who must be saved" (254).

Roses are the "symbol of truth" (254).

Wullschlager also includes a quote from W. H. Auden that deals with the passage of Kai struggling with the ice puzzle, just before he is saved. According to Wullschlager, Auden thought it "the best illustration of Andersen's genius, and of the difference between his tales and folktales" (255).

Auden's quote is as follows- "It [the scene] could never occur in a folk tale [W. has 'wrote Auden' here] firstly because the human situation with which it is concerned is a historical one, created by Descartes, Newton, and their successors, and secondly because no folk tale would analyze its own symbol and explain that the game with ice -splinters was the game of reason. Further, the promised reward, 'the whole world and a new pair of skates' has not only a surprise end, a subtlety of which the folk tale is incapable, but also a uniqueness by which can identify its author" (Auden qt. on 255).

The end of the story, Kai's rescue, could be a dig at Meisling [his teacher] (255). ". . . the essence of Andersen's oeuvre - that love conquers all; that a reliance on reason and the intellect leads to barren misery . . . "(255) 

"one of his least autobiographical works " (256)

The Snow Queen: First published in 1845. HAH

Hobgoblin: The hobgoblin is generally a kind of fairy or an elf. During the early modern age supernatural creatures such as fairies have been often demonized and considered part of the devil's brood. The Reformation denied the existence of Purgatory, and therefore of an intermediate state between heaven and hell, good spirits and evil ones, in which fairies generally found place. According to Katharine Briggs the term hobgoblin was used by the Puritans to address a wicked spirit, while originally it indicated a mischievous, yet friendly spirit, such as Puck in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (Briggs 1976). FM


Looking-glass: The looking-glass is a recurrent symbol in fairy-tales, see for example Snow White. In this specific case, as Lederer notes, the reflecting surface can represent the illusion of the senses in which the reality of the soul is misshaped. A similar concept is traceable in the Gnostic doctrines, according to which God was not responsible for the creation of the world: the earthly world was in fact the result of a separation from the realm of the spirit, and of the illusory work of an evil demiurge (Lederer 1986, 6-7). FM

The Franks write: "The mirror idea is not an Andersen original. It appeared in his friend B. S. Ingemann's poem 'Visions of an Artist'" (204). HAH

which had the power of making everything good or beautiful that was reflected in it almost shrink to nothing, while everything that was worthless and bad looked increased in size and worse than ever. The most lovely landscapes appeared like boiled spinach, and the people became hideous, and looked as if they stood on their heads and had no bodies. Their countenances were so distorted that no one could recognize them, and even one freckle on the face appeared to spread over the whole of the nose and mouth. The demon said this was very amusing. When a good or pious thought passed through the mind of any one it was misrepresented in the glass; and then how the demon laughed at his cunning invention. All who went to the demon’s school—for he kept a school—talked everywhere of the wonders they had seen, and declared that people could now, for the first time, see what the world and mankind were really like. They carried the glass about everywhere, till at last there was not a land nor a people who had not been looked at through this distorted mirror.

They wanted even to fly with it up to heaven to see the angels, but the higher they flew the more slippery the glass became, and they could scarcely hold it, till at last it slipped from their hands, fell to the earth, and was broken into millions of pieces: The episode recalls the Fall of Lucifer and the Angels. From John Milton's Paradise Lost, Book 1, verses 38-49:

Who first seduc'd them to that foul revolt?
Th' infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile
Stird up with Envy and Revenge, deceiv'd 
The Mother of Mankind, what time his Pride
Had cast him out from Heav'n, with all his Host
Of Rebel Angels, by whose aid aspiring
To set himself in Glory above his Peers,
He trusted to have equal'd the most High,
If he oppos'd; and with ambitious aim
Against the Throne and Monarchy of God
Rais'd impious War in Heav'n and Battel proud
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurld headlong flaming from th' Ethereal Skie
With hideous ruine and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire,
Who durst defie th' Omnipotent to Arms. FM

. But now the looking-glass caused more unhappiness than ever, for some of the fragments were not so large as a grain of sand, and they flew about the world into every country. When one of these tiny atoms flew into a person’s eye, it stuck there unknown to him, and from that moment he saw everything through a distorted medium, or could see only the worst side of what he looked at, for even the smallest fragment retained the same power which had belonged to the whole mirror. Some few persons even got a fragment of the looking-glass in their hearts, and this was very terrible, for their hearts became cold like a lump of ice. A few of the pieces were so large that they could be used as window-panes; it would have been a sad thing to look at our friends through them. Other pieces were made into spectacles; this was dreadful for those who wore them, for they could see nothing either rightly or justly.

They were not brother and sister, but they loved each other almost as much as if they had been: While some film versions of the tale choose to develop a romance, Andersen is careful to explain that the relationship between Kay and Gerda is that of a brother and sister, making it innocent and sexually benign. HAH

Their parents lived opposite to each other in two garrets: This passage reminds of Andersen's childhood itself. He was the son of a shoemaker and his family lived in a single room in the town of Odessa. Here is a description of the writer's house: "The one-room dwelling was approximately seven by twelve feet, with an alcove and a very tiny kitchen in the rear. The back yard was also small, having cobblestones instead of grass and one gooseberry bush" (Rubeck: 1981, 67). FM

, where the roofs of neighboring houses projected out towards each other and the water-pipe ran between them. In each house was a little window, so that any one could step across the gutter from one window to the other. The parents of these children had each a large wooden box in which they cultivated kitchen herbs for their own use, and a little rose-bush in each box, which grew splendidly. Now after a while the parents decided to place these two boxes across the water-pipe, so that they reached from one window to the other and looked like two banks of flowers. Sweet-peas drooped over the boxes, and the rose-bushes shot forth long branches, which were trained round the windows and clustered together almost like

A triumphal arch of leaves and flowers: A similar "hanging garden" is to be found in Andersen's novel Only a Fiddler (1837). FM

I am particularly fond of Arthur Rackham's illustration of this scene.HAH

But then they would warm copper pennies on the stove, and hold the warm pennies against the frozen pane; there would be very soon a little round hole through which they could peep, and the soft bright eyes of the little boy and girl would beam through the hole at each window as they looked at each other.

Kay: A Germanic name meaning "rejoicer; fort." The masculine form of the name is pronounced 'KIGH' rhyming with HIGH.

Another famous Kay associated with fairy tales is the illustrator, Kay Nielsen, who illustrated the Snow QueenHAH

Gerda: A name of Scandinavian origin, meaning "garden."

The Franks write: "The little girl was probably named after Edvard and Henriette Collin's daughter Gerda, who died at the age of four in 1845. In a June 9, 1853, letter to Henriette Collin, Andersen wrote: 'Yesterday when I left Kalundborg on the steamship "Gerda," I thought about Kai and Gerda, and about her whom the fairy tale's Gerda was named after.'" (204). HAH

Snow Queen: Andersen's Snow Queen greatly influenced C. S. Lewis' White Witch in his The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Other instances of folkloric figures who influence or are associated with winter are Father Frost in Russian fairy tales and Mother Holle in German fairy tales. HAH

Then the grandmother smoothed his hair and told him some more tales: The figure of the beneficent grandmother is present in other Andersen's tales: Little Match Girl and The Grandmother". The people of his family which Andersen loved most were his father and his grandmother, Anne Catherine Andersen. She worked in the garden of the asylum and old people's home, where the young Hans Christian listened to many Danish fairy tales (Wullschlager 2000, 10; Windling 2005). FM

She was fair and beautiful, but made of ice—shining and glittering ice: In The True Story of My Life Andersen tells about his first encounter with such a wintry, amazing creature. He was about eleven years old: his sick father, who not long after died of tuberculosis, stood at the frosted window and indicated "a figure as that of a maiden with outstretched arms. 'She is come to fetch me,' he said, in jest" (TS, 17-18; Lederer: 1986, 28). FM

Still she was alive and her eyes sparkled like bright stars, but there was neither peace nor rest in their glance

Roses bloom and cease to be,/ But we shall the Christ-child see: The verses are from the hymn "Den yndigste Rose er funden" by the Danish poet Adolph Brorson (1732). The rose is one of the prominent symbol throughout tale. It is a symbol for passion and desire, but it is also, in the Christian imagery, the flower representing the Virgin Mary and the sacrificial power of love. In The Phoenix Bird (1850) Andersen uses the rose-bush and the rose as maternal symbols of life, purity and poetical inspiration. FM

Then the little ones held each other by the hand, and kissed the roses, and looked at the bright sunshine, and spoke to it as if the Christ-child were there. Those were splendid summer days. How beautiful and fresh it was out among the rose-bushes, which seemed as if they would never leave off blooming. One day Kay and Gerda sat looking at a book full of pictures of animals and birds, and then just as the clock in the church tower struck twelve, Kay said, “Oh, something has struck my heart!” and soon after, “There is something in my eye.”

The little girl put her arm round his neck, and looked into his eye, but she could see nothing.

“I think it is gone,” he said. But it was not gone; it was one of those bits of the looking-glass—that magic mirror, of which we have spoken—the ugly glass which made everything great and good appear small and ugly, while all that was wicked and bad became more visible, and every little fault could be plainly seen. Poor little Kay had also received a small grain in his heart, which very quickly turned to a lump of ice. He felt no more pain, but the glass was there still. “Why do you cry?” said he at last; “it makes you look ugly. There is nothing the matter with me now. Oh, see!” he cried suddenly, “that rose is worm-eaten, and this one is quite crooked. After all they are ugly roses, just like the box in which they stand,” and then he kicked the boxes with his foot, and pulled off the two roses.

When she afterwards brought out the picture book, he said, “It was only fit for babies in long clothes,” and when grandmother told any stories, he would interrupt her with “but;” or, when he could manage it, he would get behind her chair, put on a pair of spectacles, and imitate her very cleverly, to make people laugh. By-and-by he began to mimic the speech and gait of persons in the street. All that was peculiar or disagreeable in a person he would imitate directly, and people said, “

That boy will be very clever; he has a remarkable genius: Kay embodies the power of Reason which is cold and sterile opposite to that of feelings and love, represented by Gerda. FM

.” But it was the piece of glass in his eye, and the coldness in his heart, that made him act like this. He would even tease little Gerda, who loved him with all her heart. His games, too, were quite different; they were not so childish. One winter’s day, when it snowed, he brought out a burning-glass, then he held out the tail of his blue coat, and let the snow-flakes fall upon it. “Look in this glass, Gerda,” said he; and she saw how every flake of snow was magnified, and looked like a beautiful flower or a glittering star. “Is it not clever?” said Kay, “and much more interesting than looking at real flowers. There is not a single fault in it, and the snow-flakes are quite perfect till they begin to melt.”

Sledge: "A vehicle mounted on low runners drawn by work animals, such as horses or dogs, and used for transporting loads across ice, snow, and rough ground" (Free Dictionary 2006). HAH

where the other boys play and ride

The boy was frightened, and tried to say a prayer, but he could remember nothing but the multiplication table: For Andersen Reason is the Death of childhood and Faith (Lederer 1986, 65). FM

“Are you still cold,” she asked, as she kissed him on the forehead. The kiss was colder than ice; it went quite through to his heart, which was already almost a lump of ice; he felt as if he were going to die, but only for a moment; he soon seemed quite well again, and did not notice the cold around him.

By this time he had forgotten little Gerda, his grandmother, and all at home:

I should kiss you to death: In Andersen's tale The Ice Maiden(1861) this creature is described as "a vengeful, supernatural being which lives in the glaciers and icy lakes of Switzerland" where she attracts men and boys, kissing them to death (Lederer: 1986, 28). A parallel, far in time and context, can be tracked considering Akira Kurosawa's movie Yume (Dreams 1990), where, in the third episode, a female winter demon try to suck the life of a group of alpinists surprised by a furious blizzard. FM

He told her he could do mental arithmetic, as far as fractions, and that he knew the number of square miles and the number of inhabitants in the country

The long winter’s night: In the northern regions during winter the sun never set, leaving its place to a crepuscular light and to the increasing obscurity. Yet in the tale this passage can be read also as the symbolic travel from the realm of the living to that of the dead: the Snow Queen in fact is one of the possible representation of the winter pagan goddess which rules on the land of death. In Norse mythology Hel is the female divinity of Niflheim, a cold, misty place inhabited by those who died of illness or of old age. The German Frau Holle, which sends the snow on earth, is another kind of this wintry goddess of the dead (Lederer: 1986, 29; Motz: 1984) FM

He slept at the feet of the Snow Queen: HAH

He must be dead

River: The river is a symbol of life and fate, but Andersen found probably the inspiration for this story in his own past. Once, during his father's sickness, little Hans Christian was sent from his mother to a local wise woman, to ask about the man's destiny. The woman told him that if his father was going to die he would have met his ghost by the river (TS, 17-18). FM

New red shoes: In the fairy-tale The Red Shoes, Andersen makes of the shoes a symbol of sin. The color red, as in Little Red Riding Hood, reminds of the first menstrual blood which signs the end of childhood. It also represents the dangers and the attractiveness of the awoken sexuality: thus, throwing them away, Gerda decides to stay pure (Zipes: 1993, 24; Lederer: 1986, 34-38). FM

,” she said one morning, “those that Kay has never seen, and then I will go down to the river, and ask for him.” It was quite early when she kissed her old grandmother, who was still asleep; then she put on her red shoes, and went quite alone out of the

Town gates: The Franks write: "The medieval walls around Copenhagen still existed at Andersen's time, and the keys to the gate were delivered to the king every night. But most of the walls were leveled before Andersen's death in 1875. Several Copenhagen place names reflect their historic presence, and a small section has been preserved" (205). HAH

toward the river. “Is it true that you have taken my little playmate away from me?” said she to the river. “I will give you my red shoes if you will give him back to me.” And it seemed as if the waves nodded to her in a strange manner. Then she took off her red shoes, which she liked better than anything else, and threw them both into the river, but they fell near the bank, and the little waves carried them back to the land, just as if the river would not take from her what she loved best, because they could not give her back little Kay. But she thought the shoes had not been thrown out far enough. Then she crept into a boat that lay among the reeds, and threw the shoes again from the farther end of the boat into the water, but it was not fastened. And her movement sent it gliding away from the land. When she saw this she hastened to reach the end of the boat, but before she could so it was more than a yard from the bank, and drifting away faster than ever. Then little Gerda was very much frightened, and began to cry, but no one heard her except the sparrows, and they could not carry her to land, but they flew along by the shore, and sang, as if to comfort her, “Here we are! Here we are!” The boat floated with the stream; little Gerda sat quite still with only her stockings on her feet; the red shoes floated after her, but she could not reach them because the boat kept so much in advance. The banks on each side of the river were very pretty. There were beautiful flowers, old trees, sloping fields, in which cows and sheep were grazing, but not a man to be seen. Perhaps the river will carry me to little Kay, thought Gerda, and then she became more cheerful, and raised her head, and looked at the beautiful green banks; and so the boat sailed on for hours. At length she came to a large cherry orchard, in which stood a small red house with strange red and blue windows. It had also a thatched roof, and outside were two wooden soldiers, that presented arms to her as she sailed past. Gerda called out to them, for she thought they were alive, but of course they did not answer; and as the boat drifted nearer to the shore, she saw what they really were. Then Gerda called still louder, and there came

A very old woman: As Lederer notes the old woman is not simply a witch: like the Snow Queen she is the ruler of another realm of oblivion and death (Lederer: 1986, 41). Her appearance (she is not simply an old woman, she is a very old woman) and her disability (she needs a crutch to walk) can indicate this extraordinary nature. Physical impairness in fact has been always used in myths and fairy tales as a typical connotation of supernatural beings, see for example The Three Spinning Women from the Brothers Grimm. FM

Each of them could tell a story: According to Lederer the flowers in the garden, able to tell just their own story, represent self-involvement (Lederer: 1986, 45); another thing that Gerda had to leave behind to rescue Kay. FM

The windows were very high, and as the panes were red, blue, and yellow, the daylight shone through them in all sorts of singular colors.

Beautiful cherries: Eating the cherries Gerda forgets about her past life. The food taboo is a characteristic of any travel through fairy realms and or the otherworld: eating the food of the fairies or of the dead can be fatal to the human being, preventing him or her from coming back in the earthly world (Briggs: 1976; Briggs: 2002). FM

, and Gerda had permission to eat as many as she would. While she was eating them the old woman combed out her long flaxen ringlets with a golden comb, and the glossy curls hung down on each side of the little round pleasant face, which looked fresh and blooming as a rose. “I have long been wishing for a dear little maiden like you,” said the old woman, “and now you must stay with me, and see how happily we shall live together.” And while she went on

Combing little Gerda’s hair: Hair combing is sometimes used to relax characters in fairy tales, bringing sleep and/or forgetfulness. The best known example is in the Grimms' Snow WhiteHAH

Conjure: To conjure means properly to summon spirits. In this case it more generally indicates the capacity to perform magic. FM

, although she was not a wicked witch; she conjured only a little for her own amusement, and now, because she wanted to keep Gerda. Therefore she went into the garden, and stretched out her crutch towards all the rose-trees, beautiful though they were; and they immediately sunk into the dark earth, so that no one could tell where they had once stood. The old woman was afraid that if little Gerda saw roses she would think of those at home, and then remember little Kay, and run away. Then she took Gerda into the flower-garden. How fragrant and beautiful it was! Every flower that could be thought of for every season of the year was here in full bloom; no picture-book could have more beautiful colors. Gerda jumped for joy, and played till the sun went down behind the tall cherry-trees; then she slept in an elegant bed with red silk pillows, embroidered with colored violets; and then she dreamed as pleasantly as a queen on her wedding day. The next day, and for many days after, Gerda played with the flowers in the warm sunshine. She knew every flower, and yet, although there were so many of them, it seemed as if one were missing, but which it was she could not tell. One day, however, as she sat looking at the old woman’s hat with the painted flowers on it, she saw that the prettiest of them all was a rose. The old woman had forgotten to take it from her hat when she made all the roses sink into the earth. But it is difficult to keep the thoughts together in everything; one little mistake upsets all our arrangements.

The warm tears moistened the earth, and the rose-tree sprouted up at once, as blooming as when it had sunk: The tears are a symbol of Gerda's pure love: they can call back the roses from the underground and similarly, later in the tale, break the spell and melt the ice that surrounds Kay's heart (See HCAC). It is worth noting that according to the same popular belief witches were thought to be unable to weep. FM

; and Gerda embraced it and kissed the roses, and thought of the beautiful roses at home, and, with them, of little Kay.

And the roses answered, “No, he is not dead. We have been in the ground where all the dead lie; but Kay is not there.”

But each flower, as it stood in the sunshine, dreamed only of its own little fairy tale of history. Not one knew anything of Kay. Gerda heard many stories from the flowers, as she asked them one after another about him.: The Franks write:

The flower stories are somewhat mind-boggling and barely connected to the main narrative, but Andersen apparently was brimming over with ideas. On November 20, 1843, he wrote to Ingemann: "I have a lot of material, for me it is often as if every wooden fence, every little flower said, 'Look at me for a little while and you'll know what my story is,' and if I do, then I have the story." The Berlingske Tidende reviewer worried that Andersen's imagination had run so wild that children would not understand the flower stories--an understatement" (205). HAH

And what, said the tiger-lily? “Hark, do you hear the drum?— ‘turn, turn,’—there are only two notes, always, ‘turn, turn.’

The flames which will soon consume her body to ashes: Andersen references the Hindu custom of the suttee here for no apparent reason but his own flight of fancy and fascination with it. The "sati (also suttee) is a Hindu funeral custom, now very rare, in which the dead man's widow immolates herself on her husband’s funeral pyre" ("Sati (practice)," Wikipedia, 2006). HAH


? “Near yonder narrow road stands an old knight’s castle; thick ivy creeps over the old ruined walls, leaf over leaf, even to the balcony, in which stands a beautiful maiden. She bends over the balustrades, and looks up the road. No rose on its stem is fresher than she; no apple-blossom, wafted by the wind, floats more lightly than she moves. Her rich silk rustles as she bends over and exclaims, ‘Will he not come?’

“Is it Kay you mean?” asked Gerda.

“I am only speaking of a story of my dream,” replied the flower.

What, said the little snow-drop? “Between two trees a rope is hanging; there is a piece of board upon it; it is a swing. Two pretty little girls, in dresses white as snow, and with long green ribbons fluttering from their hats, are sitting upon it swinging. Their brother who is taller than they are, stands in the swing; he has one arm round the rope, to steady himself; in one hand he holds a little bowl, and in the other a clay pipe; he is blowing bubbles. As the swing goes on, the bubbles fly upward, reflecting the most beautiful varying colors. The last still hangs from the bowl of the pipe, and sways in the wind. On goes the swing; and then a little black dog comes running up. He is almost as light as the bubble, and he raises himself on his hind legs, and wants to be taken into the swing; but it does not stop, and the dog falls; then he barks and gets angry. The children stoop towards him, and the bubble bursts. A swinging plank, a light sparkling foam picture,—that is my story.”

What do the hyacinths say? “There were three beautiful sisters, fair and delicate. The dress of one was red, of the second blue, and of the third pure white. Hand in hand they danced in the bright moonlight, by the calm lake; but they were human beings, not fairy elves. The sweet fragrance attracted them, and they disappeared in the wood; here the fragrance became stronger. Three coffins, in which lay the three beautiful maidens, glided from the thickest part of the forest across the lake. The fire-flies flew lightly over them, like little floating torches. Do the dancing maidens sleep, or are they dead?

The scent of the flower [hyacinth] says that they are corpses: The Franks write: "In Greek mythology Apollo accidentally killed his favorite companion, Hyakinthos, from whose blood the flower grew. A hyacinth is not a widely known symbol of death, but the flower has a very strong, sweetish smell, which evidently made Andersen think about death" (205). HAH

“You make me quite sorrowful,” said little Gerda; “your perfume is so strong, you make me think of the dead maidens. Ah! is little Kay really dead then? The roses have been in the earth, and they say no.”

“Cling, clang,” tolled the hyacinth bells. “We are not tolling for little Kay; we do not know him. We sing our song, the only one we know.”

Then Gerda went to the buttercups that were glittering amongst the bright green leaves.

“You are little bright suns,” said Gerda; “tell me if you know where I can find my play-fellow.”

And the buttercups sparkled gayly, and looked again at Gerda. What song could the buttercups sing? It was not about Kay.

“The bright warm sun shone on a little court, on the first warm day of spring. His bright beams rested on the white walls of the neighboring house; and close by bloomed the first yellow flower of the season, glittering like gold in the sun’s warm ray. An old woman sat in her arm chair at the house door, and her granddaughter, a poor and pretty servant-maid came to see her for a short visit. When she kissed her grandmother there was gold everywhere: the gold of the heart in that holy kiss; it was a golden morning; there was gold in the beaming sunlight, gold in the leaves of the lowly flower, and on the lips of the maiden. There, that is my story,” said the buttercup.

And then she tucked up her little dress, that she might run faster, but the narcissus caught her by the leg as she was jumping over it; so she stopped and looked at the tall yellow flower, and said, “Perhaps you may know something.”

Then she stooped down quite close to the flower, and listened; and what did he say?

“I can see myself, I can see myself,” said the narcissus:

. “Oh, how sweet is my perfume! Up in a little room with a bow window, stands a little dancing girl, half undressed; she stands sometimes on one leg, and sometimes on both, and looks as if she would tread the whole world under her feet. She is nothing but a delusion. She is pouring water out of a tea-pot on a piece of stuff which she holds in her hand; it is her bodice. ‘Cleanliness is a good thing,’ she says. Her white dress hangs on a peg; it has also been washed in the tea-pot, and dried on the roof. She puts it on, and ties a saffron-colored handkerchief round her neck, which makes the dress look whiter. See how she stretches out her legs, as if she were showing off on a stem. I can see myself, I can see myself.”

autumn very far advanced

her little feet were wounded and sore

Great crow: In Norse mythology Odin, the father of the gods, carries two crows on the shoulders , Thought and Memory (Lederer: 1986, 47). The crow or the raven is generally associated with the world of dreams, as it is shown in Edgar Allan Poe's famous poem The Raven. The two birds and the nocturne context of the fourth story suggest that the tale can be read as a vision or a dream, in which the princess and the prince are specular images of Gerda and Kay themselves. FM

“Gently, gently,” said the crow. “I believe I know. I think it may be little Kay; but he has certainly forgotten you by this time for the princess.”

Crows’ language: Children have a kind of a language, or gibberish, which is sometimes called “crow’s language;” it is formed by adding letters or syllables to every word. HAH

“No, I have never learnt it,” said Gerda, “but my grandmother understands it, and used to speak it to me. I wish I had learnt it.”: To know the language of the animals is a shamanistic feature recurrent in the northern mythic world: the fact the grandmother is able to speak it, can indicate a past knowledge that is lost in the new generations. Yet we have not to forget that the tale is deeply influenced by the Christian ideas of self-sacrifice; in these terms Gerda's ignorance recalls the words of St. Paul in the First Letter to the Corinthians: "If I speak with the languages of men and of angels, but don't have love, I have become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. 13:2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but don't have love, I am nothing. 13:3 If I dole out all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but don't have love, it profits me nothing." The fourth story displays ideas of knowledge and fulfilment, yet they cannot mean anything to Gerda, who has chosen the path of love. FM

“there lives a princess, who is so wonderfully clever that she has read all the newspapers in the world, and forgotten them too, although she is so clever. A short time ago, as she was sitting on her throne, which people say is not such an agreeable seat as is often supposed, she began to sing a song which commences in these words:

‘Why should I not be married?’ 

A husband who knew what to say: The Franks point out that the theme of "knowning what to say" appears as the main theme of Andersen's Hopeless Hans (205). HAH

when he was spoken to, and not one who could only look grand, for that was so tiresome. Then she assembled all her court ladies together at the beat of the drum, and when they heard of her intentions they were very much pleased. ‘We are so glad to hear it,’ said they, ‘we were talking about it ourselves the other day.’

Of course his sweetheart was a crow, for “birds of a feather flock together,” and one crow always chooses another crow.

“Newspapers were published immediately, with

A border of hearts: The Franks write: "Death notices in newspapers sometimes have a black border, so Andersen gives his marriage announcement a border of hearts" (205). HAH

, and the initials of the princess among them. They gave notice that every young man who was handsome was free to visit the castle and speak with the princess; and those who could reply loud enough to be heard when spoken to, were to make themselves quite at home at the palace; but the one who spoke best would be chosen as a husband for the princess. Yes, yes, you may believe me, it is all as true as I sit here,” said the crow. “The people came in crowds. There was a great deal of crushing and running about, but no one succeeded either on the first or second day. They could all speak very well while they were outside in the streets, but when they entered the palace gates, and saw the guards in silver uniforms, and the footmen in their golden livery on the staircase, and the great halls lighted up, they became quite confused. And when they stood before the throne on which the princess sat, they could do nothing but repeat the last words she had said; and she had no particular wish to hear her own words over again. It was just as if they had all taken something to make them sleepy while they were in the palace, for they did not recover themselves nor speak till they got back again into the street. There was quite a long line of them reaching from the town-gate to the palace. I went myself to see them,” said the crow. “They were hungry and thirsty, for at the palace they did not get even a glass of water. Some of the wisest had taken a few slices of bread and butter with them, but they did not share it with their neighbors; they thought if they went in to the princess looking hungry, there would be a better chance for themselves.”

His boots creaked loudly as he walked: Lederer notes another autobiographical element: Andersen wore such creaky boots for confirmation (Lederer: 1986, 49). Also the shoes remind of his father's job as a shoemaker. FM

“yet he went boldly up to the princess herself, who was sitting on a pearl as large as a spinning wheel, and all the ladies of the court were present with their maids, and all the cavaliers with their servants; and each of the maids had another maid to wait upon her, and the cavaliers’ servants had their own servants, as well as a page each. They all stood in circles round the princess, and the nearer they stood to the door, the prouder they looked. The servants’ pages, who always wore slippers, could hardly be looked at, they held themselves up so proudly by the door.”

“If I had not been a crow,” said he, “I would have married her myself, although I am engaged. He spoke just as well as I do, when I speak the crows’ language, so I heard from my tame sweetheart. He was quite free and agreeable and said he had not come to woo the princess, but to hear her wisdom; and he was as pleased with her as she was with him.”

“Wait for me here by the palings,” said the crow, wagging his head as he flew away.

It was late in the evening before the crow returned. “Caw, caw,” he said, “she sends you greeting, and here is a little roll which she took from the kitchen for you; there is plenty of bread there, and she thinks you must be hungry. It is not possible for you to enter the palace by the front entrance. The guards in silver uniform and the servants in gold livery would not allow it. But do not cry, we will manage to get you in; my sweetheart knows a little back-staircase that leads to the sleeping apartments, and she knows where to find the key.”


“They are only dreams,” said the crow, “they are coming to fetch the thoughts of the great people out hunting.”: The host of dreams recalls the European tradition of the host of spirits and ghosts called the wild-hunt. In Norse mythology it is led by Odin on his ghost eight legged horse Sleipnir (Berk: 2002); Orkneyjar: The Wild HuntFM

“All the better, for we shall be able to look at them in their beds more safely. I hope that when you rise to honor and favor, you will show a grateful heart.”

“You may be quite sure of that,” said the crow from the forest.

They now came into the first hall, the walls of which were hung with rose-colored satin, embroidered with artificial flowers. Here the dreams again flitted by them but so quickly that Gerda could not distinguish the royal persons. Each hall appeared more splendid than the last, it was enought to bewilder any one. At length they reached a bedroom. The ceiling was like a great palm-tree, with glass leaves of the most costly crystal, and over the centre of the floor two beds, each resembling a lily, hung from a stem of gold. One, in which the princess lay, was white, the other was red; and in this Gerda had to seek for little Kay. She pushed one of the red leaves aside, and saw a little brown neck. Oh, that must be Kay! She called his name out quite loud, and

Held the lamp over him: In the myth of Eros and Psyche, Psyche ignites a lamp in the darkness to discover her lover's real nature, but a drop of oil fall on the god's face awakening him, which sudden flies away. According to Bettelheim's psychoanalytic interpretation:

The story warns that trying to reach for consciousness before one is mature enough for it or through short-cuts has far reaching consequences; consciousness cannot be gained in one fell swoop. In desiring mature consciousness, one puts one's life on the line, as Psyche does when she tries to kill herself in desperation. The incredible hardships Psyche has to endure suggest the difficulties man encounters when the highest psychic qualities (Psyche) are to be wedded to sexuality (Eros) (Bettelheim: 1977, 293).

Applying these ideas to Andersen's tale, we can say that Gerda's consciousness is her own love, which she has to follow, depriving herself of every material richness as we will see later, to find and therefore recognize Kay. FM

. The dreams rushed back into the room on horseback. He woke, and turned his head round, it was not little Kay! The prince was only like him in the neck, still he was young and pretty. Then the princess peeped out of her white-lily bed, and asked what was the matter. Then little Gerda wept and told her story, and all that the crows had done to help her.

“You poor child,” said the prince and princess; then they praised the crows, and said they were not angry for what they had done, but that it must not happen again, and this time they should be rewarded.

“Would you like to have your freedom?” asked the princess, “or would you prefer to be raised to the position of court crows, with all that is left in the kitchen for yourselves?”

Then both the crows bowed, and begged to have a fixed appointment, for they thought of their old age, and said it would be so comfortable to feel that they had provision for their old days, as they called it. And then the prince got out of his bed, and gave it up to Gerda,—he could do no more; and she lay down. She folded her little hands, and thought, “How good everyone is to me, men and animals too;” then she closed her eyes and fell into a sweet sleep. All the dreams came flying back again to her, and they looked like angels, and one of them drew a little sledge, on which sat Kay, and nodded to her. But all this was only a dream, and vanished as soon as she awoke.

The following day she was dressed from head to foot in silk and velvet, and they invited her to stay at the palace for a few days, and enjoy herself, but she only begged for a pair of boots, and a little carriage, and a horse to draw it, so that she might go into the wide world to seek for Kay. And she obtained, not only boots, but also a muff, and she was neatly dressed; and when she was ready to go, there, at the door, she found a coach made of pure gold, with the coat-of-arms of the prince and princess shining upon it like a star, and the coachman, footman, and outriders all wearing golden crowns on their heads. The prince and princess themselves helped her into the coach, and wished her success. The forest crow, who was now married, accompanied her for the first three miles; he sat by Gerda’s side, as he could not bear riding backwards. The tame crow stood in the door-way flapping her wings. She could not go with them, because she had been suffering from headache ever since the new appointment, no doubt from eating too much. The coach was well stored with sweet cakes, and under the seat were fruit and gingerbread nuts. “Farewell, farewell,” cried the prince and princess, and little Gerda wept, and the crow wept; and then, after a few miles, the crow also said “Farewell,” and this was the saddest parting. However, he flew to a tree, and stood flapping his black wings as long as he could see the coach, which glittered in the bright sunshine.

THE coach drove on through a thick forest, where it lighted up the way like a torch, and dazzled the eyes of some robbers, who could not bear to let it pass them unmolested.

“It is gold! it is gold!” cried they, rushing forward, and seizing the horses. Then they struck the little jockeys, the coachman, and the footman dead, and pulled little Gerda out of the carriage.

Old robber-woman: Curious enough, there is no magic for male characters in the story (and a very few male characters indeed): the robber woman, with her cannibal appetite and the gruesome appearance is an embodiment of the witch-figure (Lederer: 1986, 54-55). FM

How nice she will taste: Cannibalistic witch figures are common in folklore, especially Baba Yaga and the witch in Hansel and GretelHAH

she drew forth a shining knife, that glittered horribly. “Oh!” screamed the old woman the same moment; for her own daughter, who held her back, had bitten her in the ear. She was a wild and naughty girl, and the mother called her an ugly thing, and had not time to kill Gerda.

“She shall play with me,” said the little robber-girl; “she shall give me her muff and her pretty dress, and sleep with me in my bed.” And then she bit her mother again, and made her spring in the air, and jump about; and all the robbers laughed, and said, “See how she is dancing with her young cub.”

“I will have a ride in the coach,” said the little robber-girl; and she would have her own way; for she was so self-willed and obstinate.

She and Gerda seated themselves in the coach, and drove away, over stumps and stones, into the depths of the forest. The little robber-girl was about the same size as Gerda, but stronger; she had broader shoulders and a darker skin; her eyes were quite black, and she had a mournful look. She clasped little Gerda round the waist, and said,—

“They shall not kill you as long as you don’t make us vexed with you. I suppose you are a princess.”

The robber-girl looked earnestly at her, nodded her head slightly, and said, “They sha’nt kill you, even if I do get angry with you; for I will do it myself.” And then she wiped Gerda’s eyes, and stuck her own hands in the beautiful muff which was so soft and warm.

The coach stopped in the courtyard of a

Robber’s castle: Hans Christian Andersen had his first inspiration for the robber's castle in the memories of his childhood. In The Fairy Tale of My Life he writes in fact about a visit to the jail during a festivity:

One of my first recollections although very slight in itself, had for me a good deal of importance from the power by which the fancy of a child is impressed it upon my soul; it was a family festival… in that very… house which I had always looked on with fear and trembling… the Odense house of correction (…). I know that I was afraid, and was kept on the stretch all the time; and yet I was in a pleasant humour, making up stories of how I had entered a castle full of robbers (FTL 4). FM

Robber-girl: The little robber girl, surrounded by animals and with masculine, more than feminine, features, resembles a little Diana/Artemis, the Greek goddess of hunt and wild animals (Ledered 1986, 54.55). FM

A hundred pigeons: Pigeons or doves are the birds of love. FM

“Kiss it,” cried she, flapping it in Gerda’s face. “There sit the wood-pigeons,” continued she, pointing to a number of laths and a cage which had been fixed into the walls, near one of the openings. “Both rascals would fly away directly, if they were not closely locked up. And here is my old sweetheart ‘Ba;’” and she dragged out a

Reindeer: In the shamanistic tradition the reindeer is often the animal mother of the shaman, which leads and helps him in the realm of the spirits (Eliade 1951). FM

by the horn; he wore a bright copper ring round his neck, and was tied up. “We are obliged to hold him tight too, or else he would run away from us also. I tickle his neck every evening with my sharp knife, which frightens him very much.” And then the robber-girl drew a long knife from a chink in the wall, and let it slide gently over the reindeer’s neck. The poor animal began to kick, and the little robber-girl laughed, and pulled down Gerda into bed with her.

“Will you have that knife with you while you are asleep?” asked Gerda, looking at it in great fright.

“I always sleep with the knife by me,” said the robber-girl. “No one knows what may happen.

Then Gerda repeated her story over again, while the wood-pigeons in the cage over her cooed, and the other pigeons slept. The little robber-girl put one arm across Gerda’s neck, and held the knife in the other, and was soon fast asleep and snoring. But Gerda could not close her eyes at all; she knew not whether she was to live or die. The robbers sat round the fire, singing and drinking, and the old woman stumbled about. It was a terrible sight for a little girl to witness.

Then the wood-pigeons said, “Coo, coo; we have seen little Kay. A white fowl carried his sledge, and he sat in the carriage of the Snow Queen, which drove through the wood while we were lying in our nest. She blew upon us, and all the young ones died excepting us two. Coo, coo.”


North Pole

Spitzbergen: From Wikipedia:

Spitsbergen (formerly known as West Spitsbergen) is the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago, situated in the Arctic Ocean. The island of Spitsbergen covers approximately 39,044 square kilometers (15,075 square miles).[1] Formerly, this name was also applied to the entire archipelago of Svalbard, and occasionally still is. It is around 280 miles (450 kilometers) long and between 25 and 140 miles (40 and 225 kilometers) wide. Spitsbergen is also one of the few places in the world where, in June, the sun shines for 24 hours.

The name Spitsbergen means "jagged peaks", and was given by the Dutch explorer Willem Barents, who discovered the island while searching for the Northern Sea Route in 1596 ("Spitzbergen" Wikipedia 2006). FM

“Lie still,” said the robber-girl, “or I shall run my knife into your body.”

In the morning Gerda told her all that the wood-pigeons had said; and the little robber-girl looked quite serious, and nodded her head, and said, “That is all talk, that is all talk. Do you know where Lapland is?” she asked the reindeer.

“Now listen,” said the robber-girl; “all our men are gone away,— only mother is here, and here she will stay; but at noon she always drinks out of a great bottle, and afterwards sleeps for a little while; and then, I’ll do something for you.” Then she jumped out of bed, clasped her mother round the neck, and pulled her by the beard, crying, “

My own little nanny goat: The nickname is another signal of the weird, somehow supernatural, identity of the robber woman: the goat was one of the animal used by the witch in continental Europe to fly to the sabbath. The Devil himself was often described as a big, smellish he-goat (Lederer: 1986, 54-55). FM

, good morning.” Then her mother filliped her nose till it was quite red; yet she did it all for love.

When the mother had drunk out of the bottle, and was gone to sleep, the little robber-maiden went to the reindeer, and said, “I should like very much to tickle your neck a few times more with my knife, for it makes you look so funny; but never mind,—I will untie your cord, and set you free, so that you may run away to Lapland;

“I don’t like to see you fret,” said the little robber-girl; “you ought to look quite happy now; and here are two loaves and a ham, so that you need not starve.”

Northern lights: From The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English (2006): "A natural electrical phenomenon characterized by the appearance of streamers of reddish or greenish light in the sky, usually near the northern or southern magnetic pole".

Yet, though Aristoteles in his book Metereologia already attempted a chemical explanation for the phenomenon, the people of the north have seen in the wonderful lights more than a natural extravagance: Inuit people thought that they were the torches of the dead, which indicated the path to the otherworld. In Medieval Europe they were thought to be the reflections and the breath of heavenly warriors. The Finnish name for the northern lights is "revontulet" which means "fox fires": Finnish people in fact believed that a supernatural fox was sweeping the arctic snows with its tail, causing sparks of light that shone in the sky. Andersen himself gives another poetical explanation for them in the tale The Phoenix. FM

And he ran on day and night still faster and faster: In a beautiful song of the Lapps, transcribed for the first time at the beginning of the eighteenth century, the passion of the lover contrasts with the desolate, unfriendly landscapes of the north, and pushes him to hurry on his reindeer to reach the loved one. Here are the first verses (Farley, 1906):

Haste, my reindeer, and let us nimbly go
Our amorous journey through this dreary waste:
Haste, my reindeer, still, still thou art too slow.
Impetuous love demands the lightning's haste. FM

A little hut: The house of the Lapland woman is probably a typical saami turf-hut. FM

it was very mean looking; the roof sloped nearly down to the ground, and the door was so low that the family had to creep in on their hands and knees, when they went in and out. There was no one at home but

Old Lapland woman: The Franks write: "Andersen was familiar with a book by B. M. Keilhau: Journey in East- and West-Finnmark as Well as Beeren-Eiland and Spitsbergen in the Years 1827 and 1828, published in 1831. He probably got his information on the lifestyle of the Lapps from it" (206). HAH


Bengal lights: From Bright blue lights; formerly used as a signal but now just as fireworks. FM

Dried fish: The dried fish is codfish. The Franks write: "Codfish was (and still is) dried as a way of preserving it. The fish is split, and the flat sides become stiff and easy to write on. In modern times as a joke, people sometimes put a stamp on a side of dry codfish and send it as a card" (206). HAH

At the chimney of the Finland woman’s hut, for it had no door above the ground. They crept in, but it was so terribly hot inside that that woman wore scarcely any clothes: The description of the house clearly recalls the Finnish sauna. FM

; she was small and very dirty looking. She loosened little Gerda’s dress, and took off the fur boots and the mittens, or Gerda would have been unable to bear the heat; and then she placed a piece of ice on the reindeer’s head, and read what was written on the dried fish. After she had read it three times, she knew it by heart, so she popped the fish into the soup saucepan, as she knew it was good to eat, and she never wasted anything. The reindeer told his own story first, and then little Gerda’s, and the Finlander twinkled with her clever eyes, but she said nothing. “You are so clever,” said the reindeer; “

I know you can tie all the winds of the world with a piece of twine. If a sailor unties one knot, he has a fair wind; when he unties the second, it blows hard; but if the third and fourth are loosened, then comes a storm, which will root up whole forests: "When witchcraft flourished in northern Europe, and even as late as the present century, a considerable traffic in wind knots was carried on by witches and wizards in the seaport communities of Finland, Lapland, Norway, Denmark, Ireland, Shetland, the Orkneys, Lewis and the Isle of Man. The Finns and the Lapps were especially celebrated as brokers. The usual formula, first mentioned by Higden in the fourteenth century, was for the witch to tie three knots in a cord or handkerchief, and when the purchaser untied the first knot, presumably aboard ship, a gentle wind would spring up. The second knot enclosed a strong wind, and the third a hurricane" (Day 1950). FM

. Cannot you give this little maiden something which will make her as strong as twelve men, to overcome the Snow Queen?”

“The Power of twelve men!” said the Finland woman; “that would be of very little use.” But she went to a shelf and took down and unrolled a large skin, on which were inscribed wonderful characters, and she read till the perspiration ran down from her forehead. But the reindeer begged so hard for little Gerda, and Gerda looked at the Finland woman with such beseeching tearful eyes, that her own eyes began to twinkle again; so she drew the reindeer into a corner, and whispered to him while she laid a fresh piece of ice on his head, “Little Kay is really with the Snow Queen, but he finds everything there so much to his taste and his liking, that he believes it is the finest place in the world; but this is because he has a piece of broken glass in his heart, and a little piece of glass in his eye. These must be taken out, or he will never be a human being again, and the Snow Queen will retain her power over him.”

“But can you not give little Gerda something to help her to conquer this power?”

“I can give her no greater power than she has already,” said the woman; “don’t you see how strong that is? How men and animals are obliged to serve her, and how well she has got through the world, barefooted as she is. She cannot receive any power from me greater than she now has, which consists in her own purity and innocence of heart. If she cannot herself obtain access to the Snow Queen, and remove the glass fragments from little Kay, we can do nothing to help her. Two miles from here the Snow Queen’s garden begins; you can carry the little girl so far, and set her down by the large bush which stands in the snow, covered with red berries. Do not stay gossiping, but come back here as quickly as you can.” Then the Finland woman lifted little Gerda upon the reindeer, and he ran away with her as quickly as he could.

“Oh, I have forgotten my boots and my mittens,” cried little Gerda, as soon as she felt the cutting cold, but the reindeer dared not stop, so he ran on till he reached the bush with the red berries; here he set Gerda down, and he kissed her, and the great bright tears trickled over the animal’s cheeks; then he left her and ran back as fast as he could.

There stood poor Gerda, without shoes, without gloves, in the midst of cold, dreary, ice-bound Finland. She ran forwards as quickly as she could, when a whole regiment of snow-flakes came round her; they did not, however, fall from the sky, which was quite clear and glittering with the northern lights. The snow-flakes ran along the ground, and the nearer they came to her, the larger they appeared. Gerda remembered how large and beautiful they looked through the burning-glass. But these were really larger, and much more terrible, for they were alive, and were the guards of the Snow Queen, and had the strangest shapes. Some were like great porcupines, others like twisted serpents with their heads stretching out, and some few were like little fat bears with their hair bristled; but all were dazzlingly white, and all were living snow-flakes. Then little Gerda repeated

The Lord’s Prayer: Most commonly quoted from St. Matthew 6: 9-13. This is from the King James translation:

Our Father which art in heaven, 
Hallowed be thy name. 
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done 
in earth, as it is in heaven. 
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors. 
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil: 
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, 
and the glory, for ever. 

, and the cold was so great that she could see her own breath come out of her mouth like steam as she uttered the words. The steam appeared to increase, as she continued her prayer, till it took the shape of

Little angels: From HCAC: "In "The Snow Queen" the Lord's prayer in combination with Gerda's pure and strong faith a source of great power and vitalism. It is expressed as magic in animated images, as here, when an army of angels helps Gerda in her struggle for Kay". For angels in other Andersen's fairy tales see for example: The Angel; The Red Shoes; The Child in the Grave; A Leaf from Heaven. FM

who grew larger the moment they touched the earth. They all wore helmets on their heads, and carried spears and shields. Their number continued to increase more and more; and by the time Gerda had finished her prayers, a whole legion stood round her. They thrust their spears into the terrible snow-flakes, so that they shivered into a hundred pieces, and little Gerda could go forward with courage and safety. The angels stroked her hands and feet, so that she felt the cold less, and she hastened on to the Snow Queen’s castle.

There were more than a hundred rooms in it, all as if they had been formed with snow blown together. The largest of them extended for several miles; they were all lighted up by the vivid light of the aurora, and they were so large and empty, so icy cold and glittering! There were no amusements here, not even a little bear’s ball, when the storm might have been the music, and the bears could have danced on their hind legs, and shown their good manners. There were no pleasant games of snap-dragon, or touch, or even a gossip over the tea-table, for the young-lady foxes.

Empty, vast, and cold were the halls of the Snow Queen: The Franks write: "As the modern Danish critic Villy Sorensen has observed, Andersen saw the snow queen's icy world as the proper home for someone whose heart has been replaced by chilly reason--a category in which Andersen certainly placed many of his contemporaries" (169).HAH

. The flickering flame of the northern lights could be plainly seen, whether they rose high or low in the heavens, from every part of the castle. In the midst of its empty, endless hall of snow was a frozen lake, broken on its surface into a thousand forms; each piece resembled another, from being in itself perfect as a work of art, and in the centre of this lake sat the Snow Queen, when she was at home. She called the lake “The Mirror of Reason,” and said that it was the best, and indeed the only one in the world.

He dragged some sharp, flat pieces of ice to and fro, and placed them together in all kinds of positions, as if he wished to make something out of them; just as we try to form various figures with little tablets of wood which we call “

Chinese puzzle: The Franks write: "A game consisting of diamond-shaped pieces of wood that are put together in geometric patterns" (206). HAH

.” Kay’s fingers were very artistic; it was the icy game of reason at which he played, and in his eyes the figures were very remarkable, and of the highest importance; this opinion was owing to the piece of glass still sticking in his eye. He composed many complete figures, forming different words, but there was one word he never could manage to form, although he wished it very much. It was the word

Eternity: Regarding this point there is an interesting discussion in Diane Purkiss' book on fairies (Purkiss: 2001, 243-249). Being trapped in the icy, supernatural realm of Reason Kay is going to die and therefore is unable to reach Eternity (the word he cannot complete), which is far from the human destiny and nature. Nevertheless when Gerda breaks the spell, the word magically appears: the only Eternity which human beings can experience, Andersen seems to suggest, is that of feelings and love, which enclose such a strong power to be able to enter the world of death and come back in that of the living creatures. FM

.” The Snow Queen had said to him, “When you can find out this, you shall be your own master, and I will give you the whole world and a new pair of skates.” But he could not accomplish it.

burning mountains, Etna and Vesuvius, as they are called,—I shall make them look white, which will be good for them, and for the lemons and the grapes.”

Then little Gerda wept hot tears, which fell on his breast, and penetrated into his heart, and thawed the lump of ice, and washed away the little piece of glass which had stuck there. 

Then Kay burst into tears, and he wept so that the splinter of glass swam out of his eye. Then he recognized Gerda, and said, joyfully, “Gerda, dear little Gerda, where have you been all this time, and where have I been?” And he looked all around him, and said, “How cold it is, and how large and empty it all looks,” and he clung to Gerda, and she laughed and wept for joy. It was so pleasing to see them that the pieces of ice even danced about; and when they were tired and went to lie down, they formed themselves into the letters of the word which the Snow Queen had said he must find out

before he could be his own master, and have the whole world and a pair of new skates

. Then Gerda kissed his cheeks, and they became blooming; and she kissed his eyes, and they shone like her own; she kissed his hands and his feet, and then he became quite healthy and cheerful. The Snow Queen might come home now when she pleased, for there stood his certainty of freedom, in the word she wanted, written in shining letters of ice.

Then they took each other by the hand, and went forth from the great palace of ice.

the golden coach. A young girl was riding upon it, with a shining red cap on her head, and pistols in her belt. It was the little robber-maiden, who had got tired of staying at home; she was going first to the north, and if that did not suit her, she meant to try some other part of the world.

But Gerda patted her cheeks, and asked after the prince and princess.

“They are gone to foreign countries,” said the robber-girl.

“Oh, the crow is dead,” she replied; “his tame sweetheart is now a widow, and wears a bit of black worsted round her leg. She mourns very pitifully, but it is all stuff. But now tell me how you managed to get him back.”

“Snip, snap, snare! it’s all right at last,” said the robber-girl.

verdure and its beautiful flowers. Very soon they recognized the large town where they lived, and the tall steeples of the churches, in which the sweet bells were ringing a merry peal as they entered it, and found their way to their grandmother’s door. They went upstairs into the little room, where all looked just as it used to do. The old clock was going “tick, tick,” and the hands pointed to the time of day, but as they passed through the door into the room they perceived that they were both grown up, and become a man and woman. The roses out on the roof were in full bloom, and peeped in at the window; and there stood the little chairs, on which they had sat when children; and Kay and Gerda seated themselves each on their own chair, and held each other by the hand, while the cold empty grandeur of the Snow Queen’s palace vanished from their memories like a painful dream. The grandmother sat in God’s bright sunshine, and she read aloud from the Bible,

Except ye become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of God: From The Gospel of Matthew, 18:3. FM

.” And Kay and Gerda looked into each other’s eyes, and all at once understood the words of the old song,

“Roses bloom and cease to be,
But we shall the Christ-child see.” 

And they both sat there, grown up, yet children at heart; and it was summer,—warm, beautiful summer.

Special thanks to Francesca Matteoni for providing many of the annotations to this tale. She is a researcher (Ph.d) in early modern history at the University of Hertfordhire (UK). Her research subject is the exploration of blood beliefs in early modern Europe. Matteoni's annotations are designated by FM.

Heidi Anne Heiner provided additional annotations designated with HAH.

Christine Ethier provided additional annotations designated with CE.

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