Thursday, 19 December 2013

Fairytale Grimoire: The Snow Queen

This fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson is a mysterious one. It's broken into pieces, and was Anderson's largest story of his collected works. To explain how the story goes, and how it can be interpreted, let's begin by an outline of the adventure.

First the story begins with a demonic entity, who created a huge weird mirror. It showed the negatives of everything, and reflected only darkness instead of beauty and real life. The entity was eager to show the mirror to other sinister beings, and many entities carried it around the world. They lifted the mirror high up into the sky as far as they could go, until the mirror was destroyed by the atmosphere. It shattered into tiny millions of pieces and spread everywhere, settling into people's eyes. Whoever caught tiny pieces of mirror turned heartless and cruel.

Second part of the story shifts to a boy, named Kai, and a girl, named Gerda. These are neighbours and good friends. They often played together. One day a tiny bit of mirror landed in the boy's eye and he became unfriendly and unloving. He saw a vision of a woman made of snow in his window and she called out to him. She appeared to him again, passing on a sleigh driven by polar bears. She wore a white fur coat and a silvery white crown made of ice. She gave him candies, then kissed him to keep him warm. She was the snow queen, who children were warned about by adults. The snow queen took Kai into her sleigh and disappeared.

The boy was noticed missing and Gerda was extremely upset. People assumed he must have drowned in a local river but Gerda wanted to find him. She got into a small wooden boat and went up river. She threw her shoes into the river and asked the waters if Kai drowned there. The water responded to her, and told her that Kai didn't drown. She later reached the edge of the river, and came to an old woman's cottage, whose garden was lush with flowers. This woman was a witch and almost kept Gerda as a servant until one day the girl was doing some gardening for the old woman. She muttered to herself, asking if Kai was buried somewhere. The flowers responded and said that Kai was not dead for his body wasn't in the soil. She quickly fled the cottage to search for her friend.

She met a raven and asked if it knew where Kai was. The raven replied that there was a boy who looked just like him in the royal palace. So Gerda set off to the palace. She found the boy, but it wasn't Kai. It was a prince who looked very much like Kai. She told the prince and princess about her sad story. They gave her fresh clothes, boots, a fur coat and a horse and directed her towards the north, where the road continued and where Kai must be.

She was riding along through a quiet forested area now. Then a band of robbers appeared and caught her. They took her horse. A robber girl befriended her and listened to Gerda's story. She gave Gerda a caribou that had been kept among the robbers. She directed her on towards the north.

Gerda eventually reached the dwellings of the Finnish woman who fed her and told her that Kai must be with the snow queen. Then on her travels, on the back of the caribou, she met a Lapp woman, who directed Gerda how to reach the snow queen's palace at the North Pole.

Inside the palace of the snow queen, Kai was found fixated over a puzzle. The snow queen told him to form the word "eternity" using the ice pieces and if he succeeded, he would be free. But he didn't recognise Gerda as he'd forgotten her. She was so upset that she cried. Her tears fell into his eyes, causing the mirror to fall out and leave Kai. He then understood who Gerda was and he was overjoyed to see her again. The words in the puzzle formed "eternity" and the snow queen let them go. They both returned home.

The story is an epic, as it starts with mischievous entities. The two main characters, Kai and Gerda, are children to begin with but by the time the story finished, they're adults. Entities such as this appear in folklore and and legends everywhere. Even modern paranormal investigations gather interesting reports about entities that create havoc with people.

The Snow Queen is likely based on a character from pagan and folklore traditions in Europe, especially related to winter. She is similar to the ice giantess Skadi of Germanic myth, who resides in snowy mountains. She may be also the friendly snow maiden of eastern folklore named Snegurochka who journeys with her grandfather, "Father Frost" (Santa Claus) every winter. Another midwinter goddess, Mother Holly, is benign, loving and appears as a very nurturing maternal figure. The Snow Queen of the fairytale is not so loving but neither is she a sinister evil queen. She's just an enigma and by her very nature, she behaves like a snow storm.

First of all the magic mirror, made by supernatural forces, create chaos and distortion, insanity and misery. Their only purpose is to have caused a breakdown in friendships on earth among humans, turning  friends away from one another. The boy turned his back on his true friend and sought the snow queen's embrace in her chilly castle at the north pole. Mirrors are used in scrying and occult magic. Some say that mirrors are magical. Pieces of shattered magic mirror in someone's eye causing heartlessness and no love, is a lot of symbolic things to find meanings for. The fact some of our loved ones change personality and become cold is like that too.

The caribou, or reindeer, that carries Gerda to the north pole hints of a spiritual quest each person faces in life. Loss, searching and unlocking the puzzle mystery. The puzzle was solved by the pure magic of love and memory, which doesn't belong in ice. The cycles are at play in the story, and human emotions too. This story could also be about love and how some change their personalities. There are different layers. The snow queen is simply the threat of winter and how people fear their lives during the coldest season.

One could see many things in the fairy tale but the basic stuff is about the yearly cycle, focusing on Midwinter, snow, ice, winter and the arrival of the snow queen. Snow and ice is a message of stillness, from frigidity, to immortality, from unmovement and no change, to eternal ice. Ice, as an element is a destructive and beautiful form. Ice crystal caves look lovely and snow flakes are pretty but just as much as they can kill too.

Nature, ice and winter, isn't evil. It just IS. IS the ice rune: Is rune, Is = stillness.

Links and info on the Snow Queen:

Snow Queen at SurLaLune
Snegaruchka "snow maiden"- Russianpedia      
(The latest Disney animation loosely based on "The Snow Queen") Disney's Frozen official site  

Image on here is "The Snow Queen" by artist Lilok

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