It’s funny what happens when you begin to stroll down memory lane. More pathways spring up before you. Areas that seemed foggy and dim suddenly show signs of life and activity. When I sat down to consider the books that made me love reading for Emlyn Chand’s reading challenge, I realized there were many that I loved dearly and hadn’t thought of at all much since I was a child. The Snow Queen, by Hans Christian Anderson was one such story. This story is full of wonderful memories for me, since it was one I knew from a book at my grandmother’s house.
While I was growing up, my grandparents lived next door. My parents built their house on an acre of what was once my grandfather’s hundred-acre apple orchard. There’s a Walmart and subdivision going up around those houses now, but they are still there: our old house and my grandparents’. My grandmother had two spare bedrooms: the peach bedroom and the blue bedroom. When I slept over at their house, I’d stay in the peach bedroom. My Nanny had all kinds of old toys and games, but my favorite treasures were the books. And if she asked me if I’d like a bedtime story, I often requested The Snow Queen.
I thought it was high time I shared this story with my own children. We read it this week. While my Nanny read to me from a compliation of stories, I found a picture book version of the story to make sure Sprout was engaged. The pictures in this edition were stunning, so after we finished the story, my youngest sat and simply looked through the pictures once again.
It has been so long since those cozy nights snuggled in the peach bedroom that I had forgotten many of the details of the story. It’s much more a struggle of good and evil than I remembered, and there is much more detail about the story of Gerda, the little girl who looks for her captured friend Kay. What I remembered was the tragedy Kay endured. (I think I may have been more wired toward tragedy in my younger years–hence the tales of kidnapped insects.)
The story of The Snow Queen concerns the evil consequences of the creation of a “wicked imp” who fashioned a magic mirror with a special power that shriveled everything good reflected in it to nothing, and everything evil and ugly reflected back larger and more hideously. When the mirror is shattered, little splinters of the magic glass lodge in people’s hearts and eyes, and some are made into windowpanes and spectacles. They all warp the lives of those who are unfortunate enough to be influenced by them.
“And, as we tell this story, little splinters of magic glass are still flying around in the air.”
The story centers around two young characters who were neighbors, but grew up like brother and sister, Gerda and Kay. They lived a quiet, simple, happy life until one day a splinter from the magic mirror enters the little boy’s eye and heart and his nature is transformed. Shortly thereafter, he is spirited away by the Snow Queen who keeps him prisoner in a castle near the Northern Lights.
Gerda misses her companion and goes out in search of him. In the end it is her goodness that heals him and restores him to the good child he was.
My children enjoyed this book, but I’m not sure if it will be as special to them as it was to me. After all, they weren’t in the peach bedroom, and two of them never even had the pleasure of meeting Nanny.
We all really enjoyed the stunning illustrations. And I enjoyed the stroll down memory lane.