THE SNOW QUEEN
(The inspiration for Disney’s hit film, “Frozen” and perhaps C. S. Lewis’ book “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” as well)
How does Frozen compare with the original fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson?
The Snow-Queen is a story of a young girl, Gerda, who sets off on an arduous journey to find her almost-brother, Kay, after he disappears. A splinter of the devil’s mirror had pierced both his heart and his eyes so that all that is beautiful he finds ugly and all that is evil he finds lovely–including the alluringly deceptive Snow Queen who takes him to her ice palace, far, far, away in the Finland wilderness. She promises Kay that she will give him “the world and a pair of new shoes” if he can but spell “eternity” with the chunks of ice floating around her throne. Try as he might, he is unable to spell “eternity” and in his thought, he stills to a cold statue, floating on the broken ice.
It is only the warmth of Gerda’s love that can melt Kay’s icy heart, enable him to form the letters of “eternity” and set him free from the witch’s grasp. Gerda and Kay each left as children, but as they return and step across the threshold of their home, they find they have grown into adults and yet retain the pure faith of children, at last coming to understand our Lord’s words, “except ye become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter the kingdom of God.”
I enjoyed both Frozen and its endearing predecessor, The Snow Queen. In Frozen, I laughed, fell in love with the characters, hummed along with the songs and sniffed sentimentally at the end with the rest of them but at the same time was disturbed by yet another Disney film that portrays rebellion as a normal part of growing up. At least in Frozen there are consequences to this rebellion and a sort of repentance, but the cycle, by its presence in every Disney Princess film since The Little Mermaid with only a couple exceptions, has effectively normalized it.
I disagree with the extreme, hands-off criticism on the one hand (I did enjoy the film all three times I saw it with my younger siblings) but I also am not blind to Disney’s long-standing patterns.
The Disney movie was only very loosely based on The Snow Queen--even more loosely than the typical Disney adaptions. The self-sacrificing love of Anna in Frozen is beautiful and illustrates the true nature of love as self-sacrifice rather than self-satisfying–something lacking in previous Disney Princess movies and yet I find that the love of the original fairy tale was made from stronger hide.
In Frozen the lost child, Kay, is combined with the villainous Snow Queen to make the character of Elsa. Anna’s love for her sister comes naturally, she willingly sacrifices herself for Elsa because she knows that Elsa “didn’t mean any of this”, she knows “Elsa isn’t a monster”, all she really needs is (come on people, all-together) “someone who understands”. We hear that in our culture all the time. Acceptance is based off of understanding. There isn’t anybody we can’t love if we can only understand them.
In The Snow Queen it is not ice but a splinter of “the Devil’s mirror” that penetrates the heart of–not Gerda, the inspiration for Anna–but Kay himself. He is utterly unable to save himself and does not even know there is anything wrong. Day by day, Gerda watches her beloved childhood friend-practically-brother, turn bitter towards her, lashing out in anger towards her, scalding her with his hateful words, spurning her gentle touch. And yet Gerda does not know that it is because of the devil’s mirror in Kay’s heart. When Gerda sets out on a long and arduous journey to find her lost brother she does not understand why he acted the way he did. She does not have to understand why. She loves him because she chooses to, despite everything he’s done and it is only by this costly, unmerited love that Kay is set free and brought back to life.
Which is the stronger love?
Loving the person who “didn’t mean it” or loving the one who did.
Acceptance is a pitiable substitute for unconditional love; toleration for Christian charity; leniency for mercy. It’s not that the world demands too much but that it settles for so little.
Go ahead, enjoy Frozen but while you’re at it, pick up The Snow Queen too and be reminded of a love that not only understands, but forgives with full knowledge of the darkness of your own soul, not only forgives, but melts the ice you couldn’t remove, or even see, and truly sets you free.