The Hans Christian Andersen classic, The Snow Queen, is a quick and enjoyable read, made all the more so with printmaker Sanna Annukka's gorgeous illustrations. You'll likely recognize the textile designer's aesthetic from Marimekko and, not surprisingly, many of her illustrations make full use of her bold, geometric patterns through the characters' dress. Her landscapes look like fabrics, too. A panel that shows a wintry countryside looks like it could be a weaving and I wish I could buy another, a garden in full bloom, by the bolt.
The story itself is not what I had expected. In many ways, the titular character is a minor player. The heroine is a young girl, Gerda, who journeys bravely and earnestly, escaping numerous villains by virtue of her devotion to her young friend and playmate, Kay, who has been lured away by the Snow Queen. Kay first fell victim to the heart-numbing trickery of the devil himself, who had accidentally broken an evil mirror crafted to reflect and amplify only the most wicked and ugly things in the world. When the mirror breaks, pieces "smaller than a grain of sand" are sent flying around the word, one of which sticks in Kay's eye, and another which pierces and chills his heart. As the Snow Queen further freezes Kay's heart with a kiss, Gerda braves witches, haunts, thieves, and icy winds to save her friend.
Maybe it's because I'm a mom who is worn out on Frozen, the Disney smash hit (which refuses to die, despite every parent's best efforts) that was loosely based on the fairy tale, but I wish that the movie more closely echoed the actual story. The Snow Queen is a story about the good and strength inherent in children, in which a young girl saves a young boy for a change. Though the movie maintained some of this (and, of course, the "love thaws a frozen heart" moral), I think it did an injustice to the young audience who could have seen themselves, as they can in the book, in a persistent heroine their own age.
The Snow Queen: A Tale in Seven Stories
by Hans Christian Andersen (Illustrator), Sanna Annukka (Illustrator), Jean Hersholt (Translator)
Ten Speed Press
2016, 88 pages, 5.0 x 0.6 x 9.0 inches, Hardcover
$16 Buy on Amazon