Frozen vs. The Snow Queen


Christmas can be full of excitement, snowy landscapes and family bickering. So what better time to look at Disney’s Frozen?(1)

Based on The Snow Queen (2), it’s about two sisters forced apart by fear and together again by love, and the story enjoyed a similar bout of see-sawing. There were talks about an adaptation way back in 1943 (3), but it was only after 70 years of extensive fiddling that it finally saw the light of day. Luckily it was worth the wait: Frozen has been an incredible success and even ousted  The Lion King from its throne as the highest-grossing Disney film of all time (4). But was the original book left out in the cold?

The source text is yet another gem from the vault of Hans Christian Andersen, a failed actor, singer and ballet dancer who became one of the most famous and well-travelled Danish writers of his time (5). His many fairytales fanned out from Germany in the 1840s, reaching as far as England and America, and included works like The Little Mermaid and The Emperor’s New Clothes. He penned The Snow Queen, or Sneedronningen, in December 1844 (6), so he was probably feeling the Christmas vibe too, especially since he was a committed Christian who believed the world and nature were intertwined with God (7).

You’d be right in thinking Disney watered down the religious aspects for a secular audience, but that’s not all. For instance, instead of a kooky snowman, reindeer and rugged mountain boy, our supporting characters include a stab-happy robber girl, a bearded lady, talking crows and creepy old women obsessed with amnesiac children.

Clearly not the only Hans who's a bit of a dark horse.

Clearly not the only Hans who’s a bit of a dark horse.

If that didn’t make you shudder, a freezing spoiler wind is about to strike, so if you need to wrap up warm, I’d hop to another post. But if the cold never bothered you anyway, let’s plough ahead.

A Tale of Two Siblings

Disney version

Young Elsa and Anna magic

Little Norwegian princesses Elsa and Anna are inseparable. Not all siblings get on at such a young age, and it’s especially fortunate when one of them has ungodly ice powers.

Elsa spends her days throwing snow and icicles around for Anna’s amusement as well as building snowmen out of nothing, but two young children left alone for long periods of time is bound to end in tears. One night Anna gets overexcited leaping between some snow pillars, and jumps faster than Elsa can conjure them up. Despite her warning, Anna takes another leap and her older sister accidentally strikes her in the head with an ice bolt as she falls to the ground. Good luck finding that one in a parenting book.

"I didn't think highlights were this dangerous."

“I didn’t think highlights were this dangerous.”

For our original “siblings”, playtime is spared the drama of telekinesis.

Andersen version

Image by Vilhelm Pedersen

This inseparable pair are a little boy called Kay and a little girl called Gerda. They aren’t brother and sister but they play together as if they were, and live opposite each other in attic rooms joined by an outside gutter. In the summer, flower boxes and roses are planted in the gutter, forming a mini garden where they can play. The roses are their favourite, and Gerda teaches Kay part of a hymn about them, which probably won’t be important in any way:

“Where roses deck the flowery vale,

There, infant Jesus, we thee hail!” (8)

In winter, they communicate via peep holes through the windows or by physically traipsing down the stairs, into the street, and up into the other’s house. One day while sitting inside, one of their grandmothers tells them about the “white bees” of snow, and the “queen bee” who appears in the thickest of swarms and makes ice patterns on the windows. Gerda asks if this “Snow Queen” could ever come into the house, but Kay shrugs and says he would just melt her on the stove if she did.

Forgetting for a moment the change from normal, unrelated peasant children to royal sisters, one of whom is the Snow Queen, there are a couple of similar themes here. One half of the pair is fearless, either threatening to burn a snow spirit on the stove or leaping up too high, and the other half is more cautious, either about said snow spirit or when her powers go too far. Neither snow queen has the best introduction, but Elsa is only a little girl with abilities beyond her control and non-threatening, making her more sympathetic than a ghostly apparition who could spell trouble. Regardless of their intentions, both snow queens will test the incredibly strong bond between the children.

Cold Shoulder

Disney version


The king and queen rush their daughters to accident and emergency, otherwise known as a gaggle of trolls. These mossy rocks with comedy ears and noses tell them that Anna’s injury isn’t permanent as it only struck her head, not her heart, but for her safety they need to wipe all of her memories of Elsa’s magic, leaving only the fun. Elsa’s powers will grow stronger as she gets older, and they are particularly dangerous when she is upset, so she will need to learn to control them too.

As with any serious problem, the best solution is to deny it ever existed and hope no one ever finds out. The king, queen and Elsa agree to isolate themselves, shutting the palace gates against the rest of the world, and try to teach Elsa to conceal her power by wearing gloves. If that wasn’t warped enough, poor Anna wakes up with endless memories of the games she used to play with Elsa but is now greeted with a door in the face whenever she goes to talk to her.


Over the years Elsa becomes ever more reclusive. Even after their parents’ death at sea, she refuses to spend any time with Anna in case she gets hurt. Anna remains defiantly optimistic and well adjusted without being eye-rollingly annoying, even though there is no one else in the vast palace to spend time with, she can’t leave, and no reason is ever given for her sister ignoring her for the rest of her life.

Pop quiz: what’s worse, being cruel to be kind, or intentionally being an arse?  Little Gerda’s about to find out.

Andersen version

Image by Vilhelm Pedersen

This time it’s the more adventurous child who throws up a wall. One night, Kay is looking out of the window when a snowflake suddenly materialises into the Snow Queen. She is a tall, beautiful woman (rather than an insect) made entirely out of ice and has eyes that have no peace or kindness in them. Still, she’s nice enough to give him a wave, and he runs away pretending he saw a bird.

During the summer, while playing in the roof garden with Gerda, he feels a grain of something in his eye, and his heart suddenly turns into a lump of ice. Strangely enough, it’s nothing to do with the Snow Queen.

There are no trolls in the original, but instead we have a demonic hobgoblin who creates a cursed mirror. The mirror gives modern day gossip columns a run for their money, magnifying anything bad and belittling anything good, and when it’s dropped and smashed, pieces of it rain all over the world. Just one tiny grain is as powerful as the whole, and Kay cops two of them, one in his eye and one in his heart. He suddenly decides to trash their beloved roses, kick over the flower box, tease a confused and tearful Gerda, and then make a name for himself mimicking anyone else he meets. The only thing he sees as unworthy of ridicule or perfect are snowflakes.

Both Elsa and Kay change their behaviour because of magic, but the former does this out of fear and to protect her sister rather than involuntarily, as well as to obey her parents’ wishes. Neither Anna nor Gerda have any clue why their playmate’s behaviour has changed so radically, and it’s hard to decide who has the worst deal. Anna’s whole family are hiding something from her and she has no explanation for it. All she has is happy memories which no longer make any sense. Kay doesn’t shut Gerda out for most of her childhood, and there is no conspiracy going on, but then again, the boy is actively an ass-hat to her and makes her cry.

Fortunately, neither girl will have to put up with this behaviour for much longer.

The Cold Light of Day

Disney version

Frozen coronation day elsa anna hans

Coronation Day is here, and Elsa must take her place as Queen of Arendelle. While she faces the day with abject dread and tries to hide her powers, Anna cavorts around the kingdom because the gates are open, her sister might even speak to her, and she might fall into the arms of a handsome prince. Both of these things happen, but not exactly in the way she was expecting. 

Somehow showing less restraint than another Disney princess locked away all her life, Anna ogles the first handsome man she bumps into, who happens to be Prince Hans. After the usual sing-a-long they know it’s meant to be, and decide the coronation celebration is the best time to seek Elsa’s approval for their marriage.

While Elsa has been kind enough to speak to Anna throughout the day, she is not impressed at her intention to marry a man she just met, and refuses to give her blessing. This, coupled with her comment that the sisters still can’t spend time together like they used to, finally breaks Anna’s supernatural tolerance. Faced with carrying on like this or leaving the castle, she ends up snatching one of Elsa’s gloves off, begging her to explain why she’s shut everyone out. Exposed and upset, Elsa’s reply is literally icy and she accidentally unleashes spikes in front of everyone.

elsa unleashes ice

She then makes a run for it, unaware that she’s left the town buried in heavy snow and her subjects frozen in shock or anger. Free and happy at last, she shrugs off her responsibilities and builds herself an ice palace far away, as you do.

snow queen elsa

Anna, on the other hand, feels terribly guilty for pushing her buttons and takes off after her, leaving the town in Hans’ capable, er, hands.

Elsa’s not the only one stretching her wings. After the way Kay has treated Gerda and everyone else around him lately, you’d think the town would also want to get shot of him. Their wish is about to be granted.

Andersen version

My copy clearly says “snow chickens”, but I suppose geese look more poetic. Image by Debra McFarlane

Kay is now allowed to play on a sled with the bigger boys in town, but when a large, white sled appears, he ends up playing sled-conga and is led out of the kingdom and away into the snowy wilderness. When they finally stop, the other driver is revealed to be the Snow Queen, apparently pulled along by white snow chickens. When she sees Kay shivering, she kisses him to take the cold feeling away, and then again so he forgets all about Gerda and his home. She then casually mentions that if she kisses him again it will kill him, so she’d better not. The boy doesn’t seem to mind because the Snow Queen is the only thing that looks perfect to him and his warped view of the world, and he willingly goes back with her to her palace, sleeping at her feet during the day and staring up at the moon at night.

Back in the town, people eventually believe that Kay is dead, possibly drowned in the river. Gerda believes this too until the spring sunshine and the swallows tell her otherwise, so she sets off to find him herself.

A coronation day and being allowed to play with the big boys are obviously different in importance, but they are both “coming of age” events, and result in Elsa and Kay leaving their lives behind and embracing the ice and snow. For Elsa it’s a release and freedom after years of hiding herself, and for Kay, brain-washing aside, it’s something that he can finally see as flawless after his run-in with a shard of goblin mirror. Whether they’ve done anything wrong or not, both “sisters” take off after the other, but Anna has the foresight to leave someone in charge of her kingdom and to tell people where she’s going. She didn’t wait until spring to get her skates on either, but then again, she’s a bit more impulsive when it comes to boys. Will both girls survive alone out in the wide world?


Disney version

anna meets kristoff

Anna gets off to a great start by being unceremoniously thrown from her horse and left stranded in the snow. Fortunately, she stumbles across a trading outpost and a rugged mountain-goer called Kristoff. He’s after some equipment for him and his reindeer, Sven, but due to the sudden seasonal change, prices have sky-rocketed. Demand is also pretty low for Kristoff since he sells ice for a living, and he inadvertently blames the north mountain for the change in weather. This is in the non-specific direction Elsa went, so Anna bribes him to take her there, immediately, by buying all the items he needed and throwing them in his face. Amazingly, this works, and they set off together on his sledge.


Kristoff seems more surprised at Anna’s sudden engagement than the fact that her sister has had magical powers all this time, but their discussion is interrupted by a wolf attack and consequent sledge-crash. Kristoff initially blames Anna, who promises to buy him a new one if he continues to accompany her, and thanks to some ventriloquist cajoling from Sven, he agrees to help her on her way. Soon after they encounter Olaf, a talking snowman and dead-ringer for the one Anna and Elsa made when they were younger.  Of course, this means he knows where Elsa is and agrees to lead them to her, the idea being that she can lift the snowy winter from the town, bring the sunshine back, and let Kristoff resume his trade. You may ask why a snowman would want winter to go away, but Olaf is blissfully unaware of the effects of heat and is just as eager to see summer as they are.

It turns out he isn’t the only one oblivious to his surroundings and the seasons.

Andersen version

Gerda’s first port of call is the river, and while looking for Kay she is swept away and rescued by an old woman. Whether the girl likes it or not, the old woman wants to keep Gerda, and magically removes any roses from her garden so she forgets all about her playmate. Luckily, she forgets to remove the one painted on her hat, and after some time Gerda’s memory is jolted. Her exasperated tears bring back the real roses, and she asks them and the other flowers if they know anything. While the roses can confirm that Kay isn’t dead, the other flowers can only impart stories like a Hindu woman burning to death on her husband’s funeral pyre, a woman yearning for her true love, and three beautiful sisters who run away into the forest to die. Helpful.

By the time Gerda has fled the garden, it’s now autumn in the outside world. Fortunately, the snowy wastes further on yield more effective companions: a crow and his mate who may have seen Kay getting married to a princess recently. Said princess decided she fancied a husband one day and extended the invitation to any eligible bachelors around. Any who could speak well and comfortably to her would be her husband, and the one who succeeded, a rugged chap with long hair, may have been Kay. Gerda really did take her sweet time!

After sneaking into their bedroom, Gerda realises it’s a false sighting, but the prince and princess are cool with a girl wandering into their private quarters, actually ask if she wants to stay with them, and when she regretfully refuses, give her some supplies for her journey. They spoil her with a muff (the type for your hands, stop sniggering), boots, and a golden chariot with horse, outrider, footman and coachman. And away she goes, with the crows, prince and princess waving a tearful goodbye. Her destination isn’t exactly set, but going somewhere is better than nowhere I suppose.

The wolves are the only Disney characters who want to capture the sister for themselves, and everyone Anna meets seems to want to help her, either out of genuine friendliness or possible reward. She herself is quite similar to Andersen’s husband-hungry princess, and at a push you can see the rugged Kristoff in the prince, but otherwise the aid is reversed – royalty is helped by the peasantry rather than vice versa, and a talking snowman rather than a crow gives hope to the search party, to link back to Anna and Elsa’s childhood. In Gerda’s case,  it’s the roses that keep her memory of Kay alive and spur her on, and this is all she has to go on for now, as no one has a clue where he went.

Sadly, not everyone they meet will be as endearing (or harmlessly creepy) on their trip.

Cold Snap

Disney version


For an ice palace, Elsa’s digs are remarkably well hidden. The exiled queen has thrown off most of her stuffy old clothes as well as her responsibilities and seems to have new lease of life, at least until her sister finds her. Once again, Elsa tells her to leave for her own safety and that she can never return. Anna persists, but ends up being struck in the heart when Elsa throws yet more ice around in exasperation. To make her point, she conjures up an ice man to evict her, Kristoff, Sven and Olaf, and when Anna back-chats it with a snowball,  it almost pushes them to their death off the mountainside.

"Here's your damn snowman, Anna!"

“Here’s your damn snowman, Anna!”

Thanks to Kristoff’s quick thinking, their landing is rough rather than bone-shattering, and the impact makes Anna “notice” Kristoff for the first time. Her potential drooling can’t last for long, because her injury is starting to take its toll and work its way towards her heart. Kristoff takes her to his friends and adopted family, the trolls, who in between trying to set them up, staging their marriage and implying the reindeer is more than a friend, advise that Anna is doomed unless an act of true love can heal her heart.

“Cheer up Anna, you’re only dying!”

For once this is simple enough – all they need to do is go back to Prince Hans. Kristoff gathers Anna up in his arms and he and Sven stampede back towards Arendelle as fast as they can.

Our motley Disney crew have each other and a goal in mind. Although Gerda’s about to get both of these things, one of them gets worse before it gets better.

Andersen version

Don’t recognise any of the characters so far? Don’t worry, this guy’s still in it.


Sort of.

Once her friend the crow is out of sight, Gerda is ambushed by robbers who massacre her entire entourage. A bearded, alcoholic old woman drags her out of the chariot and decides to cook her for lunch, until her equally crazy daughter nearly bites off the woman’s ear and demands that Gerda be her playmate. Under the threat of stabbing, Gerda plays with and sleeps next to the robber girl, who has imprisoned a collection of pigeons and a reindeer called Be. In between shaking the pigeons upside down, the girl tickles Be with a knife to scare him and stop him from running away.

When the pigeons reveal that they know of the Snow Queen (she killed their siblings by blowing on them), and that Be knows where to find her in Lapland, the robber girl relents and lets Be take Gerda further north to find her.

Their first stop is the Lapp lady, who gives Gerda a note written on a dried stockfish, a.k.a. this hellish abomination:

It tastes as weird as it looks

to take to the Fin woman, who can better direct them because the Snow Queen is staying even further north at the moment.

Gerda and Anna both experience backhanded affection from their sister or a supposed “friend”, who, paradoxically, almost hurts them to protect them from getting hurt. The Snow Queen also drops a little in our estimation, with Elsa unleashing a monster on her sister, and Andersen’s version killing baby pigeons on top of the whole “child abduction” thing. Although both sisters have a time limit slapped on them, Gerda would only be inconvenienced if she missed the Snow Queen, as opposed to dead in Anna’s case. Happily, the girls are helped by more experienced mountain folk and get to ride a kick-ass reindeer, so it’s not all bad. Not yet, anyway.

Ice in The Veins

Disney version

In the meantime, Anna’s horse has returned riderless and so Hans decides to lead a search party. Miraculously out of earshot from the townspeople, a duke from Weselton directs his two men to go with them and to kill Elsa if they find her. They prove fairly effective assassins, sneaking past the giant snowman on the steps of the palace, and although Elsa tries to defend herself, she ends up unconscious and wakes up in a prison cell back in Arendelle. Hans, who championed her innocence, begs her to bring summer back, but Elsa confesses she can’t, and becomes even more upset when it’s revealed her sister hasn’t returned.

Fortunately, Kristoff and Sven arrive soon after with an ill and icy Anna. Once alone with Hans, Anna begs him to kiss her to break the spell, but he then reveals he doesn’t love her and his plan was to marry her to become king – with twelve older brothers, he has no chance otherwise. He leaves her to freeze to death, tells his advisors that Anna died after they made their wedding vows, and that Elsa killed her and must be executed for treason.


Thirteen is definitely unlucky for some.

For Gerda, it seems that a strange power can actually protect you for once.

Andersen  version

“Gerda and the Reindeer” by Errol Le Cain (1941-1989).

She and Be finally arrive at the Fin woman’s house, whose home is so warm that she practically walks around naked. For some reason Gerda lets a reindeer do all the talking for her, and Be asks the woman if she can give Gerda anything to help on her journey. She takes the caribou to one side and whispers that if Gerda can’t find the Snow Queen herself she’s already doomed, explaining that everyone on her journey has served her one way or the other, all because of her love for her “brother” and her child-like innocence. And to keep her innocence, and therefore safe, the girl must never be told that she has this power.

The Fin woman’s solution, therefore, is for Be to take her as far as Finmark and dump her there. If you’re not sure how far north this is, Fin(n)mark is where you find the North Cape, one of the most northern points of Europe and one of the last shreds of inhabited land before the North Pole.

A great place to abandon your friends. Map data © 2014 Google.

A great place to go it alone.
Map data © 2014 Google.

Fortunately, Gerda has become as non-plussed as Anna in the face of adversity and turns the ice and snow to her advantage. The further she walks, the bigger the snowflakes get until they take on the sinister shapes of the Snow Queen’s guards. By reciting the Lord’s Prayer, she manages to conjure up her own ice soldiers to cut them up and protect her from the cold, so as far as she’s concerned she’s just out for a chilly and apparently magical walk.

Once Anna is unwittingly abandoned by her friends, she has as much chance surviving as a snowball in hell, and not least because Hans proves to be a million times more of a bastard than Kay was. Conversely, Gerda is deliberately abandoned by her friends – but not maliciously – and discovers her inner power. As for the Snow Queen, one only has a young girl on the warpath, while the more sympathetic one has half a kingdom and a power-hungry prince after her blood, on top of the knowledge that her sister is missing and possibly dead. Stress certainly isn’t good for the heart, but it’s no match for ice.

Come in from the Cold

Disney version

olaf and anna

When you’re lying on the floor freezing to death, the last thing you want to see is a snowman who loves hugs. But this is Anna we’re talking about, so she’s thrilled to see Olaf, especially when he lights a fire to warm her up regardless of the risk to himself. For some reason this doesn’t count as an act of true love, and instead a kiss from Kristoff is the prime candidate. There’s just one problem – Elsa has broken free by icing up the palace, making it deadlier as well as harder to open any doors, so the pair end up struggling out of an upstairs window and on to the frozen lake outside. Seeing Anna, Kristoff charges towards her on his trusty horned steed. But the young woman suddenly sees Elsa being stalked by Hans, who’s just pulled a Scar and told one member of the royal family they were responsible for the death of another.


“Great news! I’ve got a cure for your headache!”

Instead of meeting her possible true love, Anna throws herself in the path of Hans’ sword. The good news is this deflects the blow and saves Elsa. The bad news is that Anna becomes an ice statue at the exact same moment. Hmm, actually ice has more chance against steel than soft human flesh, so maybe it’s a mixed blessing.

Now it’s Elsa’s turn to talk to the hand.

All is lost, at least for a few seconds, until the powers-that-be decide “yeah, that counts as true love”, and turn Anna back into a human for saving her sister. Never one to be ungrateful, Anna gives Kristoff a lovely (and not unsuggestive) smile as she hugs Elsa, just to keep that other potential fire going.

Thankfully for Gerda, she needn’t bother with swords or ice statues, because she’s armed with three of the most powerful things in the world – love, words, and nostalgia.

Andersen version

Image by Vladislav Yerko

Kay has been just as oblivious to danger as Gerda, and has spent all this time living in the Snow Queen’s vast palace. It’s a complete waste of space – some rooms go on for miles, but there’s not an animal or drunken royal shindig to be seen anywhere.  While the Snow Queen spends her days jet-setting all over the world, the boy spends his time sitting on the frozen lake floor, arranging ice patterns in a puzzle. If he can arrange them into the word “eternity”, the queen will let him go and give him a brand new set of skates, because priorities. Thanks to the grain of mirror in his eye and heart, he’s obsessed with these ice shapes, and is almost black with cold.

Gerda could saunter her way into the palace if she so wished because there’s absolutely no one to stop her from getting inside. When she finds Kay, he neither acknowledges nor recognises her, so she hugs him, cries, and sings the rose hymn they used to know. The combination warms him up and melts his heart, turning him back into the sweet surrogate brother she once had. Kay and Gerda are so happy that they’ve found each other again that the ice pieces start dancing about too, and coincidentally fall to the ground arranging the word “eternity”. So, even if the Snow Queen came back, she could do bugger all – by the terms of an arbitrary agreement, Kay is now free.

A frozen lake is obviously the place to break an icy spell, and it’s an act of sibling rather than romantic love that does the trick. Anna and Elsa’s situation is more desperate, thanks to a falling sword and freezing heart, but in either case, it’s partially the Snow Queen’s fault that one half of the pair is going the way of Olaf the snowman. Snow and ice also end up helping them in the end, in the form of Olaf rescuing Anna, ice deflecting a sword, or actual pieces of ice becoming sentient and helpful. With Anna and Kay revived, what’s next for our snow sorceresses?

Summer of Love

Disney version

Frozen-The Magical End

Elsa’s now realised that feelings of love can thaw the ice. Exonerated, she lifts the snow from the town, and uses her powers to bring happiness to her people by creating ice rinks, pretty patterns, and saving Olaf from turning into a puddle in the summer heat. The Duke of Weselton is exiled, as is Hans, and Anna again demonstrates insane restraint by only punching him overboard. 

anna and kristoff kiss

She saves the lack of restraint for Kristoff.

Elsa agrees to never shut the palace gates ever again, and fully embraces her powers while being true to herself. Anna can now enjoy a normal relationship with her sister, sorcery notwithstanding, and they all live happily ever after.

frozen sisters ending

Will Andersen’s Snow Queen be as accommodating to Gerda and Kay?

Andersen version

Image by PJ Lynch

The answer is “no”, because the Snow Queen never shows her face, allowing an elated Gerda and Kay to walk back completely unhindered by storms or adverse weather. When they reach the border of Finmark, Be and a younger reindeer are waiting for them. The latter has baps full of milk to feed them, and they run with them back down south, stopping for directions at the Fin woman’s home and then a quick snack, change of clothes and a new sledge at the Lapp woman’s. Once they reach their own country’s border with the first green buds, they bump into the robber girl – now riding the horse from Gerda’s chariot, whose footmen her family murdered – and she reports that the male crow is dead. In other equally happy news she is off to explore the world and promises to call in on them if she passes them. Lucky them.

On Kay and Gerda’s return, the book is as subtle as a brick and sees the grandmother reading from the Bible. She simply says to them:

Without ye become as little children ye cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven (9)

Ignoring her lack of greeting, recognition or abject joy at their return, Gerda and Kay look at each other and realise they are now both grown up, and that the hymn they once sang each other had a deeper meaning. By staying innocent children in their hearts, they are protected from evil, and from then onwards, summer also seems to last forever.



This time, it’s sibling love that conquers all.

The years of forgiveness, understanding and death-defying actions given by Anna and Gerda for their respective sister or brother show a stronger love than that felt by any of the romantic characters present. While Kristoff and Anna are certainly smouldering, their feelings can’t yet compete with the above, and you can forget Hans’ red herring romance. For Gerda’s part, she isn’t at all jealous when it’s revealed Kay may have married a princess, and they don’t kiss or marry when they return home either.  As for Elsa, she has shut herself away, both mentally and physically, for a large chunk of her life in order to protect her sister, and while this was done out of love, fear was the overriding emotion. In Kay’s case, he was a prisoner too, but this time at the mercy of evil magic. He and Elsa are only truly free when they remember or allow themselves to feel love.

The other story themes are where the book and the film diverge. In Andersen’s The Snow Queen, faith is the ultimate protector. Gerda is the one who teaches Kay the hymn about the roses, and by reciting the Lord’s Prayer she is shielded from the Snow Queen’s powers. It’s also a hymn that revives Kay, and by remaining innocent and childlike, untouched by temptation, Gerda is able to survive several potentially lethal situations on her own. Once the pair are back together again, and remain children in their hearts, the world always seems warm and summery to them. The Snow Queen in this story represents temptation, and she strikes when Kay is vulnerable after being touched by evil, or in this case a cynical adult’s view of the world. Rather unconventionally, the boy is rescued by the girl, and most of the wise and helpful people on Gerda’s journey are female. Then again, so are the creepiest ones.

In Frozen, we’re shown how fear can cripple and affect someone’s behaviour, and the perils of running away from your problems rather than trying to solve them, i.e. Elsa trying to stifle rather than experience and control her powers. Interestingly, it’s also implied that taking risks once in a while isn’t a bad thing. Despite the extreme likelihood of rejection, accidental injury and death, Anna persists in trying to spend time with her sister over the years, and charges off into the wilderness to find her when she makes her escape. Her whirlwind romance with Hans came to no good, but in the end she uncovered a royal conspiracy and found someone better in the interim. Her unfortunate spat with Elsa, while nearly fatal, showed her sister how powerful love could be and how to lift the spell. So Disney’s Snow Queen character represents overcoming fear and how to stop it from controlling you, hence the title “frozen”.

The ultimate lesson of both stories is to give people the benefit of the doubt, to look on the bright side where possible and try to retain a childlike wonder when walking through the world. In other words, if you encounter a problem, dilemma or an idiot, remember there are more important things in life, and that there’s only one thing you should do.

Let it go.

let it go ice palace



(1) Frozen. 2013. Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee. USA: Walt Disney Pictures.

(2) Andersen, Hans Christian. 1993[1844]. “The Snow Queen. A Tale in Seven Stories.” In Andersen’s Fairy Tales, 188-217. Ware, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited.

(3) Gattanella, Jack. 2013. “Read the Story of Making Disney’s Frozen.” Focus Film. Accessed 8 December, 2014.

(4) Internet Movie Database (IMDB). 2013. “Frozen Trivia”. Accessed 1 December, 2014.

(5) The Hans Christian Andersen Center. 2013. “Hans Christian Andersen – A Short Biography.” HC Andersen Centret. Accessed 1 December, 2014.

(6) The Hans Christian Andersen Center. 2014. “Hans Christian Andersen: The Snow Queen.” HC Andersen Centret. Accessed 1 December, 2014.

(7) See (5)

(8) See (2), page 191

(9) See (2), page 217

9 thoughts on “Frozen vs. The Snow Queen

  1. Pingback: #5: The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen | Under The Doona By Torchlight

    • Hi there Ssssssss,

      Thanks for commenting. Yeah, there seem to be several spellings of his name, but my version of the book spelt it “Kay”, so thought I’d best stick with that for consistency!

  2. I always adore your posts, they always inspire me to read the original stories that Disney movies stem from (the ones I have read so far are much more intriguing than the Disney counterparts IMO) Another great read (:

    I’m not sure If you’re exactly opened for suggestions, but I would love to see a comparison between Disney’s Pinocchio and the original “Le Avventure di Pinocchio” by Carlo Collodi. I’ve only just started reading it, but I’ve heard the story is darker and rather sadistic.

    • Hi Cory,

      Thanks so much! I was hoping my blog would inspire people to read the originals too, so that’s great to hear!

      I am indeed open to suggestions, and in fact I’m already working on Pinocchio, but I pushed it back so that I could finish Frozen before Christmas. Collodi’s original story is a more complex beast (as I’m sure you know from reading it!) so it might take me a bit longer. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Do you know the illustrator of the image of Kay meeting the Snow Queen on her sledge? I’m guessing Kay Nielsen, but a reverse Google image search isn’t giving me any results for who actually drew it. It looks a lot like Nielsen’s style (which I adore), though.
    Also the illustration of Gerda being pulled to shore by the witch is in the version of TSQ in The Magic Garden of the My Book House series, which I grew up with–and actually re-bought that particular book not too long ago–and may or may not have squealed when I saw it on here.
    Also also the little robber girl was my FAVORITE character in the original and even though I do like the Disney movie I will never not be irritated that she was left out :/

    • Hi Corannhena,

      I’m afraid not, I similarly came up short when trying to find the artist for that one. I admit I did smile at your comment about the Magic Garden image, it’s always cool rediscovering stuff from your childhood! Hmm my feelings towards the little robber girl were more belligerent to be honest, but I do see the anti-hero/misunderstood delinquent appeal. In fact she would have been an interesting addition to the film, as the characters either tend to be completely good or completely evil. Thanks for commenting!

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