The Snow Queen

This article is about the fairy tale. For other uses, see Snow Queen (disambiguation).
"The Snow Queen"

"The Snow Queen" illustration by Elena Ringo.
Author Hans Christian Andersen
Country Denmark
Language Danish
Genre(s) Fairy tale
Published in New Fairy Tales. First Volume. Second Collection. 1845. (Nye Eventyr. Første Bind. Anden Samling. 1845.)[1]
Publication type Fairy tale collection
Publication date 21 December 1844[1]

"The Snow Queen" (Danish: Snedronningen) is an original fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875). The tale was first published 21 December 1844 in New Fairy Tales. First Volume. Second Collection. 1845. (Danish: Nye Eventyr. Første Bind. Anden Samling. 1845.)[1] The story centres on the struggle between good and evil as experienced by Gerda and her friend, Kay.

The story is one of Andersen's longest and most highly acclaimed stories. It is regularly included in selected tales and collections of his work and is frequently reprinted in illustrated storybook editions for children.

Narrative division

"The Snow Queen" is a tale told in seven 'stories' (Danish: Historier):

  1. About the Mirror and Its Pieces
  2. A Little Boy and a Little Girl
  3. The Flower Garden of the Woman Who Knew Magic
  4. The Prince and the Princess
  5. The Little Robber Girl
  6. The Lapp Woman and the Finn Woman
  7. What Happened at the Snow Queen's Palace and What Happened Afterwards


Vilhelm Pedersen illustration.

An evil troll, called "the devil",[2] has made a magic mirror that distorts the appearance of everything it reflects. It fails to reflect the good and beautiful aspects of people and things, while magnifying their bad and ugly aspects. The devil, who is headmaster at a troll school, takes the mirror and his pupils throughout the world, delighting in using it to distort everyone and everything; the mirror makes the loveliest landscapes look like "boiled spinach." They try to carry the mirror into heaven with the idea of making fools of the angels and God, but the higher they lift it, the more the mirror shakes with laughter, and it slips from their grasp and falls back to earth, shattering into billions of pieces, some no larger than a grain of sand.

These splinters are blown by the wind all over the Earth and got into people's hearts and eyes, freezing their hearts like blocks of ice and making their eyes like the troll-mirror itself, seeing only the bad and ugly in people and things. There was only one way to get it out

Vilhelm Pedersen illustration

Years later, a little boy Kay and a little girl Gerda live next door to each other in the garrets of buildings with adjoining roofs in a large city. One could get from Gerda's to Kay's home just by stepping over the gutters of each building. The two families grow vegetables and roses in window boxes placed on the gutters. Gerda and Kay have a window-box garden to play in, and they become devoted to each other as playmates.

Kay's grandmother tells the children about the Snow Queen, who is ruler over the "snow bees" — snowflakes that look like bees. As bees have a queen, so do the snow bees, and she is seen where the snowflakes cluster the most. Looking out of his frosted window one winter, Kay sees the Snow Queen, who beckons him to come with her. Kay draws back in fear from the window.

By the following spring, Gerda has learned a song that she sings to Kay: Roses flower in the vale; there we hear Child Jesus' tale! Because roses adorn the window box garden, the sight of roses always reminds Gerda of her love for Kay.

On a pleasant summer day, splinters of the troll-mirror get into Kay's heart and eyes while he and Gerda are looking at a picture book in their window-box garden. Kay becomes cruel and aggressive. He destroys their window-box garden, he makes fun of his grandmother, and he no longer cares about Gerda, since all of them now appear bad and ugly to him. The only beautiful and perfect things to him now are the tiny snowflakes that he sees through a magnifying glass.

The following winter, Kay goes out with his sled to play in the snowy market square and — as was the custom — hitches it to a curious white sleigh carriage, driven by the Snow Queen, who appears as a woman in a white fur-coat. Outside the city she reveals herself to Kay and kisses him twice: once to numb him from the cold, and a second time to make him forget about Gerda and his family; a third kiss would kill him. She takes Kay in her sleigh to her palace. The people of the city conclude that Kay died in the nearby river. Gerda, heartbroken, goes out to look for him and questions everyone and everything about Kay's whereabouts. She offers her new red shoes to the river in exchange for Kay; by not taking the gift at first, the river lets her know that Kay did not drown. Gerda next visits an old sorceress with a beautiful garden of eternal summer. The sorceress wants Gerda to stay with her forever, so she causes Gerda to forget all about Kay, and causes all the roses in her garden to sink beneath the earth, since she knows that the sight of them will remind Gerda of her friend. However, a while later, whilst playing in the garden, Gerda sees a rose on the sorceress's hat, then remembers Kay and begins to cry. Gerda's warm tears raise one bush above the ground, and it tells her that it could see all the dead while it was under the earth, and Kay is not among them. Gerda flees and meets a crow, who tells her that Kay is in the princess's palace. Gerda goes to the palace and meets the princess and the prince, who is not Kay, but looks like him. Gerda tells them her story, and they provide her with warm clothes and a beautiful coach. While traveling in the coach Gerda is captured by robbers and brought to their castle, where she befriends a little robber girl, whose pet doves tell her that they saw Kay when he was carried away by the Snow Queen in the direction of Lapland. The captive reindeer Bae tells her that he knows how to get to Lapland since it is his home.

Vilhelm Pedersen illustration

The robber girl frees Gerda and the reindeer to travel north to the Snow Queen's palace. They make two stops: first at the Lapp woman's home and then at the Finn woman's home. The Finn woman tells the reindeer that the secret of Gerda's unique power to save Kay is in her sweet and innocent child's heart:

I can give her no greater power than she has already," said the woman; "don't you see how strong that is? How men and animals are obliged to serve her, and how well she has got through the world, barefooted as she is. She cannot receive any power from me greater than she now has, which consists in her own purity and innocence of heart. If she cannot herself obtain access to the Snow Queen, and remove the glass fragments from little Kai, we can do nothing to help her...[3]
Vilhelm Pedersen illustration

When Gerda reaches the Snow Queen's palace, she is halted by the snowflakes guarding it. She prays the Lord's Prayer, which causes her breath to take the shape of angels, who resist the snowflakes and allow Gerda to enter the palace. Gerda finds Kay alone and almost immobile on a frozen lake, which the Snow Queen calls the "Mirror of Reason", on which her throne sits. Kay is engaged in the task that the Snow Queen gave him: he must use pieces of ice like a Chinese puzzle to form characters and words. If he is able to form the word "love" the Snow Queen will release him from her power and give him a pair of skates. Gerda runs up to Kay and kisses him, and he is saved by the power of her love: Gerda weeps warm tears on him, melting his heart and burning away the troll-mirror splinter in it. As a result, Kay bursts into tears (which dislodge the splinter from his eye) and becomes cheerful and healthy again with sparkling eyes and rosy cheeks, and also recognizes Gerda. He and Gerda dance around on the lake of ice so joyously that the splinters of ice Kay had been playing with are caught up into the dance. When they tire of dancing they fall down to spell "eternity," the very word Kay was trying to spell. Even if the Snow Queen were to return (although it is never said from where), she would be obliged to free Kay. Kay and Gerda then leave the Snow Queen's domain with the help of the reindeer, the Finn woman, and the Lapp woman. They meet the robber girl, and from there they walk back to their home, "the big city."

Kay and Gerda find that everything at home is the same and that it is they who have changed; they are now grown up, and are also delighted to see that it is summertime.

At the end, the grandmother reads a passage from the Bible:

"Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 18:3).


Jenny Lind

Andersen met Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind in 1840, and fell in love with her, but she was not interested in him romantically (although the two became friends). According to Carole Rosen, Andersen was inspired to model the icy-hearted Snow Queen on Lind after she rejected him as a suitor.[4]

Media adaptations

Film and television

Video games


Stage plays and musicals

The story has been adapted into numerous stage plays and musicals, notably including:

Dance productions

Inspired works


  1. 1 2 3 "Hans Christian Andersen : The Snow Queen".
  2. Andersen, Hans Christian (1983). "The Snow Queen". The Complete Fairy Tales and Stories. trans. Erik Christian Haugaard. United States of America: Anchor Books. Retrieved 3 December 2013.
  3. cf. Sixth Story: The Lapland Woman and the Finland Woman"
  4. Rosen, Carole (2004). "Lind, Jenny (1820–1887)". In Matthew, H. C. G.; Harrison, Brian. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0198614111. Retrieved April 1, 2014.|quote=[W]hen [Lind] rejected him as a suitor she became the Snow Queen, whose heart was made of ice.
  5. Snezhnaya koroleva at the Internet Movie Database
  6. "The Snow Queen" at the Internet Movie Database
  7. Snezhnaya koroleva at the Internet Movie Database
  8. "The Snow Queen: BBC Version".
  9. The Snow Queen in the British Film Institute's "Explore film..." database
  10. "The Snow Queen" at the Internet Movie Database
  11. Tayna snezhnoy korolevy at the Internet Movie Database
  12. Lumikuningatar at the Internet Movie Database
  13. The Snow Queen at the Internet Movie Database
  14. The Snow Queen at the Internet Movie Database
  15. The Snow Queen's Revenge at the Internet Movie Database
  16. Snedronningen at the Internet Movie Database
  17. Snow Queen at the Internet Movie Database
  18. "The Snow Queen" at the Internet Movie Database
  19. The Snow Queen at the Internet Movie Database
  20. "Arts - The Times".
  21. The Snow Queen - The Movie (© TXU-001-650-698 - WGA 1382055)
  22. The Snow Queen - based on H.C. Andersen. YouTube. 23 September 2011.
  23. "The Snow Queen - The Movie (© TXU-001-650-698 - WGA 1382055)".
  24. "Gerda and Kai - The Snow Queen Book by Richard Koscher". Gerda and Kai - The Snow Queen Book.
  25. Richard Koscher ist in vielen Medien zu Hause > Kleine Zeitung
  26. "Snow Queen". Wizart Animation. Retrieved 23 December 2011.
  27. Snow Queen Release Info in IMDb
  28. Frozen (2013) at the Internet Movie Database
  29. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  30. "The Snow Queen". The Guide to Musical Theatre. Retrieved 2014-07-08.
  31. "Disney Already Discussing 'Frozen' Becoming A Broadway Musical - /Film". 2014-01-13. Retrieved 2014-07-08.
  32. "The Snow Queen: A New Musical". Steele Spring Stage Rights. 2015-01-12. Retrieved 2014-07-08.
  33. "San Jose Repertory Theatre". 2013-12-22. Retrieved 2014-07-08.
  34. Anita Gates (2014-07-21). "A Fairy-Tale That Rocks' - The Snow Queen,' Based on a Hans Christian Andersen Story". New York City: The New York Times.
  35. "The New York Musical Theatre Festival :: The Snow Queen". 2013-12-13. Retrieved 2014-07-08.
  36. Triad Stage. "Snow Queen - Triad Stage".
  37. "The Snow Queen".
  38. "The Snow Queen". TownHall Records. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
  39. "The Snow Queen, The Coliseum, London". The Independent. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  40. "The Snow Queen". Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  41. (23 October 2014). Retrieved on 21 July 2016.
  42. "The Snow Queen". Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  43. "No sex in Narnia? How Hans Christian Andersen's "Snow Queen" problematizes C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia.".
  44. "La Reine des Neiges".

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