Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not bashing Frozen. It was a very delightful movie, but it’s gotten an obscene amount of hype, making it feel as overplayed as a ubiquitous Christmas carol. Disney was not the first to tell the story of a Snow Queen, nor will they be the last. If you’re craving a Snow Queen fix this Yuletide season, but you already own every piece of Frozen merchandise, or you’re going to explode if you hear “Let it Go” one more time, check out one of these six reads that also feature wintry wonder women:
1. The original Snow Queen in “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Anderson — This unnamed queen bee of the snowflakes, as she is described, actually seems to be made of ice, cold and glistening. She does not have a large role in the story, other than as the kidnapper of Kay. Most of the text is focused on the adventures of little Gerda as she goes in search fo her friend, getting side-tracked and meeting interesting companions along the way. But we do get a scene describing the Snow Queen’s ice castle abode, which shows that her throne sits upon what she calls her “mirror of reason.” She also entertains Kay by having him arrange tessellations of ice into patterns to try to form word shapes. This personification of cold logic as a queen of snow is an interesting take on the Snow Queen motif, one that is often not explored in the reinterpretations. Also missing from the reinterpretations are the role of hobgoblins in the creation of the mirror, a lengthy interlude in which Gerda gets distracted in a garden of flowers that tell their own stories, and a reindeer named Bae (I’m not kidding). You can read one translation of the original fairy tale here. I highly recommend reading the original before you check out the works inspired by it; it will make you appreciate them all the more.
2. The White Witch (Jadis) from The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis — As the main antagonist in the first two books of the series, Jadis is more expressly evil than the Snow Queen of the original fairytale. The Magician’s Nephew describes her rise to power, but it is in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe that her role as a Snow Queen is truly fleshed out. In this book, she repeats some scenes from the original, pulling up in a majestic sleigh to lure away a little boy, in this case Edmund. She is not inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s tale alone, but rather derives from a conglomeration of Biblical lore, fairytales, Norse mythology, and Lewis’s own imagination. She is perhaps the most famous borrowing of the Snow Queen idea (at least until Elsa came along) and no literary education is complete without a trip into Narnia anyway, so if you haven’t yet read it, I suggest you do so. If you have read it, read the Anderson version and then reread The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and see if you gain a greater appreciation for the story.
3. Deirdre in Winter’s Child by Cameron Dokey — For a much more sympathetic approach to the Snow Queen figure, check out this awesome novel that stays fairly true to the original story but with more detail, more characterization, and several other twists. Grace and Kai are two neighbors and childhood playmates, close as siblings with a shared fascination with the story of the winter’s child that Grace’s grandmother always used to tell. As they grow older, though, their relationship grows more delicate, until the fateful day when Grace pushes Kai’s love away, leaving him little reason to hesitate when the fabled Winter’s Child shows up at his window. The story follows the perspectives of both Deirdre and Grace as they grow up and discover themselves through journeys literal and emotional. Grace needs to learn how to reconcile love and freedom. And Deirdre, whose name means sorrow, and who was given the daunting task of healing all hearts pierced by shards of ice from a shattered mirror, must learn how to heal her own heart, too. For a true fairy tale feel, but with all the realist details of a modern novel, pick up this book to curl up by the fireplace with.
4. Donia and Beira from Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr — I know I bring up this series over and over but it really is one of my favorites and it relates to everything! In short, it tells the stories of a Summer King searching for his fated queen, but if he chooses the wrong girl, she may be consumed by the cold of winter instead, becoming a Winter Girl like Donia. This curse was put on the Summer King by his mother, the Winter Queen, Beira, who serves as the villain in the first book. Donia and Beira both pull from the original legend in their appearance, immunity to cold, and the Winter Queen’s ability to manipulate snow and ice. To see both the good and bad sides of winter incarnate and what happens when they come against the full force of summer, read about Donia and Beira in this book.
5. Lumi in the Fairest comics — Lumi, as the Snow Queen is called in Bill Willingham’s universe, does appear in Fables. However, a good starting point for reading about her is Fairest Volume 1. It starts with her and Briar Rose, still under a sleeping spell from previous Fables stories, being woken by Ali Baba. Unfortunately, Lumi doesn’t wake up to a pretty picture, and ends up having to kick some butt soon after waking. Lumi is not an unlikable character, and loves having people tell her stories, which comes into play throughout her story arc. I really like Lumi’s backstory, which is that she is one of four sisters who change kingdoms every few months, bringing a new season with them.
Did we miss any Snow Queen references worth reading about? Will you introduce your Elsa-obsessed friends/kids/inner-children to these other Snow Queens for the sake of variety? Let us know what you think in the comments!