domingo, 23 de julio de 2017

CRYSTALCOCOON: THE SNOW QUEEN

More Persinette, aka crystalcocoon, on The Snow Queen (seriously, I just could not only post about the Princess and the Prince in Story the Fourth being her Andersen OTP, but also a lot of many other things she's told about this Andersenian tale, which happens to be her favourite --here be adaptation reviews, headcanons, and the reveal of her straight and queer OTPs in this tale!):


ON WIZART'S SNOW QUEEN

I wanted to get my thoughts down on the trailer for the Snow Queen from the Russian studio Wizart Animation (not Disney’s Frozen). It turned into my thoughts on Hans Christian Andersen’s story as well.
I initially thought that that it looked too slapsticky for my taste, but that’s probably just the marketing. I’m not sure how I feel about the Snow Queen being a threat to the world rather than a personal threat to Kai. However, one aspect of Andersen’s story that I’m not keen on is the Snow Queen and the mirror shards representing ‘cold reason’. It’s just too much of the 'scientists can’t appreciate beauty and wonder’ trope, which couldn’t be further from the truth. (It does make me giggle to think of Gerda going 'Fuckin’ magnets, how do they work?’) So I can’t say I’m surprised at the film-makers choosing a different interpretation.
I do hope that the Snow Queen does actually affect Kai’s heart/mind and doesn’t just turn him into ice, though. I love the part in the story where Gerda melts Kai’s frozen heart. No doubt they will need a final confrontation with the Snow Queen as well.
Honestly, it bothers me that the Snow Queen just disappears from the story and there’s no final meeting with her. My vision for the 'personal threat’ version of the confrontation: Gerda makes it to the Snow Queen’s castle, meets the Queen, and says she’s there to take Kai home. The Snow Queen says she’s welcome to speak to Kai, but he’s there of his own free will, and she cannot take him if he does not wish to leave. Gerda melts Kai’s heart and the ice shards form 'eternity’. The Snow Queen must honour her promise and give Kai his freedom (and the new pair of skates helps them leave the icy castle more easily).
Kai and Gerda being siblings (by blood): I like it. I appreciate that their relationship in the story is ambiguous, rather than clearly romantic, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing for adaptors to decide they want to take the focus off romance. (Plus if Kai’s out of the running as a potential love interest, it’s easier to ship Gerda with the Robber Girl!)
The troll (Orm): I don’t like him. The Snow Queen is Gerda’s journey that she travels alone. She finds friends, advice, and assistance along the way, but in the end she has to do it herself. Even the reindeer leaves her, and she’s left without boots or gloves in the Snow Queen’s domain, with nothing but her faith and love for Kai to keep her going. The trailer implies that this is the troll’s journey as much as Gerda’s, and he needs to find the courage to stand up for himself to the Snow Queen or some such. In fact, the trailer focuses on him even more than Gerda, but I suppose we can’t possibly expect people to come and see a movie if they think it’s about a girrrrl.
Hopefully the major episodes will all appear: the old woman with the flowery garden, the Princess, the Robber Girl, and the Finnmark Woman. Certainly the flowery garden seems the be there, but the old woman seems rather more violent than in the story! There also seems to be a castle and knights involved, so hopefully that means the Princess will be there. The Robber Girl seems to have become a pirate (captain's daughter). She still has her reindeer, so no objections here. The 'About’ page on the website has a picture of what appears to be the Finn Woman. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them combined into one, no point in Gerda having two near-identical encounters at that point.
Overall, I’m looking forward to it. They’ve made some interesting choices and it’ll be great to see how their interpretation works out (I can’t see myself ever liking Orm, though). I’m pleased to see the story getting some attention after Disney decided they didn’t want to bother with an adaption after all.
FROZEN VS. THE SNOW QUEEN
So the main characters of Disney’s Frozen should be white because they’re based on a Danish fairy tale, Andersen’s The Snow Queen. They’re just being ‘true to the story’.
What this means, then, is that (going by the information we have on the movie thus far) the following are not important aspects of the Snow Queen story:
  • Gerda’s name and age
  • Kai’s existence
  • the purpose of Gerda’s quest (getting Kai back from the Snow Queen)
  • the Snow Queen’s nature
  • the Snow Queen’s relationship with Kai
  • Gerda’s relationship with animals and nature
  • the magic mirror
  • the 'reason vs emotion’ themes
  • the fact that Gerda is helped or hindered by powerful women on every step of her journey
  • the fact that Gerda spends much of her journey either alone or accompanied only by animals
None of that is significant. But the fact that Gerda is white (Caucasian)? Absolutely vital, how could you even think of changing it!
MORE ON THE WIZART FILM
Want to see an animated film that actually does adapt The Snow Queen?
I wrote about the trailer earlier (see before). It seems there are some differences to Andersen’s story, most notably that Gerda and Kai are now brother and sister by blood (fraternal twins), and that the Snow Queen has become a threat to the world. However, the basic story appears to remain the same: actual heroine Gerda goes on a quest to rescue actual dude-in-distress Kai.

Fairy Tale Challenge | Day One → Favourite Fairy Tale
The Snow Queen – Hans Christian Andersen
“She is flying there where the swarm is thickest. She is the largest of them all, and never remains on the earth, but flies up to the dark clouds. Often at midnight she flies through the streets of the town, and looks in at the windows, then the ice freezes on the panes into wonderful shapes, that look like flowers and castles.” [x]
I wrote about this tale in another post, but let’s just say that one of the main reasons why I love this story is because, in general, it holds up quite well, in comparison to most of its contemporary tales. Most of the fairy tales have a very heavy imprint of the time in which they were written or adapted, so we are clearly aware of how different times were in comparison to ours: damsels in distress, instant marriage, beauty and virtue above other values, anthropophagy, etc. Here we have a story in which a little girl makes a complicated journey to save the life of her best friend, sorting obstacles using her determination and help from others who, after listening to her story, resolve to assist her (or not). The Snow Queen is a tale that, in contrast to many others of its time, doesn’t necessarily shove moral values at your face, but provides more freedom to the reader and presents many possible themes: the power of friendship, not giving up, learning through the way, asking help when you need it, seeing things from other’s perspective, and I could go on because it’s in how you read it and interpret it where you get the message, if you want one
In addition, The Snow Queen has some of the strongest female characters I’ve read in these kinds of stories and in this time period: from Gerda, the little girl who saves the boy and not the other way around, to the Princess, who is looking for a husband who can intellectually satisfy her (and of whom I’ll talk more about in the next question), to the little Robber Girl, who is feared by all despite her young age but who understands empathy when meeting Gerda and hearing her story. And that leads me to the actual Snow Queen, who doesn’t show up as much as other characters and which makes you consider: is she really the villain of this story or are the obstacles in Gerda’s way more important than the actual Queen? Is there really a villain in the terms of other stories’ villains or is it more about a quest and not giving up despite all? 
To conclude (for now) let me point out that this is a story in which there isn’t an explicit romance between the main characters, which makes it all the more valuable. Many interpretations and adaptations have been made in which not only Gerda gets paired up with Kai (like the Hallmark one) but others in which she also has a relationship with the Robber Girl (Catherine Breillat‘s Sleeping Beauty/La belle endormie) and others in which it remains uncertain (like Lev Atamanov’s 1957 animated version). But the actual story isn’t entirely explicit in whether there is romance or not and it is OK. I don’t think romance is necessary here, Gerda risked her life for Kai and that is more than enough. Friendship wasn’t explored that much in fairy tales, especially not when the friends were a girl and a boy, but here there’s no promise of marriage at the end of the road (save for the Dumas version!) and it’s refreshing and interesting. All in all, The Snow Queen is a story that works today much easily than other stories of the time, that has interesting characters who aren’t necessarily completely good or completely bad, and that lets you gather from it whatever message you want, instead of giving you an explicit moral like Perrault’s or Grimm’s stories did. All in all, I consider this story a masterpiece of literature. 

Fairy Tale Challenge | Day Two → Favourite Character of Royalty
The Princess and Prince (The Snow Queen) – Hans Christian Andersen
“He was quite free and agreeable and said he had not come to woo the princess, but to hear her wisdom; and he was as pleased with her as she was with him.” 
First of all, I promise there are more fairy tales in this challenge, but these two questions were one after the next and it was a coincidence. Now, I have to pick these two characters together because I think they’re both great and their love story is probably one of the most romantic ones I’ve read in fairy tales. 
Here we have a Princess, described as “wonderfully clever”, who one day decides that she wants to get married, because she’s bored and doesn’t have anyone to talk to or who can challenge her or interest her.  She decides that she wants to get married, she isn’t forced, she isn’t rushed, and she isn’t looking for a hero who can save her but a man who can talk to her. So, she sets the rules for her courtship: her husband to be will be the man who can speak the best, who can converse with her as equals. 
After many rich and gorgeous men that are unable to say something interesting meet the princess, a young man who is very poor, looks nothing like the rest, and who, listen to this: “(did) not come to the palace to woo the princess but to hear her wisdom” turns out to be the one. That’s right, that’s what he wanted, to talk. He supposed he didn’t have a chance but he wasn’t embarrassed by his appearance or poverty, he just wanted to talk to the woman that everyone admired for her vast knowledge. Needless to say, they got along quite well and eventually got married. 
Isn’t this fantastic? We not only have the courtship organized by a woman, a Princess, but it is based in common interests, in conversation and not in a ball or a parade of contestants who have to prove their value by beauty, titles, or irrational life-risking tasks. Not only that, but they both decide they’re pleased with each other, it’s a common understanding and not a decision only made by the Princess. The young man doesn’t think that he’s less than her for being poor, he accepts her as much as she accepts him for what she knows, how she speaks, and how they get along. If these two aren’t the most capable pair of rulers a tale can have, I don’t know who they are.


ON THE CLASSIC ATAMANOV FILM:
 
 
What movie is this? Looks amazing!
It’s the 1957 Snow Queen movie animated in Russia, and my favourite Snow Queen adaptation of all time. You can easily find the full movie with subs on youtube. 
If I could say one thing about this movie that sets it apart from the rest, it’s the portrayal of the Snow Queen herself. (It’s slightly spoilery from here on, so watch the movie first, if you want to see it for yourself.)
It’s established very early on in the book that the Queen is a personification of a force of nature, a fey, maybe. She’s not a person, she has no emotions, no way of understanding love, and no real motive for her actions. She basically kidnaps Kai because, well, she felt like it. This is important. A lot of other adaptations (like the Hallmark channel one, and the 1995 UK-animated one) make her rationalize her actions - she’s evil because she needs her mirror fixed, she wants eternal winter, yadda yadda. Basically, they make her have a reason for her villainy. Here? Nah, they don’t ever explain why she does what she does - the writers are fully aware that they’re dealing with winter itself - winter makes no distinction between right and wrong, it freezes to death innocent people and horrible ones without distinction. This woman is not human, and she shouldn’t, by right, act like one.
That sense that you couldn’t reason with her, topped off by her sheer unpredictability was TERRIFYING to watch as a kid. No other Snow Queen has been this menacing. 
Secondly, the Snow Queen in the climax was incredible! She appears as a giantess, a jötunn, in front of Gerda, several stories tall with a blank emotionless mask for a face. Gerda, our heroine, has grown into an independent woman by now - she’s walked across the earth BAREFOOT for her best friend Kai and now she’s found him and isn’t about to let him go - she screams to the Snow Queen to leave them alone, that Kai is no longer her’s to control. The tension builds, the standstill continues, and just as the climax gets unbearable, the Snow Queen on her throne… slowly vanishes. 
She disappears. The strangest western standoff you’ll ever see has come to it’s anticlimactic end. It’s important to remember Gerda didn’t defeat her, she didn’t vanquish her, the Snow Queen is still out there. The Queen disappears and in her place is a sunny warm landscape - she’s conceded to Gerda “You’ve won this battle, have your warmth, but you can never defeat me,” I think that’s the perfect way for her to go. There are PLENTY of adaptations that strive to give us a traditional happy ending, some have the Snow Queen ‘cured’ and turned into a human being (I’m looking at you, Egmont’s Fairytaler and Hallmark!) but that defeats the purpose of the original story. The Snow Queen is winter itself, and no one man (or girl!) can truly defeat winter, no matter how much magic you have on your hands. Nature itself is greater than any human power. 
The Snow Queen is a story of the power of faith and love, and how those will help you succeed. And by ‘succeed’, I don’t mean ‘defeat the personification of all that is wintry and cold and merciless’. It’s not about the triumph of humankind over the elements, it’s just a simple story about keeping love and innocent faith in your heart until you reach your goals, and and no movie has ever stuck more true to that than this one. 

IS THE SPRINGTIME WITCH THUMBELINA'S MUM? (HEADCANON)
Suppose the old woman with the garden of eternal springtime in The Snow Queen and Thumbelina’s mother are the same person?
Imagine it: Thumbelina disappears. Her mother searches, but never finds her. She knows Thumbelina is a magical being - if she learns magic, perhaps she’ll find a way! And she came from a flower - if she builds a garden with every kind of flower that’s always blooming, maybe she’ll come back!
But the years go by, and Thumbelina never comes back. And suddenly, here’s this little girl. Maybe she looks like Thumbelina. And she loves flowers too! So the woman keeps her. She’s been waiting for so long, and at last she has her daughter again. She even gives Gerda a pillow with violets embroidered on it, like the violets Thumbelina slept on.
But once again, her daughter disappears, and she is left alone.

WHY DID THE SNOW QUEEN WHISK KAI AWAY? (HEADCANON)
In Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, why does the Snow Queen take Kai away with her? The story is vague, and there are as many interpretations as there are readers. This is mine.
I believe that the Snow Queen appears to people who call out to her in some way. Even before the mirror shards, Kai was interested in her - when he first hears the story from his grandmother, ‘Let her come! I’ll throw her into the fire! I'll melt her!’ he says, though he runs from her when she appears. After he gets the mirror shards he becomes fascinated by snowflakes and frost, and considers ice crystals more perfect than anything else in the natural world. While the Snow Queen doesn’t go around kidnapping people who aren’t drawn to her in the first place, she’s not very interested in informed consent. What’s it to her that Kai is only receptive to her because he has the shards of an evil mirror in his left eye and his heart? She didn’t put them there. It’s not her responsibility to make sure his true self wants to go with her. The Snow Queen’s morality is that of a snowstorm - not evil, but incredibly dangerous and implacable. 
So why does the Snow Queen take people away in the first place? Well, she isn’t the only snow entity that appears in the story. When she is driving away with Kai, they are surrounded by huge snowflakes that look like ‘great white chickens’ and appear to be under her control. When Gerda arrives in the Snow Queen’s domain, she encounters snowflakes in various monstrous animal shapes which are stated to be alive, and the Snow Queen’s guards. I think that the snowflakes had once been human, and if Kai had stayed in the Snow Queen’s domain long enough he would have become one of them.
What’s up with ‘Eternity’? The Snow Queen tells Kai that if he can make the word ‘Eternity’ out of some pieces of ice, she will give him ‘the whole world and a brand new pair of skates’. I think that in this story there are two types of eternity: the physical and the spiritual. If Gerda had never come and Kay remained in the Snow Queen’s domain, he would have become a living snowflake and gained physical eternity. He would gain ‘the whole world’ because he could go anywhere (anywhere cold at least) and live for as long as the world existed - but he would lose his soul. But when Gerda came and helped Kai to remember his feelings of love, he gained spiritual eternity. He would remain human in body, but his soul would be immortal.

THE SNOW QUEEN - NOT A VILLAINOUS ANTAGONIST?
I’m not sure she’s an antagonist at all. She’s a force of nature.
It’s such a spiritually rooted story. The fights are intellect vs. emotion, faith vs. reason, good vs. evil. And the queen isn’t evil. She’s just a step on Kai’s journey. You can say the demons who made the mirror at the beginning are evil, but I think that’s about as far as you can go. The Snow Queen didn’t lodge the glass in his heart and his eye. She didn’t kidnap him. She wasn’t even exactly holding him there. She’s got about the moral standing of a strong gust of wind, blowing Kai far, far away so Gerda could go out and save him from himself. Not from her. From the shards of a demon-mirror stuck inside him.
You are absolutely correct!
The snow queen was not an antagonist; she was more so a plot element for the theme of the story that good does not always have to overcome evil for goodness to prevail. Hence why at the ending of the story, Gerda does not fight the Snow Queen to save her precious Kai. In addition to this, the Snow Queen is the embodiment of the winter; there is no way anyone cannot stop the winter, it comes and goes just like every other season. So, when the Snow Queen left at the end of the story, winter had came to an end. The Snow Queen is just part of life. She is temptation to Kai when he is memorized by her beauty and her healing kisses. She is the final step on Gerda’s journey to save Kai. She is the end of the life cycle when she comes in and the beginning of the life cycle when she leaves. The Snow Queen is the character that makes the fairy tale very compelling! She is a complex character that seems to be an antagonist is truly not. It is kind of a shame that most of the adaption of this fairy tale portrays the Snow Queen as an antagonist when she truly is not one. She never kidnap Kai; Kai was memorized by her beauty and agreed to come with her because she heal his frozen heart with her kisses to a certain extent and being in her palace help him alive. If it was not for her, Kai would have been dead a little after the glass entered his eye and made his way to his heart. Even though the Snow Queen kept Kai alive, she could not take away the glass shard because she did not posses the one thing that Kai needed, which was love. As the embodiment of winter, she can only make things cold and die, which is why she could not kiss him a third time because he would die. She let Kai know that! So, when she leaves Kai alone at the end and Gerda comes to Kai, crying and kissing his body to make it warm again with the love of her innocent heart, Kai is healed because of the love Gerda has shown, which marks the beginning of spring!

AFTERWORD ON THE LITTLE MERMAID (HER BOY'S CLOTHES/MANDSDRAGT)
Next, he has some boys’ clothes made for her so they can ride horses together.
Is she his pet? Is she his little brother? I have no idea. When I told my mum the story, she said, “So basically what he wants is a pet friend.” I think that sums up the situation pretty nicely.

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