Snow Queen – Michael Whelan

Occasionally, I get accused of being cold….almost icy. I do have a small tendency to not always pick up on entries in to conversations about personal things about other people, generally it is not because I am rude, I just don’t have a point of reference to talk about the hidden agenda subject. As an example, I met someone fairly high up at work recently, walking in to the room, she commented on how her daughter would love to have her hair the same colour as mine, I thanked the person and then continued to talk about work. When others asked me how the meeting went, I told them about the hair comment, and they kindly pointed out to me that was an opening to ask about the children and talk on a personal level. In my defence, I don’t have children, so to ask about someone else’s is something I really have to think about. Que sera sera, I missed my chance, and made myself look a bit like the revered snow queen.

Whelan’ s painting is simply beautiful. The beautiful woman, dressed in an ornate headdress, decorated in white feathers, images of seals, and a horned demon. Covering half her beauty is the beak of a bird, continuing the bird like theme, her cloak made of white feathers, delicate snowflake like lace running up her arm. She is majestic and stoic in her stance. Behind her, calm cool waters, the base of her powers. Every detail in this picture leans towards the elegance that crisp white snow gives. Equally we know that snow can hide all sorts of dangers, and the dangers of this queen are just the same.

In the tale by Hans Christian Anderson, the snow queen lures a boy named Kai away from his family home and the girl he loves, Gerda, after he gets a piece of an evil mirror in his eye. The mirror created by the devil had the ability to distort everything of beauty, turning stunning landscapes into piles of boiled spinach, and the most beautiful people in to ugly crones. The mirror was broken when the devils trolls attempted to carry the mirror in to heaven to distort the angels and make a fool out of god. The trouble is the higher the trolls lift the mirror, the more they laugh with their evil dead and the mirror shakes. All too soon the trolls are laughing so much that the mirror slips from their hands and falls to earth, shattering in to a billion pieces, some no bigger than a grain of sand. The winds scatter the pieces and some gets into people’s eyes, distorting their perspective on life.

Kai and Gerda live next door to each other, they have a beautiful and loving friendship. They grow roses together in a widow box. One day a piece of the mirror gets in to Kai’s eye and travels to his heart. He turns abusive and aggressive towards Gerda, and is rude to his grandmother. He no longer sees beauty in anything except for the snowflakes, and sees the snow queen appear to him that evening. The next day he takes his sleigh out and finds an ornate white sleigh which he tethers his own to so that he can follow it. The sleigh travels far before stopping again, and then the snow queen, who has been in the sleigh, reveals herself to Kai again, kissing him twice, the first to numb him from the cold, the second to make him forget Gerda. If she kissed him again that kiss would kill him. She then takes Kai back to her palace to put together pieces of a puzzle, if he can make the words that the snow queen gives him, she will release him.

Mean while Gerda is worried about Kai when he doesn’t return. People of their village assume that he has drowned in the river. Gerda goes searching for Kai. She offers her new red shoes to the river as a gift to return Kai, but when the river doesn’t accept her gift she knows that he is not dead. She then goes on a journey to find Kai, running in to a witch, who casts a spell on her to forget Kai so that Gerda will stay with her as she has been unable to have children of her own. The witch makes all the roses in the garden disappear as she knows this will remind Gerda of Kai, but one day Gerda notices roses in the witch’s hat. This instantly reminds her of Kai and she starts to cry in the garden. Her tears make the roses appear from underground and they tell her that they have seen all the dead souls and Kai’s is not there. Running away from the witch Gerda runs in to a crow who tells her of a boy who looks just like Kai at a local palace. This turns out to just be a boy that looks like Kai.

Eventually Gerda manages to get to the snow queens castle to find snowflakes guarding the gates. She says the Lord’s Prayer and her faith melts the snowflakes. Entering the palace she sees Kai on a frozen lake, almost immobile and piece together the puzzle. The snow queens throne next to him. Gerda runs to Kai and kisses him, melting the snow queens curse, which makes him cry and dislodges the piece of mirror from his eye, returning him to his normal self.

Kai and Gerda are so happy to see each other again that they dance in the ice, kicking up the puzzle pieces, when their dancing ceases the letters fall to spell the word eternity. This was the word Kai was trying to spell, and with that they leave the palace. They are helped home by the snow queens reindeer.

On their returning home they find that everything is the same, but they have grown as people. The moral of the story being that love and faith will out.

Whelan’s picture captures the cold and icy behaviour of the snow queen perfectly, her disregard for love and emotion, in her own distorted world. This picture was actually created for a book which has used the traditional story by Anderson as a basis, but has been turned in to a sci-fi novel by Joan D. Vinge. Personally I have not read this book, favouring to stick to the classic story, but the art work for the newer book is stunning.

What do you think of the picture and the story? Why not tell me in the comments?


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