The story of a piece of glass to the heart, of dazzling ice and an epic journey to save a friend in need.
The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen is a perfect winter tale for cosy bedtime reading. It is Andersen’s longest story and is among his most loved too. This novella length tale is told in seven ‘stories’ in which Little Gerda ventures on a quest to find and free her friend Kay. He is under an evil curse and has been kidnapped by the enchanting Snow Queen.
The Snow Queen
A Hans Christian Andersen Tale
– First Story –
Which Treats of the Mirror and the Broken Pieces
Well, now we’re going to begin. When we are at the end of the story we shall know more than we do now, for he was a bad goblin! He was one of the very worst, for he was the devil. One day he was in a very good humour, for he had made a mirror which had this peculiarity, that everything good and beautiful that was reflected in it shrank into almost nothing, but that all that was worthless and ugly was magnified and looked even worse than before. The most lovely landscapes looked like boiled spinach, and the best of people looked hideous, or stood on their heads and had no bodies; their faces were so distorted that no one would know them, and if anybody had one freckle it was sure to spread all over his nose and mouth.
That was most amusing, said the devil. When a good pious thought passed through anyone’s mind it was shown again in the mirror, in such a way that the goblin-chief chuckled at his crafty invention. All who went to the goblin school—for he kept a goblin school—declared all round that a miracle had been worked. For at last, they asserted, one could see for the first time how the world and the people in it really looked. They ran about with the mirror, till at last there was not a land or a person that had not been seen in it distorted. Next they wanted to fly up to heaven with it, to scoff at the angels and the Lord. The higher they flew with the mirror, the worse it grinned, till they could scarcely hold it.
Higher and higher they flew, nearer to God and the angels, and then the mirror trembled so terribly in its grinning that it slipped out of their hands and fell down to the earth, where it was shattered into a hundred million billion and more splinters. After that it caused greater misfortune than before, for some of the splinters were hardly as big as a grain of sand, and these flew about all over the world, and whenever they flew into anyone’s eye they stuck there, and those people saw everything distorted, or had eyes only for the wrong side of a thing, for every little fragment had retained the same power as the whole looking-glass. A few people even got a tiny splinter of the mirror into their hearts, and that was terrible indeed, for such a heart became a block of ice.
A few pieces of the glass were so large that they were used as window-panes, but it was a bad thing to look at one’s friends through these panes; other pieces were made into spectacles, and when people put on these spectacles to see correctly and to be just, then things went all wrong; and then the Evil One laughed till his paunch shook: it delighted him so.
But some little fragments of glass still floated about in the air. Now we shall hear!