Friday, April 11, 2014

Adaptations and Loose Interpretations: Frozen vs. The Snow Queen

Like any literature buff, I was excited to see at the end of Disney's FROZEN that the movie was based on a story by Hans Christian Andersen called The Snow Queen. So, like any good literature buff, I looked up the story in my copy of his collected works and read it, searching for the root of the story that had managed to inspire the movie FROZEN.

I got nothing.

I mean, I got something, but it was buried very deep down in what Disney had done. The names had all changed completely, the good witches who helped and hindered Gerda on her journey had been replaced with trolls that look like rocks and sing a lot about love, and in the end there were only four things the original story had in common with Disney's supposed retelling:

  • the setting
  • the randomly placed sauna in the middle of the woods (yep, really in the original story)
  • the shards that struck Anna in the heart and head (though they actually struck Gerda's friend Kay, a boy, whom the Snow Queen kidnapped and kept as a pet, and they weren't ice but pieces of a shattered demonic mirror that reflected all things beautiful as if they were ugly)
  • a queen with icy powers (though the actual Snow Queen was an elemental creature who traveled in the snow and had no compassion)
This is Hans Christian Andersen learning that they renamed the Snow Queen 'Elsa' and made her look like a lounge singer in an ice castle.

So, Saving Mr. Banks wasn't the only example of Disney taking so many artistic liberties as to make a story unrecognizable. And I know you can offer me many more in the comments. (Please, do.) 

At the end of the day, I still enjoyed watching Frozen, though not as much as my husband and four-year-old who think Olaf is HIL-arious and can't stop singing the songs. I was a little disappointed to learn that the original story, mentioned in the end credits, was so far warped in their animated adaptation. 

With all that said, I'm looking forward to reading THIS this week:

Thyra Winther's seventeen, the Snow Queen, and immortal, but if she can't reassemble a shattered enchanted mirror by her eighteenth birthday she's doomed to spend eternity as a wraith. 
Armed with magic granted by a ruthless wizard, Thyra schemes to survive with her mind and body intact. Unencumbered by kindness, she kidnaps local boy Kai Thorsen, whose mathematical skills rival her own. Two logical minds, Thyra calculates, are better than one. With time rapidly melting away she needs all the help she can steal. 
A cruel lie ensnares Kai in her plan, but three missing mirror shards and Kai's childhood friend, Gerda, present more formidable obstacles. Thyra's willing to do anything – venture into uncharted lands, outwit sorcerers, or battle enchanted beasts -- to reconstruct the mirror, yet her most dangerous adversary lies within her breast. Touched by the warmth of a wolf pup's devotion and the fire of a young man's desire, the thawing of Thyra's frozen heart could be her ultimate undoing. 
CROWN OF ICE is a YA Fantasy that reinvents Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen" from the perspective of a young woman who discovers that the greatest threat to her survival may be her own humanity.

Just look at how many similarities there are already to the original story: The shattered, enchanted mirror, Gerda, Kay (okay, she renamed him Kai), and the fact that the Snow Queen has a frozen heart. And yet, it's fresh and different, and packaged for a YA crowd. It releases December of this year, so I'm very excited to get to read it early. 

Happy Friday, everybody! What's on your reading list this weekend?


  1. I had actually heard about the Snow Queen connection before we saw Frozen, and it was why I was excited for it. But I left really disappointed, partly because I didn't see any of the Snow Queen story in there, but mostly because they was hardly any story AT ALL.

    Granted, being a writer can make us overly picky about story elements, but I think the most frustrating part for me was that it had potential. The characters and setting, conflict, were sketched out but not fleshed out. On the one hand, this may leave more room for kids to fill in the blanks with their own imaginations, but it left me feeling unsatisfied.

    I'll be checking out that book though! Have you read some of the great novelizations of East of the Sun, West of the Moon?

  2. I liked Frozen (mostly because of the music), but agree that they took a ton of liberties (especially the trolls--they had zero purpose and completely muddled the plot). The choices Elsa made also didn't feel very authentic to me, especially when I saw the movie in the theater.

    For funsies, here's the Honest Trailer for Frozen that covers some of the movie's flaws:

    But I will definitely be checking out that book--it looks amazing!

  3. I had read the Snow Queen long before Disney adapted it. When I took my kids to see the movie, I didn't realize they were consciously adapting Anderson's tale until the end credits. As its own story, I liked the Disney story, but Vicki Weavil's adaption sounds more true to the tone of the original. I'll have to check it out!

  4. I read a really interesting analysis of Hans though. Basically, the author totally interpreted Hans as the mirror. I'll have to search for the post but it was really an interesting analysis with a lot of thought put into it.

  5. I didn't know Frozen was patterned after Andersen's The Snow Queen, one of my all-time favorite stories growing up. Frozen doesn't hold a candle to The Snow Queen as far as storytelling is concerned, IMHO.
    Thanks for pointing out the source of Frozen and for giving me a lovely push to reread a lifelong favorite.
    Diane Turner

  6. I loved this show :) But then I'm always happy to find a movie my kids will watch that I can watch with them without wanting to gouge out my eyes :) It had goofy characters, fun songs, and I don't have to cringe when my kids are singing the lyrics at the top of their lungs lol Worked just fine for me ;)

  7. Frozen is......cute. I don't know if I have had my heart pierced with a shard of Devil Mirror or not but I think I have moved on from Disney (apart from the odd cold winter's night/day snuggled under the blankets.)
    Actually watching Frozen I realized that I had forgotten how a Disney movie is paced compared to the adult fare I watch now.
    Frozen has all the elements of the Snow Queen squished in there. The strength of sibling love, a hero's journey, the ice being a dangerous thing to be struck by and even the whole frozen heart deal.
    The Snow Queen is better, but it can also depend on the translation. The titular character is usually presented as evil in most translations (also, the Christian subtext is usually removed for some reason.)
    But she's not. We're told she is evil sure, but that's based on hearsay and the fear people have of her. She doesn't fight Gerda, in fact she just sort of leaves Kai (yes, it's KAI in the original) on his own and seemingly sets it up so Gerda can basically waltz on in and free him. Doesn't sound very evil to me.
    I like both stories as their own separate works of art and IMHO Frozen keeps enough of the original elements to say that they took inspiration from the Snow Queen.


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