Book Review

Hans Christian Andersen’s THE SNOW QUEEN & THE FIR TREE

andersen-hans-christian-tsq-tft-dual-coverTitle: The Snow Queen: A Tale in Seven Stories & The Fir Tree
Author: Hans Christian Andersen
Format: eBook, courtesy of NetGalley and Ten Speed Press
Date Available: October 4, 2016
Dates Read: September 22, 2016
Rating: 3 stars

Introduction.

Happy December 1st!

It feels like Christmas is right around the corner. I thought I’d start off this holiday month with a dual review of The Snow Queen: A Tale in Seven Stories and The Fir Tree by Hans Christian Andersen. Although first published on December 21, 1844, these new additions include beautiful illustrations by Finnish illustrator Sanna Annukka. Because I received these copies in an eBook format, I was not able to enjoy the illustrations nor was I really able to get an authentic feel for the books, which was rather unfortunate. I will have to visit a bookstore, or purchase a copy for myself, to really get a feel for the full scope of these beautifully-illustrated editions of Hans Christian Andersen’s well-known work.

The Snow Queen.

One day the devil was in a very good humour because he had just finished a mirror which had this peculiar power: everything good and beautiful that was reflected in it seemed to dwindle to almost nothing at all, while everything that was worthless and ugly became the most conspicuous and even uglier than ever.

I was excited to read The Snow Queen, especially because Frozen is based loosely off the narrative. While I knew the two stories were very different, I was nonetheless looking forward to reading this Hans Christian Andersen version. What I didn’t realize was how different these two versions actually were. I can see only a handful of elements that made it into Frozen from The Snow Queen – namely the idea of having a frozen heart, though in this version it was due to a mirror shard rendered by the devil, and the idea of love being more powerful than anything rendered by the devil. The Snow Queen herself was only a minor figure, showing up in the beginning to take Kay away, and mentioned briefly in the end. In this respect, I like the idea that Disney gave voice to a such minor character. Even the reindeer had a larger part to play than the Snow Queen herself.

I did enjoy Hans Christian Andersen’s version of the story, however. It wasn’t as dark as I was expecting it to be, especially for a Hans Christian Andersen story. I was a little surprised. I was heartened when little Gerta set out in search of her friend, and loved her determination, spirit, and unwillingness to give up. It was a nice read to get in the holiday spirit of love of kinship.

The Fir Tree.

The Fir Tree was a little bit more of what I was expecting from a Hans Christian Andersen story. I actually felt bad for the naïve little fir tree, even though I knew what was coming. It was such a pessimistic and depressing short story. It is the story of a tree who always wanted to be more than what he was:

“Oh to grow and grow, to get bigger and older. That is the only lovely thing in this world,” thought the tree.

The little fir tree was so excited when he finally got his wish when it was cut down to be a Christmas tree. After being chosen, he was decorated and pampered with decorations of walnuts and apples and other finery. Although nervous, the tree was excited, though disappointed he did not get to enjoy in any of the revelry.

“Tomorrow I won’t tremble,” it thought. “I will fully enjoy all my glory.” …And the tree stood still and pensive all night long.

However, there was no more splendour in story for the little fir tree. Instead, he was eventually cut up and burned as firewood. Reminiscing about all the good times he actually had, he learned a very value lesson:

“It’s over, it’s over!” said the poor tree. “If only I had enjoyed it while I could. It’s over, it’s over!”

The moral of the story: enjoy what you have. Don’t continually wish for what you think is right around the next bend because you think it’s going to be better than what you have. Before you know it, you’ll be at the end of your life wishing you had enjoyed and savored it a little more.

Conclusion.

And on that cheery note, Merry Christmas!

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