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Alison Marshall

Kristin Carlson

10 October 2015

The Snow Queens Story

Once upon a time there was a lonely, cold queen, who lived in

isolation hidden away in her grand palace. This mysterious woman of great

power has fascinated audiences ever since Hans Christian Anderson

introduced her in his fairy tale The Snow Queen. Like many of Andersons

fairy tales her story has stood the test of time and continues to make an

impact on audiences today through Disneys Frozen. Fairy tales have always

mesmerized audiences whether it be a written story from 1845 or a

computer generated animated film from 2013. While in terms of plot there

are only loose connections between the two, it is evident that the original

Snow Queen is the basis for the new movie. Though an individual would have

distinct experiences between the original fairy tale and the animated film,

both these genres use similar target audiences, style, tone, theme, imagery,

and symbolism for varying purposes to evolve with cultural expectations.

Hans Christian Anderson is a renowned storyteller who eloquently

describes the journey of little Gerda rescuing her friend Kay. His compilation

of seven short chapters follows Gerda through the hardships and trials as she

travels a great distance to find her beloved friend and rescue him from the

palace of the Snow Queen. While the Snow Queen appears very sparsely in

the story, her presence is strong throughout the work as she drives the plot

by spiriting Kay away. This saga of a young girls innocent motivation to

liberate a lost boy is captivating from beginning to end.

This moving story inspired generations of Disney animators for more

than 75 years before the film was green lit for production. Modern Disney

retold the Snow Queens story to be a tale of reunion between the hearts of

two sisters. This hour and a half film follows a pure-intentioned Anna in

search of her lost sister with the fate of their kingdom hanging in the

balance. Elsa becomes the Snow Queen, driving the plot by unintentionally

creating impending doom. This film is an enchanting Disney tale of a brave

young womans search for her treasured sister as she protects the kingdom

and discovers herself.

Both of these fairy tales feature a young female protagonist in order to

target a primary intended audience of elementary aged girls by focusing on

a protagonist that acts like them. Gerda is innocent, playful, and scared of

the dark and monsters. Anna is goofy, clumsy, and highly emotionally

expressive. This young target audience causes the story telling to be action

driven in both genres in order to keep the audience engaged and

entertained. Anderson fluently transitions from one event to the next with

little to no dialogue and a fast paced plot, which is due to the chapters being

straightforward challenges that can be solved simply. Similarly Frozen

engages the adolescent audience with a substantial amount of the dialogue

being in song form; singing makes up 24 min of the movie. This animated

film also has a short first act with the screen time favoring the action heavy

second act building up to a high stakes climax. Both of these genres adjust

their storytelling to target young girls, which is the reason they are told in

the genre most popular with this audience in the respective cultures. In the

19th century written fairy tales would be the primary medium of storytelling

entertainment, whereas now in the 21st century animated films impact this

audience on a larger scale than written stories.

Both these genres effectively use the style of an adventure story to tell

the Snow Queens fairy tale. Each follow a normal girl swept away on a grand

adventure, facing physical dangers and personal temptations. Gerda faces a

raging river and violent robbers as she must trek a long distance while Anna

faces wolves and a giant snow monster as she attempts to find her way

through the blizzard. The protagonists of both genres overcome their

physical obstacles with indomitable spirit and assistance from others. The

personal temptations are the hardest for the characters to overcome. For

Gerda it is a beautiful garden she can live in forever and for Anna it is waiting

on true love to save her. Gerda overcomes her temptation after she sees a

rose reminding her of Kay and it inspires her to resume her perilous journey.

Anna overcomes the betrayal of Hans by persevering to save herself without

romance. Both genres intend to illustrate a more complex journey by

incorporating a variety of obstacles, utilizing the same style formula despite

different genres. This multifaceted adventure story method has remained an

effective way to story tell even when transitioning the Snow Queen from a

written fairy tale to an animated film.


Both genres have a dramatic tone, which creates suspense from

intense encounters that happen at night. Anderson uses many riveting words

to describe the dark, gloomy dangers facing Gerda, such as The little robber

maiden wound her arm round Gerda's neck, held the knife in the other hand,

and snored so loud that everybody could hear her; but Gerda could not close

her eyes, for she did not know whether she was to live or die (Anderson 19).

On the other hand, Frozen utilizes specific color schemes, like eerie yellows

when Elsa is attacked or ominous deep purples when Anna is fleeing danger.

The suspense comes from the emotional connotations of the words or colors

for each respective genre. Andersons direct words are more intense than the

indirect color palates, but it was also more characteristic of Andersons time

to embed stories with charged emotional language. Today society is

concerned with the emotional intensity of animated films and prefers the

emotional cues to be subtler.

Both genres also present a theme of sacrifice for love, creating the

same takeaway for the audience. Anderson weaves his fairy tale in order to

present a moral ideal of sacrificing everything for a friend in need. In the

culture The Snow Queen was written, fairy tales served to teach children the

highest ideals by engaging them in a dramatic story. Gerdas sacrifices were

meant to be unable to be replicated and the ultimate challenge of saintly

status. The themes in Disney are attainable, relevant lessons and Frozens

theme is consistent with modern Disney in that it teaches to sacrifice for

family. Modern Disney is working to differentiate their new works from past

eras with themes that are consistent with current high profile values. The

intention of prioritizing family over romance is well received by audience

expectations of evolving animated films. Both these stories purposefully

create similar themes within the context of their respective times to meet

cultural expectations for teaching sacrifice.

Both genres use strong imagery to emphasize conflict of good and evil.

Anderson uses vivid words to detail the world around the characters more

than the characters themselves. The strongest images come from

descriptions of the icy landscapes or a vast forest drawing more attention in

the role of the setting than the protagonists choices. Gerda interacts with a

diverse array of environments and creatures that both assist and delay her

journey, highlighting the duality of good and bad in the world. She is

attacked by a sorceress, monster, and river, but is helped by a pair of royal

siblings, robber, and stray reindeer. In this way Anderson purposefully

focuses the audience on the extrinsic conflict of good and evil with his

purposefully crafted imagery. Frozen creates strong imagery visually to

highlight intrinsic conflict. This animated feature creates imagery with

consistent long, panning shots of the icy wonderland or a frozen fjord. These

serve to shift the tone between scenes in order to prime the audience mood

using visual cues. A sweeping view of windblown snow in a large, barren field

serves to relate the loneliness Elsa feels after having run away, which leads

into the emotional backbone of the film where Elsa transforms from fearing

her powers to embracing them. Another example is a panning shot of the


lifeless, frozen fjord just before cutting to Elsa in a dark prison gaping at the

destruction she has caused, confirming her fear of becoming a monster. This

film effectively uses the setting to compliment Elsas feelings, stressing her

inner conflict of viewing herself as good or bad. She falls between enjoying

her powers as a part of her contribution to the world around her and fearing

the harm her destructive power can cause. While both story tellers feature a

war of good and evil, one genre uses intense word choice in a written genre

to feature extrinsic conflict and the other uses specific visual shots in a visual

genre to showcase intrinsic conflict. It was much more common for written

fairy tales to solely feature exterior conflict in Andersons culture, but

modern society films have shifted to typically focusing on developing interior


Both genres use the palace to act as the final destination for the

protagonists and as symbolism for the Snow Queen. In Andersons fairy tale

the Snow Queens palace is a cold prison of isolation, trapping poor Kay

unless he can spell eternity out of the ice. As opposed to Frozen where Elsa

builds her castle as a safe haven where she stops running away and starts

facing the reality of her powers. This difference in symbolism is the result of

drastically different versions of the Snow Queen. Anderson requires a black

and white fairy tale with a clear antagonist, so her fortress is an evil prison.

Frozen strives to develop a complex Snow Queen by humanizing her within a

home she creates. This varying symbolism highlights the cultural evolution of

the Snow Queen character from a simple enemy in the classic, written fairy

tale to a dynamic character in the modern, animated story.

In conclusion, the Snow Queens story has lived on by evolving with

cultural expectations as the tale transitioned from one genre to another.

Because the primary medium for influencing children moved from a written

to a visual format, the genre therefore adapted while remaining the complex

adventure story caused by a mysterious woman of great power. In order to

maintain the same impact on the audience in a new culture there is a shift in

the emotional cues to be subtler, the sacrifice from within an ideal friendship

to an attainable sisterly bond, the good and evil conflict from external to

internal, and the palace from a cold prison to an icy wonderland. Although

Anderson would hardly recognize his fairy tale plot when watching Frozen,

Disney has brought new life to this classic story. Just as Frozen would not

meet audience expectations in the 19th century, the original written fairy tale

fails to have large impact in modern society. The Snow Queens story may

have been lost on modern society had it not adapted in genre to retain value

within cultural expectations.


Works Cited

Anderson, Hans Christian. The Snow Queen. London: Iames Burns,

1845. Print.

Frozen. Screenplay by Jennifer Lee. Walt Disney Animation Studios,

2013. Film.