The animated film Frozen, released in 2013, is currently the world’s ninth highest-grossing film of all time. Yet few people have heard of the original Snow Queen, written by Hans Christian Anderson in 1844.
Stories have always been a source of comfort for me. No, they provide more than comfort. Stories weave a world around my mind, letting me slip into another realm without moving an inch. They are not just an escape, but a reprieve.
I can’t remember how young I was when I was given this tape, but I do remember it came with a read-a-long book that bore tattered edges and torn pages by the end of our relationship. Carole Boyd, the narrator of this story, had a voice that washed over your ears like a wave, ebbing and flowing with a rhythm that swept your mind up and into The Snow Queen’s fantastical world.
Despite having not listened to this tape in more than a decade, I can easily recall the plot. Eager to play a trick on the gods, a conniving imp had set about delivering them a magical mirror. However, on his way up a narrow staircase to the heavens, the imp dropped the mirror. It shattered into millions of fragments which fell to earth, scattering across the globe.
Two of these fragments, little larger than a speck of dust, lodged themselves into the eye and heart of a young boy call Kay. Affected by the shards of this mirror – who’s sole purpose was to show ugly things as beautiful and beautiful things as ugly – Kay left his best friend Gerda, eventually finding himself freezing to death in the court of a Snow Queen.
The Queen was pure evil but, under the influence of the mirror, Kay adored her and was easily lured into her icy palace.
Meanwhile Gerda, Kay’s passionate and fierce friend, began a perilous journey to find her friend Kay and rescue him. She traversed cross country, giving away everything she had and risking her life in search of her companion.
This story was unlike any other I had heard before, or many I have read since. Its value was not in the drama or romance or adventure. The value of this tale was in its truthfulness. There was no cliché love at first sight, no damsel in distress, no unnecessary comedy added simply to relieve the tension of the storyline.
Instead, The Snow Queen told a tale about loving someone who has lost themselves, who is blinded by the influence of something beyond their control. It was also the first story, I think, to teach me that women can be rescuers and men can be vulnerable; and that there is far more to love than just romance.
I haven’t thrown away this tape just yet. In a dream boarded golden vignette, with a rose-coloured hue, I hope that maybe one day I will get to snuggle a child of my own close and press play on an antique cassette player, before drifting away on the gentle current of Carole Boyd’s velvet voice.