A Story From: Denmark
Read Time: ["6 to 10mins"]
For Ages: 5 to 7yrs., 8 to 10yrs., 10 to 14yrs.
The Snow Queen Fairy Tale (Adapted from Hans Christian Andersen) ~ "Early Reader" Stories in English
The Wizard’s Mirror
ONCE THERE WAS AN EVIL WIZARD who made a mirror with a special dark magic. If anything good or beautiful was reflected back in this evil mirror, it would look rotten and gray.
The wizard laughed and laughed. He was very pleased with his evil mirror! He wanted to show it to the whole world. So the wizard flew up high into the sky. But the mirror started to shake. It shook so much, the wizard could no longer hold on to it. Then it dropped down to earth and smashed into millions, billions, trillions of tiny sharp bits of glass that flew all over the place.
If one tiny, sharp bit of that evil glass landed in anyone’s eye, the person would see only the bad and dark in people, and would no more see the good. So it was in this land for hundreds of years.
Years later, there was a boy named Kai and a girl named Gerda who lived next door to each other. When they opened their bedroom windows, they could easily talk. A roof gutter ran between the two attic windows and inside it, the families had planted a garden where vegetables and roses grew. It was like their very own garden. Kai and Gerda’s families were poor and they had no toys to play with, but they did not mind. By the garden was where the two friends played, and they were happy.
When their bedroom windows were open, they were so close they could easily talk.
One day, Gerda and Kai were reading a book in the garden. All of a sudden, a gust of wind blew a sharp bit of that evil glass into Kai’s eye. Kai stood up. He threw down the book, right on top of the roses. "I will not read anymore!" he yelled. Gerda picked up the book and put the broken roses up high again. "Do you wnt to play a clapping game instead?" she said. But Kai cried out “No! I never want to play with you, Gerda, ever again!
The Snow Queen
The next day, Kai pulled his sled to town. His sled was too slow - if only it go faster! Then Kai saw a big white sleigh coming up the road. As it passed, Kai quickly tied his sled’s rope to the back of the sleigh. Now he could ride very fast behind the sleigh! But what Kai did not know is that one driving the sleigh was the Snow Queen herself.
The Snow Queen, in her white fur coat, had known that Kai was up ahead on the road. She had slowed down her sleigh when she got closer to Kai, giving him a chance to tie his rope to her sleigh. Then she had ridden off very fast, with Kai speeding behind her.
The one driving the sleigh was the Snow Queen herself.
After the Snow Queen drove past the town and deep into the woods, she stopped the sleigh and got out. “With one kiss,” she said to Kai, “you will no longer feel the cold.”
So Kai let her give him a kiss on one cheek. “And with this second kiss,” said the Snow Queen, kissing him on the other cheek, “you will forget all about Gerda and your family.”
The Snow Queen laughed and said, “If I kissed you a third time on your forehead, you would die. But I have things for you to do for me at my palace.” Then the Snow Queen got back into her sleigh and drove on to her palace.
Where was Kai?
Kai did not return home that day, or the day after that. You can imagine how upset everyone was! They said the boy must have died in the river that ran through their town! Gerda cried and cried. She ran to the river and asked if it was true. But the river would not say. Gerda took off her red shoes and held them high. She told the river she would give throw her red shoes into its waters, if only the river would give back her friend Kai. But the river would not let her throw in the shoes. And so Gerda knew that Kai must not be under the water.
But where was he?
Gerda went to many places looking for Kai! First, she went to see a witch. The witch tried to trick Gerda into staying with her forever and Gerda ran out very fast, just in time. Then she met a crow. The crow told Gerda that if she wanted to find Kai, she must go to the palace of the princess.
But where was he?
And so off went Gerda to the palace of the princess. There she met a prince, too, the princess’s brother. They both did not know about Kai, but they gave Gerda warm clothes and a beautiful coach she could ride on her way.
The Robber Girl
When Gerda was riding the coach, all of a sudden a band of robbers jumped up from behind and stopped her coach. The robbers were led by a Robber Girl, and the Robber Girl grabbed Gerda and took her as a prisoner.
Poor Gerda! She had lost her coach, she had no clue where to find Kai, and now she was a prisoner of the Robber Girl! Plus it was bitter cold and so all in all, you can see why Gerda felt very, very sad.
When they got to the Robber Girl’s home, the Robber Girl told Gerda she must sleep in a corner.
When she was alone, she cried out to the lofts, “Oh Kai, where are you?” where two white doves flew overhead.
“Oh Kai, where are you?”
“We remember seeing the boy Kai that the girl speaks of,” said one dove. “We will never forget it!” said the other dove. The first dove continued. “He was riding behind the Snow Queen as she drove by on her sleigh. We were sitting in our nest in the woods and as she sped by she breathed on us.” Said the other, sadly, “Only you and I survived!”
“I am sorry,” said Gerda. “But tell me, you saw you saw my dear Kai? Where was the Snow Queen taking him?”
“Most likely she was headed to Lapland,” said the first dove. “There is snow and ice all year long in that place. But that’s all we can tell you.”
“How will I ever find this place, Lapland?” Gerda cried out.
“Only you and I survived!”
Then a reindeer roped to a post spoke up. “I know all about Lapland,” said he. “It’s where I was born.”
“Please, could you take me there?” said Gerda.
“I surely would, if you and I were only free of this place,” said the reindeer. “But who knows how long we will be forced to stay here?”
The Robber Girl heard all of this talk. She was not really so mean after all, and she said to the reindeer, “Go, take her.” She cut the ropes that bound the reindeer. She helped Gerda to mount the reindeer and gave her a cushion to sit on, too. She even gave Gerda a pair of fur boots, two loaves of bread and a piece of bacon.
Off like the wind flew the reindeer and Gerda to Lapland. They rode and rode until it got dark and they needed to find a place to stay for the night.
They knocked on the door of a hut, and an old woman welcomed them in. Gerda and the reindeer told her about their search to find Gerda’s friend Kai. She listened, then said, “You still have 100 miles to ride before you get to Lapland,” she said. “You will know you have found the Snow Queen’s palace because she burns blue lights in her palace. When you see those lights burning, look for a hut nearby, like this one. Inside lives a wise old Lapland woman I know. “
The old woman took a piece of dried fish, and on it she wrote some words. “Give her this fish,” said the old woman, “and she will help you.”
The next day, the reindeer and Gerda flew like the wind. At nightfall they saw the blue lights far away, and they found the hut of the wise old woman. Very cold they were, and were glad that the wise old woman let them warm themselves by the fire.
The next day, the reindeer and Gerda flew like the wind.
Gerda told the wise old Lapland woman all about Kai, held captive by the Snow Queen at her palace.
“If you find this boy, you must know he will not want to leave,” said the wise old Lapland woman. “He is in her power and believes her palace is the very best place in the world. He has forgotten all about you and anyone he ever loved before.”
“Oh, dear!” said Gerda. Then the reindeer remembered the fish. “Does this tell you anything?” said the reindeer.
The wise old Lapland woman read its words three times and then put the fish in the pot on the fire for soup, as she never wanted to waste anything.
“Did that mean nothing?” cried out Gerda.
“Can you do anything to help her?” said the reindeer. “Something to give her the power of ten men?”
“The power of ten men!” said the wise woman. “That would be of very little use. Kai has some bad glass in his eye, and the Snow Queen has no doubt kissed him twice. As long as the glass stays there, he will never feel like himself and she will always have power over him.”
“But surely I can do something!” cried Gerda.
“Look how far you have already come,” said the wise old woman. “There is nothing anyone can do for you that you could not do for yourself."
“The power of ten men!” said the wise woman. “That would be of very little use.”
The wise old Lapland woman said to the reindeer, “This is what I can tell you. Take Gerda to the Snow Queen’s palace. Go fast. When you see a bush with red berries half covered in snow, that is where you should put her down. Wait for her there.”
So Gerda mounted the reindeer, and off they went.
The Palace of the Snow Queen
“I do not believe it!” cried Gerda after the wise old woman’s hut was no longer in view behind them. “I left my fur boots behind!” But there was no time to go back, and so on they went.
At the bush with red berries, Gerda got off the reindeer. And so there was Gerda, with no boots and her feet bare in the cold snow. But the Snow Queen’s palace was right ahead of her, its blue lights burning in the windows, and so Gerda walked on.
As she went, she called and called for Kai. Finally she found him! There he was in front of her on a frozen lake, down on his knees. The Snow Queen had given him a job of putting pieces of glass into words, or numbers that were math puzzles. For this frozen lake was the Lake of Reason, and on this Lake sat the throne of the Snow Queen.
And so there was Gerda, no boots and her feet bare in the cold snow.
Kai was dark blue, almost black, but he had so little feeling left he did not even notice the cold. The Snow Queen had gone out and Kai was busy with his task, working on the icy lake. Slowly he moved one piece of ice here and another there, making the words and numbers.
“Kai!” called Gerda. But Kai did not turn. Gerda ran up to his face. “Kai! Kai!” But finally when Kai turned, he looked right past her with his deep black eyes, not seeing her at all. Gerda burst into tears. Cold and cutting were the winds on that lake. As Gerda cried “Kai, where are you?” one of her tears blew right onto Kai’s face.
The tear burned Kai’s face until his whole face felt hot. Then Kai, too, was crying.
“Gerda!” said Kai, “is that you?” And Kai shivered. He cried with joy, and the evil bit of sharp glass was washed from his eye. Kai took Gerda’s hands. Though they were frozen cold, they both felt warm inside.
The trip back home
Gerda and Kai walked hand in hand back to the bush with the red berries. As they walked, the sun came out and warmed and dried their heads. The wind stopped and birds started to chirp. Before they knew it, the reindeer stood before them, waiting for them.
The reindeer carried them back to the wise old woman’s hut, and then to the first old woman. Each old woman warmed and fed them. Gerda was given a new pair of fur boots, and each of them got a fur hat. As the reindeer carried them on the long road back home, who came along the road but the Robber Girl!
How glad they were to see each other! The Robber Girl said to Gerda, “So this is the friend you traveled all the way across the world to save. I hope he was worth it!”
The Robber Girl said they should both hop on her sleigh and she would give them a lift home. When they finally got home they found it was summertime, and they were all grown up.
It was summertime, and they were all grown up.
In the years that came to be, Gerda and Kai stayed best friends. The rest of their lives were warm and happy, with no more adventures with the Snow Queen or the cold frozen north. And that was just fine with the two of them.
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This story has been adapted from "The Snow Queen" (Danish: Snedronningen), an original fairy tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. The tale was first published 21 December 1844 in New Fairy Tales. First Volume. Second Collection. 1845. (Danish: Nye Eventyr. Første Bind. Anden Samling. 1845.) The story centres on the struggle between good and evil as experienced by Gerda and her friend, Kai.