A Story From: Denmark
Read Time: ["6 to 10mins"]
For Ages: 5 to 7yrs., 8 to 10yrs., 10 to 14yrs.
Read More of This Story
The Robber Girl
Gerda was riding her coach when a band of robbers jumped up from behind. The robbers were led by a Robber Girl. The Robber Girl made Gerda go into the back of the coach. Then she took the reins. And Gerda was her prisoner!
Poor Gerda! She had lost her coach. She was a prisoner. And she had no more clue than ever where to find Kai.
The Robber Girl took Gerda back to the house where she lived. Gerda must sleep in the barn, in a corner next to a reindeer.
When the Robber Girl had left, Gerda cried out, “Oh Kai, where are you?” Two white dove birds up high in the loft of the barn, heard her cry.
“Oh Kai, where are you?”
Said one dove to her, “We remember seeing that boy Kai you speak of.”
“You do?” said Gerda.
“What a sad day that was!” said the other dove. “That was when the Snow Queen drove by on her sleigh. The boy Kai was riding behind on his sled, very fast.”
“We were sitting in our nest,” said the first dove. “When that evil Snow Queen passed by, she turned and breathed on us.” The dove could not finish, and the other one said, “Only my brother and I lived after that!”
“How terrible! I am so sorry for you,” said Gerda. “But you saw my dear Kai? Where was the sleigh headed?”
“Most likely the Snow Queen was going to her palace in Lapland,” said the first dove. “That’s where there is snow and ice all year long.”
“How will I ever find this place, Lapland?” said Gerda.
“Only you and I survived!”
Then the reindeer, who was roped to a post, spoke up. “I know all about Lapland,” said the reindeer. “It is where I was born.”
“Please, could you take me there?” said Gerda.
“Yes I could, if only you and I were free of this place. But who knows how long we must stay here?”
The Robber Girl was just outside the barn door all this time. She was not really so mean after all. She went into the barn and cut the ropes that bound the reindeer. She helped Gerda mount the reindeer and gave her a cushion to sit on. She even gave Gerda a pair of fur boots, two loaves of bread and a piece of bacon, too. “Be off now,” said the Robber Girl. “Find your friend.”
Off like the wind flew Gerda and the reindeer. They rode and rode until it got dark. Then they needed to find a place to stay for the night.
They knocked on the door of a hut. An old woman opened the door and welcomed them in. Gerda and the reindeer told her about their search to find Kai. The old woman said, “You still have a long way to go to get to Lapland. The Snow Queen’s palace is 100 miles away.”
“How will we find it?” said Gerda.
“The windows of her palace burn with a blue light that can be seen for miles around,” said she. “You can’t miss it. But when you get there, do not go right up to the palace. First, look for a cabin nearby with a red door. Inside that cabin lives a Lapland woman I know.” The old woman picked up a piece of dried fish and wrote some words on it. “Give her this fish,” said the old woman,”and she will help you.”
The next day, the reindeer and Gerda rode as fast as they could. They flew like the wind for three days. On the third day, they saw blue lights from afar. When they got closer, they saw it was a large, dark palace, Nearby, just as the old woman had said, was a cabin with a red door. Very cold they were by then, and hungry too. And glad when a Lapland woman opened the door and let them warm themselves by her fire.
The next day, the reindeer and Gerda flew like the wind.
Gerda told her that they had coming looking her dear friend Kai. And that Kai was last seen with the Snow Queen. She handed the fish to the Lapland woman.
She read the words on the fish three times. Then she put it in the pot on the fire for soup, as she never wanted to waste anything.
“Did it tell you anything at all?” cried out Gerda.
The reindeer said, “Something to give Gerda the power of ten men?”
“The power of ten men!” said the Lapland woman, in a huff. “That would be of very little use. There is nothing anyone can do for this girl that she can not do for herself!” She turned to Gerda. “Your friend Kai got some bad glass in his eye. That is why the Snow Queen took him. By now, she has probably kissed him twice. That gives her full power over him.”
“Surely something can be done!” cried Gerda.
“Maybe,” said the Lapland woman. She turned to the reindeer. “Take Gerda to the Snow Queen’s palace. You will see a bush with red berries half covered in snow. Put her down at the bush and wait for her there while she goes to find Kai. And Gerda,” said she, turning to the girl, “there is something you must know. When you find Kai, he will not want to leave. He is in her power. He thinks that her palace is the very best place in the world. He has forgotten all about you.”
“What will I do?” Gerda cried out.
“Look at what you have already done!” said the Lapland woman. “Look at how far you have already come.”
“The power of ten men!” said the wise woman. “That would be of very little use to her.”
And so Gerda mounted the reindeer, and off they went.
The Palace of the Snow Queen
“Oh, no!” said Gerda after the cabin was no longer in sight. “I left my fur boots behind!” But there was no time to go back. So on they went.
At the bush with red berries, Gerda climbed off the reindeer. There she was, 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. So Gerda walked on.
As she went, she called and called for Kai. At last, there he was! He was sitting on top of a frozen lake, down on his knees. A throne sat on the lake, and it was empty. The Snow Queen had given Kai a job of setting pieces of ice into words. Other pieces of ice he must make into numbers. For this frozen lake was the Lake of Reason. And the throne was the very throne of the Snow Queen.
At last, there he was!
“Kai!” called Gerda. But he did not look up.
Kai’s skin was dark blue, as if he was frozen. He had so little feeling left he did not even notice the cold anymore. The Snow Queen was away and Kai was busy with his task, working on the frozen lake. He moved one piece of ice here and another there, making the words and numbers.
“Kai!” called Gerda again. Still, Kai did not look up. Gerda ran right up to his face. “Kai! Kai!”
At last, Kai looked up. But he looked right past her with his deep dark eyes, and did not see her at all. Gerda burst into tears. Cold and cutting was the wind on that lake. As Gerda cried “Kai, where are you?” one of her tears blew right onto Kai’s face.
The tear burned his face until his whole face felt hot. Then Kai, too, was crying.
“Gerda!” said Kai, “is that you?” Kai shivered. He cried with joy, for the evil bit of glass was washed from his eye. Kai took Gerda’s hands. Though they were both frozen cold, each of them felt warm inside.
Trip Back Home
Gerda and Kai walked hand in hand back to the bush with the red berries, where the reindeer waited. As they walked, the sun came out and warmed and dried them. The wind stopped and birds started to chirp. Before they knew it, there was the reindeer, in front of them.
The reindeer took them back the the first old woman, who gave Gerda a new pair of fur boots. Each of them got a fur hat, too. As the reindeer carried them on the long road back home, who came along the road but the Robber Girl! She was riding the coach she had taken from Gerda, but Gerda was glad to see her, just the same.
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!” They all smiled.
The Robber Girl said they should hop on her sleigh and she would give them a lift home. By the time they finally got home, it was summertime. Much to their surprise, 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 the best of friends. There were no more adventures with the Snow Queen or the cold frozen north, and each lived a quiet life. But they knew deep down that no matter what, they would always look out for each other.
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.