The Realm of the Snow Queen

Walking through the forest after a snow, the landscape is muted, a monotone scene of black, gray, and white. Yet it feels so different. It feels like a magical realm, a crystalline cathedral. 

I wonder about this. Maybe the snow crystals refract light in a microscopic, barely perceptible way. Maybe something is happening with the snow and the light that is at the fringes of our perception.

Hans Christian Andersen’s tale The Snow Queen begins with the magic mirror of a Hobgoblin. It’s a mirror that distorts everything. What is beautiful appears ugly, what is good appears to be worthless. The mirror shatters into a million pieces, and is blown about by the wind. It gets into people’s bodies, and forever distorts what they see. 

I think we all have a little sliver of the hobgoblin’s mirror in us. We move through our days with lists and goals and forget to look at the world with wonder. We forget to stay awake to the everyday beauty in the world. 

The heroine of The Snow Queen is Gerda, who is on a quest to find and retrieve her friend Kay. Poor Kay has the triple misfortune of having a hobgoblin-mirror shard his eye, another in his heart, and he has been kidnapped by the Snow Queen. Bewitched by mirror and queen, he has forgotten his family and friends and believes the Queen’s palace—his prison— is a beautiful place. 

Gerda has quite the journey to find her beloved friend, wherein she befriends roses and crows, a fierce robber girl, and a reindeer. For most of her journey she is barefoot.

Before she reaches the Snow Queen’s palace she stops with a talking reindeer at the humble home of a magical Finn woman. The reindeer implores the Finn woman to impart some of her magic to strengthen Gerda. But the Finn woman pulls the reindeer into the corner and says:“I can’t give her greater power than she already has. Don’t you see how great it is? Don’t you see how both man and beast have to serve her? How she has got on as well as she has on her bare feet? We must not tell her what power she has; it is in her heart, because she is such a sweet, innocent child.”(Can I just say here how much I love that the Finn woman pulls the reindeer aside to have a secret conversation with him? It’s one of the many fine details in this story!)

Gerda has power because she is connected to a greater world. Her feet touch the earth. The flowers tell her their stories. The swallows answer her queries. The crows talk to her. The reindeer talks to her. She walks in power because her heart is fully open to the many languages of the world.

In the end, Gerda doesn’t need to battle the Snow Queen, who has left her palace to go dust some volcanoes.Now I am going to fly away to the warm countries.,” the Snow Queen said, “I want to go and peep into the black cauldrons! I must whiten them a little; it does them good, and the lemons and grapes too!The Snow Queen is not an evil figure; she is cold logic. Her throne is upon the “Mirror of Reason,” and she has given Kay “Ice Puzzles of Reason” to work out. Gerda’s real challenge is to gain access to this palace of reason, a cold and formidable place. 

Finally Gerda finds Kay. He is blue with cold and oblivious to his friend, but her hot tears of joy wash over his heart and his eye and the shards of the hobgoblin’s mirror fall away from him.  They are reunited and journey back to their home, where they find Gerda’s grandmother. 

The grandmother hears their story then quotes the bible:Without ye become as little children ye cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Friends, in this season of darkness, may we revive the child within us, who sees things on the fringes of perception, and knows how to talk to the plants and the animals.

May we walk in power, connected to a greater world, our feet touching the earth.
May we find our sense of wonder in the cold palace of Reason, and be reunited with our true selves. 

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