The Snow Queen

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The Snow Queen (Danish: Sneedronningen) is a fairy tale by author Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875). The tale was first published in 1845, and centers on the struggle between good and evil as experienced by a little boy and girl, Kai and Gerda.

The story is one of Andersen's longest and is considered by scholars, critics, and readers alike as one of his best. It is regularly included in selected tales and collections of his work as well as being frequently reprinted in illustrated storybook editions for children. The tale has been adapted in various media including animated film and television drama.


Narrative division

The Snow Queen is a tale told in seven 'stories' (Danish: Historier):


  • The Snow Queen, queen of the snowflakes or "snow bees", who travels throughout the world with the snow. Her palace and gardens are in the lands of permafrost, specifically Spitsbergen. She is successful in abducting Kai after he has fallen victim to the splinters of the troll-mirror. She promises to free Kai if he can spell "eternity" with the pieces of ice in her palace.
  • The troll or the devil, who makes an evil mirror that distorts reality and later shatters to infect people on earth with its splinters that distort sight and freeze hearts. Some English translations of "The Snow Queen" denote this character as a hobgoblin.
  • Kai (or Kay), a little boy who lives in a large city, in the garret of a building across the street from the home of Gerda, his playmate, whom he loves as a sister. He falls victim to the splinters of the troll-mirror and the blandishments of the Snow Queen.
  • Gerda, the heroine of this tale, who succeeds in finding and saving Kai from the Snow Queen. When Gerda loves Kai in the Snow Queen's palace, the ice around him spells "eternity", freeing him from the Snow Queen's influence and that of the evil mirror.
  • Grandmother of Kai, who tells him and Gerda the legend of the Snow Queen. Some of Grandmother's actions are essential points of the story.
  • An old sorceress, who maintains a cottage on the river, with a garden that is permanently in summer. She seeks to keep Gerda with her, but Gerda's thought of roses (the flower most favored by herself and Kai) awakens her from the old woman's enchantment.
  • A field Crow or Raven, who thinks that the new prince of his land is Kai.
  • A tame Crow or Raven, who is the mate of the field Crow/Raven and has the run of the princess's palace. She lets Gerda into the royal bedchamber in her search for Kai.
  • A princess, who desires a prince-consort as intelligent as she, who finds herself at home in her palace. She helps Gerda in her search for Kai by giving her warm, rich clothing, servants, and a golden coach.
  • Her prince, formerly a poor young man, who comes to the palace and passes the test set by the princess to become prince.
  • A robber hag, the only woman among the robbers who capture Gerda as she travels through their region in a golden coach.
  • The robber girl, daughter of the robber hag. She takes Gerda as a playmate, whereupon her captive doves and reindeer Bae tell Gerda that Kai is with the Snow Queen. The robber girl then helps Gerda continue her journey to find Kai.
  • Bae, the reindeer, who carries Gerda to the Snow Queen's palace.
  • A Lapp woman, who provides shelter to Gerda and Bae, and writes a message on a dried cod fish to the Finn woman further on the way to the Snow Queen's gardens.
  • A Finn woman, who lives just 2 miles away from the Snow Queen's gardens and palace. She knows the secret of Gerda's power to save Kai.

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