Filtering by Tag: retellings

Frozen, Retellings, and Mother's Day

As the grand finale to an entire weekend celebrating Mother’s Day, Mom and I sat back and watched both Frozen and Tangled. The two movies, paired together, made perfect sense, especially because I love the theory connecting Anna, Elsa, and Rapunzel together. I don’t really care if it isn’t true. It’s fun to think about.  

Anywho, I love both movies. I think that Tangled’s animation is more polished, but the music in Frozen is delightfully addicting.

However, I’m also a huge fairy tale fan and some things just sort of… bother me. I’m always in search of new retellings, whether in film or book form, and when I was poking around Goodreads, looking at Snow Queen retellings, I found a review that said something like this:

“… if you want a good retelling of the Snow Queen, watch Frozen.”


I cannot agree with this.

Because I think it’s fairly obvious that Frozen is not a retelling.

When rumors of the new movie were floating around, all signs pointed to the news that Disney was going to retell Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, “The Snow Queen.” And I was thrilled. It’s a long, strange tale full of danger, longing, and hope trapped in ice. Gerda is one of the strongest fairy tale characters I’ve ever read, and I wanted badly to watch her entire journey unfold on the big screen.

But as (most) of us know, the movie took a completely different turn and is, truly, its own film. Frozen is Frozen. No retelling in sight.

Even with a time crunch, clever editing, and the combining of minor characters, it would be difficult to fit “The Snow Queen” into a feature-length film. That’s why most retellings for “The Snow Queen” come in mini-series form (I’ll get to that later).

If you’ve never read the original, what are you doing? You’ll need some time, but it will be well worth the read.

There are a few characters that you’d need for a legit retelling of “The Snow Queen.” I was about to make a list, except that I while I was surfing the internet during my lunch break, I found some great articles… and someone who said it better than me, by far:

"There is the Snow Queen herself, a formidable villain who’s power is treated with respect. There is Kai’s grandmother, who provides an essential catalyst to Gerda’s journey. There is the old witch woman with the enchanted garden who functions as a threshold guardian for Gerda while being characterized in a respectful manner that serves as a good subversion of the old witch trope. There is a female crow who knows how to sneak into palaces, a helpful princess who heads a side plot in which she will only marry a prince as intelligent as her (!!!), a robber and her daughter, head of a band of robbers who kidnap Gerda. The daughter is a spunky, knife wielding girl who befriends Gerda and aids her on her way. And finally, there are two women, the latter of whom helps Gerda understand the inherent power she has always had within her, a power that will ultimately save her friend, and the world."

The only characters The Feminist Fangirl fails to mention in here is Kay / Kai and the reindeer. With good reason. The point of her article is much different than my blog post. If you know me, you know I love a good story where a boy needs rescuing. My heart pounds every time I reach the moment when the Snow Queen steals Kai away. He's already damaged by then, after having absorbed poisonous shards in his eye and heart, turning him into a cold, cruel boy.

(SOUNDS LIKE HANS. MAYBE. I need to stop with the theories that may or may not make great Frozen sequel ideas).

Danger looms in the world because people have absorbed the mirror shards (mistaken for snow), but Gerda’s journey takes her beyond her home and into a place where crows talk, princesses read newspapers on pearl-thrones, and robber-girls can be persuaded to help you if you know what to say. Gerda’s love for Kai never wavers, even though she is severely tested by those she meets.

I could probably keep going, haha. Depending upon the ages picked or a retelling, Gerda and Kai’s love may just be friendship, or blossoming into something more.

Frozen is more about sisterly bonds, not marrying the first guy you meet, learning to embrace what makes you unique instead of hiding it away. While all fine lessons and great story material, it cannot be compared to Gerda’s journey.

Now then, before I switch gears, I’ll share my two favorite film adaptations of “The Snow Queen,” in case you’re looking for something that actually follows Anderson’s tale (you should). 

My most favorite adaptation. Yep. Hands down. And Hallmark Entertainment made it. This is a mini-series, allowing us plenty of time to get to know Gerda, Kai, and even the Queen herself. Four things I love about this series:

1)        Gerda and Kai’s relationship is romantic. What can I say? I’m a shipper. They are both teenagers in this version; Kai loves Gerda, but she’s still mourning over her mother’s death to notice her own feelings for him. But just as they start to come together, the Snow Queen strikes.

2)       The mini-series follows both Gerda’s journey and Kai’s, which is a first. Instead of being stuck doing nothing, Kai searches for a way out of the ice palace, tries to fend off the Snow Queen and avoid completing the mirror puzzle, and strikes up a shaky truce with the Snow Queen’s guard – a polar bear.

3)       The world Gerda travels through is sectioned off into seasons. There’s the Spring Witch (the same one, in the original, that tries to trap Gerda in her cozy cottage), the Summer Princess (a new version of the pearl-throne princess), and the Autumn Robber (the old robber woman, mother of the robber-girl). All three are the Snow Queen’s sisters, desperate to maintain their respective seasons despite the Snow Queen’s growing dominance.

4)       Most of the characters have interesting backstories, filling out Anderson’s fairy tale without distorting it too much. Everyone’s motivations are clear. Their actions have purpose. My favorite, of course, is finding out what drives the polar bear’s loyalty to the Snow Queen.

The second is, uh, pretty bizarre, but even more accurate to the original.  Made by the BBC, The Snow Queen is a blending of operatic songs with major CGI tricks that form to create disorienting and beautiful settings. Truthfully, this was a hard one to watch the first time (I mean it when I say the style is disorienting), but it grows on you. Certain scenes exude magic, and the showdown between Gerda and the Snow Queen is exciting. 

It’s hot outside. Freezing inside (I think I’m sitting underneath five air vents in my cubicle). Despite wishing I could wear a parka at work, my mind isn’t on the cold. 

Or so I thought. 

I've got my own retelling of "The Snow Queen" languishing on my computer. At 45k, just short of a novel-length manuscript, Tread Softly had been on for a while before I took it down, polished and sent it out, etc. Thinking about Frozen started a chain reaction, I suppose, and I started skimming Tread Softly for my own versions of the princess, Gerda, the crows, and the reindeer. To see exactly what I did with Andersen's beautiful fairy tale.

Brrr. Now I really need to burrow under a blanket. Too bad it's May. 

The Bloody Chamber - Angela Carter

Anyone who knows me in some capacity can tell you, without a doubt, that I love fairy tales. I can't say my parents had willingly reared me to love stories with sneaky spindles, lovelorn mermaids, and enchanted bridegrooms. However, I've been told that those were the stories I'd choose to read over anything else. Perhaps a tiny fairy godmother tapped me with her wand while I slept in my crib; she poured fairy tales into my veins.

That being said, I'm not a big fan of the movement to retell fairy tales in their darkest capacities. Blood, gore, adultery, abuse... this list goes on with common themes that make me cringe. This trend is reaching novels, but for the most part I'm talking about fairy tales short stories that tend to get published in literary magazines these days. I completely understand that most fairy tales were, in fact, vulgar and the symbolism involved in each tale bridged the gap between childhood and adulthood. But all these new pieces of fairy tale lore often make my stomach turn. And I'm not a squeamish person (In fact, I watched three Hellraiser movies in a row last weekend and loved every second of it, haha).

The thing is, I want to read retellings that carry me away with creative imagery and inventive worlds. I want quirky characters, plot twists that make my jaw drop, and a playful exploration of the symbolism each original tale carries with it. I don't want to fall down into the cracks of a day-less cave and wonder how many tears I'll shed before finding my way to the end of the book.

These feelings have prevented me from purchasing a copy of Angela Carter's fairy tale collection called The Bloody Chamber. Carter is a heavy-hitter in the literary world, but her writing has always been known to reach the very bottom of darkness and sensuality. I had read her stories over the years from different anthologies and loved them - but I had been worried that I was only seeing some of the more tame stories in the collection. I wondered what I was missing and if reading through the collection would be worth trudging through the trenches of the inner soul. Well, I was ready for it now.

After reading The Bloody Chamber, I can say, with absolute satisfaction, that Carter's retellings were amazing. Each one has its own creative spin and language, and the stories in the collection are arranged to that each one, in some way, naturally leads to the next one. That's expert structuring. Unlike some of the writers whose retelling work makes me shudder in horror and boredom, Carter used these darker themes to create unfettered worlds and character that make you think they have sprung from beautiful, jewel-tone paintings.

But the most wonderful part of The Bloody Chamber is the language. So from some of my favorite stories in the collection, I've plucked sentences that may not explain the plot, but show how intricately crafted each story is, even down to the word choice.

The Bloody Chamber

"I should have liked, best of all, a novel in yellow paper; I wanted to curl up on the rug before the blazing fire, lose myself in a cheap novel, munch sticky liquor chocolates. If I rang for them, a maid would bring me chocolates."

The Courtship of Mr. Lyon

"Before, however, he could announce his presence, the door swung silently inward on well-oiled hinges and he saw a white hall where the candles of a great chandelier cast their benign light upon so many, many flowers in great, free-standing jars of crystal that it seemed the whole of spring drew him into its warmth with a profound intake of breath. Yet there was no living person in the hall."

The Tiger's Bride

"A knocking and clattering behind the door of the cupboard; the door swings open and out glides a soubrette from an operetta, with glossy, nut-brown curls, rosy cheeks, blue, rolling eyes; it takes me a moment to recognize her, in her little cap, her white stockings, her frilled petticoats. She carries a looking glass in one hand and a powder puff in the other and there is a musical box where her heart should be; she tinkles as she rolls toward me on her tiny wheels."

The Erl-King

"The woods enclose and then enclose again, like a system of Chinese boxes opening one into another; the intimate perspectives of the wood changed endlessly around the interloper; the imaginary traveler walking towards an inventive distance that perpetually receded before me. It is easy to lose yourself in these woods."

The Lady in the House of Love

"The Countess stood behind a low table, beside a pretty, silly, gilt-and-wire birdcage, hands outstretched in a distracted attitude that was almost one of flight; she looked as startled by their entry as if she had not requested it. With her stark white face, her lovely death's head surrounded by long dark hair that fell down as straight as if it were soaking wet, she looked like a shipwrecked bride."


"Although she could not run so fast on two legs in petticoats, she trotted out in her new dress to investigate the odorous October hedgerows, like a debutante from the castle, delighted with herself but still, now and then, singing to the wolves with a kind of wistful triumph, because now she knew how to wear clothes and so had put on the visible sign of her difference from them."