The first snow of winter has fallen, The
Snow Queen has lain her cloak upon the ground:
Be careful not to catch a snowflake in your heart
for though they may be beautiful, their crystals contain
slivers of glass from the dark enchanted mirror
dropped to Earth moments before The Fall
and if you catch that snowflake in your heart, all
will be darkness and despair within you,
which will emanate, to freeze in turn
the hearts of those close by
just as the Snow Queen lays her freezing cloak
upon the ground; don’t say I didn’t warn you:
Be careful not to catch a snowflake in your heart.
© Experimentsinfiction 2020, All Rights Reserved
One of my favourite fairytales is The Snow Queen by Hans Cristian Andersen. It’s all about a boy who is enchanted by the mystical Snow Queen, and forgets his best friend, until she travels the world to find him and melt the ice within his heart, breaking the Snow Queen’s spell. You can read the full text online, but the introduction is worth quoting in full, and gives a little context to my poem:
The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen: Story the First
Which tells of the looking-glass and the bits of it
Attention, please, we’re going to begin. When we’ve got to the end of the story we shall know more than we do now. There was a wicked troll. He was one of the very worst sort—he was the devil. One day he was in a very temper, for he had made a looking-glass which had this property: that everything good and pretty that was reflected in it shrivelled away in it to almost nothing, but everything that was no good and looked ugly came out plain and showed even worse than it was. The most beautiful landscapes looked like boiled spinach in the glass, and the best of men grew hideous, or else stood on their heads and had no stomachs. Their faces were so distorted that they couldn’t be recognized, and if anyone had a freckle, you could be sure it would spread all over his nose and mouth.
It was extra-ordinarily funny, the devil said. If a kind pious thought passed through a man’s mind, there came such a grimace in the glass that the troll-devil couldn’t but laugh at his clever invention. Everyone who attended the troll school (for he kept a troll school) spread the news all about that a miracle had come to pass: you could now see, they said, what the world and mankind really looked like. They ran about everywhere with the glass, and at last there wasn’t a country or a person left who hadn’t been distorted in it.
After that they decided to fly up to heaven itself and make fun of the angels and of God. The higher they flew with the glass, the more it grimaced, till they could scarcely keep hold of it. Up and up they flew, nearer to God and His angels, and then the glass quivered so fearfully with grimacing that it fell out of their hands and was dashed on the ground below, where it broke into hundreds of millions, billions, and even more pieces; and that very thing made matters worse than before, for some of the bits were hardly as big as a grain of sand, and these flew all about in the wide world, and when they got into peoples’ eyes, they stuck there, and the people either saw everything crooked or else had only eyes for what was wrong in anything; for every little splinter of the glass had kept the same power that the whole glass had.
Some people even got a little bit of the glass into their hearts, and that was horrible, for the heart became just like a lump of ice. Some of the pieces were so big that they were used for window glass, but it didn’t pay to look at your friends through those window-panes. Other pieces were made into spectacles, and that was a bad business, if people put on those spectacles in order to see correctly and judge rightly. The evil one laughed till he split, it tickled him so. But out in the world little bits of glass were still flying about in the air.
Now we are to hear all about it…
Through the Looking Glass
Read the full story at Guttenberg.ca, from which the above text is quoted. That image of a glass in which everything is distorted is to me so descriptive of the human condition: ‘They ran about everywhere with the glass, and at last there wasn’t a country or a person left who hadn’t been distorted in it.‘ It’s sometimes what I feel is happening in the world today, where hatred and ignorance spread like wildfire, something else which spreads due to human greed and ignorance. It’s important to remember that what we see in the glass is a distortion, not the truth: the people either saw everything crooked or else had only eyes for what was wrong in anything. I was one of those people, until I realised the world really isn’t that bad, until we distort it with the lies we tell ourselves and others. A book which helped me to this realisation was The Voice of Knowledge: A Practical Guide To Inner Peace by Don Miguel Ruiz (2004, Amber-Allen Publishing)
For a beautiful illustrated version of The Snow Queen story, check out this publication from the year I was born:
Image taken from jonkers.co.uk, where you can also buy the book. My only quarrel with this version is that it misses out the whole introduction about the dark mirror. This is something of a travesty. But the illustrations are so wonderful it transports me back to that mythical realm of childhood.
Speaking of mythical realms, The Snow Queen reminds me a lot of The White Witch in the Chronicles of Narnia, although she’s not quite so overtly evil, there’s something very sinister and insidious in her subtle magic.
Posted for Earthweal’s Open Link Weekend #47.