The Snow Queen

“The wolves howled,  the ravens screamed and the northern lights quivered in the sky”

adapted by Melanie Ray

This tale is about two friends, a boy (Kai) and a girl (Gerda).  Kai is accidentally hurt by a splinter from a magic mirror, and his heart begins to slowly freeze over.  The Snow Queen lures him away from home one day, and Gerda goes in search of him.  She has many adventures, and eventually rescues him from the Snow Queen’s Ice Palace in the far North.

He was born in Odense, Denmark to great poverty in 1805.  His schooling was sketchy.  He preferred being alone with his stories and doll theatre to the rough boys of the school, and he was allowed to stay home.  At seven, he saw his first play, and decided to become an actor.  When at last he got to Copenhagen, bright with enthusiasm for life, theatre and his poetry, he was told he was too lanky and clumsy to be an actor.  When he tried writing plays, his poor grammar and spelling got him nowhere.  Finally a playwright befriended him and sent him to school, where he learned the tools he needed to write down all the wonderful stories he had always been making up.

He was also a teller of tales, and especially fond of making stories up on the spot for children, or making up his own versions of old folktales.  In his lifetime he was famed for his plays and poetry as well as his fairy tales, in Denmark and around the world.  But today the fairy tales are remembered best.   “The Princess and the Pea”, and “The Ugly Duckling” are just two that are still well-known today.

Before he died in 1875, he was beloved by children all over the world.  It is said that when American children found out that Andersen had not been paid “even a dollar” for all his books published in America, many of them sent him dollar bills by mail!


Hans Christian Andersen – Elias Bredsdorff, Phaidon Press Limited, 1975
just one of several, but highly recommended.  adult

Capturing the Golden Bird – Jean Chapman, Hodder and Stoughton (Australia), 1987
a juvenile version, with several of the stories as well

Collections of Andersen’s Fairy Tales (recommended for pictures or text or both)

The Complete fairy tales and stories/Hans Christian Andersen
translated from the Danish by Erik Christian Haugaard, Anchor Press, 1983.  this translation is highly recommended; foreward by Virginia Haviland, cover art by Maurice Sendak

Ardizzone’s Hans Andersen: fourteen classic tales
A. Deutsch, 1978.  Ardizzone has illustrated Andersen’s stories

Dulac’s The Snow Queen: and other stories from Hans Andersen
Hodder and Stoughton, 1975.  another great illustrator

Hans Christian Andersen: Fairy Tales
translated from the Danish by Tiina Nunnally.  Viking (Penguin Group, 2004)
Another excellent translation

A book on how to tell stories
Stories in the Classroom – Bob Barton and David Booth, Pembroke Publishers Ltd., 1990
Barton, teller and teacher, has other excellent books too

Some translations and adaptations of “The Snow Queen”

The Snow Queen
a retelling by Ken Setterington, Toronto storyteller, Tundra Books, 2000

Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen: a Christmas Pageant
Richard Kennedy, Harper Collins Publishers, 1996
an excellent writer of tales in his own right

Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen: a fairy tale told in seven stories
Sylvia McNicoll, Tundra Books, 2000

Kate Greenaway’s original drawings for the Snow Queen
H.C. Andersen, Schocken Books, 1981

The Snow Queen – retold by Caroline Peachey from the original English version, illustrated
by P.J. Lynch, Harcourt Brace, 1994

The Snow Queen – Eileen Kernaghan, Thistledown Press, 2000
A children’s novel based on the original story


Many countries have traditions of cutting intricate designs into paper to make decorations or pictures.  It is said to have originated in China.  During Andersen’s time, silhouettes, or scherenschnitte, as he knew them, were popular all over Europe.  People who couldn’t afford an expensive portrait in oils could hire a silhouette artist to cut a likeness of them in paper.  Silhouettes were to the ordinary people of the nineteenth century what photographs are to us.  (Incidentally, when photography began, Andersen learned how to do it, and he loved having his photo taken.)

Hans Andersen was not only adroit with paper and sharp scissors, he broke new ground, as he was doing with writing, in the art of scherensnitte.  For one thing, he worked mostly with white rather than the usual black paper.  For another, he never drew his designs first, but simply cut away at the paper, often at the same time as he was telling stories to a group of children.  At the end of the tale he would unfold another bit of magic in the paper.  Gnomes, swans, ballerinas, castles, ships, palm trees, there was no end to his invention.  Of the thousands he made, some 250 still survive.

Wonderful book about Andersen’s paper cuts

The Amazing Paper Cuttings of Hans Christian Andersen
Beth Wagner Brust, Ticknor and Fields, 1994.  This is a delightful
book written for children; do get it out of the library for a treat.

The most basic sort of paper cutting is to take a piece of paper, fold it in half, then cut away sections of it as you please, always remembering to leave some of the folded edge intact.  Perhaps the simplest one that I ever learned was making a paper doll chain.  And then there is always the making of paper snowflakes.

Try this – it is called the Tree of Life, and Andersen made them in his lifetime.  The design can be anything you want:

Take a piece of paper in white, or any other colour you like.  Fold it in half lengthwise.

Using sharp pointed scissors, cut away both layers of the paper to make one-half of a tree, with the trunk running up the folded edge.

You can put in branches, leaves, bird’s nests, someone climbing the tree, hens  pecking at the bottom, anything you want.  Just make sure you have something of your fold line left, and that anything you want to keep is joined to the rest of the ‘keepsies’  (Because the trunk runs up the fold, this is a good one for beginners)

Now unfold your paper, and the mirror image of your work  completes your Tree of Life.

There is much more, so please take a look at your library or bookstore.

Books on paper cutting

Paper Cutting – Florence Temko, Doubleday and Co. Inc., 1973
This book has other things besides the “scherenschnitte”, and it is wonderfully written, clear instructions and lots of encouragement for a child’s ideas

Paper and Card – Erica Burt, Wayland (Publishers)Limited, 1989.  There is only a page or two on cutting paper, but they are well done, and simple.

From the time he was seven, Hans was in love with the theatre, and though he couldn’t follow his first love, acting, he did write many plays, and many were performed.  He sometimes saw as many as three plays in one night!

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