Snow Queen Redeemed
What ‘Frozen’ Has in Common with Andersen’s Tale
After two failed attempts to adapt Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” Disney finally released “Frozen.” Those familiar with the original fairy tale’s complex storyline might understand the challenge the screenwriters faced. The Disney version simplifies the story, but remains true to the original message of the tale.
Leading this endeavor in her directorial debut, Jennifer Lee (also the screenwriter for “Frozen” and “Wreck-It Ralph”) adds depth to the characters and gives the story new life. Even though it was years in the making, “Frozen” is worth the wait.
For the first time two princesses take center stage in a Disney movie. The royal sisters, Elsa and Anna, grow up together yet apart in the same castle. Anna, the younger sister (voiced by Kristen Bell), cherishes her memories of playing with Elsa (Idina Menzel) when they were little, and wonders why Elsa never leaves her room. Heartbroken, she continues to beg her sister to come out of her room and play, but the door remains closed.
Born with the magical power to create snow and ice, Elsa remembers when her power became dangerous—she nearly killed her sister by accident. By shutting out the world, closing all doors, and avoiding her sister, Elsa attempts to control her secret power. But this comes at a great cost. In her isolation, Elsa never has a chance to experience love for someone else.
For years Elsa’s magic has been successfully hidden, until a tragic accident renders Elsa both an orphan and a new queen. It was easy for Elsa to control her feelings and her magic when she stayed in her room, but such control is difficult in her new role as queen of Arendelle. When her magic is discovered, she runs away, causing a never-ending winter like the White Witch in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” In both these stories and in the original tale, winter brings darkness and desolation to all the other inhabitants. No longer the ruler of Arendelle, Elsa still remains a queen, a queen of snow.
Hoping to bring back summer and desperate to have a real relationship with her sister, Anna embarks on a journey to find her. With the help of some new friends, she is determined to redeem and restore the snow queen—even though it will mean making a great sacrifice.
Even though Andersen didn’t redeem the Snow Queen in his original tale, the theme of redemption is still clear there. In fact, Andersen mentions Jesus three times in his story. The main characters, a boy named Kay and a girl named Gerda, first mention Jesus while playing in the garden among the roses. Touched by the garden’s beauty, they “rejoice in God’s bright sunshine” and sing a hymn of praise: “Where roses deck the flowery vale/There, infant Jesus, we thee hail!”
Days later, ice and glass enter Kay’s heart and eyes and he becomes the worst version of himself, destroying the roses and teasing Gerda. He strays from home and the Snow Queen captures him. The Snow Queen continues the damage by freezing him with her kisses, and she takes him to her snowy castle. Fallen from his innocent state, Kay wants to recite a prayer, but “can only remember his multiplication tables.” Thankfully, there is one who can help him in his helpless state.
Like Anna with her sister, Gerda embarks on a long journey in search of Kay. As she approaches the Snow Queen’s castle, Gerda seeks help from Jesus, praying the Lord’s Prayer. As she prays, her breath turns into angels who guard her as she enters the Snow Queen’s castle. Upon seeing Kay nearly frozen to death, she weeps. Like Elsa’s tears of love, Gerda’s tears of love penetrate Kay’s heart and thaw the lump of ice. When Gerda sings to him the hymn they both sang in the garden, Kay weeps, and his tears wash away the glass in his eye. The story concludes with the children returning to the summer garden and singing the same hymn of praise to Jesus.
Clearly, the Gospel is central to the plot of the fairy tale: The children dwell in paradise in an innocent state, they are wounded and broken by sin, they are healed by Christ’s love, and they return to paradise, restored.
While Jesus isn’t mentioned in “Frozen,” the Gospel message is there for those with eyes to see it: Elsa is unable to help herself, unable to fix her problem, and unable to love others. Instead of loving her sister, she wounds her, physically and emotionally. Yet because of the sacrificial love of another, her heart is changed.
Indeed, only a true act of love can thaw a frozen heart. Just as Anna sacrifices herself for her sister, Jesus sacrificed himself in order to save us. Because of Christ and His act of love and obedience on the cross, our hearts are thawed, regenerated, and redeemed. Moreover, we are restored, able to create beauty and truly love others, and the characters in “Frozen” paint this picture.
“Frozen” is rated PG for some action and mild rude humor, but I highly recommend watching the movie—as well as reading the original tale with your family—this Christmas season.
Ashley Chandler, a graduate of Columbia International University and St. John’s College, teaches, reads, and writes in Charlotte, North Carolina.