How Is 'Frozen' Different From 'The Snow Queen' By Hans Christian Andersen? They're An Icy World Apart

Guys — I have a confession. I didn't really like Disney's Frozen, the inescapable movie based on "The Snow Queen" by Hans Christian Andersen. As a devout Disney follower, I applaud the fact that the film gave us a sister relationship, rather than a romantic relationship, at the forefront of the story. But that does not excuse Frozen's gaping plot holes and the not-that-catchy songs (not counting "Let It Go" of course). That's not to take away from the excellent performances of Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel, who played Anna and Elsa, respectively.

As a huge fan of original fairytales (despite their super creepiness), it would have been interesting if Disney had stuck a bit closer to the source material. So what are the similarities and differences between Disney and the Danish writer's tale? Let's a take a closer look...

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Hearts Turning to Ice — Part I

Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” is actually broken into seven different stories. The first is called “Which Has to Do with a Mirror and its Fragments” and in it, an evil mirror created by the devil had distorted people’s image of themselves. When the mirror shatters, “A few people even got a glass splinter in their hearts, and that was a terrible thing, for it turned their hearts into lumps of ice.”

It’s a bit of a different premise from Frozen, which focuses on Princess Elsa’s power to turn things into ice. Instead, the rest of “The Snow Queen” follows two children who are affected by this mirror.

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Sibling relationships

The main characters in “The Snow Queen” are Gerda and Kay who are described as being “not brother and sister, but they loved each other just as much as if they had been.”

The driving force in “The Snow Queen” is Gerda searching for Kay who had gotten evil mirror pieces in his heart and eye. Although it sounds similar to Frozen, the pair are not a perfect match for the princesses Elsa and Anna. Gerda is more of the Anna character since she’s on a search to help her beloved sibling (whether or not biological), but in Frozen, Anna is also the one who has her heart frozen — which is what kind of happened to Kay.

In a cool nod to the fairy tale, there are characters in Frozen named Gerda and Kai (the untranslated version of Kay).

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Hearts Turning to Ice — Part II

As previously mentioned, in Frozen, Anna’s heart is accidentally turned to ice by her magical sister, Elsa. But Anna doesn’t lose her sweet nature when her heart freezes, which is unfortunately not the case for Kay in “The Snow Queen.” With his heart struck, he forgets about Gerda and his home and joins the Snow Queen.

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Costume Designs

In the second story of “The Snow Queen” — entitled “A Little Boy and a Little Girl,” Kay has his first encounter with the Snow Queen who appears at his home in the form of a snowflake. Andersen wrote, “This flake grew bigger and bigger, until at last it turned into a woman, who was dressed in the finest white gauze which looked as if it had been made from millions of star-shaped flakes. She was beautiful and she was graceful, but she was ice-shining, glittering ice.”

That definitely sounds like the inspiration for Elsa’s sassy dress when she learns to “Let It Go” and give into her icy power.

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Non-human Sidekicks — Part I

Unfortunately, there are no trolls in “The Snow Queen.” The only creature that comes remotely close is the devil creature that created the evil mirror. He was described as a “terribly bad hobgoblin, a goblin of the very wickedest sort and, in fact, he was the devil himself.”

The adorable trolls in Frozen are healers and sing the fun song “Fixer Upper.” So, a troll definitely does not equal a hobgoblin.

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A Prince and Princess — Part I

In the fourth “The Snow Queen” story, “The Prince and the Princess,” Gerda encounters a raven who tells her a story about a clever princess who wanted to get married as soon as possible: “And she made up her mind to marry as soon as she could find the sort of husband who could give a good answer when anyone spoke to him, instead of one of those fellows who merely stand around looking impressive, for that is so tiresome.”

The explanation of the princess and her willingness to be married is kind of reminiscent of Anna and Hans’s relationship. Anna was so quick to agree to marry someone who understood her quirkiness. But it is a bit of a stretch since Anna is more like Gerda in “The Snow Queen” and there are no real romantic relationships in the original fairytale. It may be for the best since the whole Hans thing didn’t really work out for Anna anyway. However, that also means no Kristoff in the original fairytale. Say it ain’t so!

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A Prince and Princess — Part II

Gerda thinks the princess mentioned in the previous slide has found her prince in the form of her friend Kay. Turns out it’s not him, but the princess and prince are very kind to Gerda and take care of her. Wouldn’t it be cool if this kind princess and prince were the inspiration for the Rapunzel and Ryder Flynn cameo in Frozen, eh? Eh?

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Non-human Sidekicks — Part II

As far as sidekicks go, Andersen liked him some birds. Gerda had two crows help her in her quest to find Kay instead of Frozen’s Olaf — the friendliest snowman around (sorry, Frosty). Gerda’s crows ended up getting married (and then the male one died leaving the female crow a widow) and were infinitely less silly than Olaf. Pigeons also helped Gerda in the fifth story story ofThe Snow Queen.” But none of the birds got a musical number like happy-go-lucky Olaf did.

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Non-human Sidekicks — Part III

The fifth story in “The Snow Queen” is called “The Little Robber Girl.” Little robber girl is helpful to Gerda (although psychotic) and she doesn’t appear anywhere in Frozen. But she does have a reindeer like Kristoff.

Kristoff is 100 percent a better pet owner to Sven than the little robber girl is to her reindeer Bae. As she tells Gerda about her reindeer, “We have to keep a sharp eye on him, or he would run away from us too. Every single night I tickle his neck with my knife blade, for he is afraid of that.” Eeeeeeee.

But don’t worry. Things get better for old Bae as shown in the next slide.

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Scandinavian Setting

Frozen takes place in the fictional Arendelle — which is very clearly inspired by Norway (fjords and all). In “The Snow Queen,” Gerda travels to Lapland with Bae the reindeer (with the blessing of the little robber girl) in search of the Snow Queen and Kay. Per the Encyclopedia Britannica, Lapland is “region of northern Europe largely within the Arctic Circle, stretching across northern Norway, Sweden, and Finland and into the Kola Peninsula of Russia.”

When Gerda asks Bae if he knows where Lapland is, he replies, “Who knows it better than I? … There I was born, there I was bred, and there I kicked my heels in freedom, across the fields of snow.”

Another fun fact — Santa Claus’s hometown is allegedly in Finnish Lapland. So, it definitely makes sense why the reindeer would know it so well.

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A Happy Ending

Just like in Frozen, there is a happy ending in “The Snow Queen,” which I feel like is rare for the source fairytales (especially considering that the poor Little Mermaid ended up as sea foam in Andersen’s original story). In “The Snow Queen,” Gerda successfully saved Kay from his icy fate — just like how Elsa ended up saving her sister. Siblings saving siblings! (Aww.)

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