I'll be honest — when Elsa walked out that palace door letting it all go into the great snowy unknown, I had flashbacks to my earliest awareness of feminism (a T-shirt inherited from my mother emblazoned with the words "Women belong in the house... and the Senate"). And, after a recent, and deeply disturbing, encounter with some of my childhood Disney favorites (re-watch Peter Pan, I dare you), it feels good to fall so hard for a princess that brings new meaning — and some much needed nuance — to the idea of girl power.
So, if you feel a strong and unyielding connection with the modern snow queen, or even just a deep and abiding love for sentient snowmen, why not bring a little more of the snowy, sisterly, sweet, smart, strong Frozen fun into your life? Sure, you could start wearing gloves around the house, or take up ice harvesting, but if you're looking for a more literary way to indulge your love of all things Frozen, these 15 tales will bring you all the royal intrigue, wintery wonderlands, sisterly drama, and fairytale fortunes of the original without the soundtrack that may or may not be slowly driving your roommate towards a psychotic break.
Little Women by Louis May Alcott
In my humble opinion, Little Women is the greatest novel about sisters ever written — there are transcendental philosophies, petty struggles, raging fights, flights of fancy, and above all a deep and abiding love that practically seeps out of the pages. Alcott manages to craft a family that feels just as real in its flaws as it does in its finest hours, so if you long for the bond that Elsa and Anna share, Little Women is the story for you.
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Two sisters who couldn't be more different in outlook and attitude searching for love, acceptance, and belonging in a world that offers little more than abandonment, isolation, and domination—is any of that sounding familiar? Sisterly struggles are the hallmark of Frozen's emotional appeal, and if you just can't get enough, Sense and Sensibility offers a perfect twist on the timeless tale siblings whose undying love overcomes their utter incongruousness.
The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie
Sure, Frozen is about sisterhood, but it's also about sorcery, and nobody does sorcery quite like Salman Rushdie. The Enchantress of Florence has all the wicked witchcraft and mysterious power of Frozen with an added dash of dark eroticism and devotion to the historical lineage of the Mughal Empire. If you find yourself wishing there was just a hint more Fifty Shades of Grey to Frozen, settle in and allow Salman to seduce you.
Wise Children by Angela Carter
Like most fiction for the Frozen fan, Angela Carter's Wise Children focuses on the story of twin sisters tumbling through a life both mysterious and magical as they struggle to come to terms with a father who forsakes them to a life among entertainers as chorus girls. Drawing deeply on Shakespearian influences, Carter's unusual tale of family, mystery, estrangement, and adoption presents strong parallels with the story of orphaned Anna and Elsa, culminating in a line that is sure to ring true for any Frozen fan: "What a joy it is to dance and sing!"
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
The Blind Assassin brings a darkness not found in Frozen to the story of orphaned sisters trying to make their way in the world. Atwood's complex, beautifully narrated tale takes motifs spun in sugar throughout the Disney classic and drives them hard as steel into the hearts of readers with this heartbreaking modern masterpiece. If you're looking for a more adult take on misdirected love, frustrated ambition, and the unyielding sibling bond, The Blind Assassin belongs on your bedside table.
Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg
If you found the magic of Frozen inextricably linked to the flakes sent at will from the fingers of the cryokinetically inclined Elsa, Smilla's Sense of Snow should satisfy your hunger for all things ice. Høeg's culturally rich detective thriller hinges on Smilla's unique feeling for snow, and her intuitive, even visceral, understanding of the nature, power, and possibility of winter.
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
For every Frozen fan who's secretly dreamed of life as a beloved princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett's beloved tale of one young daughter's cosseted upbringing, early abandonment, and sudden disenfranchisement at a beastly boarding school brings the magic of fairy tales to life without ever resorting to a castle, a chariot, or a Prince Charming to make it all meaningful.
The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson
As the inspiration for Disney's Frozen, The Snow Queen is a must-read for any true fan. While Hans Christian Anderson's Snedronningen is certainly no Elsa, the all-too-familiar ice palace and preturnatural command over the winter world make Anderson's ice queen a perfect alternative for the Frozen fan looking for a new take on a favorite tale.
Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale begins with the mythic voyage of a young boy set adrift towards an alternative island of Manhatten as an infant. Making his way from the reeds to mortal danger, Peter Lake encounters magic, love, and more than a few close encounters with angry mobs. With a frozen landscape, a fabled horse, and enough prejudice and passion to start a war, Winter's Tale is the story for any Frozen fan who loves to revel in the strangeness of it all.
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Atonement offers up a cautionary tale of sisterly affection gone terribly awry through the misplaced certainty of a child barely old enough to understand her actions. Drawing upon themes of ostracism and misplaced loyalties, Ian McEwan's British war drama and Disney's wintery fairytale have far more in common than it might appear at first sight. But, as any good Frozen fan knows, when it comes to sisters, love, and the power of a story, the truth is always as complicated and unique as a single flake of snow.
The Ice Storm by Rick Moody
Rick Moody brings the frozen wasteland to suburbia for this striking, contemporary take on the hazards of winter. Without giving anything away, it's safe to say that this disparaging tale of social and familial upheaval offers a good deal by way of unexpected plot twists, and may just be the perfect R-rated antidote to your Frozen obsession.
The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike
Sorcery, witchcraft, cryokinetic abilities — it all comes down to magic in the end, an Updike's The Witches of Eastwick brings magic to Main Street with the story of contemporary conjurers who aquire power after asserting their own independence. As the Cougartown of fiction for the Frozen fan, The Witches of Eastwick has enough sex, snark, and straight-up misbehaving to satisfy any pop-culture-princess-loving Disney devotee.
Swamplandia by Karen Russell
While Disney's Arendelle and Russell's alligator wrestling theme park may not, on the surface, have an abundance of commonalities, Russell's surreal family drama also centers on the coming of age tales of two young sisters making their own way in a down and out kingdom without the guidance of loving parents. For the Frozen fan eager for a new take on a familiar tale set in a somewhat warmer locale, Swamplandia may be just what the witch doctor ordered.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
For the Frozen fans who like their royal intrigue with a little historical accuracy, Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall brings the best (or perhaps the worst) of the British monarchy to fictional life in devlishly sparkling detail. Prepare your tiara and ready your hounds, this Man Booker Prize-winning period piece is the real deal.
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
If, for the moment, you leave aside the royal pedigree, snow-based sorcery, and sisterly affection, ultimately Frozen is the story of one strong woman's quest to be free, and in her devotion to that journey Elsa greatly resembles Elizabeth Gilbert's 19th century protagonist, Miss Alma Whittaker. After struggling against the authority of a domineering patriarch, the wildly intelligent, desperately adventurous Alma lets it all go and sets off for a brave new world exciting the passions of Frozen fans just yearning for another woman off to stake out her own claim on the world, regardless of what anyone else might have to say about it.
Images: Giphy; Disney