The Snow Queen is a lesser-known tale by Hans Christian Andersen. It’s a collection of stories, really. The first is about a mirror made by an evil sprite, which shows everything reflected in it at its worst. This mirror is broken, and bits of it fly into people’s eyes and hearts and so on, causing them to perceive things in the worst possible ways. The next story tells of Kay and Gerda, neighbors and friends, and the happy times they have together at different seasons. Kay gets a bit of the mirror into his heart and another into his eye. He goes sledding, is lost in the snow, and is rescued — or perhaps kidnapped — by the Snow Queen. In the third through sixth stories, Gerda sets off to look for Kay and has adventures with talking flowers, a raven, and a robber maiden. In the seventh story, she finds Kay, who has grown cold and unfeeling, and frees him with her love from the spell of the snow queen.
There are lots of wonderful picture book versions of The Snow Queen:
- Amy Erlich and Susan Jeffers have done a pretty book with a faithful retelling of the story.
- Naomi Lewis has a sparkling version with a briefer story.
- Pavel Tatarnikov has kept the full text.
- Mary Engelbreit’s The Snow Queen can be hard to find, but may be more appealing to younger kids.
There are also some online versions:
- The BBC/PBS version of the story is an interesting adaptation. The website has some interesting things to explore.
- Storynory has the whole thing to listen to, in three parts.
- SurLaLune has an annotated versionof the story.
- A reading comprehension quiz for the story.
- Jeanine Gailey Hall’s poem will be great for reading with teens. After reading the original story, use this poem to spark discussion and writing.
- Kelly Link has a list of characters. Use this list as a starting point for character maps.
- Enjoy a slideshow of Vladislav Yerko’s wonderful illustrations, presented by the Anderson House Foundation.
- Blogger One Crabapple shows the progress of a collage inspired by the story. Share this with students and challenge them to create their own collage showing what the story means to them.
- The Snow Queen has been popular among composers. Check out a collection of songs with good recordings and history notes.
- Tchaikovsky’s composition may be the most famous, and it is readily avaliable on CD. Tchaikovsky: The Snow Queen op 39 includes narration by ballerina Natalia Markova.
- Hear samples of Tobin’s ballet.
- Use any of these pieces for extensive or intensive listening practice, as background music for art projects, or for analysis using Venn diagrams.
- When Kay is frightened, he tries to pray but can only remember his multiplication tables. If your class still needs to review the multiplication tables, shamelessly seize this opportunity.
- We hear also that Kay can do mental arithmetic “up to fractions.” Some writers claim that Kay’s aptitude for math is part of his coldness after the shards of the mirror enter his heart. Is this a stereotype about math and mathematicians? Is a quantitative approach to life necessarily cold or negative? See if you can prepare a debate on the subject.
- A distorting mirror is one of the important elements of the story. Check out the science of fun house mirrors. If you have Java on your classroom computer, try this computer-based experiment on curved mirrors.
- Moira Li-Lynn Ong has written that The Snow Queen is a metaphorical view of depression. PBS has a science-oriented lesson plan on depression.
- There is a feature on Mars known as the Snow Queen. Read the article and check out the NASA photos for some science-related reading practice.
- One interpretation of The Snow Queen is that it is about friendship. Use a snowflake graphic organizer to explore the characteristics of a good friend.
- Some say that Kay’s decision to go play with the boys is a rejection of his early friendship with Greta. Ask students whether they went through a spell of rejecting their early neighborhood friends for classmates who seemed cooler for some reason. How do they feel about it now? Use this as a writing prompt.