The Snow Queen in Seven Stories — Seventh Story — Of the Palace of the Snow Queen and What Happened There At Last
The walls of the palace were formed of drifted snow, and the windows and doors of cutting, bitter winds. There were more than a hundred rooms in it, all as if they had been formed from snow blown together. The largest of them extended for miles, lit by the vivid light of the aurora, and they were so large and empty, so icy cold and glittering.
There were no amusements to be found here, not even when the raging storms could be taken for music; for the ice that was Kai’s heart, and the shard in his eye, meant that he no longer remembered how to dance, or how important it was to him.
There were no pleasant games of snap-dragon, or touch, or even a gossip over the tea table, for the young arctic vixens. Empty, vast and cold were the halls of the Snow Queen. The flickering flames of the northern lights were plain to see from every part of the castle, whether they rose high or low, but the importance of their dance meant nothing to Kai either.
In the midst of the empty, endless halls of snow was a frozen lake, broken on its surface into a thousand forms, with each piece resembling another, from being in itself perfect as a work of art. At the centre of this lake sat the Snow Queen, at least, when she was at home. She called the lake “The Mirror of Reason,” and said that it was the best, and indeed, the only one in the world.
Kai was quite blue with the cold, indeed, almost black, but he could not feel it, for the Snow Queen had kissed away the icy shiverings, along with memory and understanding, and his heart was already a lump of ice. He dragged sharp, flat pieces of ice to and fro, and placed them together in all kinds of positions, as if he wished to make something of them. Kai’s fingers were very artistic and it was the icy game of reason at which he played, and in his eyes the figures were remarkable, and of the highest importance. He composed many complete figures, forming different words, but there was one word he could never form, although he wished it very hard. It was the word “Truth.”
The Snow Queen had said to him, with a smile that Kai would have recognised as cruel were he able to still recognise such things; “When you can find out this, you shall be your own master, and I will give you the whole world and a new pair of skates.” But he could not accomplish it.
“Now I must hasten away to warmer countries,” said the Snow Queen. “I will go and look into the black craters of the tops of the burning mountains, Etna and Vesuvius, as they are called — I shall make them look white, which will be good for them, and for the lemons and the grapes.” And away flew the Snow Queen, leaving Kai quite alone in the great hall. So he sat and looked at his pieces of ice, and was thinking so deeply, and sat so still, that any one might have supposed he was frozen.
It was at that moment that Gerda came through the great door of the castle. The bitter, cutting winds raged all around, but completed by the acceptance and knowledge found outside in the palace grounds, afire with power, Gerda sang, and the winds quieted at her words, as if in hope that a dream long since dreamt would come to pass.
And so Gerda went on, until the great hall was reached, and Kai was found, nearly black with the cold, so still it seemed death had already found him. But Gerda, now able to see past despair and able to see the truth inside, flew to Kai, wrapping arms around him, and holding him fast, exclaiming, “Kai, dear Kai, I have found you at last.”
But he sat quite still; stiff and cold.
Then Gerda wept hot tears, which fell on his breast, and penetrated into his heart, washing away the little piece of glass that had stuck there, thawing it enough to beat once more. And as he looked, Gerda sang —
“Roses bloom and cease to be,
Look upon me, the Somer-child see”
And Kai burst into tears, weeping so that the splinter of glass washed from Kai’s eye;
And saw. For the first time, truly saw. The truth of Gerda, and the truth within, hidden by the shards of glass.
And with the promise of a dream long since dreamt finally fulfilled, Kai sang —
“Snowdrops bloom and cease to be,
Look upon me, the Winter-child see”
“Gerda, dear Gerda, where have you been all this time,” asked the Winter-child, “and where have I been?” And she looked all around her and said, “How large and empty it all looks”; and she clung to the Somer-child, even as he laughed and wept for joy. It was so pleasing to see them that the pieces of ice even danced about; and when they were tired and went to lie down, they formed themselves into the letters of the word which the Snow Queen said she must find out before she could be her own mistress, and have the whole world and a pair of new skates. The Gerda kissed her cheeks, and they became blooming, and he kissed her eyes, and they shone like his own, he kissed her hands and her feet, and the fire within the Gerda, the Somer-child, passed within Kai, making her healthy and cheerful. The Snow Queen might come home now when she pleased, for there stood the Winter-child’s certainty of finding love, and freedom from an eternity of searching and chasing, in the word the Snow Queen wanted, written in shining letters of ice.
Then they took each other by the hand, and went forth from the great palace of ice. They spoke of the grandmother, and of the roses on the roof, and as they went on, the winds danced, and the sun shone forth. When they arrived at the bush with the red berries, there stood the reindeer waiting for them, and he had brought another reindeer with him. They carried Kai and Gerda first to the Finnish woman, where she gave them directions about their journey home. Next they went to the Laplander woman, who had made some new clothes for them, and put their sleighs in order. Both the reindeer ran by their side, and followed them as far as the boundaries of the country, where the first green leaves were budding. And here they took leave of the two reindeer and the Lapland woman, and all said “Farewell”. Then the birds began to twitter, and the forest too was full of young green leaves, and out of it came a beautiful horse, which Gerda remembered, for it was one which had drawn the golden coach. A young girl was riding upon it, with a shining red cap on her head, and pistols in her belt. It was the little robber-maiden, who had got tired of staying at home; she was first going to the north and if that didn’t suit her, well, there was plenty of world to explore that wasn’t filled with murderous cannibal robbers. She knew Gerda directly, and Gerda remembered her, and it was a joyful meeting.
“You’re a fine one to go gadding about in this way,” the once-robber-girl said to Kai, “I should like to know whether you deserve that anyone should go to the end of the world to find you”
But Gerda patted her cheeks, and asked after the princess and prince.
“They are gone to foreign countries,” said the once-robber-girl, “which seems like a dereliction of duty if you ask me, but nobody ever does.”
“And the crow?” asked the Somer-child.
“Oh, the crow is around here somewhere, along with his wife. Turns out when royalty buggers off leaving the throne empty their retirement plans went with them. So they both scout for me now. Pays not much, but as long as I’ve got a bit of pie, maybe some bread, or best yet, a decent length of sausage, they both seem happy enough. But now tell me how you managed to get him back,” replied the once-robber-girl pointing to Kai.
Gerda looked over and smiled “I got her back by finding my truth and acceptance.”
And Kai looked back and smiled, “And his truth, and his acceptance of me, allowed me to find my truth”.
Then Gerda and Kai told her all about it.
“Snip, snap, snare! it’s all right at last,” said the once-robber-girl.
Then she took both their hands, and promised that if ever she should pass through the town, she would call and pay them a visit. And then she rode away into the wide world. But Gerda and Kai went hand-in-hand towards home; and as they advanced, spring appeared more lovely with its green verdure and its beautiful flowers. Very soon they recognized the large town where they lived, and the tall steeples of the churches, in which the sweet bells were ringing a merry peal as they entered it, and found their way to their grandmother’s door. They went upstairs into the little room, where all looked just as it used to do. The old clock was going “tick, tick,” and the hands pointed to the time of day, but as they passed through the door into the room they realised that they were both grown up, and become a man and woman. The roses out on the roof were in full bloom, and peeped in at the window; and there stood the little chairs, on which they had sat when children; and Gerda and Kai seated themselves each on their own chair, and held each other by the hand, while the cold empty grandeur of the Snow Queen’s palace vanished from their memories like a painful dream. And Gerda and Kai looked into each other’s eyes, and sung in their hearts —
“Roses/Snowdrops bloom and cease to be,
Look upon me, the Somer-child/Winter-child see”
And they both sat there, grown up, yet children at heart; and the weeping of the Winter-child was finally ended, and the Somer-child no longer alone.