Summary: When Gerda’s childhood friend Kai starts to pull away, burying himself in what he deems to be more sensible areas of study and making fun of her artistic nature, Gerda is understandably confused and distraught. But when Kai’s so-called relative comes to town and seems to cast a spell on Kai before taking him away, Gerda knows something is seriously wrong. She sets out on a journey to save him from the Enchantress and himself, running into obstacles that slow her down, but also end up introducing her to Ritva, a shaman in training who is well-versed in dealing with mystical aspects of life Gerda has trouble with. Together they work on rescuing Kai, outwitting the Snow Queen and making it out of her lair alive.
Number of Pages: 158
Age Range: 13-14
Review: In an interesting take on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, Eileen Kernaghan uses her version to focus on the different kinds of strength and power, belief and disbelief in the magic and mystical and the importance of self-determination. Her story focuses on Kai’s disappearance, but also on his rescue thanks to the ingenuity of Gerda and Ritva.
Gerda is motivated by her love for Kai. It is so overwhelming that she ventures out on her own without a solid plan to rescue her love. Fortunately, when she runs into trouble, the kindness of strangers keeps her going, until Ritva’s people hijack her carriage. Derailed from her journey Gerda is forced to spend months with Ritva and her family, and over time the two do become friends. Ritva is looking for a way out, a new start, and accompanying Gerda becomes a way to protect her but also to escape and make her own way.
But Gerda and Ritva are quite different. Gerda believes in one God and Ritva believes in many. Ritva knows how to let her soul wander outside of her body and bring it back again, and Gerda clings to the predictability of science. Despite their differences though, the two work well together, supporting each other and bringing diverse strengths to the table. Both have their own kind of power and come into their own on their journey.
It’s inspiring because I really enjoyed their growth. I liked the adventure of the story, and the mystical aspects that come with a fairy tale story. The ending made me sad though. Each girl picks her future, highlighting just how different they are.
Is Kai worthy of all the effort put into his rescue? I don’t know. He is definitely not the most likeable character. I do admire Gerda’s devotion in a way, because she has a great capacity to love. I just wish she could have picked a more responsive person to love who would truly appreciate her.
I’ve read about Hans Christian Anderson’s version of The Snow Queen, but now I’d like to read the actual story. It sounds like Kai is a more redeemable character in Anderson’s tale and I would enjoy comparing the two stories in greater detail.
“She was excited, and astonished, and appalled, at what she had done. But now, standing in the cold grey daylight on the wharf at Helsingborg, in the shadow of the Keep, sudden panic seized her. She was in a strange town, in a country whose language and customs she hardly understood. She had come too far, there was no possibility of turning back; and now she must find her own way, uninvited, unexpected, on unknown roads to a stranger’s house. Her excitement faded, leaving behind a sick anxiety.” – Gerda from The Snow Queen by Eileen Kernaghan, page 37
“Gerda, who had been listening in silence, thought of what Kat – cool, rational, level-headed Kat – would think of all this. ‘I don’t believe in wizards, and sorceresses,’ she told the old woman. ‘They are tales to frighten children.’
‘Ah, well, little one,’ sighed the old woman. ‘Is it better, or worse, I wonder, to die at the hands of an enemy you don’t believe in?'” – Conversation between Gerda and the old woman about what is real and what is not from The Snow Queen by Eileen Kernaghan, page 91
“‘…if I am to rescue Gerda’s friend from the Enchantress, I will need all the weapons I can find.’
‘But this is not your battle,’ the woman said. ‘It is Gerda’s.’
Ritva looked at her with startled disbelief. ‘What, that little one? My little rabbit? How will she fight the Terrible Enchantress? That is a task for heroes, for women of power.’
‘Like you? But Ritva, there is more than one kind of power. Never underestimate the power of innocence, of a good and trusting nature.'” – Conversation between Ritva and the woman about different kinds of power from The Snow Queen by Eileen Kernaghan, page 94
“On the other side of the mountain, beyond a narrow channel of dark water, lay a world of utter emptiness and silence, a world of profound night. The moon hung like a great pewter dish in a cobalt sky. Trackless snowfields, stained with violet shadows, stretched away to the dark line of the horizon, where they vanished into a silvery mist.” – from The Snow Queen by Eileen Kernaghan, page 116
“‘Our reindeer,’ Gerda called up to them as Ritva steered their boat towards the ship. ‘We have to rescue our reindeer.’
A red-bearded man in a parka grinned down at them. ‘We’re scientists here,’ he said. ‘Hold on. We’ll think of something.’
Moments later her returned with a canvas sling and dropped it down to the,. Bracing themselves against Ba’s heaving flanks, Gerda and Ritva cinched the sling securely around his belly. With a long unhappy sigh the old beast resigned himself to this fresh indignity, gazing accusingly back at them as he was winched slowly up the side of the ship.” – from The Snow Queen by Eileen Kernaghan, page 152