The Snow Queen (1985)

This version of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale isn’t exactly authentic, but it’s closer to the original than Disney’s Frozen—not that authenticity is necessarily what I’d want a film version of an Andersen tale to aim for, given how didactic and depressing the stories can be.

I remember seeing this short live-action Faerie Tale Theatre production when I was little. The sets all look more than just a bit fakey-fakey now, but they were real enough to a kid with an imagination, and the snow queen’s ice palace still gives me a palpable sense of cold. Her glittering makeup makes her look dangerous, beautiful, and otherworldly.

See below for a plot summary.

Plot Summary

The story is about two neighbours, Kai and Gerda, who are close friends. A malicious goblin breaks a magic mirror over them during winter, and Kai gets a glass shard in his eye that makes him suddenly very mean.

The snow queen takes Kai away to protect him. I think because he’s cold, the goblin’s magic can’t destroy him as fast. Gerda doesn’t know where he went, though. She runs off in search of him.

A talking tree directs her to the Lady of Summer, who knows where Kai is but wants to keep Gerda as a kind of pet, and makes her forget her quest to save her friend, at least for a while.

After she leaves the garden of the Lady of Summer, Gerda is waylaid by a robber girl who steals her scarf but takes pity on her when she refuses to give up a locket given to her by Kai. The robber’s talking reindeer agrees to fly her to the palace of the snow queen.

Kai, meanwhile, has been learning stuff. He whines that he wants to have powers like the snow queen’s, though she is immortal and he isn’t. He’s slowly turning blue and freezing, though he doesn’t feel the cold. Supposedly, the snow queen will let him go if he solves a slide puzzle that forms a poem.

Gerda tricks the guards outside the palace into letting her in, where she joyfully greets Kai. He doesn’t care about her, since he’s still infected by the evil piece of glass, but Gerda’s tears wash it away. Kai suddenly returns to his normal color and starts feeling the cold as Gerda does. Together, they solve the puzzle.

The snow queen returns and allows them to leave; the reindeer takes them home. The beneficent snow queen blows the goblin all the way to the outer reaches of the universe.