Friday, 9 June 2017

Review: 'The Snow Queen: A Tale in Seven Stories' by Hans Christian Andersen, trans. by Jean Hersholt

Fairy tales were an immense part of my childhood. Growing up German, and especially growing up near the Black Forest, my first memories of being read to are also my first memories of the Grimms' fairy tales. However, despite my love for and appreciation of the hard work of the Grimms in collection all these fairy tales, I have always had a special connection to Hans Christian Andersen and his stunning creations. Unlike the Grimms, he wrote new fairy tales and they are all stunning marvels. The Little Mermaid? He wrote that. The Little Match Girl? Andersen's as well. The Princess and the Pea? I think you know where I'm heading with this! He had a knack for creating fascinating new stories which were often intensely sad but also beautiful. So when I saw that a new edition of The Snow Queen was available, I knew I had to get my hands on it. Thanks to Ten Speed Press and Netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Pub. Date: 04/10/2016
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Gorgeously packaged with intricate illustrations from Finnish illustrator, Sanna Annukka, this new edition of Hans Christian Andersen's well-loved fairy tale, The Snow Queen, is the perfect holiday gift for adults and children alike.
Hans Christian Andersen's magical tale of friendship and adventure is retold through the beautiful and intricate illustrations of Finnish illustrator Sanna Annukka. Cloth-bound in deep blue, with silver foil embellishments, The Snow Queen is elevated from a children's book to a unique work of art. It is an ideal gift for people of all ages.
The Snow Queen starts with the following:
"Now then! We will begin. When the story is done you shall know a great deal more than you do now."
Nothing, perhaps, conveys the mood of Andersen and of The Snow Queen better. It feels as if Andersen himself is telling you the tale, sitting you down in front of a warm fire like a kindly grandfather. There is humour in the writing, and there is also a sense that Andersen himself enjoys his creations. The plot of The Snow Queen is relatively straightforward for a fairytale: a boy finds himself taken in by a beautiful enchantress and now his childhood friend, a brave and sweet girl, must come save him. However, Andersen doesn't necessarily stick to this straightforward story.
As the subtitle suggests, The Snow Queen is split up into seven smaller stories, each working towards completing the plot, yet with their own new characters. and even with their own morals. There is a witch who isn't evil, really, but desperately wants a child. There is a little robber girl, who is both cruel and kind at the same time. There are singing flowers telling the strangest tales from all across the world. This split into seven tales allows Andersen to spread his story out a little bit, expand it beyond the relatively straightforward plot and let his talents as a writer shine.

In his fairy tales, Andersen always manages to intertwine Christianity and folk elements. On the one hand there is a strong Christian tone to The Snow Queen, the first tale is dedicated to a goblin who is also the devil. Yet Andersen never becomes pedantic or too moralistic, bringing in influences from his own, Scandinavian culture, to intermingle and give some colour to what otherwise could have been a rather boring tale. Yes, the eventual moral of the tale is linked to being good and kind and pious, but the characters get there through talking animals, witches and Snow Queens. Also, this tale is doubtlessly and obviously an inspiration source for C.S> Lewis in his creation of Narnia's very own Snow Queen. A small hurrah for intertextuality.

Andersen's writing is both lyrical and simple. He knows his audience is perhaps largely children, so he keeps his writing relatively calm. However, at times he takes a dive into language and composes some beautiful passages which are bound to inspire a love for language in children. Jean Hersholt does a brilliant job at translating this work. I enjoyed the slightly archaic tone of the translation, perhaps because it echoes back to the old age of the stories themselves, but this may not be a bonus for all readers. This edition of the tale is illustrated by Sanna Annukka, a Finnish illustrator, and her illustrations could not be more stunning or apt. Her illustrations truly give this tale something old and legendary, as if you were leaving through an old book rather than a new release. Also, the way Ten Speed Press is publishing this novel, as 'cloth-bound in deep blue, with silver foil embellishments', they clearly intend for this to be both readable and displayable. It is meant to be the kind of fairy tale book a small child is fascinated by and demands to have read. Even I myself would adore to have this on my bookshelf.

I give this novel...

4 Universes!

I had read The Snow Queen years ago, but loved rediscovering it through this edition. A stunning translation with brilliant illustrations, this will make a perfect present to any child interested in stories. It might also just distract them from Frozen for a while!

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