Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Patreon Updates

 My Patreon page has been, frankly, pretty sad, pretty much since its inception. The goal is to change that in 2024, and we’re going to discuss some of the new developments today.

1. It used to be impossible for people who were not financially supporting me to comment on posts. I fixed that. Anyone should be able to comment now, and please, do. I would love to increase general engagement.

2. New rewards have already been added to the $15 and $25 support tiers. New rewards are in the works for $5 and $10 tiers. I’ve deleted the $20 tier, because no one was using it and I didn’t want to think of something to differentiate it from the others. The $1 tier will continue to get early access and exclusive content.

3. I am hoping to increase the amount of content I actually share on Patreon, because I’ve been seriously struggling in that department.

4. Patreon has recently added the option to sell digital media here, and I’m going to look into whether that’s worth doing or not. I will keep you guys posted.

5. I’m planning to add a Patrons-only coupon that can be used in my store.

6. I desperately need your feedback on what you’d like to see more of. What were you looking for when you came to this page? If you’ve never been here before, what would make you want to stay? What would make you want to support me?

· I started with blogs about folk and fairy tales. Did people enjoy that? Would you like me to get that going again?

· Do you want to see rough drafts or deleted scenes from finished projects?

· Do you want more content about the writing or publishing process?

· Do you want more pieces of upcoming projects?

· Do you like exclusively written content? Would you like to see more variety in format? Maybe videos? Would like a livestream thing be interesting? So we could have, like, actual conversation?

· I shared an early draft of Lindworm serially on Patreon, years ago. I started sharing a draft of another novel, but stopped because it was difficult to keep up with when no one seemed to really be reading at, at least not in comparison to the numbers I was seeing on the fanfic I was sharing at the same time. Were people reading it? Would you like to, if I started something like that again?

· (On the topic of fanfic. That’s something I write under a different name, and a name I haven’t shared with everyone on Patreon, because it’s something I like to keep kind of separate and just for me. But if you’d like me to talk about fanfic in general, I’d be happy to do that. Like, original vs fan writing, or the process of writing serially, or how writing fanfic has improved my original fic, or why I’ve still been writing so much fanfic while kind of burned out of my original writing. And if you’re coming here from Tumblr or AO3, and already know about my fanfic, I’d be happy to talk more about the specifics over on Tumblr—just send me a message!)


Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Shards of Glass: Chapter 1

      I lost Kai when we were nine. He went missing when we were seventeen.

     He was my best friend and brother and half my heart. It’s funny, how those feelings don’t go away. He was practically a stranger, by the time he disappeared, but he was still all those other things, too.

     (Manda’s still half convinced I’m in love with him. But Manda’s favorite game is seven minutes in heaven, and I’d rather get a root canal than go on a date, so there tends to be a fundamental breakdown in communication when we talk about that kind of thing.)

     Kai never came home Saturday night. His grandma reported him missing Sunday morning. By Monday—

     Monday was a snow day. It had been going on and off since Friday night, nonstop since Sunday afternoon. My parents were at work, and I wanted to keep Grandma company, but she was busy, with the police, and the—and I didn’t want to be in the way. So I heard it from the news, not from her.

     Local teen, missing two days. Last seen snowboarding at 3pm on Saturday. Snowboard washed up on the far side of the river. A glove and a boot found on the hilltop. Local teen missing, presumed dead.

     Kai missing, presumed dead.

     Manda called me right after it aired. “I know he was—I’m sorry.”

     “Kai’s not an idiot,” I said.

     “No one said he was.”

     “They did. They just did, on channel six—you think Kai would go down like that? Into the river? Everyone knows you don’t take the hill at that angle, because the Mississippi doesn’t always freeze.”

     “Okay, but Gerda, if it was already dark when he—”

     “He’s not stupid enough to be out in the dark alone, that close to the river. He’s not, he wouldn’t, Manda. He wouldn’t.”

     “Okay,” she said again, humoring me. “So what do you think happened?”

     “I don’t know. I just know he’s not dead. He—he can’t be. Not Kai.”

     Kai in the dark, squinting at me behind fogged up glasses. Kai laughing as he packed a snowball, Kai biking in the sun the day the training wheels came off, Kai in braces and glowers, Kai calling me names, Kai waiting at the back door with the snow falling at his back. Not Kai. Not Kai.

     He wasn’t dead. He couldn’t be. And that meant I had to find him.

     Boots—the heavy black ones that laced in the front. Snow pants—shiny, black, puffy, ugly, warm. The heaviest coat, the thickest mittens, with thin gloves beneath. My ice skating socks. Two scarves. That hat Grandma knitted for me for Christmas. Six granola bars in my pocket.

     Kai was a missing person, presumed dead. He was probably more than six granola bars away.

     He wasn’t dead. He couldn’t be. I grabbed a seventh granola bar.

      I had walked across town, down the hill, along the river, and into the woods, deep and deep and deeper, before the cold seeped into my shoes, before I realized what I was doing.

     I sat abruptly on the snowy ground. I was going to search for my likely-dead evil neighbor, alone, on a Monday afternoon in January, with nothing but the clothes on my back.

     He wasn’t dead. He couldn’t be. I stood up and pulled out the first granola bar.


     I’ve spent my whole life one wall away from Kai. Our families live in the two units of a townhouse, and our bedrooms share a wall. When we were kids we had a tin can telephone—we used one of Grandma’s needles with the biggest eye to pull the thread through the screens in our windows, then attached each end to a can inside our rooms. Whenever one of us wanted to talk, we’d knock on the wall, and the other would know to go pick up their can.

     We had to replace the string a few times, and the last one fell apart years ago, but the can still lives on my dresser, with a million other things Mom keeps telling me to throw away.

     The last few years, if Kai wanted to talk to me, he’d knock on the wall, and I’d go downstairs and meet him in the backyard. I don’t knock anymore—I learned a long time ago that the only way to have a relationship with Kai is on his terms.

     Manda says that’s unhealthy. I say Manda’s a hypocrite—she forgives people who keep hurting her, too. She says it’s different because Kai’s not my family. But he might as well be. You don’t stop loving people just because they become unlovable. I may not have liked Kai much, the last few years. But I’ll always do anything for the sake of the person he used to be.


     I know it started when we were nine, the trouble. That was the year Kai got glasses. It was also the year he got mean. (Unrelated.) He just got meaner and meaner. He had a special talent for mimicry that showed up that year, and he just—

     There was a huge rosebush between our front doors, and it made the biggest, brightest, best-smelling red roses I’ve ever seen, prettier even than the ones you can get from a florist. We were sitting just in front of it, holding very, very still, because there were a bunch of bees around. (Kai always liked bees.) And all of the sudden he shouted.

     I asked him if he’d got stung, and he shook his head. “Feels like something flew into my eye.”

     A minute later a bee landed on his hand, and he caught it—grabbed it by the wings.

     “What are you doing?”

     He shrugged. “I wanted a closer look,” he said. And he held it up really close to his face—I think he needed the glasses by then—but it was struggling, so it was hard to really look at. So he grabbed the stinger and pulled it out—because losing their stingers kills them—and then it wasn’t moving anymore, and he could get a better look.

     And it was so mean, and I was shouting at him, and then he just—dropped it, and he said, “I don’t—I don’t know why I did that. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.”

     We dug a little hole and buried the bee under the oak tree in the backyard. But that was when it started. The day he killed that bee. It happened slowly. He started mocking people and stomping on ants and being rude to Grandma. But only sometimes. Other times he was nice. Other times he was still my best friend. And I just kept hoping he’d grow back out of it.

     (When your best friend grows up to be a jerk, you never suspect it’s because of magic.)


     I was twelve by the time I admitted to myself that Kai and I weren’t friends anymore. I was sleeping over at his house—we were already a few years out from being sleepover friends, really. But my parents have always travelled a lot, and until I turned fifteen and they decided I could stay home alone overnight, I stayed with Grandma and Kai.

     Kai still had his bunk bed back then—one bed for him, and one for a friend, and that friend was always me.

     I don’t even remember what he said. He’d been saying horrible things, and I’d been trying to ignore them, for a long time by then. I didn’t hang on to the things he said—I always just tried to forget them as soon as possible. But whatever he said that night, it upset me, more than the things he said usually did. It might have been about my parents—my adoptive parents, not my bio ones. Kai would never go there, even at his worst. Both sets are sore subjects, but there are lines Kai won’t cross, and there were more of them when we were twelve.

     My parents are my uncle—my bio mom’s brother—and his wife, really. My bio parents died in a car crash, and they were the only family left. At least, the only family we know about, because my bio dad was from Taiwan, and no one knew if he had any family left there or how to contact them. My parents adopted me because I was family, and it was the right thing to do. They love me, I think. They’ve had me since before I turned two. But I know they never wanted kids. So I’m touchy about it. That would have hurt my feelings, more than most things Kai might have said when we were twelve.

     Whatever he said, I climbed down from the top bunk and went to Grandma’s room; she was sitting up in bed, reading.

     “I don’t want to sleep in there. Kai’s being mean.”

     Grandma sighed and put down her book. She was hoping he’d grow out of it, too, but no luck, no matter how many groundings and timeouts and whatever he got. “Well, maybe you’re getting to be at the age where you shouldn’t be sharing a room.”

     After that I slept on the pullout couch, until Mom and Dad let me just stay home.


     I was thoroughly lost and down two granola bars by the time I thought of Grandma. (His grandma, not mine, not really.) To be told Kai was probably dead, and then that I’d gone missing—well, they’d probably find my body before Kai’s, even if he really was dead, because I didn’t go barreling toward the Mississippi like a first-rate idiot.

     We’re all she has left. To lose us both in the same weekend—

     And my parents. My parents—I’m the only family they have, too, and they’d definitely blame themselves if I wandered into the woods and froze to death when they were both working late again—and I knew I was going to freeze to death. I was beyond numb. I kept starting to fall asleep, and then the panic would wake me. I had no idea how long I’d been out—I didn’t have a watch, and it gets dark so early in the winter, it could have been less than an hour, or it could have been three or four. No one would miss me probably until morning—when Mom and Dad got home they’d just assume I was already in bed, so either they’d find my bed empty in the morning, or they’d leave early and someone at school would be the first to realize I was gone.

     I was going to freeze to death searching for a stupid jerk who was probably dead already, and there was no way Manda would ever believe I wasn’t in love with him after this—or anyone else either, and why should that even matter, when I was about to freeze to death?    


     We live in a cul-de-sac, with a huge circle of grass at the end, where the turn-around is—I guess it belongs to the city. But we used to build snow forts there every winter. Me and Kai—we were the only kids on the block, back then. There are some younger kids now, and I’ve seen them do the same thing.

     It was always a huge fort—we’d work on it for weeks. The plow would pile all the snow from the street there, so we had plenty of material to work with. We’d dig tunnels into the big piles the plow left. We were in there all day on weekends, and over Christmas break, until Grandma or my parents came to dig us out.

     Grandma would never come into the fort—she said her knees were too old—but she used to bring us each a thermos of hot chocolate while we were working. We’d go into the biggest cavern we’d dug out so far, and sit on the packed-down snow on the ground, pressed tight together, to drink it. No one makes hot chocolate like Grandma—I’ve watched her do it, and she just uses the cheap powder like everyone else, but hers tastes better.

     I was sitting on the ground in the woods, imagining Kai was pressed into my side, thinking of Grandma’s hot chocolate. And I wasn’t cold anymore, and I knew I was dying.

     Then I woke up.


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Tuesday, July 25, 2023

The Snow Queen: Story the Seventh: Of the Palace of the Snow Queen and What Happened There at Last

The final part of the story begins by taking us back to Kai, who we haven’t seen in four sections. He’s in the Snow Queen’s palace, which is all made of snow, consisting of one hundred rooms, all of them empty.

The Snow Queen sits at the center of a frozen lake called the Mirror of Reason. We find Kai blue, nearly black, with cold, but the Snow Queen’s kisses prevent him from feeling it. He’s building shapes from fragments of ice, which seems to him, due to the glass in his heart and eye, to be very important. He’s made many impressive figures, shapes, and words, but his goal is to form the word eternity—the Snow Queen has told him that if he does, he will be his own master, and she will give him the whole world and a new pair of skates.

The Snow Queen tells him that she must go spread snow in the warmer countries, and leaves Kai in the Mirror of Reason alone, still working on his puzzle.

Gerda finds him here. She never actually encounters the Snow Queen, which is one of the things I’ve done differently for my retelling.

Gerda’s prayers calm the icy winds, and she runs to Kai and hugs him. He doesn’t react, and she begins to cry, her hot tears melting his frozen heart and washing away the piece of glass. She sings the hymn that they learned in part two, and Kai cries as well, dislodging the glass from his eye.

He recognizes Gerda, and realizes how cold it is. Their reunion is so joyous that the ice shards get up and dance, then lay themselves out spelling the word eternity. Gerda kisses Kai, as the Snow Queen kissed him, warming him where she froze him. They walk out of the palace together, and the winds still, and the sun shines, and the reindeer is waiting for them with a friend who feeds them fresh milk before they return to the Finland woman.

The Finland woman gives them directions home, and the Lapland woman gives them new clothes. They leave the reindeer in Lapland, and continue on foot. They meet the robber girl, who’s set off on her own, and she tells them that the prince and princess are travelling, the crow has died, and his wife is in mourning. She promises to visit Kai and Gerda if she’s ever in the area, and rides away.

Kai and Gerda return home to their grandmother, where they find that they’ve both grown up while they were away. The Snow Queen’s palace fades from their memories like a bad dream, and they sit among the roses like they did when they were children. Their grandmother reads a verse about becoming as little children, and they think of their hymn, and it is summer.



(Over the next seven weeks, I’ll be posting both the text of the Snow Queen, and my thoughts on it. This is the text of the seventh and final section. All text comes from the public domain translation of Andersen’s works edited by J. H. Stickney and published in 1886. The illustrations, by Edna Hart, are from this edition as well.)
The walls of the palace were formed of drifted snow, and the windows and doors of cutting winds. There were more than a hundred rooms in it, all as if they had been formed of snow blown together. The largest of them extended for several miles. They were all lighted up by the vivid light of the aurora, and were so large and empty, so icy cold and glittering!
There were no amusements here; not even a little bear's ball, when the storm might have been the music, and the bears could have danced on their hind legs and shown their good manners. There were no pleasant games of snapdragon, or touch, nor even a gossip over the tea table for the young-lady foxes. Empty, vast, and cold were the halls of the Snow Queen.
The flickering flames of the northern lights could be plainly seen, whether they rose high or low in the heavens, from every part of the castle. In the midst of this empty, endless hall of snow was a frozen lake, broken on its surface into a thousand forms; each piece resembled another, because each was in itself perfect as a work of art, and in the center of this lake sat the Snow Queen 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.
Little Kai was quite blue with cold,—indeed, almost black,—but he did not feel it; for the Snow Queen had kissed away the icy shiverings, and his heart was already a lump of ice. He dragged some sharp, flat pieces of ice to and fro and placed them together in all kinds of positions, as if he wished to make something out of them—just as we try to form various figures with little tablets of wood, which we call a "Chinese puzzle." Kai's figures were very artistic; it was the icy game of reason at which he played, and in his eyes the figures were very remarkable and of the highest importance; this opinion was owing to the splinter of glass still sticking in his eye. He composed many complete figures, forming different words, but there was one word he never could manage to form, although he wished it very much. It was the word "Eternity."
The Snow Queen had said to him, "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 little Kai quite alone in the great hall which was so many miles in length. 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.
Just at this moment it happened that little Gerda came through the great door of the castle. Cutting winds were raging around her, but she offered up a prayer, and the winds sank down as if they were going to sleep. On she went till she came to the large, empty hall and caught sight of Kai. She knew him directly; she flew to him and threw her arms around his neck and held him fast while she exclaimed, "Kai, dear little Kai, I have found you at last!"
But he sat quite still, stiff and cold.
Then little Gerda wept hot tears, which fell on his breast, and penetrated into his heart, and thawed the lump of ice, and washed away the little piece of glass which had stuck there. Then he looked at her, and she sang:
"Roses bloom and fade away,
But we the Christ-child see alway."
Then Kai burst into tears. He wept so that the splinter of glass swam out of his eye. Then he recognized Gerda and said joyfully, "Gerda, dear little Gerda, where have you been all this time, and where have I been?" And he looked all around him and said, "How cold it is, and how large and empty it all looks," and he clung to Gerda, and she laughed and wept for joy.
It was so pleasing to see them that even the pieces of ice danced, and when they were tired and went to lie down they formed themselves into the letters of the word which the Snow Queen had said he must find out before he could be his own master and have the whole world and a pair of new skates.
Gerda kissed his cheeks, and they became blooming; and she kissed his eyes till they shone like her own; she kissed his hands and feet, and he became quite healthy and cheerful. The Snow Queen might come home now when she pleased, for there stood his certainty of freedom, in the word she 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 were at rest, and the sun burst forth. When they arrived at the bush with red berries, there stood the reindeer waiting for them, and he had brought another young reindeer with him, whose udders were full, and the children drank her warm milk and kissed her on the mouth.
They carried Kai and Gerda first to the Finland woman, where they warmed themselves thoroughly in the hot room and had directions about their journey home. Next they went to the Lapland 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 birds began to twitter, and the forest too was full of green young 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 going first to the north, and if that did not suit her, she meant to try some other part of the world. She knew Gerda directly, and Gerda remembered her; it was a joyful meeting.
"You are a fine fellow to go gadding about in this way," said she to little Kai. "I should like to know whether you deserve that any one should go to the end of the world to find you."
But Gerda patted her cheeks and asked after the prince and princess.
"They are gone to foreign countries," said the robber girl.
"And the crow?" asked Gerda.
"Oh, the crow is dead," she replied. "His tame sweetheart is now a widow and wears a bit of black worsted round her leg. She mourns very pitifully, but it is all stuff. But now tell me how you managed to get him back."
Then Gerda and Kai told her all about it.
"Snip, snap, snurre! it's all right at last," said the robber girl.
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 toward 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 perceived 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 Kai and Gerda 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.
The grandmother sat in God's bright sunshine, and she read aloud from the Bible, "Except ye become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of God." And Kai and Gerda looked into each other's eyes and all at once understood the words of the old song:
Roses bloom and fade away,
But we the Christ-child see alway.
And they both sat there, grown up, yet children at heart, and it was summer—warm, beautiful summer.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

The Snow Queen: Story the Sixth: The Lapland Woman and the Finland Woman

Gerda and the reindeer reach Lapland, where they meet n old woman in a small hut dressing fish, she tells them that the Snow Queen was in Lapland, but has now moved on to Finland. She writes a note on a piece of stockfish for Gerda to deliver to a woman she knows in Finland, and Gerda and the reindeer are off again. 

They reach the Finnish woman, who lives in a very hot house. She reads the message and cooks the fish. The reindeer, apparently, recognizes the woman; he says she can tie all the winds together, and asks her to give Gerda the power of twelve men, to face the snow queen. She says this wouldn’t be useful, but does read off a bunch of magic words. The reindeer asks again that she give Gerda strength, and the old woman explains that Kai has enchanted glass in his eyes and heart, and is therefore quite content where he is. She explains that Gerda’s own purity and innocence will be a more powerful tool than any enchantment she could cast, and sends the two of them on their way again.

Gerda forgets her boots and mittens here, and they haven’t the time to go back for them, so she’s dropped off barefoot in the Snow Queen’s garden. The reindeer leaves her there, as instructed by the old woman, and Gerda makes her way from the garden to the palace alone. She’s attacked by the Snow Queen’s guards, snakes and bears and porcupines made of ice. But she forges ahead, repeating the Lord’s prayer over and over again as she walks, and each time she repeats it an angel appears, until she has an army of them, fighting the ice creatures and rubbing her bare feet and hands to keep them warm.



(Over the next seven weeks, I’ll be posting both the text of the Snow Queen, and my thoughts on it. This is the text of the sixth section. All text comes from the public domain translation of Andersen’s works edited by J. H. Stickney and published in 1886. Today's illustration is by Fritz Kredel.)
They stopped at a little hut; it was very mean looking. The roof sloped nearly down to the ground, and the door was so low that the family had to creep in on their hands and knees when they went in and out. There was no one at home but an old Lapland woman who was dressing fish by the light of a train-oil lamp.
The reindeer told her all about Gerda's story after having first told his own, which seemed to him the most important. But Gerda was so pinched with the cold that she could not speak.
"Oh, you poor things," said the Lapland woman, "you have a long way to go yet. You must travel more than a hundred miles farther, to Finland. The Snow Queen lives there now, and she burns Bengal lights every evening. I will write a few words on a dried stockfish, for I have no paper, and you can take it from me to the Finland woman who lives there. She can give you better information than I can."
So when Gerda was warmed and had taken something to eat and drink, the woman wrote a few words on the dried fish and told Gerda to take great care of it. Then she tied her again on the back of the reindeer, and he sprang high into the air and set off at full speed. Flash, flash, went the beautiful blue northern lights the whole night long.
And at length they reached Finland and knocked at the chimney of the Finland woman's hut, for it had no door above the ground. They crept in, but it was so terribly hot inside that the woman wore scarcely any clothes. She was small and very dirty looking. She loosened little Gerda's dress and took off the fur boots and the mittens, or Gerda would have been unable to bear the heat; and then she placed a piece of ice on the reindeer's head and read what was written on the dried fish. After she had read it three times she knew it by heart, so she popped the fish into the soup saucepan, as she knew it was good to eat, and she never wasted anything.
The reindeer told his own story first and then little Gerda's, and the Finlander twinkled with her clever eyes, but said nothing.
"You are so clever," said the reindeer; "I know you can tie all the winds of the world with a piece of twine. If a sailor unties one knot, he has a fair wind; when he unties the second, it blows hard; but if the third and fourth are loosened, then comes a storm which will root up whole forests. Cannot you give this little maiden something which will make her as strong as twelve men, to overcome the Snow Queen?"
"The power of twelve men!" said the Finland woman. "That would be of very little use." But she went to a shelf and took down and unrolled a large skin on which were inscribed wonderful characters, and she read till the perspiration ran down from her forehead.
But the reindeer begged so hard for little Gerda, and Gerda looked at the Finland woman with such tender, tearful eyes, that her own eyes began to twinkle again. She drew the reindeer into a corner and whispered to him while she laid a fresh piece of ice on his head: "Little Kai is really with the Snow Queen, but he finds everything there so much to his taste and his liking that he believes it is the finest place in the world; and this is because he has a piece of broken glass in his heart and a little splinter of glass in his eye. These must be taken out, or he will never be a human being again, and the Snow Queen will retain her power over him."
"But can you not give little Gerda something to help her to conquer this power?"
"I can give her no greater power than she has already," said the woman; "don't you see how strong that is? how men and animals are obliged to serve her, and how well she has gotten through the world, barefooted as she is? She cannot receive any power from me greater than she now has, which consists in her own purity and innocence of heart. If she cannot herself obtain access to the Snow Queen and remove the glass fragments from little Kai, we can do nothing to help her. Two miles from here the Snow Queen's garden begins. You can carry the little girl so far, and set her down by the large bush which stands in the snow, covered with red berries. Do not stay gossiping, but come back here as quickly as you can." Then the Finland woman lifted little Gerda upon the reindeer, and he ran away with her as quickly as he could.
"Oh, I have forgotten my boots and my mittens," cried little Gerda, as soon as she felt the cutting cold; but the reindeer dared not stop, so he ran on till he reached the bush with the red berries. Here he set Gerda down, and he kissed her, and the great bright tears trickled over the animal's cheeks; then he left her and ran back as fast as he could.
There stood poor Gerda, without shoes, without gloves, in the midst of cold, dreary, ice-bound Finland. She ran forward as quickly as she could, when a whole regiment of snowflakes came round her. They did not, however, fall from the sky, which was quite clear and glittered with the northern lights. The snowflakes ran along the ground, and the nearer they came to her the larger they appeared. Gerda remembered how large and beautiful they looked through the burning glass. But these were really larger and much more terrible, for they were alive and were the guards of the Snow Queen and had the strangest shapes. Some were like great porcupines, others like twisted serpents with their heads stretching out, and some few were like little fat bears with their hair bristled; but all were dazzlingly white, and all were living snowflakes.
Little Gerda repeated the Lord's Prayer, and the cold was so great that she could see her own breath come out of her mouth like steam, as she uttered the words. The steam appeared to increase as she continued her prayer, till it took the shape of little angels, who grew larger the moment they touched the earth. They all wore helmets on their heads and carried spears and shields. Their number continued to increase more and more, and by the time Gerda had finished her prayers a whole legion stood round her. They thrust their spears into the terrible snowflakes so that they shivered into a hundred pieces, and little Gerda could go forward with courage and safety. The angels stroked her hands and feet, so that she felt the cold less as she hastened on to the Snow Queen's castle.
But now we must see what Kai is doing. In truth he thought not of little Gerda, and least of all that she could be standing at the front of the palace.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

The Snow Queen: Story the Fifth: The Little Robber Girl

This section opens with Gerda’s coach being attacked by robbers, and all the men the princess sent with her being murdered—a somewhat jarring turn of events, since there’s no real violence in the story before or since. The leader of the robbers, a woman with a beard, wants to kill and eat Gerda. She’s stopped by her daughter, who bites the mother, twice, gets into the coach with Gerda, and drives it off. She steals Gerda’s muff and boots, listens to her story, and promises that none of the other robbers will kill her—because if she causes any trouble, the robber girl will kill her herself. 

They reach the robbers’ home, a dilapidated castle full of badly treated animals, primarily birds, but also some dogs, and one reindeer. The robber girl enjoys ticking the reindeer with a knife, which, understandably, terrifies him. She falls asleep with one hand wrapped around Gerda, and one around her knife.

While she sleeps, the animals tell Gerda they’ve seen Kai, riding north toward Lapland in the Snow Queen’s sleigh. In the morning, she tells the robber girl, who sends Gerda off with the reindeer, her boots, and a pair of her mother’s mittens, as she wants to keep the muff.

This is a pretty good arrangement for the reindeer, who gets to escape the robber girl and her knife, and finally return home to Lapland.