The Refrigerated Heart

A Comparative Study of Novalis’ „Märchen von Hyacinth und Rosenblüte“ and H.C. Andersen's „Sneedronningen“

Simon Grabowski


„Du Grübler bist auf ganz verkehrtem Wege …”

It has been said that not until a child uses, for the first time, the word „I“ to speak of itself – and that occurs quite a while after it has actually started talking – not until that very minute has the child really severed its tie with that strange unknown place from which it has come: has it, at last, arrived. But in so doing, it also has at last become alone. Devoid of its divine powers of intuition, it must from now on grope its way through life along with all of its fellows, each of whom is like a locked-up fortress incapable of really communicating itself to the others – each of whom can say, with a slight twist of the Cartesian proposition: „I think, therefore I am alone.“ „To think“, then, is the opposite of „to divine“; to divine no longer means to have lost one’s bearings, to have become a stranger in the universe.

Whereas the English Romantics, aware though they were of that all-important power of intuition of the child, did by no means find it impossible to integrate „thought“ into their concept of self-development and fulfilment, the German Romantics — and here, I think, we have one of the main dividing lines between the two — were alive, above all, to the separative, the aloneness-inflicting aspect of it. Thought, fundamentally, could be viewed as a sickness, a demonic principle working towards the alienation of man from his true self. In Novalis’ little „Märchen von Hyazinth und Rosenblüte“ (in „Die Lehrlinge zu Sais“), the wizard-like stranger who arrives „from foreign countries“ to spend three days with Hyazinth and leaves him with a book that „nobody can read“, is obviously a very demonic personage. So is the Snow Queen in the long epic tale by Andersen, the Danish romantic who in his writings reflected, to such a great extent, the ideas of German romanticism. Both of these demonic visitors are „intellectual seducers“; both of the heroes – Novalis’ Hyazinth, Andersen’s little Kay – are seduced away from their natural environment, of which they have up till now been an organic part.

In both stories, this „golden community“ is presented as a trinity of boy, girl and nature, a trinity which appears, in the most liceral sense, as close-woven. The houses of Hyazinth’s and Rosenblüte’s parents „stood close together“: so close, in fact, that the two children could stand by their respective windows at night and look at one another. And the parents of Kay and Gerda „lived just opposite each other in two garrets, there where the roof of one neighbour’s house joined that of another“; in order to get from one window to the other they needed only to step across the water pipe! The two children’s common, symbolic medium of communication are the big wooden boxes on the roof outside, in which they grow kitchen herbs and roses. Their parents have placed these boxes adjoining each other so that they reach from window to window: each of the two rose-bushes, then, „shot forth long twigs, which clustered round the windows and bent down toward each other: it was almost like a triumphal arch of flowers and leaves“. Kay and Gerda use to meet on the roof behind the boxes; there they sit on their little stools under the roses, talking and playing. The roses obviously are part of their unity – one is almost tempted to say that they are together „in rosa“. At any rate, nature remains with them through all phases of their communication with each other, just as nature remains with Hyazinth and Rosenblüte. The roses content themselves with keeping watch over Kay’s and Gerda’s rendezvous on the roof; the house-cats report Hyazinth’s and Rosenblüte’s nocturno-fenestral confrontations to their connections in the plant world, and the plant world certainly sees to it that all news about the two young lovers be kept in constant circulation. Hyazinth, then, may be vexed for a second at having a lizard sit down beside him in the forest to chant him some satirical verse containing the last piece of gossip about him and Rosenblüte. But then he must surrender to a hearty laugh. The general broadcast of their love is, after all, as legitimate as their love itself: such is the common unity of everything, plants, animals and people, of which he is himself part.

However, the unity is broken. Thought, in both stories, enters; in Andersen’s story it actually enters prior to the arrival of the Snow Queen herself. Kay is unfortunate enough to get a splinter of „troldspejlet“ in his eye, that magic glass that made „everything good and beautiful which was mirrored in it shrink to almost nothing, but in which the mean and ugly-looking things were brought out in relief and became even worse“. Worse yet, another splinter of the troll mirror has penetrated right into his heart – which will, in consequence, soon become like a lump of ice. All of a sudden he notices that one rose is worm-eaten and another one quite crooked. „Oh, fie!“ he exclaims. „After all they’re ugly roses. They’re like the box in which they stand.“ And he kicks the box and tears both the roses off.

What has happened? Figuratively speaking, and in the terminology of „Sais“ itself: Kay has ceased to be a nature-lover and has become a naturalist – ,,ein Naturforscher“ – instead. From the direct, immediate experience of the child (and the poet) he has fallen into the detached, cool observation of the scientist. Now, in order to be beautiful, beauty must conform to certain intellectually formulated rules, rules of symmetry and perfection; if it doesn’t qualify, it is forthwith beheaded. But beauty, from this point of view, will never „qualify“, and what qualifies will not be beauty. For Nature, „die freundliche Natur“, can be perceived as beauty only through intuitive experience, not through intellectual evaluation. Under the hands of the observer, she is already dead or dying; it is her sick-room, her charnel-house — to use Novalis’ words – that he visits, not her living soul. To „experience“ means to be part of the experienced; to „observe“ means to be detached from it, to have „torn oneself away and made oneself an island“. In this new-found detachment, then, this triumphant embrace of the intellect, of Thinking instead of Being, there can no longer be a place for Nature; nor can there be a place for the girl with whom you grew up together, and whom you grew, unreflectingly, to love. From now on, Gerda is reduced to a mere audience for little Kay’s games. They are different games from those they used to play together, „sensible“ games which do not really admit another person as other than just – an audience; intellectual excitement alone has become worthwhile. „See how clever that is,“ Kay says about the snowflake, which the burning-glass has turned into a magnificent ten-pointed flower or star. „That’s much more interesting than real flowers; and there is not a single fault in it – they’re quite regular as long as they don’t melt.“ The separation has indeed become complete. When, shortly after, he leaves Gerda and disappears altogether from his old environment, it is merely the final confirmation of a state of affairs which had been manifest for a long time already. A few minutes later, sweeping into the void on his little sledge, bound fast to that of the mysterious stranger, he becomes, for a moment, frightened enough to want to say his prayers; however, by now he can remember only – the compound multiplication table.


The demonic principle of the intellect which alienates Kay from Gerda also drives a wedge between Hyazinth and Rosenblüte. It is no coincidence that this particular fate happens to the heroes, not the heroines. Both are men; both have, as Friedrich Gundolf has said of Wedekind’s Melchior, „das Denken im Leibe“. In Andersen’s story this predisposition is established through the symbolic event of the glass splinter, which prepares Kay, so to speak, for his subsequent departure with the Snow Queen. In Novalis’ story, however, the time sequence is somewhat muddled. It stands open to debate whether the introductory passage – describing Hyazinth’s tenacious mood of earnestness and despondency, and his partial imperviousness to the advances of the animated nature around him – is actually meant to establish such a predisposition, or whether it is merely intended as a flash-forward to the time after the magician’s visit. In any case, the predisposition clearly has been there. The magician rightly selects the house where Hyazinth lives; once he has seated himself outside, it is almost as if the boy had been waiting for him. The uncanny hour of brooding has struck.

What do the two of them do together? The account of the wizard’s stay is brief, not to say summary. He tells Hyazinth of strange lands and unknown regions, as seductive wizards usually do; further, he descends together with him into „deep shafts“. The latter point, however summary, is worth dwelling upon. One notes that those few days of exposure to things subterranean probably leave an impression on Hyazinth greater than that of his whole previous experience of abovesurface nature. Symbolically the subterranean can be conceived of as offering a dramatic shortcut to that „Erkenntnis des Zusammenhanges aller Dinge“, the insight into an ultimate unifying principle, or pattern, in nature, which under normal circumstances – that is, if one limits oneself to nature above the surface only – can be gained only through a long, close and comprehensive study. The implications of such a shortcut are of course highly ambiguous. On the one hand, the advantage which it gives one over one’s less privileged fellow students is tremendous; on the other hand, turning one’s attention so decidedly underground has certain restrictive effects upon the mind, which may in time become fatal. The student of the subterranean is liable to become a student of nothing but the subterranean: a fanatic, a madman who, cut off from the rest of nature and humanity, cut off from every possibility of putting his amazing insights to any earthly use, continues in his blind, meaningless pursuit of them to the very point where they defeat him. This, of course, is what happens to young Elis in „Die Bergwerke zu Falun“. Hyazinth is more fortunate. Unlike Old Torbern, the wizard does not insist on further descents into the underground; he leaves Hyazinth with something as relatively harmless as a book. The book, however, is bad enough in itself, inasmuch as it sustains the alienation once established: that alienation (of Hyazinth from living nature and humanity around him) which finds its central symbolical expression in the image of the subterranean spell itself. Thus for the time being, Rosenblüte is as powerless as Gerda.

Is there any echo of the „subterranean spell“ to be heard in „The Snow Queen“? Not surprisingly, there is. The idea of a mysterious, all-pervading pattern now and then shines through as some kind of leitmotiv connected with the Snow Queen herself. We first hear her talked of as „Queen Bee“, the largest of the white bees, as the old grandmother calls the snowflakes – who flies many a midnight through the streets of the town looking in at the windows. The windows then „freeze in such a strange way, as if they were freezing into flowers“. This uncanny piece of information is sprung upon us without preparation, in the midst of that relaxed, domestic idyll opening chapter two – or Second Story – of the tale – and it works. The whispering indirectness of these few words have all of a sudden made the Snow Queen directly and ominously present. We feel that she is the communicatress of secret, transcendental messages, which it it not given to everyone to decipher; one can almost envisage some frustrated Faust pressing his nose against the frozen pane to embrace the enigmatic sign of the Schneegeist! In Novalis’ story, the wizard’s curious garb with strange figures woven into it operates, of course, towards the same effect – without, however, really achieving it. Here, the idea of an obsessional, cosmic pattern remains thoroughly stylized: in „The Snow Queen“ it becomes from the outset dramatized. (It should be noted, though, that stylization, in Novalis’ story, is consistent, and fully deliberate.) The dramatization is carried one step further already in the following sequence. In the evening, half undressed, Kay has clambered upon the chair by the window to look at the snowflakes falling outside. One of these remains lying on the edge of the flower box; as he watches it, it grows larger and larger, and at last becomes a maiden clothed in white gauze, „put together of millions of starry flakes“. – Clearly, this simultaneous, synthetic experience of detail and totality is breathtaking. But the maiden is of ice – „of shining, glittering ice“ – and although she is alive, her eyes staring as two clear stars, there is no peace or rest in them. – Kay has in a glimpse perceived the whole brilliant madness ultimately inhabiting any quest for a universal system. When the girl nods towards the window and beckons with her hand, he is frightened and springs down from the chair; at that very moment it is as if a great bird is flying by outside. The bird, of course, symbolizes death, that great terminal ocean of forgetfulness into which, eventually, all torrents of obsession must flow. – A year later Kay, enraptured by the perfect symmetry of the ice flower, has himself become ripe for obsession.

However, these instances are external reflections only, obsessive radiations from a central source: the idea – platonically speaking – itself. The idea of intellectual obsession resides, as befits such a prominent quantity, in Finmark, in the hundred-and-more halls of the Snow Queen’s frigid palace. That silent promise of primal regularity and pattern which had been sensed, for a microcosmic second, in the fleeting crystal of a snowflake, is here at last redeemed – endlessly, and on the most extravagant scale imaginable. It is the icy apotheosis of order and systematism: the definitive triumph of Organization over the irregular, of principle over the planless, of ultimate symmetry

over transitory asymmetry. Even the Northern Lights, we are told, blazed „with such precision that you could count between flashes when they were highest and when lowest on the horizon“ . . .! – At the heart of this chilling glory is, not a giant computer, but something perhaps even more fanciful: a frozen lake which has burst into a thousand pieces, one piece being so exactly like the other, that it is really „a perfect work of art“. Here, when she is at home, in the very middle of the lake sits the Snow Queen. She then likes to speak of herself as sitting „in the mirror of reason“; and she claims that this mirror is „the only and best in the world“.

In this never-never land of absolute rationality, of course, no human being can live and at the same time be a human being. And this is precisely the point. Little Kay, who has been here for quite a while, is not only blue with cold, he is almost black. Were he able to actually feel the cold, he simply could not remain alive. But he feels nothing; he is, after all, not alive in any earthly sense. He has received the Snow Queen’s two magic kisses – one for total coldproof, one for total forgetfulness. Devoid of memory and feeling, he now gives the impression of being totally frozen, dead. But something is still going on in him. He thinks. He thinks so deeply, in fact, that cracks are heard inside him: he is in a state of total intellectual obsession. He is busying himself with some sharp, flat pieces of ice, dragging them to and fro, arranging them in all possible and impossible ways to form certain figures, figures of the most artistic kind. What sort of intellectual endeavour is this? A most extraordinary one, indeed: it is the so-called „For-stands-Isspillet“, the icy game of reason. In Kay’s eyes the figures are „very remarkable and of the highest importance“ — a misconception for which, in the last analysis, the unlucky splinter in his eye must be held responsible. Apparently he believes himself to be at last on the threshold of finding out the world-secret – of coming to realize, in the words of another, intellectually obsessed old friend of ours, „. . . was die Welt / Im Innersten zusammenhalt“! – and this, actually, is the very task which has been laid upon him by the Snow Queen. Kay is to arrange the figures in such a way that they form a certain word, the word „Eternity“. „If you can find out this figure,“ she has promised him, „you shall be your own master, and I will give you the whole world and a new pair of skates.“ There he sits, still, stiff and cold, looking at his pieces of ice – thinking. The pieces lend themselves to the formation of, now one word, now another. But the word „Eternity“ – no.

With its walls formed of the drifting snow, its windows and doors of the cutting winds, the Snow Queen’s palace presents itself, sensorily speaking, as an outdoor enterprise, as outdoor as anything we can imagine. But mentally it is a subterranean place; and the situation there, in terms of human existence, is a subterranean situation. Engulfed and inaccessible, intellectually elf-struck and emotionally beyond reach, the „subterranean“ thinker, then, becomes a symbol of human isolation in its most total form. Blued by the cold almost beyond recognition, little Kay is simply no longer of this world. To the cold, as to everything without, he has become impervious: in the process of pursuing the ultimate principle of the universe, all contact with the immediate, living universe has been lost. But he has also lost contact with his own, inward self: he is frozen all the way through, his soul has been suspended into an ice-cube. All brain, all thinker, he has become, in every respect, a disconnected man.

Given a case of advanced intellectual hypertrophy such as this one, can there be any cure at all? And who is to administer it? Apparently there is nothing much, really, that a hardened little ice monster can do for himself; to get well he would have to depend entirely upon therapy from the outside. – Or could he after all, perhaps, make do with a diagnostician alone? Novalis tends, at least parabolically, to the latter view, Andersen favours the former. Both are more or less agreed on the central principle of the cures they prescribe. For a conclusion of our study, let us inspect some basic features – diverse, analogous – of the two suggested routes back to unity.


Up till now, the comparison between the two tales has demonstrated virtual identity between them with regard to the presentation of their basic theme as well as the subsequent development of it. The progressions from unity to disunity in the two stories are congruent both schematically and with regard to all essential details: the nature of the unity, the nature of its disruption, the nature of the disrupting agents. As we move on to the second half of the progression, the progression from a state of disruption back to a state of unity, we see that the congruence of the two stories persists with regard to the main pattern of that progression: a long and laborious journey has to be undertaken, at the distant end of which the cure, and the reunion of the two children, is then magically effected; and the end of the stories sees the young couple back in the environment of their childhood, united as lovers in a mature man-woman relationship which is just now taking its beginning. As for the actual details of these two journeys, however, as well as the content of the magic cure at their end, the congruence of the two stories is very definitely and significantly broken. Thus while their attained end-results are still formally identical, the way in which these results are attained are manifestly different; and the claim laid by each of the two stories to an actual attainment calls for individual evaluation as to the sound documentation and credibility, in each one, of the result.

In Novalis’ story, the journey is undertaken by the hero himself, on the advice of „the weird old woman in the woods“; he must travel into foreign lands, he tells his parents, in search of the dwelling-place of „the mother of things, the veiled maiden“. Rosenblüte is left behind, weeping. Hyazinth now sets out toward the unknown, mysterious land, making inquiries of everyone he encounters – human beings, animals, plants, stones – about how to find „the sacred goddess Isis“. The journey falls into three main stages. First, „he passed through rough, wild country, mist and clouds lay across his path, and everlasting storms“; then, following this first stage, „he found endless sandy wastes, burning dust, and as he wandered, his spirit changed, the hours seemed long, his unrest was appeased, he grew gentler and the turbulent force within him changed to a strong but tranquil stream in which his soul dissolved. It was as though many years lay behind him“. There now follows a third stage, in which „the country became richer and more varied, the air mild and blue, the path more level, green copses lured him with comforting shade, but he did not understand their language, they seemed indeed not to speak, and yet they filled his heart with green colour and cool stillness“. A gradual and increasing romanticization of the landscape, as one might call it, is taking place. At last, Hyazinth arrives at the temple of Isis. However, he can only enter the temple in a dream, and so he falls asleep. The dream now leads him through the strange, countless halls of the temple, where everything is totally out of this world yet at the same time seems so familiar to him; finally he stands before the „heavenly maiden“. „A distant music surrounded the mysteries of the lovers meeting (. . .) and excluded all that was alien from this lovely place.“ And here, without any further transition, the story ends by telling us that Hyazinth lived for many years with his Rosenblüte „among his happy parents and playmates“.

The two key features of the conclusion of Hyazinth’s journey – the fact that he can only enter the temple in a dream, as well as his transitionless reunion with Rosenblüte, magically awaiting him behind the veil – show clearly enough that this has been anything but a „real“, physical journey. Indeed, it has been a journey entirely of the mind, of the psyche – so unambiguously so, that the actual events of this journey can hardly be done full interpretative justice by other than a straightforwardly psychoanalytic key. In the terminology of Jung’s analytic psychology, the original „intellectual seduction“ – of Hyazinth by the magician – signifies the splitting-off of the conscious ego together with a selected function – in this case the intellectual function – from the remaining components of the personality. Hyazinth becomes immersed in the purely intellectual aspect of his own mind to the point where his ego becomes totally identified with „thought“, the latter being now his only conscious function of adaption. The remaining components of his personality – from which, in the process, he has been cut off – become submerged in his unconscious, which means that any reintegration of them into the personality has to take place in a state of dreaming. Hyazinth who is now, so to speak, an inmate of the prison of thought is freed from this prison when the „weird old woman“ throws the book into the fire for him. This archetypal figure constitutes a sort of counterpart to the magician; thus where the latter can be said to represent „externally derived meaning“, the old woman represents the internally derived meaning which guides Hyazinth to his initial withdrawal of all conscious mental energy, or „libido“, from the prison of thought. But this is only the beginning of the cure. The initial freeing of libido from the conscious extreme of total intellectualism would lay Hyazinth’s conscious ego open to an invasion from his unconscious, by exactly those remaining components which have become submerged in it; in other words, his defenseless ego would be taken over by another, opposite extreme. What this extreme is, we realize at the outset of Hyazinth’s journey. „What is in me,“ he tells his parents, „I cannot tell, something that drives me forth; when I try to think of the old times, mightier thoughts rise up, all peace is gone, my heart and love with it, I must go forth in search of them.“ Clearly, these „mightier thoughts“ are nothing but an awakening sex drive, a primitively impersonal force which, in its exlusive assertion, would provide no satisfactory ground for a reunion between Hyazinth and Rosenblüte. Before such a reunion can take place, the new sex drive must be integrated into a larger psychic entity, together with all other components of the personality.

We can refer to the childhood state of Hyazinth’s personality – the state prior to the arrival of the magician – as one of globality, i. e. a state in which the diverse functions of the psyche have not yet been identified as actual separate functions but remain embedded in a primal unit of organic oneness. The following stage, then, is one where this unit becomes broken down into its own potential components, and one of these components becomes split off together with the conscious ego and overdeveloped at the expense of the rest. This we will refer to as a state of differentiation. As I have explained, the mere withdrawal of libido from one such extreme only throws the ego under the tyranny of another extreme; thus any changes effected on this ground alone would merely lead back and forth between opposite psychic extremes, between one mode of total mental imprisonment and another, and no new equilibrium would ever be attained. In order to attain such a „new“ mental equilibrium (the „global“ equilibrium being the „old“ one) the psyche must complete the progression onto a third stage, to which we will refer as one of integration. This state represents the most harmonious possible balance between all the psychic functions, i. e. an optimal, or near-optimal, co-integration of them into the conscious personality.

Clearly, the journey undertaken by Hyazinth constitutes precisely this journey from Differentiation to Integration. Prior to the journey, „thought“ had been replaced by the incomprehensible experience of the awakening sex drive; now, due to the suspensory effect of the destination-orientation and the long journey itself, the new drive gradually becomes repressed, as depicted by the progressive stages of the journey. At the end of the second stage it has sunk into the unconscious, and in so doing has withdrawn the libido, the mental energy, from the conscious mind. In other words, the intensity of Hyazinth’s consciousness is lowered, and he falls into a semi-conscious or ecstatic state which we can best describe as a state of fantasy. The unconcious appears to him as a super-real, fantastic world or over-world, that romantic landscape which constitutes Stage Three of the journey. From this dreamlike state of fantasy – significatory, so far, only of the personal unconscious – Hyazinth finally falls into a deep state of actual dreaming, and in this state he enters the temple of the goddess where eventually he is reunited with the playmate of his „global“ childhood days, now a full-grown young woman: the sexual and spiritual companion of his new integrated reality. We see, then, that the actual integration of the disunited psychic components takes place via a symbol, the latent primordial image of the goddess, which is in fact the archetypal soul-image. (This primordial image, of course, belongs to the collective unconscious, which is another way of explaining why the confrontation with it can only take place in a profound state of dreaming.) To be sure, the goddess is not the only archetypal manifestation in the story; but she is the only one of the story’s archetypes who expresses the full right to existence of every portion of the psyche. As previously indicated, a direct reunion (i. e. immediately following Hyazinth’s intellectual captivity) with Rosenblüte on the mere basis of the awakening sex drive would have precluded the attainment of such a balanced psychic entity. Instead, the new, post-global – and post-schismatic – significance of Rosenblüte to him will therefore have to be, not only that of an object for his sexual consciousness and desire, but that of woman as a whole – i. e. of woman as the traditional symbol of total harmony between the spiritual and the sensual.[1] It is via the sublimation, then, of the original, undirected and unarticulated sex drive into a symbolic woman-image that the sex drive acquires the spiritual enhancement which leads Hyazinth on to psychic integration, as well as the definition and direction which leads him back to Rosenblüte. And this is where his journey ends.


In Novalis’ story, then, we may say that the cure for the traditional male disunity of the psyche is effected via the symbol of woman, a primordial symbol of total psychic harmony. In Andersen’s story it is administered directly to the hero by one particular woman, the heroine of the story, Gerda. In fact, where in the former story the laborious journey into integration is carried out by Hyazinth himself, the long, epic journey of „The Snow Queen“ is actually made by Gerda – while the hero, little Kay, sits captivated all the time in a state of virtual paralysis in the frigid Minerva-mountain of the Snow Queen at the end of the world. These two central differences between the stories will prove to be of paramount significance for the respective validity of the conclusions at which they arrive.

In contrast to the symbolic journey of Novalis’ story, Gerda’s journey, which takes up the major portion of „The Snow Queen“, is primarily „real“. Where Hyazinth’s unconscious magically transforms the reality through which he is travelling, Gerda has to consciously contend, throughout a succession of dramatic episodes, against a reality autonomously given from the outside: she is constantly acted upon by events and has to act back undauntedly in order to succeed in her bold enterprise of retrieving little Kay. The basic recipe of her success — of which she is herself quite unaware – resides in the deep sincerity and total conviction with which she is able to present this enterprise to the various agents – mostly human beings and animals – which she encounters on her way. Her story moves even the more detached or hesitant among these agents, and so she successively manages to enlist the large majority of them in that long, northward wave of individual operations which slowly carries her from her home town to the gates of the Snow Queen’s palace in the ultimate, icy wilderness of Finmark. There, at last, she encounters such difficulties as can only be overcome through the exertion of magic faculties, and for the first time then we see that Gerda’s powers do indeed reach into the realm of the magical. But even the results attained by her before that have been no less impressive for not having been attained in a downright magic way, – as it is summed up by the Finn woman in one of the most profoundly beautiful passages of the story:

„Du er saa klog,“ sagde Rensdyret; „jeg veed, Du kan binde alle Verdens Vinde i en Sytraad; naar Skipperen løser den ene Knude, faar han god Vind, løser han den anden, da blæser det skarpt, og løser han den tredie og fjerde, da stormer det, saa Skovene falde om. Vil du ikke give den lille Pige en Drik, saa hun kan faa tolv Mands Styrke og overvinde Sneedronningen.“

„Jeg kan ikke give hende større Magt, end hun allerede har [said the Finn woman] seer Du ikke, hvor stor den er? Seer Du ikke, hvor Mennesker og Dyr maae tjene hende, hvorledes hun paa bare Been er kommen saa vel frem i Verden. Hun maa ikke af os  vide sin Magt, den sidder i hendes Hjerte, den sidder i, hun er et sødt, uskyldigt Barn. Kan hun ikke selv komme ind til Sneedronningen og faae Glasset ud af lille Kay, saa kunne vi ikke hjelpe!“

But Gerda indeed manages to reach the Snow Queen’s domain and penetrate to the centre of it. She recognizes Kay at once, but he responds to her embrace as the true ice-cube which he has become. Then Gerda sheds her hot tears and when they fall upon her playmate they penetrate magically to his heart, melting the ice and burning away the splinter of glass in it. He looks up at her, and she sings the significant lines about the roses which they used to sing together:

„Roserne voxe i Dale,
Der faae vi Barn-Jesus i Tale!“

(Roses grow in the dales,
There we shall come to speak with the Christ Child.)

Kay bursts into tears, and as he cries, the glass splinter in his eye is washed out, and he recognizes Gerda with great joy. He has no recollection whatsoever of what has been going on with him. Gerda kisses the cold away from his whole body, and together they start out on their journey back to their home town – wandering south through a landscape which gradually changes through spring into summer. As they enter the room in the old grandmother’s house, everything is „just as it was when they left it“. And yet they suddenly, intuitively notice one change as they come in the door: they are grown-up now. And the story ends:

Roserne fra Tagrenden blomstrede ind ad de aabne Vinduer, og der stode de smaa Børnestole, og Kay og Gerda satte sig paa hver sin og holdt hinanden i Hænderne; de havde glemt som en tung Drøm den kolde, tomme Herlighed hos Sneedronningen. Bedstemoder sad i Guds klare Solskin og læste høit i Bibelen: „Uden at I blive som Børn, komme I ikke i Guds Rige!“

Og Kay og Gerda saae hinanden ind i Øiet, og de forstode paa eengang den gamle Psalme:

„Roserne voxe i Dale,
Der faae vi Barn-Jesus i Tale!“

Der sad de begge To Voxne og dog Børn, Børn i Hjertet, og det var Sommer, den varme, velsignede Sommer.

But somehow, the simplistic beauty of this ending leaves un uncomfortable. Andersen wants us to believe that an integrative transformation into adulthood has taken place – that the „fall“ from the global childhood idyll of the mind into psychic disunity has led on to an eventual integration of those new-coined components of the adult psyche, intellectual as well as sexual, into a harmonious whole. „They were grown-up now“, he tells us about Kay and Gerda at the end. As we have seen, however, Andersen’s solution occurs, not – like Novalis’ – through the co-integrative symbol of woman, but through the concrete love and strength of an actual, tangible woman, the heroine. While on the immediate surface such a solution may appear to carry a great positive value, on a deeper level it reveals a critical lack of integrative psychic strength and resources in the hero: for never in the course of the whole story does Kay come to confront an integrative symbol of woman which might have enabled him to psychically participate in his own cure. Indeed, it is a most significant circumstance of Kay’s cure that it takes place in a waking or „awakened“ state of mind – not, as in Novalis, in a deep-dream confrontation of the hero with the collective unconscious. In other words, then, Kay never obtains any fundamental insight into himself and the potential integrative resources of his own psyche, the way Hyazinth does it in the dream-confrontation with the image of the goddess which has to precede his waking reunion with Rosenblüte. It is characteristic that all the female archetypes of the story are ones which are encountered by Gerda, not Kay; through Gerda, all female strength in the story is made externally available to him on a direct person-to-person basis, never through the internal depths of his own unconscious mind. (As for the Snow Queen herself, she must really be judged to be a male archetype of the intellect in female disguise.) In this way, Kay comes to stand before us as a truly „weak“ man, a man who can never derive basic, vital strength from the treasure-caves of his own psyche, but must depend on the tangible outside assistance of a „strong“ woman. In a tragic way, as one realizes only too well, this can be seen to reflect the over-awed, paralytic attitude towards women so characteristic of Andersen in his own personal life outside the realm of his poetic creativity. Thus woman, to him, remained an external, superior force, the abode of a fearful strength, alien to him; indeed, it may be said that, due to the permanent structures of fear maintained in his mind by this attitude, he was never really able to conceive of woman as a symbol of integration, of potential strength residing within his own psyche. This failure vis-a-vis the creative symbol of woman is significantly reflected in the negative use of the dream in „The Snow Queen“. For Andersen does not allow Kay’s dreamlike existence in the Snow Queen’s palace to become a source of psychic regeneration; instead he uses it, once it has been ended, as an element of suppression. In Novalis’ story, the original differentiation – the temporary tyranny of overdeveloped thought over Hyazinth – had taken place in a state of conscious experience and thus will somehow, despite the book-burning rejection of it (which is basically a rejection, not of the intellectual function itself, but merely of that total dominion which it had achieved), have to be integrated into the long-term entity of Hyazinth’s adult life. By contrast Andersen ends up exiling Kay’s intellectual adventure in its totality to a distant ice dream – a bad, or „heavy“ dream, as he calls it, to be permanently, conclusively forgotten at the coming of spring and thaw, and from which no trace will be carried over into the continued waking existence of the hero. The dream, then, as Andersen defines it to us through the events of „The Snow Queen“, is not an unconscious reservoir of vital symbolic forces: it is, rather, a well of ultimate oblivion, a receptacle for suppression of the conscious manifestations of such intrusive, „alienating“ mental aspects as he looks upon with suspicion or fear and basically feels compelled to reject. Not surprisingly, the „solution“ of the intellectual problem which he offers us is nothing more than a naive postulate, a wishful pseudointegration:

Det var saa velsignet, at selv Iisstykkerne dandsede af Glæde rundt om, og da de var trætte og lagde sig, laae de netop i de Bogstaver, som Sneedronningen havde sagt, han skulle udfinde, saa var han sin egen Herre, og hun vilde give ham hele Verden og et Par nye Skøiter.

(…). Sneedronningen maatte gjerne komme hjem, hans Fribrev stod skrevet der med skinnende Iisstykker.

– Evidently, love conquers all, including the resolution of the mind’s intellectual captivity . . . Nor do we really sense any convincing sexual transition from childhood into puberty and adulthood. „They were grown-up now“ remains a simplistic, and utterly unsubstantial postulate of the author’s, especially when it becomes clear what to him is the most signal, the most important characteristic of their new adulthood. „Exept ye become as little children,“ the old grandmother reads to them, ,,ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.“ And now at last they understand the meaning of the old hymn about the Christ Child. And finally: „They sat there, grown-up, but children still – children at heart.“ It is as if the former is just an incidental fact of life which cannot be avoided; it is the latter which is of real significance to Andersen. Indeed, it is on the conveyance to us of that second half of the information that he concentrates the force of his poetic presence. The „icy, empty splendor“ of the intellect has been rejected, sunk to the bottom of a dismal dream; the sexual connotations of adulthood are included only by implication, in the most formal possible way, and the focus in the proclamation of adulthood is shifted immediately to that very element – the preservation of a childlike heart – which in the long run would seem to make even the formal recognition of those other connotations unnecessary. It is clearly not in their direction that the primary assurance of adult happiness lies.[2]

Through the analysis of the two stories, I hope to have shown, then, that the seemingly identical mental progressions which they depict are in the end not the same. The nature of the symbolic events in Novalis’ story makes it seem fully justified to conclude that the mental progression portrayed by this story is one leading from an initial state of disunity to a final state of integration of the disunited, conflicting components. To be sure, the arrival at this final state can be conceived of as a „return“, namely a return from disunity back to unity; but it is a new unity, different from the one that was originally broken: it is the integrated unity of adulthood. In turning to „The Snow Queen“, we are confronted, at the end of the story, with statements by the author to the effect that such an adult psychic unity has been arrived at. The children protagonists are reported to have become grown-ups, man and woman supposedly entering into a mature love relationship; the jigsaw fragments from the intellectual tempest in the hero’s mind have fallen into place. But the facile character of these stated occurrences – and, above all, the nature of those very aspects of the return on which Andersen lays the real stress – makes it clear that the announcement of adulthood is only a superimposed postulate, and that the return to psychic unity which the author shows us is in reality a return to the happy, global simplicity of childhood. The road has led, not to harmony-in-experience, but back to the old harmony-in-inno-cence, where everything is „just as it was when they left it“. The intermezzo of dividedness which in Novalis’ story is accepted as a natural experience in the evolution of the hero’s mind is to Andersen a frightful intrusion, a perverse nightmare which must be defeated and conjured back into the distant, icy realms from which it came. Thus Andersen’s woman-figure ultimately becomes an idealized conqueror of this alien force, not the catalyst of its harmonious integration. Clearly, this figure does not in earnest emblematize the psychic totality of mature womanhood. The ultimate reconciling symbol of the psyche which Andersen brings us is not really a woman – it is the child.

Given the oriental-type position of „harmony-through-inclusion“ expressed in Novalis’ story, there would seem to be something disturbing about the reductive western-type – or, more specifically, Christianity-type – standpoint of „harmony-through-exclusion“ contained in the solution of „The Snow Queen“, and its celebration of religious naivety as the ultimate panacea against imbalance of the psyche. Whenever one comes across such psychologically reductive or regressive features in a work of literature, it is to be expected that these features will be felt to detract from the total value of the work, regardless of whether one tries to maintain the more traditional bi-sectorality of „form versus content“ or approaches the work from a critical standpoint of a priori non-separability of the two.[3] And so we stand here, in the case of „The Snow Queen“, before an artistic paradox. For in some strange way, the poetic intensity of Andersen’s voice, even when it hits those notes of reductiveness or regressiveness, is so total, the sublimation of what we sense as his own unredeemed traits of imbalance so explosively radiant that, despite our disapproval of the misguided message that fuels it, we have to bow before the de facto fire as one would have to bow before some strange star that had managed to reverse all normal sequences of fusion and was burning backwards again through its whole spent supply in bright defiance of all principles of stellar operation. Despite any satisfaction we may derive from the balance of Novalis’ insights, his little story about Hyazinth and Rosenblüte does not provide us with any great experience; he is using the story, within the larger context of his poetic „Sais“-treatise, to make a certain point, and the mere interpretative demonstration of what that point is sums up everything that is worth saying about the story. Indeed, the story and the deciphered resume of it cover each other completely. But no interpretation of „The Snow Queen“ can ever cover that work itself; thus the present analysis still leaves an ocean of aspects untouched, and even after the exhaustion of this entire ocean the reality of the work itself would continue to outshine the completed explanation of it no mechanical wheels, however ingenious, would ever approximate the unaccountable magic of listening to the real bird. It is this very elusiveness of Andersen’s poetic genius which makes „The Snow Queen“ one of the masterpieces of modern prose fiction.



Denne studie, som blev påbegyndt ved University of British Columbia i 1966-67 og fuldført sammesteds i april 1970, stod første gang trykt i SCANDINAVICA (Univ. of Cambridge), forårsnummeret 1971. Det ønskelige i, at nærværende trykning af den ledsagedes af et resumé på dansk, har udløst en resumerende og – s. f. a. tidsafstanden – uddybende artikel, H.C. Andersens „Snedronningen“ og dens tyske dobbeltgænger, som står at læse i forlængelse af stam-essay’et, s. 71.

  1. ^ This is an expression of what throughout the ages has been conceived of as woman’s „greater immediacy“: her greater unity with nature, her instinctive, un-intellectual sense of equilibrium, – as contrasted with the traditionally masculine disposition towards analytical abstraction, and a resulting „split-mindedness’ in the confrontation with the experience of life (symbolized, in Andersen’s story, by the troll mirror). We may say that, in woman, the end of globality – the recognition of the psyche as a plurality of diverse functions – does not, as in the male, so readily lead to the dissociation of one function from the rest, and its disproportionate development at their expense; rather, woman is seen to be capable of bypassing the disunity stage and attaining directly to an integrated unity via a continuous, conflictless, and proportional development of the diverse funtions in a relationship of continual harmony, or steady-state balance.
  2. ^ Similarly to Andersen’s implicit rejection, at the end of the story, of adult sexuality, his total rejection of the analytic faculty, and the deeply negative construction placed on it by him through the central symbol of the troll mirror, is expressive of a threat experienced by him vis-à-vis the application of this faculty. Andersen, in his perpetual childlike poet-innocence, felt extremely vulnerable to the sarcastic lashings of a number of intellectual, „heartless“, analytic-minded critics of his day.
  3. ^ One only has to think of a work like Chesterton’s „The Man who was Thursday“, in which that whole brilliant unreality which constitutes the novel’s basic artistic texture is smashed to pieces every time the author mounts his religious-establishmental pulpit to denounce the „pure evil“ of godless anarchism …


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