Once upon a time there was a horrifying ogre who created a great mirror that made everything good and beautiful look ugly and wicked. His evil was so great that he made the mirror fly to the top of space to drop it and break into millions of small crystal fragments on Earth. If one of those fragments reached someone’s eyes, everything would look bad and if the fragment lodged in his heart, his heart would become as cold as ice.
Years later, in a big city full of houses and people, there lived two very poor children who had a great friendship. They were neighbors and loved each other like brothers. The girl was named Gerda and the boy was named Kai. His parents had built huge flower boxes with the most beautiful rosebushes and delicious vegetables in the windows of their rooms.
Gerda and Kai spent the day sitting in their chairs in front of the window looking at the stems that grew full of vegetables and roses. However, that delight was denied them during the winter, when the windows were opaque with snow and the roses and vegetables slept frozen.
It was then that Kai’s grandmother told them the story of the Snow Queen:
“Snowflakes are like a swarm of white bees and the Snow Queen is the biggest white bee of all,” Grandma said. On winter nights, their swarm flies all over the city, comes to look out of windows, and then freezes into flowers.
During that same night, Kai stared at the falling snow through the window. Suddenly, the flakes joined each other forming the white silhouette of the queen. Dazzled by the Snow Queen’s beauty, Kai opened the window and a gust of wind blew shards of the evil crystal right into his eyes and into his heart. Kai was never the same again.
Summer was soon back and with it rose bushes and vegetables, but to Kai, the beautiful garden outside his window looked like boiled spinach leaves. Then, he took the planter with force and threw it into the void.
His grandmother and Gerda tried to stop him, Kai yelled at them angrily:
“I don’t care about roses or vegetables!” Grandma, I never want to hear your stories again, I don’t want to play with you either, Gerda. NEVER MORE!”.
For Kai, everything was ugly and wicked and love had left his heart. His only beautiful memory was that of the Snow Queen.
With the passing of time, winter came accompanied by a snow storm. Kai got on his sleigh bound for the market place, in the middle of the way an ice sled driven by a beautiful woman with very pale skin passed by him. She wore a spectacular white coat. Kai instantly recognized her: it was the Snow Queen!
“Tie your sleigh to mine, we’ll go for a ride through the earth and the sky,” said the beautiful woman.
Never before had the Snow Queen met someone as cold-hearted as hers. Together, the queen and the child traveled through hills and mountains. Then they soared through the air through storm clouds as they listened to the roar of the wind and the waves of the sea. Soon they were both so close to the moon that they could feel its cold glow.
However, from that moment on, Kai was not heard from again. His family and people in the city searched endlessly for him, but could not find him. Without a better explanation, they thought that Kai had fallen into the river and that finding him would be impossible since its waters were frozen.
Heartbroken, Gerda waited for the summer for the river to melt. So, she came to the shore to offer her shoes in exchange for Kai.
Moved by the girl’s kindness, the river replied:
“Little girl, you have offered me the only thing you have of value, but your friend is not in my waters.
Suddenly a small boat emerged and the river spoke again:
“Get on the boat, I’ll help you find your friend.”
So Gerda got on the boat and sailed on the river for hours until she reached a house with red and blue windows surrounded by a garden of eternal summer.
“This is your destiny,” said the river. In this place you will find answers.
Gerda reached the shore and walked towards the house, an old woman was resting in her rocking chair.
“Dear lady, I beg your pardon for bothering me,” Gerda said, “the river has brought me here because you know where my friend is.”
“I don’t have the answer you’re looking for,” said the old woman, getting up from her rocking chair. Come with me to the garden, my roses are not only beautiful, but each one of them can tell you a story. Ask them about your friend.
Gerda then asked each of the roses about Kai and they all told her their story, but none of them mentioned the boy. Disconsolate, she said goodbye to the roses and the old woman. But when he was about to leave, one of them said to him:
—Do not lose hope, we roses know the stories of the earth, because we inhabit it. I advise you to ask the pigeons, they fly to the most remote and desolate places. They may have heard from your friend.
Gerda continued on her way until she found a family of pigeons resting placidly on the leafy branches of a tree.
“Popcorn,” said Gerda with great joy, “the roses in the garden of eternal summer told me that you know where my friend Kai is.”
“Yes, yes, we know! the pigeons chirped. We have seen the poor boy in Lapland, he lives in the Snow Queen’s palace. Follow our flight from the earth and you will arrive at the palace, but you must know that in that place everything is cold and full of emptiness. There is no love or happiness there.
For many hours, Gerda followed the flight of the pigeons. A huge palace with walls of snow and windows of ice appeared in his path. In front of him, Gerda saw a boy playing with pieces of ice as if they were puzzles. For the boy, those figures were perfect and important; the evil crystal shards in his eye and in his heart made him think this way. That cold-hearted boy was Kai, he had finally found him!
—Dear Kai, I have traveled to the end of the world to find you and I would do it again because you are part of my most beautiful memories —said Gerda with emotion.
Gerda ran to her friend, threw herself around his neck and hugged him tightly, but Kai had forgotten her. Gerda couldn’t hold back her tears, one of them fell on Kai’s chest melting the ice in his heart. At that moment, Kai also cried and with his tears the evil crystal came out: Kai was the same again!
“Gerda, my dear friend!” What a great joy to see you again! Where have you been? Where have I been?
Very happy, they returned to their homes, nothing had changed except for one detail: they had become older people.
In the window boxes there were still vegetables and roses, Gerda and Kai sat on their two chairs. They were still children in his heart.