Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snow Stories

Growing up, my favorite fairy tale was "The Snow Queen". My favorite passage was the one in which she first appears to little Kai:

A few flakes of snow were falling, and one of them, rather larger than the rest, alighted on the edge of one of the flower boxes. This snow-flake grew larger and larger, till at last it became the figure of a woman, dressed in garments of white gauze, which looked like millions of starry snowflakes linked together. She was fair and beautiful, but made of ice - shining and glittering ice. Still she was alive and her eyes sparkled like bright stars, but there was neither peace nor rest in their glance.
(Translation is from Lily Owens' The Complete Hans
Christian Andersen Fairy Tales
and not the link above)

The story goes on to describe how Kai is lured away by this horrible, beautiful creature (who was, by the way, very obviously an inspiration for C.S. Lewis' White Witch of Narnia fame). Ultimately, he is rescued by his irrepressible, true friend, Gerda, but it was always really the queen who drew me in. She fascinated me in the same way Rilke's proclamation

For beauty is nothing but
the beginning of terror, that we are still able to bear,
and we revere it so, because it calmly disdains to destroy us.

from the first stanza of his Duino Elegies has always spoken to me. It is the blurred border lands the make the line between beauty and horror or the fantastic and reality that have always intrigued me. That is where all the interesting stories lie.

And so, long before I would have explained my interests in such terms, The Snow Queen was one of my early favorites. As luck would have it, over the weekend, Portland was treated to its first winter snow, which makes it the perfect time to curl up on the couch with a cup of hot tea and maybe some chocolate and reread the story.


Anne said...

Any post that reminds me to re-read Rilke is a good one.

I randomly opened up a book of Rilke poetry my senior year in college and happened upon the line:

Du zwingst mich, Herr, zu einer fremden Stunde.

For some reason, that line sticks with me although I have totally forgotten context (other than it was one of his religious poems). I think it is time to find that again while we are waiting for our first big snowstorm here.

Martina said...

Funny how some of that stuff sticks with us. The first lines of the opening "Wer, wenn ich schriee..." stanza of the Elegies have always been that way for me. They appeal to me on a completely visceral level.