Do you wanna hear the story... that movie "Frozen" is based on? Join a brave girl named Gerda as she battles forces seen and unseen, determined to snatch her would-be love from the clutches of the enemy, and thaw his frozen heart.
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The Lost Husbands: Episode 4
“The Snow Queen” Part 1: Beware the Frozen Heart
Welcome to Lost in the Woods Fairy Tales ™. I’m your host, Autumn Woods, and I’m so excited you’re here. We’re continuing our expedition into the Lost Husband Stories, tales of women who bravely venture forth, enduring extraordinary trials and tribulations to rescue the men they love from living anything less than an abundant life. In a Lost Husband story, the leading man has been enchanted and/or bound by an obligation outside of his true character. In his delusion, he may forget himself or push the heroine away, not realizing until it is too late that she is meant to help him win his most difficult battles. The heroine’s primary concern is grappling with the forces of evil besieging them both and encouraging the lost husband to remember the truth of who he is and what she means to him. These heroines act as agents of restoration, guarding the men where they are weak and helping them choose to recover their true natures. By the end of the story, the pair should be able to function as a healthy team once again.
Last time, we talked about what happens when the person meant to do the rescuing is having trouble believing that she is meant to do it, and has to overcome her own heart wounds before coming to the aid of the lost husband. But what happens when the man you love changes, becoming cold and unreachable, devaluing the things of the heart and closing himself off to the wonders God made, including you?
Few fairy tale guides are as adroit at navigating the country of the heart as Hans Christian Andersen. We turn to his work again to find the answer through one of my absolute favorite stories: “The Snow Queen.” This story is very dear to me and I’m beyond thrilled to share it with you now. We’re taken on the journey with Gerda, as she battles forces seen and unseen, determined to snatch her would-be love from the clutches of the enemy, and thaw his frozen heart.
So, let’s get lost, as we read the story of (The Snow Queen: Part 1).
It’s a far cry from Frozen, isn’t it? But I have to admit, when I saw the preview, I definitely yelled out in the middle of the theatre, “Look! It’s the Snow Queen!”. Oops! But you can absolutely see the inspiration the creators drew from Andersen’s story. Don’t wander away from the campfire. We’re about to shed some light on the incredible treasure hidden in Part 1 of this story, after a brief message.
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Alright, back to the analysis. We begin with the bad guy, the prince of darkness himself. He has invented a fiendish mirror that twists everything it reflects into something vicious and horrible. I don’t think it gets more obvious than that! Satan doesn’t have the power to create, but comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Only God can create, so to grieve the Lord, the accuser distorts the beautiful things and people God makes and takes perverse delight in doing it. He’ll whisper fear into your ears until you cannot trust what is good or righteous because you are quick to zero in on the flaws of those things or people and discredit them. You are fooled into believing that you are wise because you “see how the world and its people really [look].” The oldest and worst trick Satan has ever played is to warp the image of God in the eyes of those designed to love Him. He did this in the Garden of Eden when he convinced Adam and Eve that God was holding out on them. Persuaded by the enemy’s propaganda, Adam and Eve mentally transformed their loving father and friend into a cruel, selfish, bigot and imitated the devil’s example by rebelling against their Creator (Genesis 3; Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28). Ejected from paradise for their betrayal, the once-royal pair trudged away from the garden bearing a curse. They would know separation from God, the sting of failure, and the loneliness of division and insecurity.
In our story, after showing off his monstrous mirror and distorting everything and everyone on earth, the devil and his minions decide to fly up to God and repeat the trick by twisting His reflection in the mirror as well. But they don’t even make it past the threshold before the presence of the Lord shatters the evil mirror, splintering it into “millions of billions of bits.” However, as in Eden, a curse results from the enemy’s efforts. The shattered glass falls to the earth, piercing the eyes of many and causing them to see “only the bad side of things.” Justice is perverted and friends become enemies as larger pieces of the glass are utilized to make spectacles and windowpanes. Worst of all, some fragments of the wicked mirror pierce through people’s chests, turning their hearts “into lumps of ice.” These people become closed off from those closest to them, banishing the warmth of love in favor of cold logic. Logic in itself is not wrong, but it doesn’t transform a person’s innermost being on its own. Paul doesn’t say, “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge… but do not have [logic], I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2, paraphrased). It is love that makes revelation worthwhile. Love reveals the implications of logic, giving them meaning and significance. It is a fact that God became man and died for our sins, fulfilling both sides of a covenant that mankind could not keep. Without love, this fact makes no sense. “God so loved the world,” that He chose to become a man and die for our sins, fulfilling both sides of a covenant that mankind could not keep so that we could be reunited with Him and experience eternal life (John 3:16). When we are wounded, it is easy to forget that we are loved. We build a stone wall around our hearts to prevent ourselves from being hurt again, and in doing so, we cut off our supply lines, hardening ourselves against God and the myriad of blessings and opportunities He sends us to restore our hope.
This is what happens to Kay as the story goes on. When we first meet him, he and Gerda are best friends who live across a rain gutter from each other in the garrets of two neighboring houses. Their families are poor, but it doesn’t stop them from experiencing joy and friendship or taking pleasure in God’s creation. Their full, boundless love is reflected by the state of their gardens. While most other families around them are doing well to have a single flowerpot, the friends’ families each have a healthy garden and a large, thriving rose bush. The bushes from each window box join together to form a double walled arch above the rain gutter the children cross to visit each other every day. Often, they bring their little stools out to the roof
and sit underneath the roses together, playing, singing hymns, and contemplating the beauty of the little part of the world they’ve been given.
Already, we are being loaded with beautiful symbolism. Kay and Gerda’s houses are joined by a vessel for running water to collect in and travel through. The Holy Spirit and the new life we have in Christ are represented by water. The Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters and commanded all things to be as they are (Genesis 1-2). When we undergo water baptism, we are making an outward declaration of an inward change, dying to our old way of life and putting on the mind of Christ, dedicating ourselves to God and His best plans for us. Jesus describes the concept of the Holy Spirit residing in believers like “rivers of living water” flowing from our hearts” (John 7:38-39). Kay and Gerda love each other as we are called to. Their separate houses are joined together by God’s love and abundant life.
The rain gutter is a bridge between garret apartments. A garret is the highest point in a house, the attic, representing the mind and the deepest thoughts of the heart, as does the roof, where the children sit under the roses. The Last Supper, which involved communion and communication of the new covenant, took place in the upper room of a house (Mark 14:15). By the way, do you remember how Jesus said the disciples would identify their host for the evening? He would be carrying a “large jar of water.” (Mark 14:13). Contrary to popular teaching, we have no scriptural evidence that Pentecost, the first baptism of the Holy Spirit, occurred in an upper room. In fact, Acts 2:1-2 tells us that the men and women were gathered together “in one place” and that the Holy Spirit “filled the whole house.” But the promise of the Comforter’s coming certainly did occur in the upper room (John 14:15-31). Upper rooms, then, are places of communion, intimate teaching, and restoration of the heart. This makes the roof and the gutter bridge the perfect meeting places for Kay and Gerda.
The rose arches and garden are representative of the Garden of Eden, childlike innocence, and the kingdom of heaven. Here, they have everything they need. Nourishment, beauty, good work, companionship, and communion with the Lord; all the things that God meant us to have when He placed us on this earth. The roses themselves are indicative of deep, enduring, romantic love, which begins as friendship for Kay and Gerda and will undoubtedly blossom into something more as they grow up. Through the hymn, we see that the roses also represent the love of Jesus, which never fails. Shrub and climbing roses, like the ones in the archway, are hardy, surviving difficult weather conditions easily. When the bushes are regularly cleaned and pruned, they produce even more roses than the year before. This certainly captures the devotion Gerda demonstrates toward Kay throughout the course of the story. In the next episode, we will see her, like the roses, weathering all seasons and conditions in order to rescue him, never allowing her love to grow cold and die.
For the moment, we see Kay and Gerda overcoming seasonal obstacles together through the years. When winter arrives and prevents them from sitting outside together, they warm copper pennies on the stove and place them on the windows so that they can see each other through the frost. They trek up one set of stairs and down another in the houses in order to visit and play. As easy as these things seem, they are the training ground for the effort that both must put into maintaining their relationship. Conditions outside are no excuse for them to neglect each other. These winter interactions demonstrate Gerda’s steadfastness and give us hope that Kay will return to his former state once given the right encouragement. This is how it should be in our own relationships with God and those closest to us. Each person puts forth effort to stay connected to the other and nurture intimacy in the connection.
It is during one of their winter visits that Kay and Gerda learn about the Snow Queen. Gerda’s grandmother compares the snowflakes falling outside to white bees. Knowing that live bees have queens in their hives, Kay asks if the white bees have one too. Grandmother affirms that this is so. The Snow Queen “flies in the thick of the swarm… and can never stay quietly on the earth, but goes back again to the dark clouds…. She flies through the streets [at night] and peers in through the windows” which freeze in a strange, floral pattern to mark her visit. The description of the Snow Queen does sound a little disconcerting. She goes to and fro on the earth like the devil in the book of Job, always restless. She peers through windows in the middle of the night. Uneasily, Gerda wonders if the Snow Queen can come into their house. Brazenly, Kay declares that if she does, he’ll throw her on the stove and melt her. Grandmother abruptly changes the subject, but Kay’s mind is fixed on the mysterious being, so much so that when he watches for her that night, she appears to him on the edge of a flower box. She beckons to him, but Kay hides, frightened by her cold eyes, which contain no rest or peace.
The Snow Queen herself is not evil. She is part of the natural order of things and brings about snow and ice in their season. She is knowledge and logic, hunger and searching, the embodiment of restless ambition, like the bees she is compared to by Grandmother. There is a time and place for her, as there is for everything on earth (Ecclesiastes 3:1). But too much of what she stands for is not a good thing. Notice that she doesn’t stand in the flower box, but on the edge of it. This is because the plants represent life, love, and godly wisdom that nourishes the soul in quiet moments of refreshing. Logic and ambition independent of love cannot give and sustain life. Love involves gentleness and a quiet spirit. That doesn’t mean that loving makes you complacent or lazy. If you are abiding in perfect love, you don’t feel the need to gain knowledge for knowledge’s sake, which Ecclesiastes will tell you is pointless, anyway. Perfect love gives you permission to run the race God made for you and complete the good works He’s given you without worrying what the person next to you is doing. It even gives you permission to cheer on the other people running near you without feeling that your own victories are made less by theirs.
Don’t get me wrong, God isn’t handing out participation trophies. I’m not advocating some sappy “everybody’s a winner” mentality. In the body of Christ, we are each given unique functions in our quest to glorify God, and we’re meant to spur one another on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). My good deeds and works that God’s prepared for me to do will look different than yours and yours will look different from those of the people around you (Ephesians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27). You don’t get docked points at your judgement for doubling your two talents because your neighbor doubled their five. Maybe ten would have been horrible for you. Maybe ten would have worn you out and you wouldn’t have done anything well because you weren’t made to juggle that many responsibilities, but God knew that you’d steward your four to the best of your ability and then some. In the parable of the talents, He gives the same response to the success of both the two and five talent stewards, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:20-23). There is absolutely a time and place for competitiveness, but you aren’t really vying against your brothers and sisters. Your real battle is against sin nature, principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this age, and spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12). And you win when you fight with love because the kingdom of darkness can’t abide it. There is a grain of truth in every lie. Cold hard facts can be used to keep people bound and restless. But God’s love communicated by His word and stored in your heart can cut through all of that. He’s the One who tells us that with Him, nothing will be impossible (Luke 1:27).
The introduction of the Snow Queen and all she represents is revealing a marked difference between Kay and Gerda. Gerda is more emotionally intelligent, and her immediate concern is the safety and protection of herself and those she loves. She views the Snow Queen as a threat to their happiness and well-being because of the woman’s insatiable and invasive nature. Kay is more logical, and a bit more unfeeling. It is admirable that he wants to protect Gerda by melting the Snow Queen on the stove if she dares to enter the house, but he also demonstrates a lack of empathy by speaking of the murder of another creature in such a heartless way. It is not that he is more intelligent than Gerda, but rather that he is more scientific and fact-based in his thoughts and reasoning. He does not have the same kind of emotional intelligence as his friend. And that’s ok. They are each gifted in their own way and come together to make a good team capable of more together than they are alone. But we are beginning to see the first inklings that Kay will be more easily led astray because he is willing to divorce himself from his heart to find the answers he seeks. It’s an easy trap to fall into, believe me.
When he is confronted with the Snow Queen face to face, however, Kay hides from her, regretting his decision to seek her out. Perhaps knowledge without love or rest is not so desirable after all. The next morning, as if to relieve his conscience, the spring thaw begins and the two friends are able to go out to their beloved garden once again, forgetting the terror of the night before. As summer approaches, the roses burst into their best bloom, and Gerda teaches Kay a hymn about finding Jesus in the roses. We know of course that this is because creation reflects God’s splendor and teaches us new facets of His character. The children sing the hymn and talk to the Lord, reveling in His beauty.
But, as it always happens when all seems well, a season of testing begins. Kay and Gerda are sitting in the garden looking at a picture book of all God’s birds and animals, when two shards from the devil’s evil mirror strike Kay, slicing into his eye and burrowing into his heart. We’re told that this terrible thing occurs at five o’clock in the afternoon. Why, when five is the number of grace? Perhaps we are meant to understand that this trial is allowed to occur in order to rid Kay once and for all of the temptation to lean on his own understanding instead of trusting in the Lord with all his heart. He’s being given the grace to undergo this terrible ordeal in order to be sanctified. And it’s a journey he’s not meant to take alone.
Gerda becomes distressed seeing her friend in pain, and frantically searches for the cause of the agony in his eye, but cannot find it. The change is instantaneous. Kay insults Gerda, telling the crown of creation that she is ugly when she cries. Then, he eagerly points out the flaws in the roses and maliciously destroys them, taking perverse pleasure in Gerda’s misery before abandoning her. In ravaging the roses, he rejects not only his relationship with Gerda, but Gerda herself. In his eyes, Gerda is so imperfect and inferior that she is unworthy of his time and devotion. Her love is nothing compared to logic and perfection.
This is every woman’s nightmare coming true, no matter who is doing the rejecting. We fear this from the people in our lives, from the men we have or may hope to win, and even from God Himself. The enemy has spent so much of his time mounting attacks against our worth and value, pulling in compelling witnesses at every turn to convince us that everything God has whispered in our hearts is a lie. Gerda seems to have enough godly confidence and fortitude to realize that there is nothing wrong with her and that it is her friend who is in need of gentle correction, but we don’t always arrive at that conclusion so quickly when someone attacks our value. And even if we fortify our spirits with what God says about us, we still experience the heartache of rejection viscerally in our bodies. Even Jesus reminds us that you could live a perfect life and still be rejected by everyone around you. “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:18). Because Kay believes there is no beauty or worthiness in creation, which reflects the Creator, by default, he asserts that God Himself is twisted and imperfect.
With no love in his hardening heart, Kay begins to mock Gerda’s grandmother, imitating her flaws with unnerving accuracy. Soon, he begins doing it to everyone he meets, and, rather than reprimanding him, all the adults praise him for his cleverness. Only Gerda knows the truth. What the world mistakes for wisdom and talent is in fact the most damaging kind of foolishness. We come across this all the time in our Christian walk. The world thinks that being jaded and cynical is admirable and intelligent. Genuinely laying your heart open at the risk of agony and torment seems like the stupidest thing in the world. Why would you stop and revel in art or nature when you can learn how to survive in the “real world?” The common Andersenian motif of wisdom and love residing in creativity rather than rigid practicality surfaces strongly throughout this story. We see its hypocrisy in “Thumbelina” and “The Nightingale.” Characters who are thought to be practical and sensible reject the artistic heroines for dedicating their lives to seemingly frivolous pursuits, while the scoffers enjoy the fruits of this undervalued labor. Like them, Kay ridicules Gerda when she wants to share her picture book of God’s creatures with him, growling that “it [is] fit only for babes in the cradle.” He even thwarts and mocks Gerda’s grandmother when she tries to tell them stories.
God loves to use what the world calls foolish to confound the wise (1 Corinthians 1:17). Jesus told stories to make the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven relatable to people on earth. He called many people who lacked formal education to be His disciples and share revelations of His glory that learned men missed altogether. While He does want us to mature in our faith, there are things about childhood He’d rather we not lose. He means for us to delight in what He has made, whether it is grand or simple, because it draws us back to Him. We are told that we must come to Him as a little child in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, meaning that we should approach Him with the love, awe, trust, and openness of a child in a healthy home curling up in their father’s lap, knowing that they are loved and their needs will be met (Matthew 18:3). Children know many things, but they are humble enough to want to learn more. Often, they forgive more freely and honestly than adults do. And while they value imagination, children have a longing to know the truth. Gerda exhibits all of these traits, refusing to change her good heart for the sake of her cruel friend. Willingly, she tries again and again to reach out to Kay, continuing to love him even though he treats her terribly. She’s not a doormat. She could easily turn on him and cut him out of her life, but she is gentle with him because she knows that he is not acting like himself. The Kay she knows would never be this vicious. Until the day he felt pain in his eye and heart, he was happy and loving. Even though she can’t put her finger on it, she knows that something else is at work here, and for the sake of the boy she loves, she continues to fight evil with good.
Soon enough, however, Kay retreats into his own world. His terrible condition causes him to fall into the same trap as the imperial court in “The Nightingale”: valuing artificiality over truth. He exalts snowflakes as the most perfect things on earth, “much more interesting to look at than real flowers” because of their perfection. The snowflakes themselves are not to blame. They are in fact, naturally occurring things and lovely to behold, but Kay’s distorted vision perverts them into idols of unfeeling logic and precision. It is no surprise, then, that when he forsakes Gerda to play with the older boys in the square, he unwittingly attaches his sled to the sleigh of the Snow Queen, the physical embodiment of the things that he has been relentlessly pursuing. After a while, Kay tries to free himself from the sleigh, but every time he does, the Snow Queen looks back and nods at him in familiarity, encouraging him to hold on. Frightened that he cannot break free, the boy tries to pray, but can only remember his multiplication tables. Knowledge for knowledge’s sake has crowded his mind and heart so much that there has been no room to cultivate his relationship with God. It languishes in the garden with the ravaged roses. He has allowed himself to become too practical to pray.
At last, the Snow Queen stops the sleigh and invites Kay to come sit in it with her, wrapped in her snowy bear mantle. She kisses him to acclimate him to the cold, but remarks that she won’t kiss him anymore or else she’ll kiss him to death. She smiles indulgently at him when he tries to impress her with his knowledge of arithmetic and countries, and Kay reads in her face that he does not really know as much as he thinks he does about the world. We’re beginning to see that the Snow Queen does not have ill-intentions toward Kay. She does not mean to kill him, but knows that he is so far gone that he needs to be brought to the point of death in order to be saved. She cannot rescue him herself; he must choose to forsake this frigid state one his own. In his eyes, she is perfect. She is everything he wants to be. But by giving him too much of what he believes to be a good thing, she can encourage him to long for the life he is meant to live, with a heart of flesh, and not of ice or stone. God, too, allows hardships to befall His children in order to prune us of the things that are not beneficial to us or to our relationship with Him. It’s painful, but necessary for healing and restoration. The Snow Queen is the catalyst to expedite Kay’s healing, but it is Gerda will secure it in the end, with dauntless courage and a warm heart.
We’ll set out on the rescue mission with her in Part 2. Thanks for stopping by. Be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode and rate the show on your favorite podcast platform. If you’d like to see what else is going on in the fairy tale forest or support the show, check out the Lost in the Woods Buy Me A Coffee Page. I’m Autumn Woods and I can’t wait to see you on the path next time you get Lost in the Woods.