Monday, August 5, 2013

Snow Day! Glittering Elements Glacier and Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen

Glittering Elements are yet another new Australian indie polish maker I've stumbled across, and despite not knowing they existed three weeks ago, I now currently have four of their polishes with three more on the way. Needless to say, I'm a fan.
Today I wanted to go with a sort of ice theme, and show you Glacier from Glittering Elements, as well as a retelling of The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson. For the short of attention span, I'll start with the pretty pictures!

Glacier is a remarkably sparkly clear based polish, that works best as a topcoat over another colour. Theoretically you could probably make it opaque with four coats or so, but I think you'd lose a lot of the twinkliness, and that's what I dig about it. These swatches are two thin coats over a navy base, out in the sunshine to catch all the sparkle.

Glittering Elements Glacier Swatch

Glittering Elements Glacier Swatch

Even inside though, it's hard to miss the shiny, tiny holo glass flecks packed into every inch of this polish.

Glittering Elements Glacier Swatch
In order to try and bring out the iridescent glass flecks in it as well as the holo particles, I layered it over a silvery base instead.

Glittering Elements Glacier Swatch

Glittering Elements Glacier Swatch

And finally, a macro shot, because I just love these. The right side is in indirect light, the left side is with the light directed right at it.

Glittering Elements Glacier Swatch

Glacier is available for delivery within Australia from the Glittering Elements shop on Etsy, and you can follow this brand's new releases at their ldpage.  

Looking at this polish I couldn't help but think of ice, and snow twinkling in the sunlight, so I thought I would tell you the story of The Snow Queen, originally penned by Hans Christian Anderson. While this was an original story, it borrows quite heavily from established Scandinavian folklore, and has in turn been the inspiration for dozens of other stories since, including The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, and the first season of Sailor Moon.

No, seriously, Sailor Moon.
The Snow Queen came to my attention because Disney's next animated feature, Frozen, is apparently based off this story, and I looked it up because I was curious to see how badly they has mangled the source material. As it turns out, probably to no-one's suprise, it's an absolute dog's breakfast. Frozen is apparently, the story of  a little girl named Anna who "teams up with a mountain man named Kristoff and his reindeer companion Sven to go on a quest to find Anna's sister Elsa the Snow Queen, who has banished herself to the mountains into a snow palace, to put an end to the eternal winter she has accidentally cursed the Arendelle Kingdom to suffer". The simplest way to explain to you how severely this deviates from the source material is probably just to tell you the original story.

(Spoiler alert, there is no wacky woodsman companion in the original)

The Snow Queen is the story of two childhood friends, a boy and a girl named Kai (sometimes spelled Kay) and Gerda. They live across the laneway from each other, and their little houses have adjoining gardens (sometimes window boxes) where they hang out and play through endless golden summers. The fact that their gardens are full of beautiful rose bushes is mentioned often, and we'll get to the importance of that later.

Remember the roses!
While Kai and Gerda are growing up, peacefully gamboling in the roses, an evil goblin (sometimes The Devil himself) is bored one day and makes himself a magic mirror. The mirror distorts the image of everything you look at in it - to quote the Anderson story, "the most beautiful landscapes looked like boiled spinach." Beautiful things look ugly, good people look evil, evil people look good, etc etc. The goblin thinks this is freaking HILARIOUS, because apparently goblins have a pretty bizarre sense of humour, and he has a great time running around looking at things in the mirror and chortling to himself that they look different in the reflection to how they actually are. Eventually his little goblin kids get their hands on this mirror, and since Dad thinks it's so hilarious they want to know what all the fuss is about. Turns out they think it's even funnier than the adult goblin does, and they decide in a fit of excitement to take it up to the sky and check out the stars in it. Unfortunately, as often happens when kids get over excited, they drop the mirror and it smashes into millions of tiny bits that rain down over the world. Some pieces get turned into windows, and people looking through them can only see misery. Some of the bits get lodged in people's eyes, and make them think that bad things look like a great idea - thus neatly explaining why some people just do bad things. Some of the pieces end up lodged in people's hearts, and when they do, that person suddenly loses all interest in their friends and family, and their heart gets frozen. Basically, if you get one of these pieces in your heart, it's an instant asshole transformation.

"What did I tell you kids about playing with my stuff!?"
ANYWAY, Gerda and Kai are playing merrily, as children do, and wouldn't you know it, one of these pieces accidentally lands in Kai's heart, and one in his eye. He doesn't know what's happened, and neither does anyone else, but all of a sudden he decides that roses are stupid, girls are stupid, particularly Gerda, and he doesn't want to play in the garden anymore. Everything he thought looked beautiful now looks ugly, and everything he thought was fun now looks boring. Now if this isn't a metaphor for puberty, I don't know what is. But in the story, it's allegedly shards of glass from the goblin's mirror that's making him be an asshole, rather than raging hormones. Regardless, the result of this transformation is that he tells Gerda to quit bothering him, and runs off to play with his sled in the town square with a bunch of boys.

Now, you remember the part in Back To The Future where Marty hitches a ride on his skateboard by hanging on to the back of a passing car? Turns out Danish kids in the 1800's did this too, but with sleds. When Kai fucks off to be a "big boy", he and the other boys are messing around hitching rides on their little toboggans by grabbing the back of passing sleds. All good clean Scandinavian fun, until Kai grabs the back of a particularly large, fancy, snow white sled, and gets whisked away off into the countryside.

Once they're out of the town and far away from any sort of help, the sled slows down and a little goblin dude jumps out to help Kai into the sled. Turns out the person riding in the sled is tall, and beautiful, and dressed in snow white furs, which she wraps around Kai to keep him warm. If you've read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, hopefully you will have guessed this is absolutely the Snow Queen, because as it turns out, C.S Lewis totally ripped off that entire scene from Hans Christian Anderson. Anyway, Kai jumps in, The Snow Queen gives him one kiss on the forehead to warm him up, another kiss to make him forget all about his friends and family and everything else he  ever loved, and then off they go to her Snow Queen Palace where he spends the next little while hanging around staring adoringly at the Snow Queen and telling her how pretty and awesome she is.

Do not accept a lift from this woman
Meanwhile Gerda, who is apparently the only person in the whole town with a brain, is getting pretty concerned about Kai's disappearance. No one else seems particularly fussed, but she decides she's not going to take his disappearance lying down, even though he had been a total ass to her, and sets out to find him. Gerda is convinced that Kai has wandered off and been drowned in the river, which seems like a pretty plausible explanation in that part of the world. So she heads off to the river in her brand new, favourite red shoes. When she gets to the river, she throws her shoes in as a sacrifice, and begs the river to give her friend back. The idea of making a sacrifice to the river might seem like an odd one out of context, but it's actually a pretty common theme in stories from this part of the world. There are lots of different water creatures apparently just waiting to pull unsuspecting people into the rivers of Scandinavian folklore, and a lot of them respond quite favourably to sacrifices. They usually like meat, blood, black animals, or snüs (a kind of tobacco), but I guess Gerda had to go with what she had.

What was the river going to do with shoes anyway? Or tobacco, now I think about it.
The river, however, hasn't got Kai, so it gives her shoes back by washing them back to the shore. Gerda thinks she just hasn't thrown them far enough, so throws them again, and again the river gives them back, because being a river it can't actually say out loud, "Sorry little dude, we totally don't have your friend." Gerda is about to throw them out one more time, but then spots a boat and figures she can throw them WAY far out from there, so she clambers in. Unsurprisingly, the boat then whisks her off down the river, to the rest of the adventure.

After drifting down the river for a while, Gerda is spotted by a little old woman living alone in the woods who is totally NOT a witch, and the little old lady kindly pulls her to shore. She invites Gerda into her house to eat her fill of delicious cherries, and hang out with her for a while because she is absolutely, completely not a witch. While Gerda is stuffing her face with cherries, and telling the little old lady all about her friend and the roses in their garden, and how he's gone missing, she combs Gerda's hair with a golden comb. As she combs, Gerda slowly forgets about her mission to find Kai, and her home, because of course, the little old lady is indeed a witch. Eventually Gerda gets so full she can't possibly stay awake anymore, and has a little nap. While she's sleeping, the witch goes out into her garden and gets rid of all the rose bushes, to make sure there is nothing to remind Gerda of what she was doing before she got to the witch's house.

The next day Gerda gets up, has some more cherries, I assume, and goes out to play in the witch's garden. It has every kind of flower imaginable, and Gerda is totally digging it, but she also has a nagging feeling that something is missing. After a long day of gambolling in the sunshine, she goes back inside only to spot a rose on the witch's hat, that she'd forgotten to hide when she hid all the other roses. As soon as she sees the rose, Gerda remembers what she was actually doing, and freaks out. (See, I told you the roses were going to be important)

"Oh fuck ME, I KNEW I was in the middle of something!" Gerda cries, (more or less) and runs back out into the garden again in tears. She gets all hysterical because she figures Kai is probably dead by now, and her tears make the rose bushes spring up from the ground where the witch had hidden them. The roses kindly tell her to calm her britches because they've been down in the earth with all the dead people, and Kai totally isn't dead. Needless to say, Gerda is pretty chuffed about this, and runs around the garden asking the flowers if they've seen her friend. The flowers are unhelpful to say the least. The tigerlilies tell her some grim little vignette about a Hindu woman burning to death for love, the snowdrops tell her about a really neat swing they saw somewhere, the hyacinths tell her about some beautiful maidens in beautiful coffins, and so on and so forth. The whole sequence actually reminds me quite a lot of Alice's experience with the talking flowers in Through The Looking Glass. Eventually Gerda realises asking the flowers is a mug's game, and fucks off into the forest to see if she can find some real help.

Pretty, but totally unhelpful
In the forest, she runs into a raven, who tells her a very long winded story he's heard from his raven girlfriend about a Princess searching for a suitably clever husband. When Gerda interrupts and politely points out that while this is a super cool story, she's actually searching for her friend, the raven says he's totally seen Kai, because he apparently went to woo the Princess in question. Gerda remembers Kai was very clever, so thinks this seems plausible, and goes with the raven to the castle of the Princess. When they get there, the raven's girlfriend lets them in, and Gerda marches straight up to the Princess's room to check out whether Kai is really there or not. Unfortunately, it turns out the raven was mistaken all along, and the person sleeping with the Princess isn't Kai at all. However, it turns out the Princess and Prince are apparently the most understanding people in the whole world, because instead of having her executed for invading the royal bedchamber, they set Gerda up with a little gingerbread carriage and wish her the best of luck. The raven, incidently, decides to move in with his raven girlfriend and stays at the castle.

Not as pretty, and also not very helpful

So off Gerda goes in her little gingerbread carriage, and soon she gets set upon by a band of robbers. The original story goes into quite a bit of detail about the robbers appearance, but to avoid casual historical racism let's just say they were probably Romany. The daughter of the head robber takes a liking to Gerda, and insists the robber band bring her back to their robber castle to be her new best friend, for ever and ever. I didn't know robber bands tended to have castles either, but I guess they were just super good at what they did. Anyway, Gerda tells her new BFF her whole long sad story, and the robber child feels bad for her, so together they ask the animals in the castle if anyone has seen Kai. Why Gerda never seems to ask any PEOPLE is a bit beyond me, especially since the advice she's gotten so far has been pretty suspect, but that's how the story goes. Turns out some pigeons insist they've totally seen Kai, for really reals this time, and he's still chilling with the Snow Queen, all under her spell and stuff. A reindeer says he knows where the Snow Queen lives, and offers to take Gerda there. The robber girl generously  allows her new BFF to take her reindeer and some supplies, and lets her out of the castle when her mother is "having a nap" after her daily "draught out of her flask."

Mum's just "having a nap"

The next two characters are pretty interesting from a sociological point of view, considering the story was originally written by a Dane. The rest of us tend to view Scandinavia as a happy, harmonious family of countries, but the more I learn about them the more I realise this is actually a great big front.  From the portrayal of the these characters in this story, it's pretty clear the Danish don't (or didn't) seem to think much of neither Lapland nor Finland.

After leaving the robbers behind, the reindeer takes Gerda to Lapland, where they meet a woman who  lives in a "miserable" little house out in the middle of nowhere, with a roof reaching down to the ground and a door so low they have to crawl to get inside. Not a particuarly flattering portrait of life in Lapland. Anyway, the Lapland woman gives Gerda a note written on a fish, feeds her up, and sends her on her way. The next stop is the equally "miserable" house of a Finnish woman,who keeps the house so hot that she gets about naked inside even though it's snowing out. I can only guess that Anderson had heard about saunas from a friend of a friend and gotten a little confused about the realities of Finnish life. As it turns out though, the Finnish woman is pretty cool. She confirms that Kai is indeed with the Snow Queen, and tells them how to get there, which is more helpful than pretty much anyone else has been in the entire story so far. The reindeer does a big long speech about how everyone knows Finnish women have the best magic in the whole world, and begs her to give some of this magic to Gerda. The Finnish woman tells the reindeer to stop being an idiot, and points out that any girl who has made it so far all on her doesn't need any magic to get where she's going, because she's obviously pretty fucking badass. So once they're all warmed up and fed, the Finnish women directs the reindeer exactly where to take Gerda to go and face the Snow Queen. The reindeer and Gerda set off into "the very middle of dreadful icy Finland", but somehow manage to leave Gerda's gloves and boots behind. The reindeer refuses to go back for them, and instead dumps her at the place the Finnish woman told him to and then fucks off. Which just goes to show, you can't trust reindeer.

Reindeer: Totally happy to dump a little girl in the snow
Gerda struggles on through the snow and the cold, and notices the snowflakes aren't just plentiful, they're actually alive and swarming around her. According to one version I read, at this point she starts reciting the Lord's Prayer, and the words get so cold as soon as they leave her mouth they freeze into little icy angels, that keep the snowflakes off her. So let's leave her there for a minute, trudging through a freezing snowstorm with only tiny ice angels between her and freezing to death.

Kai, meanwhile, has been just hanging out with the Snow Queen this whole fucking time. Probably eating tons of Turkish Delight, I imagine. The Snow Queen had kissed away all feeling from his body, so he didn't mind living in an ice castle, and the bit of glass in his heart made sure he didn't miss his family. The bit of magic mirror in his eye made boring things look exciting, so he had apparently been entertained throughout Gerda's entire adventure with a bit of ice the Queen had told him was a puzzle. Eventually the Snow Queen has to go out and attend to some Snow Business elsewhere, so she leaves Kai alone in the castle staring in wonder at his bit of ice like a stoned teenager in front of Spongebob Squarepants. It's at this point that Gerda shows up, still muttering her prayers to keep her tiny ice angels skittering around stabbing snowflakes. She forgets all this as soon as she sees Kai, and runs over and throws her arms around him. Kai, of course, is all frozen and his bits of glass in his eyes and his heart still, so he's not really returning the love. Gerda starts singing him a hymn, and Kai is so moved by her singing he starts to cry, and the glass rolls out of his eye. He realises he's been a right fucknuckle, and they escape the castle together.

An actual ice castle built for a mall in Minnesota - I think the Snow Queen's one would have been better.
From there, the story is largely backtracking through all the people who have helped Gerda - first they run into the reindeer, who has decided to come back and brought a friend. He takes them back to the Finnish woman, who feeds them up, and sends them back to the Lapland woman. The Lapland woman fixes their clothes, and sends them back to the robber camp, where the robber child is now apparently in charge, and they hang out for a little while. They ask about the Prince and Princess who gave Gerda the gingerbread carriage, but apparently they're out of the country so they can't visit them right now. While, I'll admit, I was a little relieved about because fuck ME, this story is LONG.

Finally, they get back home, and observe the beautiful roses in their adjoining windowboxes, and their grandmother is waiting for them. From here, it gets a touch metaphysical - here is the original text, so see if you can make sense of it.

" The roses on the leads hung blooming in at the open window; there stood the little children's chairs, and Kay and Gerda sat down on them, holding each other by the hand; they both had forgotten the cold empty splendor of the Snow Queen, as though it had been a dream. The grandmother sat in the bright sunshine, and read aloud from the Bible: "Unless ye become as little children, ye cannot enter the kingdom of heaven."
And Kay and Gerda looked in each other's eyes, and all at once they understood the old hymn:

"The rose in the valley is blooming so sweet,
And angels descend there the children to greet."

There sat the two grown-up persons; grown-up, and yet children; children at least in heart; and it was summer-time; summer, glorious summer!"

I guess, maybe they came home and realised they were all grown up now because Gerda had been searching for Kai for a fucking million YEARS, but they were still children because they loved each other? I'm not really sure what it's supposed to mean exactly, but it does remind me enormously of the homecoming scene in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

Phew. That is, incidently, an enormously condensed version of the original story. It's one of Anderson's longest, at seven fucking chapters, and you're so inclined you can read the whole thing here. I'm pretty annoyed to say the least that Disney have managed to yank out all the parts I would consider interesting. I do understand why they haven't included every single person Gerda comes across in her travels, because that movie would end up being about as long as Lord Of The Rings. But why change the basic premise of the story, the fact it's a resourceful, clever, brave girl going looking for her idiot friend who's wandered off with a strange lady? If they'd adapted the story more faithfully, Gerda could have been a heroine of the same type as Merida - but even though Brave was an enormously successful movie, Disney seem to have disappointingly decided that one ballsy Princess is enough to tide them over for the foreseeable future, while they get right back to making the same sort of films they've always made.

It's not just disappointing that they've changed this story so much though - it's downright confusing.  I mean, the original story was popular back in 1845 when it was written, and it's been interpreted in film and dance countless times since then. The idea of a brave, intrepid female heroine rescuing her male childhood friend wasn't too subversive for Denmark in the 1800's...but Disney think it would be too unpopular now? In what world is that even a logical assumption? It just comes across as completely stubborn clinging to misogynist tropes, for no reason other than, "That's how we've always done it." I hate to be all bitter about it, but I hope that maybe if this movie flops hard enough, maybe someone will wake up to the idea that there's nothing weird or subversive or heaven help us, noncommercial about a female lead.


  1. Come get your Finnish lady magic right here! :)

    1. hahah! At least the Finnish lady gets paper to write on instead of a fish :)


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