This one’s not about The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; it’s a deposit for later, when I will be writing about The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Yesterday, while I baked the apple pie, I listened to “The Snow Queen” on audiobook, and was astonished by the parallels between Kay’s interactions with the Snow Queen in Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale and Edmund’s with the White Witch in Narnia.
At the broadest level, the parallel between Snow Queen and White Witch are obvious – both are magical, both sharply associated with snowfall and winter. In both texts, she wraps the freezing boy in her furs and takes him home.
The parallels between Kay and Edmund are similar – each leaves a little girl who has reason to trust him, without explanation, to run off; and each then allies with a dangerous winter lady. Spoiler alert: both boys also come to repent their trangressions.
It’s pretty clear that this episode in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe alludes to “The Snow Queen.” At minimum, Lewis is making that reference. If we view the novel as Lucy’s dream, then the allusion is even stronger: of course the dream of a little girl steeped in fairy tales would be influenced by her bedtime stories.
This allusion enables Lewis to quietly invoke (I need to decide whether the invocation is meant for emphasis or contrast) Anderson’s themes.
“The Snow Queen” is very much a metaphor for growing up. Kay and Gerda play together and spin tales about roses and play games, in their childhood. Under the influence of a fragment of the terrible mirror, Kay gets cynical and mean, begins leaving Gerda behind for the company of boys, a depiction of older boyhood. He leaves the boys behind in pursuit of a woman, a doomed relationship, parallel to the adolescent pursuit of sex without concern for real emotional connection.
Gerda leaves behind her childhood rose garden wearing red shoes that Kay has never seen – a metaphor for her emerging sexuality. She embarks on a long journey, meeting various people, some of whom are kind, some dangerous, and some who ought to be dangerous but behave kindly, the adventures of a life. Possibly twice (at least once – need to check this) observes that “it is autumn, and I have wasted my time.” When she finds him, after the heat of Gerda’s emotions melts the shards of the wicked mirror from Kay’s eyes and heart, rendering him newly sentimental, they SHARE that observation, and when they return home, they notice that they are now grown up.
The metaphor is interspersed throughout with Christian themes, including a recurring hymn that both children learned in childhood, about returning to childhood to find Jesus, which could help explain the significance of the Pevensey childrens’ return to childhood in England after living a full life, including adulthood as kings and queens, in Narnia. If this has been Lucy’s dream, waking to find herself newly a child would be a return to find Jesus, a pursuit that can surprise no one in a novel by CS Lewis.