Once upon a time a magician made a magic mirror. In this mirror, a kind face became wicked, a look of hate was reflected as a look of love. One day, however, the mirror broke, and if a sliver of glass from the mirror entered someone’s eye, that person’s soul became evil, if another pierced a heart, that heart grew hard and cold as ice.
In a big town two children, called Karl and Gerda were very close friends, and even the sweet pea that grew on Karl’s window sill spread across the street to entwine with Gerda’s little rose bush. One evening Karl was watching the snow drift down, when he noticed a white flake slowly turn into a beautiful ice maiden. Karl was startled to hear the ice maiden speak his name, and he was not to know he had set eyes on the Snow Queen. Winter passed, and one spring afternoon, as Karl and Gerda poured over a book, the little boy told her: “I feel a pain in my heart! And something’s pricking my eye!”
” Don’t worry”, said Gerda comfortingly. “I can’t see anything!” But, alas, splinters from the shattered mirror had pierced the little boy.
Now in the grip of the evil spell, he snapped: “You’re so ugly!” And ripping two roses from her bush, he ran off. From that day on, Karl turned into a very nasty boy, and nobody could understand what had happened to him to cause such a change. Only Gerda still loved him, though all she got in return were insults and spite.
Winter came round again, though earlier than usual, and bringing far more snow than anyone could remember.
One day, just after going outdoors to play in the snow, Karl saw the beautiful maiden he had seen that night, coming towards him wrapped in a white fur coat. She stood in front of him and told him to tie his sled to her own, drawn by a white horse. Then they sped away. Suddenly, the great sled soared into the sky and through the clouds. Stretched out on his own little sled, Karl didn’t dare move a muscle for fear of falling into space. At last, they came to a halt on an immense white plain, dotted with lots of sparkling frozen lakes.
“Come into my arms,” said the Snow Queen, opening her soft fur coat. “Come and keep warm!”
Karl allowed himself to be hugged by the unknown maiden and a chill ran up his spine as two icy lips touched his forehead. The Snow Queen kissed him again, and in an instant, the little boy forgot all about Gerda and his past life, as he fell into a deep sleep.
In the meantime, Gerda was anxiously searching for Karl, but no one had seen him. Finally, she went down to the river.
“Great river,” she said, “please tell me if you’ve seen Karl or if you’ve carried him away! I’ll give you these, if you do!” And she threw her shoes into the river. But the current paid no heed and just swept them back to the bank. Not far away stood an old boat, and Gerda climbed into it. As she drifted with the current, she pleaded: “Great river, silently flowing and knowing all things about men’s lives, take me to Karl.”
At dusk, she stopped by a river bank carpeted with all kinds of flowers. After resting she went into the forest, and though she did not know how she would ever find her friend, a mysterious voice inside her told her to be brave. After wandering far and wide, she stopped, tired and hungry. A crow flapped out from a hollow tree.
“If you’re looking for Karl,” it said, “I know where he is! I saw him with the Snow Queen on her sled in the sky!”
“And where is her kingdom?” Gerda asked the crow.
“In Lapland, where all is icy cold. That reindeer over there might take you! “
Gerda ran over to the big reindeer, threw her arms around its neck and, laying her cheek against its soft muzzle, said: “Please help me to find my friend!” The reindeer’s kindly eyes told her that he would, and she climbed onto its back. They travelled till they came to the frozen tundra, lit by the fiery glow of the Northern Lights.
“Karl! Karl! Where are you?” shouted Gerda as loudly as she could. When, at last, she found the little boy, Karl did not recognize her. Gerda threw her arms round him, and teardrops dripped onto his chest and heart. This broke the evil spell. Karl woke from his long sleep, and when he set eyes on Gerda, he too began to cry. The second cold splinter of mirror vanished. They had found each other again at last, thanks to Gerda’s love, and the reindeer galloped them home. The two plants on the window sills started to blossom again and to twine, a sign of their everlasting friendship.