Category Archives: Hans Christian Andersen

Comparative “Snow Queen” Film Discussion: Part 1

For the most part, I think the Russian film version of “The Snow Queen” is a great movie.  It has nice visuals, wonderful music, and many surprising twists and turns.  Many of the characters are very well depicted, including the robber girl, who is one of my favorites.  She’s funny, just like she’s supposed to be, as well as nasty and troublesome.  In any version of “The Snow Queen,” I love how the she is mean, naughty, and captures Gerda to be her playmate. I also, however, love how Gerda’s story helps her find her heart and help her new playmate.  This shows how powerfully stories can influence people.  Among other things, they can teach the true meaning of friendship, just like they do for the robber girl.  I think they depicted her very well in this film version, but I wish they had let her good heart show a little more.

Besides the robber girl, my other favorite part of the original story is the evil mirror created by a hobgoblin that makes everything ugly when you look through it.  In the original story, it is a shard of this very mirror getting into his eye that causes Kay to stop loving all the wonderful things around him.  In this film version, however, it is the Snow Queen’s kiss that does this; the mirror does not exist at all.  I really wish it did.  When I saw the evil man in the movie, I really hoped he would turn out to be the hobgoblin who creates the mirror.   I was waiting for this to be revealed when he promised his revenge on the kids and their grandmother for not letting him by their flowers, but it never happened.  He was, however, behind most of the bad things that happen in the movie.  This I liked, even though it might have some unfortunate implications, since I thought he was a genuinely interesting and captivating character.

Even though I was disappointed that the evil mirror is not in this version of the story, I understand it is a difficult concept to portray in film, especially since it is not described very vividly in the original story.  Since it is difficult, I think it is much more desirable for a film director who doesn’t think he or she can portray it well to not portray it at all, rather than try to but fail.  This is what happens in other film versions of the story, including a BBC version starring Sydney White and an animated version by Gareth Williams.

In the Gareth Williams version, the movie opens with the hobgoblin creating the mirror.  This part is appropriate enough, since that is how the original story opens, too.  It is completely ruined, however , by how the hobgoblin is portrayed.  He is a cartoony, cackling, monster, which not at all fits the type of villain he is.  Since he creates a mirror that makes all beautiful things look ugly, he should be more similar to the mean guy in the Russian version; a no-nonsense person who hates all things light-hearted.  This movie convinced me even more that this character should have been the hobgoblin in the Russian version.

In the BBC version, Gerda finds out about the mirror early on when she is in the palace, but her knowledge of it does nothing to help her save Kay.  When she gets to the Snow Queen’s palace, all she has to do is shed a tear on Kay’s face, and that destroys the mirror shard.  Defeating evil should never be that easy in stories, but when it is, the characters shouldn’t be given information that doesn’t even help!  I have yet to see a film or literary version of “The Snow Queen” portraying the goblin and mirror well, but I seriously hope I do someday.  If I don’t, I just might have to write my own literary version!

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Thumbelina

Once there was a woman who longed for a child, and finally, her wish was granted.  A fairy gave her a seed, which she planted in a flower pot, and grew into a wonderful flower.  It looked like a tulip, only much prettier.  One day the woman was so overcome by the flower’s beauty she kissed it, and the bud opened.  There, sitting inside the flower, was a beautiful girl no bigger than her thumb.  The woman loved her new daughter very much and called her Thumbelina.

Thumbelina and her mother spent many happy days singing and playing together until one day, a toad heard Thumbelina singing, and she was determined to capture her as a wife for her son.  That night, she snuck in through Thumbelina’s window and snatched her in her little walnut shell bed.  Then she brought her to the foul-smelling swamp where she lived.

Knowing Thumbelina wouldn’t want to marry her son, the toad placed her on a water lily leaf, making her unable to escape.  While the toad prepared for the wedding, Thumbelina awoke and saw where she was.  Seeing she could not escape, poor Thumbelina began to cry.  She cried even more when the toad and her son approached, saying she had to marry this hideous creature.

After the toads left, fish gnawed at the water lily’s root, breaking the leaf free.  Thumbelina took a stem as an oar and rowed away from the toads!   She had many great adventures rowing down the stream, meeting fish and many other creatures.  These adventures lasted the whole summer, but when autumn came, a fish gave her a warning:

“Winter is coming,” he said.  “The stream will become very cold, and if you fall, you would soon freeze to death.  You’d better row your leaf to land and find shelter before autumn ends!”  Thumbelina was frightened, for she had fallen into the water many times, but the water was warm and pleasant then.  Heeding the fish’s warning, she rowed her leaf to the bank and climbed up onto dry land.

Once on the land, Thumbelina wove herself a bed from blades of grass and found a leaf for a blanket.  This is where she slept, and she ate honey from the flowers and drank dew from leaves.  When winter came, all the birds flew to warmer places Thumbelina had never seen, but longed to travel to.  All the trees and flowers wilted, and even her leaf blanket shriveled up to nothing.

Poor, freezing Thumbelina searched a cornfield for shelter.  Suddenly, she found a small door just her size.  She knocked, and a little field mouse answered.

“You poor creature!” said the mouse.  “Please, come out of the cold and have some lunch with me!”  Thumbelina came inside and saw the field mouse had a very nice home.

“If you help me keep house and tell me stories,” the mouse said, “then you can stay here all winter long.”  Thumbelina was most grateful for this, and she gladly did as she was asked.

Thumbelina lived happily with the mouse until one day, a mole came to visit.

“You will like this mole very much,” promised the mouse.  “He is very rich and learned.”  Rich and learned he was, but Thumbelina did not like this mole at all.  He lived in darkness all year round and hated birds, sunshine, flowers, and all the other things she loved and missed.  The mole, however, liked Thumbelina very much, and secretly wanted to marry her.

One day as the mole gave Thumbelina and the mouse a tour of his home, the three of them found a bird lying lifeless in the passage.

Thumbelina knew the mouse and mole disliked birds, but seeing this swallow lying in the passage made her very sad.  The bird looked like he might just be sick, not dead, but Thumbelina dared not help him while the mole and mouse were watching.  She promised to help him at night when they slept, even though he could not hear her.

That night, Thumbelina crept over to the bird and covered him with a hay blanket.  She rested her head on his soft feathers and heard his heartbeat.  He was alive, just greatly weakened by the cold.

The next morning, Thumbelina returned to the bird, who was beginning to stir.  He wanted to leave this dark place and fly in the sunshine, but, as it was still winter, Thumbelina promised to take care of him if he stayed.

Thumbelina kept her promise, and when spring arrived, the bird bid her farewell and flew back to his nest, after giving Thumbelina a special whistle she could call him with.

The following autumn, Thumbelina needed the bird’s help.  The mole had asked her to marry him, and the mouse insisted she say yes.  Not wanting to marry this creature, Thumbelina took the whistle and called for her friend.  Down he flew, and, since he was about to fly to a warmer place for winter, Thumbelina climbed on his back and went with him.

When they got there, the swallow showed Thumbelina to a palace where he and other swallows lived.  It was surrounded by flowers, and the swallow told her to choose a flower for her home.  She was just about to do so when suddenly, the flowers opened!  One by one, out flew delicate little people with wings!  They were just Thumbelina’s size, and many of them looked a lot like her.

“These are the flower fairies,” explained the swallow.  “They will welcome you and help you find a flower to call your own.”  The flower fairies did exactly this, and they fashioned Thumbelina her own pair of wings so she could fly around with them.  Very glad to be in this beautiful place full of little people like herself, Thumbelina lived happily ever after.

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The Little Mermaid Discussion: Part 2

Despite all its flaws, Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” is, as I mentioned in the previous post, a beautiful, sophisticated story that was completely watered down (pun intended) by Disney. The main thing Disney left out was the mermaid’s wanting an immortal soul, and this, quite literally, took the soul right out of the story! In the Disney version, all Ariel wants is to be a human with legs, so that she can dance and learn all there is to know about the human world above her. To Disney’s credit, romance isn’t all she wants from the beginning. Seeing Prince Eric just gives her even more of a motivation to become human.

There is still the problem, though, of wanting to be with a man she doesn’t even know just because he’s cute. The two of them even fall in love when they’ve barely even met! Love at first sight yet again, people, and you know how I feel about that! Not to mention that in order to remain human, Ariel has to be kissed by Prince Eric before she’s been on land for three days! Talk about rushing a relationship! This also gives the story the same problem as Hans Christian Andersen’s version: she needs the love of a man in order to truly become human. There it is again, Disney! Your same old message that women have to be loved by men in order to be whole people! To be fair, this message is seen in the original versions of many fairy tales including this one, but these are old stories! Disney, being a modern day film company, should have been able to alter these stories enough so that they wouldn’t have those messages.

Disney, in my opinion, took the right stuff out and left the wrong stuff in while adapting “The Little Mermaid” for the screen. By stripping the story and the protagonist of a soul, Disney removed its sophistication. It left in, however, the story’s sexist messages. Without the sophisticated themes of the original, the Disney version really isn’t that interesting. Sexist messages aside, that’s why I never cared for this movie as a child. I liked Ursula, the sea witch, but that was about it.

Now that I’m an adult who has read the original story, I like the Disney version even less. Personally, I think Disney picked the wrong Hans Christian Andersen story to make a movie from, because doing so meant stripping the story of its essence. Many of Hans Christian Andersen’s other stories, like “The Snow Queen,” are also a little too sophisticated for Disney to handle, which is why I’m dreading seeing “Frozen,” Disney’s upcoming adaptation of “The Snow Queen.” I’m sure they will butcher it even more than they butchered “The Little Mermaid,” for this is the fate for just about any Hans Christian Andersen story that falls into Disney’s clutches.

The only story of Andersen’s I think Disney could have made a decent feature length movie out of is “Thumbelina.” That would have been a better choice than “The Little Mermaid.” “Thumbelina” has sexist qualities too, and I know better than to expect Disney to change that. I also know, however, that Disney would have done a much better job in creating a film version of this fairy tale than Don Bluth did. Don Bluth’s Thumbelina was a cheap Disney knock-off. Such a movie should have at least been made by the real McCoy.

Speaking of Don Bluth, let’s quote Lindsay Ellis, the Nostalgia Chick: “The profitability and quality of any given Don Bluth movie is in inverse proportion to how well the Disney company is doing.” Here is a link to the video in which she says this, which, coincidentally, is about Don Bluth’s Thumbelina: http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/videolinks/team-nchick/nostalgia-chick/6311-thumbelina.

In other words, when the Disney company wasn’t doing well, Don Bluth produced great films like “The Secret of Nimh,” “An American Tail,” “The Land Before Time,” and “All Dogs Go To Heaven,” the latter of which I have only seen clips of, but know other people like. When Disney was doing well, however, Don Bluth made cheap Disney knock-offs like “Thumbelina” as well as other weird, poorly-developed kids’ films like “Rock-A-Doodle.”

That’s very sad, in my opinion. I mean, we all know Don Bluth was capable of making kids’ films like “The Land Before Time” (my favorite movie of his), which has a level of sophistication rarely seen in a Disney film, or even “The Secret of Nimh,” which is probably one of the most sophisticated kids’ films ever made, so why did he feel the need to rip off Disney when Disney was doing well? He and his company probably believed that with everybody flocking to Disney films, his films would be overlooked if they were different from Disney. If the Disney viewers at the time had been in the right state of mind, though, they would not see a cheap Disney knock-off in addition to a real Disney movie, and certainly not instead of one. No, they would have seen a well-developed, sophisticated kids’ film nothing like Disney in addition to a Disney film! That’s certainly what I would have done. That’s why Don Bluth shouldn’t have been afraid to make more movies like “The Land Before Time” when Disney was doing well.

With that in mind, I think Don Bluth and Disney should have swapped which Hans Christian Andersen stories they made film adaptations of. Disney should have done “Thumbelina,” and Don Bluth could have easily made an animated film version of “The Little Mermaid,” one with the same sophistication level as “The Land Before Time” or even “The Secret of Nimh,” that stuck much more closely to the original story. In a movie like that, the mermaid still could have died as long as the movie greatly emphasized her rebirth, since to quote Doug Walker, the Nostalgia Critic, “His [Don Bluth’s] philosophy was that children can handle just about anything as long as you attach a happy ending.” Here is a link to the video in which he says this: http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/videolinks/thatguywiththeglasses/nostalgia-critic/1600-nostalgia-critic-top-11-saddest-moments

Maybe someday years from now, probably after everyone has forgotten Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” someone will make a film version of that story in the spirit of Don Bluth’s better films. If I were in charge of making that film, I would make sure the mermaid does not suffer as much as she does in the original story and figures out on her own how she can less painfully gain an eternal soul.

As an extra perk, here is another Lindsay Ellis video about why she doesn’t like Disney’s The Little Mermaid: http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/videolinks/team-nchick/nostalgia-chick/31642-the-little-mermaid Her reasons are not necessarily the same as mine, but it is nice to know I’m not the only female who dislikes this film.

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“The Little Mermaid” Discussion: Part 1

Note: Before reading this post, I would recommend you read the original Hans Christian Andersen tale of “The Little Mermaid” if you haven’t already. You can find it here: http://hca.gilead.org.il/li_merma.html.

The original “Little Mermaid” story is beautiful and much more sophisticated than the Disney version, but it has several flaws. One flaw is the story’s belief that people have to feel pain and sorrow in order to gain status. Even if that were true, this poor mermaid suffers way too much than she should have to in order to get what she wants! I mean, she has to have the sensation of a sword slicing through her when she gains legs and have her tongue cut off, loosing her voice! When all that is over, she has to feel pain every time she walks on solid ground! That much pain is not worth anything, not even becoming human and gaining an immortal soul! This is especially true since she has no guarantee that she’ll get it. What’s more, it is not even true that pain and sorrow is required to gain status, or anything else for that matter! Hard work is required, but pain and suffering is not the same as hard work.

Another flaw with this story is that the mermaid needs the love of a human male in order to gain an immortal soul. This of course implies that women have to be loved by men in order to be whole people. The nice thing about this story, though, is that in the end, she is able to gain an immortal soul without the love of a man. Since that ultimately happens, though, why couldn’t a clever mermaid at least guess or believe that there are other ways to gain an immortal soul? If she had believed this to be true, then she could have sought out another way to do it, eventually discovering, just like she does at the end, that good deeds are all she needs to do in order to gain an immortal soul. Of course she gains an opportunity to get an eternal soul at the end by sparing the life of the prince, but can’t there be other, less heart-breaking good deeds she can do? Aren’t there at least some good deeds she can do while living with her mer-family? The story would be much better if it had unfolded that way, I think.

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