The Snow Queen, the Ice Dragon, and George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire”

“The Snow Queen” is a Hans Cristian Andersen story about two children growing up in Scandinavia: Gerda, the girl and hero, and Kai, the boy. For the plot and its details either read the summary on Wikipedia or read the story itself. It is not long. Once you do, you will discover that it has influenced George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire”. Gerda has the power of love and innocence in her heart that allows her to influence people and animals (including a crow and a reindeer) to help her. In other words, she is a Sansa Stark-like character. Sandor, Tyrion, and Littlefinger all fall under her spell with Sweetrobin and whomever else, not far behind. Kai becomes cold and distant when a winter blast puts ice in his heart and a similar shard in his eyes. If this sounds familiar, good. You are aware at the very least of one of the top grossing films of all time, “Frozen”, which was in part inspired by “The Snow Queen”. Roses also play a role in the story helping Gerda on her trek to find Kai, who has been abducted by the Snow Queen and is being held in a land of always winter lit only by the Northern Lights in a palace of ice on a frozen lake. So, we have the roses of blue rose of Winterfell fame, the Land of Always Winter, and a palace where the Snow Queen resides. All we need is an ice dragon and we have almost all of the elements of the far north of Westeros including the Night’s Queen.

 

For that though, we have to look at Martin’s stand-alone novella for children [Warning: Don’t read this to your child. It has lots of Martin touches like death, mutilation, and more death.], “The Ice Dragon”. Although Martin has repeatedly written and stated that the story does not occur in the lands of ice and fire, there are some elements that he is recycling for “A Song of Ice and Fire”. (Martin has also explained that he believes in “recycling” his work so this is not a groundless speculation.) These common elements are: protracted seasons that last for years, dragon riding, a protoganist (Adara, the little girl hero) whose mother dies in childbirth, and the terrible nature of war. And, there is also an ice dragon, children of the ice dragon, and (SPOILER) the ice dragon leaves behind always cold water when it dies.

 

The story utilizes themes common to almost all of Martin’s work, including “A Song of Ice and Fire”: difference is not a bad thing even though most people will treat it as so; love cures a frozen heart; and little girls have special powers. (Not in that way sickos!) Because Adara is a winter child and the ice dragon touched her before birth, Adara is cold-resistant and is able to play with the little ice serpents that inhabit her land during the winter. It becomes clear from the story the ice dragon is the cause of winter and is linked to Adara. Eventually, she and the ice dragon become friends and she rides it. When she is sheltering from the attacks of the enemy dragons, she either imagines or remembers: “the land of always-winter, where great ice castles and cathedrals of snow stood eternally in endless fields of white, and the stillness and silence were all.” The ice dragon sacrifices itself for her. Either because of that or the reconciliation with her family, Adara grows a warmth inside her heart and loses her cold immunity.

 

Again, we have an ice dragon, people of the cold, and sacrifice. While the ice dragon is terrifying and despised by most, there are at least a few like Adara who appreciate it and can relate. The overall message is one of tolerance, love, and understanding. The true evil is that which we do to each other, in our families (Adara’s father beats her.), to those who are different, and in war. It is a group of messages that we lose if we interpret “A Song of Ice and Fire” as a more traditional fantasy.

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