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The Snow Queen

The loveliest of Christmas gifts

First published in the 1840’s, The Snow Queen has come to be known as one of our best loved fairytales, and its author Hans Christian Anderson as a master of the genre. The story of young Kay and Gerda, their friendship torn asunder as Kay is kidnapped by Her Icy Highness, and Gerda’s subsequent long journey to rescue him, has spawned many versions and translations over the decades. This particular edition is one of the loveliest I’ve ever seen.

Kay and Gerda live high in the garrets of two neighbouring houses. In the summer, they can step across the adjoining gutters, and play on the roof, but the advent of the punishing Northern winter keeps them housebound. One wintry evening, Kay heats a copper penny on the stove and presses it against the frosty window, creating a peephole. Putting a curious eye to it, Kay watches as the Snow Queen materialises, dressed in the finest white gauze, made from millions of star-shaped snowflakes.

‘She was beautiful, but she was ice-shining, glittering ice’. Her eyes sparkle like two bright stars, but in them there is ‘neither rest nor peace.’ Kay is mesmerised, and when she later returns to spirit him away, he willingly boards her majestic sleigh, leaving everyone he loves behind.

Most of us are familiar with this story, and there are dozens of versions available. What makes this one stand out for me, is the artwork. The Snow Queen lends itself to striking visuals, with its palace of driven snow against the dramatic backdrop of the Northern Lights. But here, the publishers have departed from the usual overblown illustration.

Sanna Annukka is a half-Finnish, half-British artist, and her work here is stunning. Bold, yet intricate geometric art, that expresses a real love of Northern European landscape and culture. Cloth bound, in vibrant blue, this is a beautiful gift for young and old alike.

See also Sanna Annukka’s illustrations for The Nutcracker, and The Fir Tree.

The Snow Queen with Sanna Annukka’s illustrations is published by Hutchinson, 92 pages.

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