Illustration by Alfred Walter Bayes, 1895

“The Ice Maiden” by Hans Christian Andersen

This is one of the longer works of Andersen and one of the longest fairy tales we’ve looked at.  It tells the story of Rudy, who we first meet as a little boy selling toy houses his grandfather makes. We learn that both his parents are dead, his mother killed when she fell into a glacial crevice. She had been holding the infant Rudy at the time but he was saved. This was the first “kiss” by the ice maiden who is determined to possess him.

It is she whose mighty power can crush the traveller to death, and arrest the flowing river in its course. She is also a child of the air, and with the swiftness of the chamois she can reach the snow-covered mountain tops, where the boldest mountaineer has to cut footsteps in the ice to ascend. She will sail on a frail pine-twig over the raging torrents beneath, and spring lightly from one iceberg to another, with her long, snow-white hair flowing around her, and her dark-green robe glittering like the water of the deep Swiss lakes. “Mine is the power to seize and crush,” she cried.

From that moment on I knew Rudy was doomed. She was going to get him. It was inevitable. After all, Andersen’s tales rarely seem to have what I consider happy endings.

Rudy eventually goes to live with uncle and becomes an exceptional hunter and marksman. He falls in love with the miller’s daughter, a girl who is definitely above him in society, but he eventually wins her hand through his courage and skill. Remember though, that the Ice Maiden has been watching him all this time, trying on several occasions to make him hers. Eventually she succeeds and Rudy drowns on the night before his wedding.

Suddenly there came a flash of lightning, as dazzling as the rays of the sun on the white snow. The lake rose for  moment like a shining glacier; and before Babette stood the pallid, glittering, majestic form of the Ice Maiden, and at her feet lay Rudy’s corpse.

“Mine!” she cried, and again all was darkness around the heaving waters.

As always, Andersen’s imagery is breathtaking. On one hand, I love reading his stories, they’re just beautiful. On the other had, they’re so sad. None of his character can seem to escape their fate. Rudy tried so hard, earned so much, was going to be happy, but no that couldn’t be. He couldn’t escape nature or his position in life.

You can read the story at Sur La Lune Fairy Tales among other places.

Tif, from Tif Talks Books, is the hosting this great feature, Fairy Tale Fridays. Head over there to see her take on “The Ice Maiden” and to share your own thoughts. Next week, I’ll be looking at “The Ballad of Belle Dorcas” by William H. Hooks, more of a folktale than a fairy tale.

Tif will no longer be hosting this feature after January 21, but I’m planning on continuing it simply because I’m enjoying reading the stories. I am going to join in on a challenge Tif is hosting, The Fairy Tale Challenge. My aim is to enjoy a Happily Ever After by reading/watching 12 selections. Happily the “Ice Maiden” counts as my first.