Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Snow Queen' inspires Disney and a children's author

'The Snow Queen' inspired not only Disney's hit musical 'Frozen' but also author Karen Foxlee, who based her critically acclaimed novel 'Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy' on the wintry tale.

L: Disney/AP
Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Snow Queen' was the basis for Karen Foxlee's book 'Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy' (r.) as well as the Disney animated film 'Frozen.'

Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” is having a moment.

First it was the basis for the Disney animated musical “Frozen,” which was released this past November and became a smash financial and critical hit, grossing more than $360 million domestically. And now author Karen Foxlee has used it to inspire her children’s novel “Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy,” which we here at the Monitor selected as one of the 10 best books of February.

Monitor fiction critic Augusta Scattergood called the book, which was released on Jan. 28, “magical,” writing that Foxlee’s novel has “gorgeous writing and complex storytelling.”

“The Anatomy of Wings” author Foxlee told industry newsletter Shelf Awareness that “Queen” was always her favorite Andersen tale.

“I think the thing that attracted me most was the theme of love and friendship,” she said. “Gerda is just a little girl, yet she embarks on this treacherous journey to rescue Kai. She never gives up on him, even though he is so changed by that splinter of mirror in his eye.

“And I think the Snow Queen was my first-ever true villain. I was so fascinated by her as a character – she's a woman, and she's riding around stealing kids! I can remember just being left breathless by the horror of that. But there was always something so sad and lonely about the Snow Queen – why was she all alone in that icy palace?

“In many ways too, that fairy tale played to something much deeper in my heart. My grandparents came from Finland to Australia in the 1920s, and each time I read 'The Snow Queen,' especially as Gerda draws closer to Lapland, I was imagining where part of me came from.”

Foxlee said she was inspired to create her heroine, practical Ophelia who has a hard time believing in magic, because of her own personality.

“I've always got a hundred questions in my mind and, when it comes to magic, they always seem a little scientific,” she said. “Where do Snow Queens come from? Do they have mothers? What is the life cycle of a troll? Is there a hierarchy of magical things? So in many ways, it was me sorting myself out as well.”

However, an important part of her story is her heroine learning to accept the extraordinary, she said.

“Much of the magic in the story is about Ophelia opening her heart to new possibilities – trusting her instincts, not questioning everything, just being,” Foxlee said.

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