Saturday, 9 August 2014

A new translation of Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Snow Queen'


The snow queen
A fairytale in seven stories

First story,
which deals with the mirror and the shards of glass.

Right then! Time to start. When we’re at the end of the story we’ll know more than we do now, for it has to do with an evil ogre! one of the very worst – it was ‘the devil’! One day he was in a really good mood, for he had made a mirror that had the property of reducing everything good and beautiful that was reflected in it into practically nothing, but whatever was fit for nothing and looked bad grew more pronounced and became even worse. The loveliest landscapes looked like boiled spinach in it, and the best of people turned ugly or stood on their heads with no stomach, their faces became so distorted that they were unrecognisable, and if someone had a freckle, you could be sure that it spread out over both nose and mouth. It was most amusing, ‘the devil’ said. If a good pious thought went through the mind of a person, a grin appeared in the mirror, so that the ogre devil had to laugh at his ingenious invention. Everyone who went to an ogre school – for he ran such a place – said far and wide that a miracle had taken place; now for the first time one could really see, they felt, what the world and people really looked like. They ran around with the mirror, and finally there wasn’t a country or a single person that had not been distorted in it. Now they wanted to fly up to Heaven itself to make fun of the angels and the ‘Good Lord’. The higher they flew with the mirror, the louder it laughed, they could hardly hold onto it; higher and higher they flew, closer to God and the angels; then the mirror shook so violently as it grinned that it shot out of their hands and crashed down onto the ground, where it shattered into hundreds of millions, billions and even more pieces, and that was precisely what caused even more misfortune than before, for some of the pieces were scarcely as big as a grain of sand, and these flew all over the world, and wherever they got into people’s eyes, they stayed put and then those people saw everything wrong, or only had eyes for what was bad about something, for every speck of the mirror had retained the same power as the whole mirror had possessed; some people even got a tiny mirror-shard in their heart, and that was quite horrible – the heart became like a lump of ice. Some pieces of the mirror were so large that they were used for window-panes, but it wasn’t worth looking at one’s friends through that pane; others were put in spectacles, and things went badly when people put on those glasses so as to see clearly and be just; the evil ogre laughed till his stomach burst, and that tickled him so wonderfully. But there were even more shards of glass flying around everywhere in the air. Listen now!
To see the whole fairytale, go to here.

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