The ideas behind the books

The Snow Queen

Sometimes when you read a book you can find yourself thinking 'Hmm. I've met that character before'. For instance, Harry Potter's Aunt Petunia reminds me of the wicked stepmother in Cinderella. In fact, fairy tales are a great source of character archetypes: the fairy godmother, the ugly duckling, Prince Charming and others keep turning up.

One of the most influential of all fairy tale archetypes seems to me to be the Snow Queen. This fearsome character was invented by Hans Andersen in 1844. Although short, some of the scenes in his story are spectacular: Kay's sleigh ride with the Snow Queen back to her palace in the far north, and the palace itself, lit by the northern lights, ' vast, empty, glittering, bleak as ice and deathly cold', and Kay, blue with cold, dragging the pieces of ice around trying to spell the word 'eternity'. The Snow Queen does seem to be the absolute embodiment of evil, kidnapper of children and freezer of hearts.

Small wonder that she inspires so many modern authors. If you look you can find the Snow Queen all around you. Her tale is told and retold. You can see her in Mrs Coulter in Northern Lights, and The Boss in Snatchers, and the Witch-Queen Haggoth in Temmi and the Flying Bears.