viernes, 31 de marzo de 2017

REGRESO A LAS LAGUNAS SEMÁNTICAS

Los términos no son ni exclusivamente traducibles ni exclusivamente no traducibles; sería más acertado decir que el grado de dificultad de su traducción depende de su naturaleza, así como del conocimiento del traductor de las lenguas origen y meta en cuestión. A menudo un texto o un acto de habla que se considera "intraducible" es en realidad una "laguna léxica", es decir, no hay una equivalencia unívoca entre la palabra, expresión o giro en la lengua origen y otra palabra, expresión o giro en la lengua meta.



De nuevo recurrimos a René Magritte, cuyo arte plantea la arbitrariedad de las palabras y pone, por ende, buenos fundamentos para bucear en el océano de la semántica/pragmática cognitiva. ¿Llamar "luna" a /la prenda de vestir que llevamos en cada pie, izquierdo y derecho, para protegerlos/? Se puede, pero el problema es que "zapato" y las palabras equivalentes en otras lenguas ya están fosilizadas en cada cultura.
Entonces... ¿"luna" serían sólo los tacones o incluiría también los tenis, las sandalias, las chanclas y las katiuskas -es decir, toda la familia-?

Ya Marco Tulio Cicerón, en tiempos de los romanos, se embarcó en un largo discurso sobre la falta de un equivalente griego para el adjetivo ineptus/a/um (para estudiantes de Ciencias y los de Letras que han olvidado su latín... léase: ineptus inepta ineptum). Llegó a la conclusión -obviamente, al menos ligeramente errónea- de que los griegos eran tan ineptos, tan ineptos, que rara vez por no decir nunca prestaban atención a esta falta y por ende no tenían forma de denominarla.
¿Es la forma en que el lenguaje divide el mundo en conceptos una construcción cultural? Guy Deutscher propone un experimento para imaginar: el experimento de la isla de Zift. No existen palabras en ziftés para el concepto de /ave/ (vertebrado ovíparo y nidícola, cubierto de plumas y provisto de pico córneo y de alas por extremidades superiores, frecuentemente aeroterrestre) ni para el de /rosa/ (flor perfumada y de pétalos suaves, de la familia de las rosáceas, que crece en un arbusto a menudo espinoso...). Tienen, sin embargo, una palabra, "aosa", que designa a las rosas blancas y a todas las aves que no tengan el pecho rojo; y otra, "rave", que designa a todas las rosas de color y aves con el pecho rojo (petirrojos, fragatas, cardenales...).
Digamos que nos han entregado un cuento en ziftés para leerlo:
Una rave de plumas de colores vivos y una aosa amarilla se posaron en una rama y se pusieron a trinar un dueto. Llegaron a discutir en cuál de los dos tenía el canto más dulce. Al no ponerse de acuerdo, decidieron que les juzgaran las flores de aquel jardín. Volaron abajo, aterrizando junto a una fragante aosa y a una rave roja entreabierta, y pidieron su opinión. Pero, ¡oh no!, ni la aosa ni la rave podían distinguir entre las cadencias en cascada de la aosa y la temblante aria de la rave. Grande fue la irritación de los ofendidos cantores: la rave le arrancó a la rave roja pétalo tras pétalo, y la aosa amarilla, igual de ofendida, atacó a la aosa fragante con igual vehemencia. Terminaron ambas juezas desnudas y desprovistas de pétalos: ni la rave era roja ni la aosa era fragante.
MORALEJA: ¡Nunca erres al distinguir una rave de una aosa!
(En "Instrucciones para subir una escalera", de modo similar, Cortázar se refiere a ambos pies como "el pie" a secas, sin añadir nunca los adjetivos "izquierdo" o "derecho", para crear un texto intencionadamente confuso)
Según Deutscher, el sentido común nos explica que la supuesta distinción ziftesa de conceptos es fundamentalmente implausible, que no puede ser más antinatural combinar las rosas de color y las aves de pecho rojo bajo una misma etiqueta ("rave"), y lo mismo vale para las aves sin pecho rojo agrupadas con las rosas blancas ("aosas"). Y, si la distinción ziftesa es antinatural, las de otros idiomas deben ser más o menos naturales. Por ende, el sentido común sano (healthy common sense) sugiere que los conceptos detrás de las etiquetas no pueden ser agrupados así como así. Los lenguajes no pueden arbitrariamente agrupar conjuntos de objetos: cada oveja va con su pareja bajo una y la misma etiqueta. Cada idioma ha de categorizar el mundo de una forma que reúna objetos similares en nuestra percepción de la realidad.
Incluso una observación superficial de cómo las criaturas adquieren el lenguaje confirma que estos conceptos tienen algo de "natural". Los niños necesitan que les enseñen las etiquetas en el lenguaje de su sociedad en particular, pero no necesitan que les enseñen a distinguir entre conceptos. Es natural que una criatura que haya visto imágenes de gatos en ilustraciones y en pantalla, la próxima vez que vea alguno en vivo, lo reconozca como un gato --no importa si este gato de carne y hueso sea un persa negro en vez de un atigrado rubio, si tiene el pelo corto o largo, si es tuerto, cojo, o de cola corta...-- en vez de como una rosa o, digamos por poner otro ejemplo, una rana. La comprensión por instinto de estos conceptos en los niños muestra que el cerebro humano está innatamente equipado con potentes algoritmos de reconocimiento de patrones (pattern recognition), que clasifican a los objetos similares en grupos.
Las etiquetas reflejan convenciones culturales, pero los conceptos detrás de dichas etiquetas han sido formados por los dictados de la naturaleza. Se puede decir mucho de esta partición: es clara, sencilla y elegante; satisface a nivel intelectual y emocional, y, por último, tiene una ascendencia tan respetable como el mismo Aristóteles, según quien "a pesar de que los sonidos del lenguaje puedan variar de raza a raza, los conceptos mismos, las impresiones de la psique (así los denomina el filósofo) son las mismas para toda la Humanidad".
En la práctica, la cultura no solo controla las etiquetas, sino que además asalta sin cesar la frontera de lo que sería el mayorazgo de la naturaleza. Las convenciones culturales se entrometen en los asuntos internos de muchos conceptos, de maneras que a veces perturban al sentido común sano. La cultura permea profundamente el territorio de los conceptos, y puede resultar muy difícil aceptar este orden de cosas. El sustantivo "mind"/"mente" es prácticamente difícil de traducir al francés y al sueco (y otras lenguas escandinavas), ídem el japonés "kokoro", que abarca un abanico de conceptos mucho más amplio que "mind"/"mente". De hecho, incluso "kokoro" plantea dificultades de traducción a casi todas las lenguas europeas. Estos conceptos no pueden ser naturales como el caso de "gato", "rana" o "arbusto"; de otro modo, estos conceptos abstractos serían idénticos en todos los idiomas. Nuestro viejo amigo John Locke reconoció que, en el ámbito de lo abstracto, cada idioma tiene el permiso de "carve up" sus propios conceptos, a los que llama ideas específicas, comprobándolo a través de "la gran lista de palabras de cada idioma que no tienen las que correspondan en otros. Lo que muestra que las gentes de un determinado país, dadas sus costumbres y formas de vida, han hallado la ocasión de hacer diferentes ideas complejas, y darles nombres; mientras otros idiomas nunca las han recolectado como ideas específicas". Locke dixit.
En el momento en que la naturaleza muestra la más ligera duda en su incisión, la cultura lleva a cabo un rápido asalto. Muchas de las partes supuestamente diferentes del cuerpo humano no fueron delineadas por la naturaleza con mucho detalle. El brazo es la Eurasia de la semántica anatómica: igual que se puede hablar de Eurasia, Europa y Asia, o Europa Occidental (a su vez, dividida en Norte y Sur), Europa del Este, Oriente Próximo, Oriente Medio, subcontinente indio, Himalayas, estepas y Lejano Oriente... se puede usar "brazo" para toda la extremidad superior, lo que equivaldría al concepto de Eurasia como un todo, o delimitar las "fronteras" del hombro hasta la muñeca, o del hombro hasta el codo. Resulta que la respuesta depende de la cultura en que uno ha crecido. Hubo un período bien largo de tiempo en que Alma Deutscher, la hija de Guy Deutscher --hablamos de una familia judía británica, la lengua materna del padre es el hebreo, mientras que la de la niña es el inglés-- corregía a su padre cada vez que este empleaba el sustantivo hebreo "yad" (que engloba /mano/, /brazo hasta la muñeca/ y /todo el brazo/) para expresar el concepto /brazo/, habiendo llenado la niña la laguna con el anglicismo ("Eso no es 'yad', papá. ¡Eso es 'arm'!"). El hecho de que sean cosas diferentes en un idioma y la misma cosa en otro no es tan fácil de comprender.
Para poner otro ejemplo del hebreo, no tienen palabra equivalente a nuestro /todo el cuello/, y a propósito de ello también habla Guy Deutscher. "Uno habla de su cuello y yo lo tomo literalmente y creo que se refiere a lo que entiendo por 'cuello,' lo que en mi lengua materna se dice 'tsavar'. Pero después de un rato resulta que ha estado hablando del cuello pero no del 'tsavar', sino de la nuca, lo que llamamos 'oref'. El hebreo no tiene holónimo equivalente a /todo el cuello/ y distingue entre 'oref', /nuca/, y 'tsavar', /garganta externa, parte anterior del cuello/."
Las concesiones de la naturaleza a la cultura parecen ahora ligeramente más inquietantes. Es ligeramente inquietante que los conceptos abstractos ("mente", "kokoro") sean culturalmente dependentes, pero salimos a la frontera de la zona confortable al pensar que por ejemplo, las relaciones de meronimia y holonimia en la anatomía humana dependen de las convenciones culturales de cada sociedad. Las invasiones que realiza la cultura del dominio de los conceptos están empezando a doler un poco.
The way 
our language carves up the world into concepts has not just been deter- 
mined for us by nature, and that what we find "natural" depends largely 
on the conventions we have been brought up on. That is not to say, of 
course, that each language can partition the world arbitrarily according 
to its whim. But within the constraints of what is learnable and sensible 
for communication, the ways in which even the simplest concepts are 
delineated can vary to a far greater degree than what plain common 
sense would ever expect. For, ultimately, what common sense finds nat- 
ural is what it is familiar with. 
Cuanto más compleja la sociedad, menos distinciones semánticas es probable que exprese a nivel léxico (word-internally).




De Konishi a Boroditsky

Para comprobar si las diferencias de género de los sustantivos de una lengua a otra, en 1993 una psicóloga japonesa afincada en California, Toshi Konishi, presentó una lista de 54 de esos sustantivos con géneros gramaticales cruzados a 40 mexicanos adultos y a otros tantos alemanes adultos y les pidió su opinión sobre ciertas características relacionadas con la potencia que asociaban con tales objetos. Comprobó que atribuían a un mismo objeto más fortaleza cuando en su lengua materna era del género masculino (de ahí, por ejemplo, que los mexicanos atribuyeran a los puentes más fortaleza que los alemanes, que dicen "die Brücke") y concluyó, en contra de la tesis tradicional, que el género gramatical afecta al significado que atribuimos a las palabras.
Otros experimentos posteriores ha corroborado ese resultado. En uno de ellos, dirigido por Lera Boroditsky, los investigadores mostraron a un grupo de hispanohablantes y germanófonos 24 objetos con género gramatical distinto en sus respectivos idiomas y, en sucesivas pruebas, les fueron dando nombres propios (así, por ejemplo, a una manzana la llamaron “Patricia” en una prueba y “Patrick” en otra).
Observaron que a los sujetos les resultaba más fácil recordar aquellos nombres propios que concordaban en género con el del objeto en su idioma nativo (así, los hispanohablantes recordaban mejor el nombre de la manzana cuando era “Patricia” que “Patrick”; y a los alemanes les pasaba al revés). Como la prueba la realizaron en inglés, dedujeron que los sujetos atribuían un género conceptual a los objetos basándose en su género gramatical.

El principio de Jakobson

En Through The Language Glass. Why the world looks different in other languages
(Arrow Books, 2011), el investigador británico, Guy Deutscher, incluye ese experimento en su panorama de teorías que han vinculado pensamiento y lenguaje.
Una de las más extremas y desacreditadas fue la que enunciada en la primera mitad del siglo pasado por Edward Sapir, fue desarrollada por su alumno Benjamin Lee Whorf y se conoce como “hipótesis Sapir-Whorf”. Sostiene que la lengua es una “jaula” o prisión que limita nuestra capacidad de aprehender la realidad externa.
En 1936 Whorf pretendió ilustrar su teoría con una singularidad que atribuyó a la lengua de una tribu india del estado de Arizona, los hopis, que –alegaba– no hacían distinción alguna entre pasado, presente y futuro. 
Cuando, años después, otro lingüista más meticuloso, Ekkehar Malotki, vivió entre los hopis y estudió su lengua, comprobó que tenían perfecta noción del tiempo y lo demostró transcribiendo relatos que les había oído. De la desacreditada hipótesis Sapir-Whorf hay ecos en la novela 1984 de George Orwell, en la que describe cómo los líderes autoritarios de Oceanía pretenden erradicar la rebeldía eliminando del diccionario las palabras que podrían alentarla.
Hoy en día los lingüistas rechazan que un idioma pueda ser una barrera que impida comprender o transmitir ideas sólo asequibles en otras lenguas. Baste un ejemplo: aunque en español y en inglés carezcamos de un término equivalente al Schadenfreude alemán, nada nos impide captar su significado de “alegría por la desgracia ajena”.
Ahora bien, Deutscher suscribe la tesis más moderada del lingüista Roman Jakobson de que “los idiomas no se diferencian esencialmente en lo que pueden transmitir, sino en lo que obligan a transmitir”. 

"Languages differ essentially in what they must convey and not in what 
they may convey." The crucial differences between languages, in other 
words, are not in what each language allows its speakers to express — for 
in theory any language could express anything — but in what informa- 
tion each language obliges it speakers to express. 
Así, la expresión inglesa "the boss and her spouse" se traduciría como "la jefa y su cónyuge": revela el sexo de la jefa con el posesivo, pero no obliga a revelar el sexo del o la cónyuge... ergo, he elegido el término más neutral "cónyuge" ya que el que "spouse" no obliga a revelar el sexo es cosa inevitable en español y otros muchos idiomas.
Para Deutscher la lengua puede influir no sólo en la atribución de género a los objetos –como demostraron Konishi y Boroditsky–, sino también en el sentido de la orientación o la sensibilidad a los colores. Así, que en la lengua de los guugu yimithirr, en Australia, las indicaciones de situación física no sean “egocéntricas” (izquierda/derecha) sino que se basen en los puntos cardinales –un nativo yimithirr nos diría, por ejemplo, “hay un hormiguero junto a tu pie norte”–, obliga a quienes lo hablan a tener un perfecto sentido de la orientación, para poder hablarlo y entenderlo con soltura.

 We venture onto riskier 
ground, however, when we move from the facts about language to their 
possible implications on the mind. Different cultures certainly make 
people speak about space in radically different ways. But does this neces- 
sarily mean that the speakers also think about space differently? By now 
red lights should be flashing and we should be on Whorf alert. It should 
be clear that if a language doesn't have a word for a certain concept, that 
does not necessarily mean its speakers cannot understand this concept. 

Indeed, Guugu Yimithirr speakers are perfectly able to understand 
the concepts of left and right when they speak English. Ironically, it 
seems that some of them even entertained Whorfian notions about the 
alleged inability of English speakers to understand cardinal directions. 
John Haviland reports how he was once working with an informant on 
translating traditional Yimithirr tales into English. One story con- 
cerned a lagoon that lies "west of the Cooktown airport" — a description 
that most English speakers would find perfectly natural and under- 
stand perfectly well. But his Yimithirr informant suddenly said; 
"But white fellows wouldn't understand that. In English we'd better say, 
'to the right as you drive to the airport.'" 

And as it so happens, the Yimithirr have exactly this kind of 
an infallible inner compass. They maintain their orientation with respect to 
the fixed cardinal directions at all times. Regardless of visibility condi- 
tions, regardless of whether they are in thick forest or on an open plain, 
whether outside or indoors, whether stationary or moving, they have a 
spot-on sense of direction. Stephen Levinson relates how he took Guugu 
Yimithirr speakers on various trips to unfamiliar places, both walk- 
ing and driving, and then tested their orientation. In their region, it is 
rarely possible to travel in a straight line, since the route often has to go 
around bogs, mangrove swamps, rivers, mountains, sand dunes, for- 
ests, and, if on foot, snake-infested grassland. But even so, and even 
when they were taken to dense forests with no visibility, even inside 
caves, they always, without any hesitation, could point accurately to the 
cardinal directions. They don't do any conscious computations: they don't 
look at the sun and pause for a moment of calculation before saying 
"the ant is north of your foot." They seem to have perfect pitch for 
directions. They simply feel where north, south, west, and east are, just 
as people with perfect pitch hear what each note is without having to 
calculate intervals. 
The Yimithirr take this sense of direction entirely for granted 
and consider it a matter of course. They cannot explain how they know 
the cardinal directions, just as you cannot explain how you know 
where left and right are. One thing that can 
be ascertained, however, is that the most obvious candidate, namely the 
position of the sun, is not the only factor they rely on. Several people 
reported that when they traveled by plane to very distant places such as 
Melbourne, more than a three-hour flight away, they experienced the 
strange sensation that the sun did not rise in the east. One person even 
insisted that he had been to a place where the sun really did not rise in 
the east. This means that the Yimithirr's orientation does fail 
them when they are displaced to an entirely different geographic region. 
But more importantly, it shows that in their own environment they rely 
on cues other than the position of the sun, and that these cues can even 
take precedence. When Levinson asked some informants if they could 
think of clues that would help him improve his sense of direction, they 
volunteered such hints as the differences in brightness of the sides of 
trunks of particular trees, the orientation of termite mounds, wind 
directions in particular seasons, the flights of bats, sand dunes...
If you are a nomad in the Australian bush, there are no second left turnings to guide you, so egocentric directions (left, right... like those of sedentary Westerners) will be far less useful and you will naturally come to think in geographic coordinates. The way you then end up thinking about space will just be a symptom of the way you think anyway.
De forma parecida, la escasez en la Naturaleza de objetos azules –excluidos el cielo diurno y los cursos de agua, lagos y mares– hace que muchas lenguas primitivas o antiguas –incluidos el griego y el latín– no tengan un nombre específico para ese color, considerado en ocasiones una mera tonalidad del verde (son, por ende, lenguas "grue" o "vazules"). Eso explica que Homero, que tanto habla del rojo en sus relatos, no mencione el azul (y hable de mares burdeos o violetas y cielos verdes), sin que sea preciso atribuir ese hecho a su supuesto daltonismo –como aventuró en el siglo XIX Gladstone, el erudito Primer Ministro inglés–.


Sesgos implícitos

Deutscher concluye: “Cuando un lenguaje fuerza a quienes lo hablan a prestar atención a ciertos aspectos del mundo cada vez que abren la boca o aguzan el oído, tales hábitos del habla pueden transformarse con facilidad en hábitos mentales con consecuencias en la memoria, la percepción, las asociaciones o incluso las habilidades prácticas”.



There is 
nothing in the physical environment of the Yimithirr that pre- 
cludes their using both geographic coordinates (for large-scale space) 
and egocentric coordinates (for small-scale). There is no conceivable 
reason why a traditional hunter-gatherer existence would prevent any- 
one from saying "there is an ant in front of your foot" instead of "to the 
north of your foot." After all, as a description of small-scale spatial rela- 
tions, "in front of your foot" is just as sensible and just as useful in the 
Australian bush as it is inside an office in London.

This is 
not merely a theoretical argument— there are various languages of soci- 
eties similar to Guugu Yimithirr that indeed use both egocentric and 
geographic coordinates. Even in Australia itself, there are aboriginal 
languages, such as Jaminjung in the Northern Territory, that do not rely 
only on geographic coordinates. So Guugu Yimithirr's exclusive use 
of geographic coordinates was not directly imposed by the physical 
environment or by the hunter-gatherer way of life. It is a cultural 
convention. The categorical refusal of Yimithirr ants ever to 
crawl "in front of" Yimithirr feet is not a decree of nature but an 
expression of cultural choice. 
In fact, there is one example in our own egocentric system of coordi- 
nates, the left-right asymmetry, which teaches us to be cautious. For 
most Western adults, left and right seem second nature, but children 
have great difficulties in mastering the distinction and generally man- 
age it only at a very late age. Most children cannot cope with these con- 
cepts even passively until well into school age and don't use left and 
right actively in their own language until around the age of eleven. This 
late age of acquisition, and especially the fact that children often master 
the distinction only through the brute force of schooling (including, of 
course, the need to acquire literacy and master the inherent sidedness 
of letters), makes it unlikely that the left-right distinction was acquired 
simply through the requirements of daily communication. 
page 234 Influence of language on thought can be considered significant 
only if it bears on genuine reasoning: See, e.g., Pinker 2007, 135. 














FROZEN VS. THE SNOW QUEEN

Frozen vs. The Snow Queen


Christmas can be full of excitement, snowy landscapes, and family bickering. So what better time to look at Disney’s Frozen?
Based upon The Snow Queen, it’s about two sisters forced apart by fear and together again by love, and the story enjoyed a similar bout of see-sawing. There were talks about an adaptation way back in 1943, but it was only after 70 years of extensive fiddling that it finally saw the light of day. Luckily it was worth the wait: Frozen has been an incredible success and even ousted  The Lion King from its throne as the highest-grossing Disney film of all time. But was the original book left out in the cold?
The source text is yet another gem from the vault of Hans Christian Andersen, a failed thespian actor, singer, and ballet dancer (ballerino?) who became one of the most famous and well-travelled Danish writers of his time. His many fairytales fanned out from Germany in the 1840s, reaching as far as England and the Americas, and included works like The Little Mermaid and The Emperor’s New Clothes. He penned The Snow Queen, or Snedronningen, in December 1844, so he was probably feeling the Christmas vibe too, especially since he was a committed Christian who believed the world and nature were intertwined with divinity in a holistic worldview.
You’d be right in thinking Disney watered down the religious aspects for a secular audience, but that’s not all. For instance, instead of a kooky snowman, reindeer, and rugged mountain boy... our supporting characters include a stab-happy robber girl, a bearded lady, a couple of talking crows, and creepy old women obsessed with amnesiac children.
If that didn’t make you shudder, a freezing spoiler wind is about to strike, so if you need to wrap up warm, I’d hop to another post. But if the cold never bothered you anyway, let’s plough ahead.

A Tale of Two Siblings

For our original “siblings”, playtime is spared the drama of cryokinesis.



Andersen version




This inseparable pair are a little boy called Kai and a little girl called Gerda. They aren’t brother and sister but they play together as if they were siblings, and live opposite each other in attic rooms joined by an outside gutter. In the springtime and summer, flower boxes with rose bushes are planted in the gutter, forming a mini garden where they can play. The roses are their favourite, and Gerda teaches Kai part of a hymn about them, which probably won’t be important in any way:

“Where roses deck the flowery vale,
There, infant love will sure prevail!” 

 

In winter, they communicate via peepholes through the windows or by physically traipsing down the stairs, into the street, and up into the other’s house. One day while sitting inside, one of their grandmothers tells them about the “white bees” of snow (the snowflakes), and the “queen bee” who appears in the thickest of swarms and makes ice patterns on the windows. Gerda asks if this “Snow Queen” could ever come into the house, but Kai shrugs and says he would just melt her on the stove if she did.


Forgetting for a moment the change from normal, unrelated peasant children (ersatz siblings/best friends) to royal sisters, one of whom is the Snow Queen, there are a couple of similar themes here. One half of the pair is fearless, either threatening to burn a snow spirit on the stove or leaping up too high, and the other half is more cautious, either about said snow spirit or when her powers go too far. Neither snow queen has the best introduction, but Elsa is only a little girl with abilities beyond her control and non-threatening, making her more sympathetic than a ghostly apparition who could spell trouble. Regardless of their intentions, both snow queens will test the incredibly strong bond between the children.

Cold Shoulder


Pop quiz: what’s worse, being cruel to be kind, or intentionally being an arse?  Little Gerda’s about to find out.

Andersen version






This time it’s the more adventurous child who throws up a wall. One night, Kai is looking out of the window when a snowflake suddenly materialises into the Snow Queen. She is a tall, beautiful woman (rather than an insect-like monster) made entirely out of ice and has eyes that have no peace or kindness in them. Still, she’s nice enough to give him a wave, and he runs away pretending he saw a big white bird, something like an eagle.





During the springtime, while playing in the roof garden with Gerda, he feels a grain of something in his left eye, and his heart suddenly turns into a lump of ice. Strangely enough, it’s nothing to do with the Snow Queen.

There are no good-natured trolls in the original, but instead we have demonic hobgoblins, trolls in the original tale, whose leader creates a cursed mirror. The mirror gives modern day gossip columns a run for their money, magnifying anything bad and belittling anything good, and when it’s dropped and smashed, pieces of it rain all over the world. Just one tiny grain is as powerful as the whole, and Kai cops two of them, one in his eye and one in his heart. He suddenly decides to trash their beloved roses, kick over the flower box, tease a confused and tearful Gerda, and then make a name for himself mimicking anyone else he meets. The only thing he sees as unworthy of ridicule or perfect are snowflakes.
Both Elsa and Kai change their behaviour because of magic, but the former does this out of fear and to protect her sister rather than involuntarily, as well as to obey her parents’ wishes. Neither Anna nor Gerda have any clue why their playmate’s behaviour has changed so radically, and it’s hard to decide who has the worst deal. Anna’s whole family are hiding something from her and she has no explanation for it. All she has is happy memories which no longer make any sense. Kai doesn’t shut Gerda out for most of her childhood, and there is no conspiracy going on, but then again, the boy is actively an ass-hat to her and makes her cry.
Fortunately, neither girl will have to put up with this behaviour for much longer.

The Cold Light of Day



Elsa’s not the only one stretching her wings. After the way Kai has treated Gerda and everyone else around him lately, you’d think the town would also want to get shot of him. Their wish is about to be granted.

Andersen version







Kai is now allowed to play on a sled with the bigger boys in town (obviously, the local bullies), but when a large, white sled appears, he ends up playing sled-conga and is led out of the kingdom and away into the snowy wilderness. When they finally stop, the other driver is revealed to be the Snow Queen, apparently pulled along by white snow chickens. When she sees Kai shivering, she kisses him to take the cold feeling away, and then again so he forgets all about Gerda and his home. She then casually mentions that if she kisses him again it will kill him, so she’d better not. The boy doesn’t seem to mind because the Snow Queen is the only thing that looks perfect to him and his warped view of the world, and he willingly goes back with her to her palace, sleeping at her feet during the day and staring up at the moon at night.




Back in the town, people eventually believe that Kai is dead, possibly drowned in the river. Gerda believes this too until the spring sunshine and the swallows (birds of passage), and the flowers in the roof garden, tell her otherwise, so she sets off to find him herself.


A coronation day and being allowed to play with the big boys or bullies are obviously different in importance, but they are both “coming of age” events, and result in Elsa and Kai leaving their lives behind and embracing the ice and snow. For Elsa it’s a release and freedom after years of hiding herself, and for Kai, brain-washing aside, it’s something that he can finally see as flawless after his run-in with a shard of goblin mirror. Whether they’ve done anything wrong or not, both “sisters” take off after the other, but Anna has the foresight to leave someone in charge of her kingdom and to tell people where she’s going. She didn’t wait until spring to get her skates on either, but then again, she’s a bit more impulsive when it comes to boys. Will both girls survive alone out in the wide world?


Northbound

It turns out Olaf isn’t the only one oblivious to his surroundings and the seasons.






Andersen version




Gerda’s first port of call is the river, and while looking for Kai she is swept away by the stream and rescued by an old lady who lives in a riverside cottage. Whether the girl likes it or not, the old woman, a good witch, wants to keep Gerda, and magically removes any roses from her garden so she forgets all about her playmate. Luckily, she forgets to remove the one on her hat, and after some time Gerda’s memory is jolted. Her exasperated tears bring back the real roses, and she asks them and the other flowers if they know anything. While the roses can confirm that Kai isn’t dead, the other flowers can only impart stories like a Hindu woman burning to death on her husband’s funeral pyre, a medieval damsel yearning for her true love, and three beautiful sisters who run away into the forest to die. Helpful.














By the time Gerda has fled the garden, it’s now late autumn in the outside world. Fortunately, the snowy wastes further on yield more effective companions: a male wild crow and his tame mate who may have seen Kai getting married to an eccentric, intelligent princess recently. Said princess decided she fancied a husband one day and extended the invitation to any eligible bachelors around. Any who could speak well and comfortably to her would be her husband, and the one who succeeded where many awkward suitors had failed before, winning her heart and hand through his clever liveliness, a rugged chap with long hair and bright eyes, may have been Kai. Gerda really did take her sweet time!



After sneaking into their bedchamber, Gerda realises it’s a false sighting (it's not Kai, but still a dashing young man), but the prince and princess are cool with a peasant girl wandering into their private quarters, actually ask if she wants to stay with them, and when she regretfully refuses, give her some supplies for her journey. They spoil her with a muff (the type for your hands, stop sniggering), winter boots, and a golden chariot with horse, outriders, footmen, and coachman. And away she goes, with the crows, prince and princess waving a tearful goodbye. Her destination isn’t exactly set, but going somewhere is better than nowhere I suppose.
The wolves are the only Disney characters who want to capture the sister for themselves, and everyone Anna meets seems to want to help her, either out of genuine friendliness or possible reward. She herself is quite similar to Andersen’s husband-hungry princess, and at a push you can see the rugged Kristoff in the prince, but otherwise the aid is reversed – royalty is helped by the peasantry rather than vice versa, and a talking snowman rather than a crow gives hope to the search party, to link back to Anna and Elsa’s childhood. In Gerda’s case,  it’s the roses that keep her memory of Kai alive and spur her on, and this is all she has to go on for now, as no one has a clue where he went.
Sadly, not everyone they meet will be as endearing (or harmlessly creepy) on their trip.

Cold Snap


Our motley Disney crew have each other and a goal in mind. Although Gerda’s about to get both of these things, one of them gets worse before it gets better.

Andersen version



Don’t recognise any of the characters so far? Don’t worry, the reindeer's still in it.







Sort of.




Once her friends the crows are out of sight, Gerda is ambushed by robbers who massacre her entire entourage. A bearded, alcoholic old woman, the leader of the pack, drags her out of the chariot and decides to cook her for lunch, until her equally crazy daughter nearly bites off the woman’s ear and demands that Gerda be her playmate. Under the threat of stabbing, Gerda plays with and sleeps next to the robber girl, who has imprisoned a collection of woodland pigeons and a reindeer called Be. In between shaking the pigeons upside down, the girl tickles Be with a knife to scare him and stop him from running away.


When the pigeons reveal that they know of the Snow Queen (she killed their siblings by blowing on them), and that Be knows where to find her in Lapland, the robber girl relents and lets Be take Gerda further north to find her.



Their first stop is the Lapp lady, who gives Gerda a note written on a stockfish, a dried and salted codfish, a.k.a. this hellish abomination:
IT TASTES AS WEIRD AS IT LOOKS
...to take to the Fin woman, who can better direct them because the Snow Queen is staying even further north at the moment.




Gerda and Anna both experience backhanded affection from their sister or a supposed “friend”, who, paradoxically, almost hurts them to protect them from getting hurt. The Snow Queen also drops a little in our estimation, with Elsa unleashing a monster on her sister, and Andersen’s version killing baby pigeons on top of the whole “child abduction” thing. Although both sisters have a time limit slapped on them, Gerda would only be inconvenienced if she missed the Snow Queen, as opposed to dead in Anna’s case. Happily, the girls are helped by more experienced mountain folk and get to ride a kick-ass reindeer, so it’s not all bad. Not yet, anyway.

Ice in the Veins



Thirteen is definitely unlucky for some.

For Gerda, it seems that a strange power can actually protect you for once.

Andersen  version




She and Be finally arrive at the Fin woman’s house, a hobbit-hole-like home so warm that she practically walks around naked on all fours. For some reason Gerda lets a reindeer do all the talking for her, and Be asks the woman if she can give Gerda anything to help on her journey. She takes the caribou to one side and whispers that if Gerda can’t find the Snow Queen herself she’s already doomed, explaining that everyone on her journey has served her one way or the other, all because of her love for her “brother” and her child-like innocence. And to keep her innocence, and therefore safe, the girl must never be told that she has this power.

The Fin woman’s solution, therefore, is for Be to take her as far as the edge of the Finmark and dump her there. If you’re not sure how far north this is, the Fin(n)mark is where you find the North Cape, one of the most northern points of Europe and one of the last shreds of inhabited land before the North Pole.





Fortunately, Gerda has become as non-plussed as Anna in the face of adversity and turns the ice and snow to her advantage. The further she walks, the bigger the snowflakes get until they take on the sinister shapes of the Snow Queen’s guards. By reciting her evening prayer, she manages to conjure up her own ice soldiers to cut them up and protect her from the cold, so as far as she’s concerned she’s just out for a chilly and apparently magical walk.
Once Anna is unwittingly abandoned by her friends, she has as much chance surviving as a snowball in hell, and not least because Hans proves to be a million times more of a bastard than Kai was. Conversely, Gerda is deliberately abandoned by her friends – but not maliciously – and discovers her inner power. As for the Snow Queen, one only has a young girl on the warpath, while the more sympathetic one has half a kingdom and a power-hungry prince after her blood, on top of the knowledge that her sister is missing and possibly dead. Stress certainly isn’t good for the heart, but it’s no match for ice.

Come in from the Cold


Thankfully for Gerda, she needn’t bother with swords or ice statues, because she’s armed with three of the most powerful things in the world – love, words, and nostalgia.

Andersen version




Kai has been just as oblivious to danger as Gerda, and has spent all this time living in the Snow Queen’s vast palace. It’s a complete waste of space – some rooms go on for miles, but there’s not an animal or drunken royal shindig to be seen anywhere.  While the Snow Queen spends her days jet-setting all over the world, the boy spends his time sitting on the frozen lake floor, arranging ice patterns in a puzzle. If he can arrange them into the word “eternity” inside a sun shape, the queen will let him go and give him a brand new set of skates, because priorities. Thanks to the grains of mirror in his eye and heart, he’s obsessed with these ice shapes, and is cyanotic, almost black, with cold.

Gerda could saunter her way into the palace if she so wished because there’s absolutely no one to stop her from getting inside. When she finds Kai before the empty throne (the Queen had just left to bring the winter south again, to frost the grapevines and the citrus crops), he neither acknowledges nor recognises her, so she hugs him, cries, and sings the rose hymn they used to know. The combination warms him up and melts his heart, expelling the mirror shard inside a teardrop, turning him back into the sweet surrogate brother she once had. Kay and Gerda are so happy that they’ve found each other again that the ice pieces start dancing about too, and coincidentally fall to the ground arranging a sun which contains the word “eternity”. So, even if the Snow Queen came back, she could do bugger all – by the terms of an arbitrary agreement, Kai is now free.


A frozen lake is obviously the place to break an icy spell, and it’s an act of sibling rather than romantic love that does the trick. Anna and Elsa’s situation is more desperate, thanks to a falling sword and freezing heart, but in either case, it’s partially the Snow Queen’s fault that one half of the pair is going the way of Olaf the snowman. Snow and ice also end up helping them in the end, in the form of Olaf rescuing Anna, ice deflecting a sword, or actual pieces of ice becoming sentient and helpful. With Anna and Kai revived, what’s next for our snow sorceresses?

Summer of Love







Will Andersen’s Snow Queen be accommodating to Gerda and Kai?

Andersen version



The answer is “no”, because the Snow Queen never shows her face, allowing an elated Gerda and Kai to walk back completely unhindered by storms or adverse weather. When they reach the border of Finmark, Be and a younger reindeer are waiting for them. The latter has baps full of milk to feed them, and they run with them back down south, stopping for directions at the Fin woman’s home and then a quick snack, change of clothes and a new sledge at the Lapp woman’s. Once they reach their own country’s border with the first green buds, they bump into the robber girl – now riding a horse from Gerda’s chariot, whose footmen her family murdered – and she reports that the male crow is dead, and the female crow is wearing black ribbons on her feet for widow's weeds. In other equally happy news she is off to explore the world and promises to call in on them if she passes them (while also wondering if Kai is worth going to the ends of the Earth for!). The prince and the princess are also travelling through foreign countries, surely on their honeymoon. Lucky them.



On Kai and Gerda’s return to their hometown in late spring/early summer, the book is as subtle as a brick and sees the grandmother reading from the Bible, the Gospel of Matthew to be more precise. She simply says to them:

Without ye become as little children ye cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven


Ignoring her lack of greeting, recognition, or abject joy at their return, Gerda and Kai look at each other and realise they are now both all grown up, and that the hymn they once sang each other had a deeper meaning. By staying innocent children in their hearts, they are protected from evil, and from then onwards, springtime and summer also seem to last forever.

Conclusion


This time, it’s sibling love that conquers all.

The years of forgiveness, understanding and death-defying actions given by Anna and Gerda for their respective sister or brother show a stronger love than that felt by any of the romantic characters present. While Kristoff and Anna are certainly smouldering, their feelings can’t yet compete with the above, and you can forget Hans’s red herring romance. For Gerda’s part, she isn’t at all jealous when it’s revealed Kai may have married a princess, and they don’t kiss or marry (at least in the Andersen original; the Dumas version ends with the birth of their twin children) when they return home either.  As for Elsa, she has shut herself away, both mentally and physically, for a large chunk of her life in order to protect her sister, and while this was done out of love, fear was the overriding emotion. In Kai’s case, he was a prisoner too, but this time at the mercy of evil magic. He and Elsa are only truly free when they remember or allow themselves to feel love.

The other story themes are where the book and the film diverge. In Andersen’s The Snow Queen, faith is the ultimate protector. Gerda is the one who teaches Kai the hymn about the roses, and by reciting her Prayer she is shielded from the Snow Queen’s powers. It’s also a hymn that revives Kai, and by remaining innocent and childlike, untouched by temptation, Gerda is able to survive several potentially lethal situations on her own. Once the pair are back together again, and remain children in their hearts, the world always seems warm and summery to them. The Snow Queen in this story represents temptation, and she strikes when Kai is vulnerable after being touched by evil, or in this case a cynical adult’s view of the world. Rather unconventionally, the boy is rescued by the girl, and most of the wise and helpful people on Gerda’s journey are female. Then again, so are the creepiest ones.

In Frozen, we’re shown how fear can cripple and affect someone’s behaviour, and the perils of running away from your problems rather than trying to solve them, i.e. Elsa trying to stifle rather than experience and control her powers. Interestingly, it’s also implied that taking risks once in a while isn’t a bad thing. Despite the extreme likelihood of rejection, accidental injury and death, Anna persists in trying to spend time with her sister over the years, and charges off into the wilderness to find her when she makes her escape. Her whirlwind romance with Hans came to no good, but in the end she uncovered a royal conspiracy and found someone better in the interim. Her unfortunate spat with Elsa, while nearly fatal, showed her sister how powerful love could be and how to lift the spell. So Disney’s Snow Queen character represents overcoming fear and how to stop it from controlling you, hence the title “Frozen”.

The ultimate lesson of both stories is to give people the benefit of the doubt, to look on the bright side where possible and try to retain a childlike wonder when walking through the world. In other words, if you encounter a problem, dilemma, or an idiot, remember there are more important things in life, and that there’s only one thing you should do.
Let it go.