Image: Thomas Cole, The Past and The Present (1838)

I do love fairytales.

Not the bland, colourful fast-food served up by Disney to fill its theme parks, but the dark, archaic gothic tales that have been told and retold around the glowing hearths of Europe over countless cold winter nights.

One Christmas, long ago, I read a tale that haunted my dreams. About a boy with a splinter in his eye and ice in his heart, imprisoned in an ice castle by the imperious, domineering Snow Queen, pitifully arranging ice blocks, trying to spell ‘eternity’ before his heart froze.

Then – just in time – a girl arrives, his childhood sweetheart, and the ice melts. I was too young to understand all the story’s layers. Like why I found the frigid, stern, unfeeling Queen so fascinating; I wondered if she spanked the poor boy’s bottom with her icy hands before sending him to bed each night. And back then I didn’t understand the redemptive, magical power of love…

Read More →