Since Kay had been gone, Gerda had been very sad. No one knew where he had gone. Gerda looked for herself, she thought the river might have taken him. She offered up her red shoes in return for Kay, but the river would not take her shoes. Gerda decided to get in a boat and look for Kay, but as it turned out, the boat was not tied up and Gerda drifted and drifted away.
An old woman saw her and pulled the boat in. The old woman heard Gerda’s story and wanted Gerda to stay with her because she had wanted a little girl around. The woman had a beautiful garden, which was beautiful all the time. Because of Gerda’s story about Kay and the roses they used to sit under, the woman caused the rose bushes, which were beautiful, to sink into the ground.
Gerda had a wonderful time. She had her own room with beautiful things inside of it. The garden was always beautiful. Gerda played in the garden often and thought it was beautiful, but it seemed there were flowers missing, but she couldn’t place her finger on it. One day she saw a hat of the woman’s. On the hat was rose. Gerda knew that roses were missing from the garden. She looked for them and could not find them. She cried tears which fell to the Earth and softened the ground. The roses sprang up.
She remembered Kay. She remembered her family, which would surely be sad for her. She knew she had been kept at the woman’s house and from her quest. She began asking the flowers were Kay was. The flowers talked, but had no stories about Kay. Each flower seemed to have its own story, empty of anything about anything real. Every flower said something. No flower had information about anything.
Gerda finally decided to get out. She ran to the garden where there was a gate and forced it open. Once outside, she ran. She looked back and no one was following. She looked around her and it was Autumn, where it had been spring when she left. The world was turning to winter and everything was dark and dreary to her.
Talking flowers is a concept that has happened a few times in literature, most notoriously, in Lewis Carroll’s stories of Wonderland. In Lewis’ description of flowers and in this story, the flowers seemed to be concerned with only themselves. They all seem very vain. I couldn’t say what all goes on in a flower’s mind, but maybe they are vain.
Gerda was distracted from her goal and only reminded when she saw one rose. It is easy to be distracted from something if there is nothing around to remind us of it. Gerda’s worry for Kay was replaced with nice things and she forgot the cares of the world. That’s how it would happen with any of us. If someone took our worries away from us and put something else in their place and hid the reminders of those things, we might be very apt to forget all of those things ourselves. Only our minds would hold the key to where we were and what we had been doing. Our minds would forget, for a while, until there was a trigger, just like there was for Gerda in this story.
Gerda spent all this time without even realizing that it was passing. She had been drawn away from everything real, at least to her. That’s not to say the garden wasn’t real or the woman wasn’t real. Each of these things were real in the story, they just weren’t real to Gerda. They didn’t fit into her reality.
It’s the same way with us. If some prince road up to us and was like, “Marry me,” you might be thrilled, but you would know there was something fishy about it. It just doesn’t fit in with how your world usually works. We can be awfully pessimistic about how our lives go, but we’re generally right about the general nature of our lives. Would a prince ride up to you and propose marriage? Probably not, even though you might really like for it to happen.
In another literary note, think of the Mirror of Erised from Harry Potter. It’s a similar concept to Gerda’s time in this garden.
The old woman sought to trap Gerda, but Gerda also trapped herself to an extent.
If someone took away your worries, do you think you could ever truly forget them?
Would you question the most wonderful and surprising thing in the world, if it happened to you, or just go along with it?