They stopped at a little hut. There was nobody at home except an old Lapland woman who was cooking fish. The reindeer told her Gerda’s story. ‘Oh, you poor things,’ said the Lapland woman, ‘you have a long way to go yet. You must travel more than a hundred miles to Finland. The Snow Queen lives there now, and she burns Bengal lights every evening. I’ll write a few words on a dried fish as I have no paper, and you can take it from me to the Finland woman who lives there. She can give you more information than I can.’
So when Gerda got warmed and had something to eat and drink, the woman wrote a few words on a dried fish and then tied Gerda on the reindeer. After some time they reached Finland and knocked at the Finland woman’s hut. It was so hot inside that the woman wore almost no clothes. She took off Gerda’s fur boots and the mittens and put a piece of ice on the reindeer’s head. After she read what was written on the dried fish three times she put the fish into her soup, as she knew it was good to eat.
‘You are so powerful’ said the reindeer, ‘I know you can tie all the winds in the world with a piece of rope. Can you give this little girl such power that she will defeat the Snow Queen?’
‘I cannot give her greater power than she already has’ answered the woman. ‘Don’t you see how strong she is? How men and animals help her and how well she walks through the world? Her power is in her kindness and love for her friend. She must defeat the Snow Queen herself and remove the bits of the magic glass from his eye and the piece of ice from his heart. Two miles from here the Snow Queen’s garden begins. You must carry the little girl there and leave her by the large bush which stands in the snow covered with red berries. Don’t stay there but come back here as quickly as you can’.
Then the Finland woman lifted Gerda upon the reindeer, and he ran away with her as quickly as he could. ‘Oh, I forgot to take my boots and my mittens’ cried Gerda as soon as she felt the biting cold, but the reindeer could not stop, so he ran on till he reached the bush with the red berries. Here he put Gerda down and when he kissed her, big tears came to his eyes. Then he left her and ran back.
Poor Gerda stood there without boots, without mittens in the middle of cold, ice-covered Finland. She ran forward when a whole legion of snowflakes came round her. They did not fall from the sky, they ran along the ground and the nearer they came to her, the larger they became. They were alive, and they were the guards of the Snow Queen.
Little Gerda began to say a prayer and the cold was so great that she could see steam coming out of her mouth. The steam increased as she continued the prayer till it took the shape of little angels who grew larger at the moment they touched the ground. Their number increased more and more, and by the time Gerda finished her prayers a whole legion of angels with spears stood round her. They killed the terrible snowflakes with their spears and little Gerda could go forward with safety. The angels stroked her hands and feet so that she felt the cold less, and she ran to the Snow Queen’s palace.