Fairy tales are timeless, aren’t they? If Disney’s box office busting Frozen seems timely in view of the polar vortex then surely that’s just coincidence. Of course, fairy tales are also cautionary or at least they used to be. Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen that inspired Frozen had a queen who meant to kill and the original stories that the Brothers Grimm gathered frequently included mutilation, sex out of wedlock, and murder most foul.
In Frozen, Olaf the snowman sings of summer without realizing that melting means an existential crisis. It’s the joke of the movie and also its hint of menace. What happens to said snowman? Let’s just say here that according to the ever reliable Urban Dictionary “Disneyfication” means “to remove the sharp edges and darkness that is life.”
Not that happy endings never happen. Just yesterday the Russian ship the Akademik Shokalskiy that had spent the holidays mired in Antarctic pack ice and the Chinese icebreaker that tried to go to its rescue made it out to open water. Things didn’t always go so well on polar expeditions. In 1915, when Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance got stuck and then crushed by Antarctic pack ice, he and five of his men trekked 800 miles to get help rescuing the rest of the stranded crew. Before setting off, Shackleton reached in his pocket and threw a handful of gold coins in the snow. They would be of no use.
Now, by contrast, cost is at issue in the rescue of the Akademik Shokalskiy since no fewer than three ships needed to come to its aid and thus couldn’t do their actual work of supporting polar research. Still, for fans of Disneyfication, climate change deniers have made merry with the thought that the scientists aboard the Akademik Shokalskiy found more rather than less ice on their expedition. Perhaps they should read the message in a bottle left by an American geologist in 1954 in the Canadian arctic. Recently rediscovered, it served its intended purpose as a measurement for the near disappearance of a glacier that has dwindled by over a hundred meters.
Robert Frost debated whether the earth ought to end in fire or ice. The journalists based in Australia covering the Antarctic rescue contretemps can get a first row seat at that debate. The island continent faces a devastating heat wave even as the polar vortex crushes the northern climes with punishingly low temperatures. Will Heat Miser and Snow Miser become the new Ali versus Frazier? To paraphrase the ever quotable Mohammed Ali, that showdown will be a killer and a thriller and a chiller. Let’s hope Olaf stays home.