Literature / Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow
aka: Smillas Sense Of Snow
Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow
(also known as Smilla's Sense of Snow
in the US and as Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne
in the original Danish) is a widely-acclaimed 1992 novel by Peter Høeg, which was also adapted as a film directed by Bille August in 1997.
Smilla Qaaviqaaq Jaspersen is an highly introverted and bloody-minded half Greenlandic/half Danish woman living in Copenhagen. One of her few (possibly her only) friend is her neighbour's son Isaiah who is also Greenlandic. When he falls to his death from their apartment building she is suspicious. Isaiah suffered from vertigo and when she sees his tracks on the roof, her intuitive understanding of snow shows her that he was running for his life. Despite hostility from the authorities she begins to investigate, leading her back to Greenland and a far-reaching conspiracy.
Written in the first person, the novel deals with themes of alienation, post-colonialism and how people survive mentally in societies they find inimical.
Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow provides examples of:
- Combat Pragmatist: Smilla Jaspersen has a history of winning against people much bigger and stronger than her. She stabs a man in the neck with a screwdriver when her tries to kidnap her, and topples a shelf onto a person she thinks is following her in the filing room of an office building. She also forces her stepmother to listen to her demands by pinching her in the crotch and bending her pinky finger all the way back. Apparently she's been this way all her life. She beat up a racist school bully much larger than her by finding out where he lived and ambushing him early in the morning, sending him to the hospital. When her father, a noted surgeon, tried to grab her and drag her home after she ran away at the age of twelve, she cut him with a scalpel she stole from the hospital she escaped from. When she is trapped on a ship with the vaguely psychopathic character Jakkelsen, she makes a weapon from a towel and a ball bearing, and injures him badly enough that he needs medical attention. However, she is always described as a petite and delicate woman. She is the narrator, by the way.
- Halfway Plot Switch: Arguably used in this book, where a routine murder mystery trope dives off the deep-end into X-Files-esque killer bug from space about halfway through the novel.
- Improvised Weapon: Several occurances, like the towel+ball bearing, and the two plastic scalpels taped together to make a more durable weapon.
- No Name Given: Smilla mentions a brother, who had committed suicide several years earlier, but never by name.
- Race Lift: In the movie, Smilla is played by Julia Ormond, who definitely isn't Greenlandic.
- Uncanny Valley: Many hints at Smilla being somehow off compared to people around her, but the subtlest of them all is in the title itself. Miss Smilla. The insistence on the fact she had never been married until the age of 37 and possibly she is not going to be, either.
- Waif-Fu: Smilla is not what she seems.
- Walk on Water: The title character has an almost psychic ability to read snow and ice. Thus she can walk on a half frozen sea because she can see which ice patches will support her weight and which won't. The onlookers are suitably impressed.