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Online course

Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales

Explore the fairy tale world of HC Andersen - the inspiration behind The Little Mermaid and Frozen - with this free online course.

What’s the difference between a free course and an upgraded course?


  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • No certificate


  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales

Why join the course?

This free online course will introduce you to some of Hans Christian Andersen’s most popular fairy tales, as well as a few less well known. It will help you analyse the themes in these fairy tales, and give you the possibility to discuss the author’s relationship with his own age as well as his cross-cultural importance today, as the inspiration behind many popular books and movies.

Interpret Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales with experts from his birthplace

You will learn with experts from the HC Andersen Center at the University of Southern Denmark – an internationally renowned research institution located in the writer’s birthplace, Odense.

Each week, these experts will guide discussions, analyses and interpretations of one or more of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, including:

  • The Tinderbox
  • The Travelling Companion
  • The Little Mermaid
  • The Snow Queen (the inspiration for Disney’s Frozen)
  • The Story of a Mother
  • The Red Shoes

New English translations of the fairy tales will be used. You can download them from this website .

You will explore the themes of each story, and investigate how they both conform with and digress from the basic elements of the fairy tale and the folk tale.

The fairy tale genre became very popular in the period of literary history to which Hans Christian Andersen belongs, Romanticism, when childhood was discovered as an age that is important in its own right. What Hans Christian Andersen did with this genre is absolutely unique - there are no other writers of fairy tales like him.

Through the course, you will understand how Hans Christian Andersen’s authorship developed. From the rewriting of old folk tales via self-invented fairy tales to his so-called new fairy tales characterized by a modern approach.

Explore Hans Christian Andersen’s enduring, universal appeal

Hans Christian Andersen often described himself as a “bog plant” – his roots were figuratively speaking deeply anchored in mire and mud, his very humble beginnings, but he constantly stretched up for the light of the sun, ie. for acceptance and recognition as an artist and a writer. And in fact he grew from these humble beginnings to achieve fame and acknowledgement as an artist in both Europe and America while he was still alive. After his death, he has also become famous in Asia and all other parts of the world.

The majority of Hans Christian Andersen’s around 200 fairy tales have been translated into at least 150 languages. They not only create a fantasy world for children, but also explore universal, sinister and more adult themes such as death, grief and loss.

Through this course, you will discover why his stories have such an enduring and universal appeal - for both children and adults.

Download video: standard or HD

What topics will you cover?

  • Introduction to Hans Christian Andersen, his life, works and contemporary society.
  • Introduction to the fairy tale genre and the folk tale inspiration.
  • Models for analysis of folk tales and fairy tales: the actantial model and the home-away-home model.
  • Analysis and comparison of a folk tale ‘The Blue Light’ and a fairy tale Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Tinderbox’.
  • Hans Christian Andersen’s experimental rewritings of folk tales with the folk tale ‘The Riddle’ and Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Spectre’ and The Travelling Companion’.
  • Biblical themes in Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales.
  • An original Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale – ‘The Little Mermaid’.
  • Hans Christian Andersen’s new fairy tales with ‘The Snow Queen’ and ‘The Story of a Mother’.
  • Hans Christian Andersen’s recycling of the folk tale with ‘The Red Shoes.
  • Hans Christian Andersen’s contemporary and cross-cultural relevance.
  • How to engage in further studies of Hans Christian Andersen.

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Describe the life and works of the writer Hans Christian Andersen.
  • Describe the fairy tale genre.
  • Apply relevant models to the analysis of fairy tales.
  • Interpret fairy tales and uncover themes and meanings.
  • Discuss and compare different analyses and interpretations of fairy tales.
  • Explain the themes embedded in Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales.
  • Reflect on and discuss Hans Christian Andersen’s contemporary and cross-cultural relevance.

Who is the course for?

You will need a basic ability to read and understand Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales in English. Otherwise, a curiosity about and a love for the fairy tale genre is the sole prerequisite for the course.

Who will you learn with?

Jacob Bøggild

Professor at The Hans Christian Andersen Centre, University of Southern Denmark. Has written a book, edited several anthologies and written numerous articles about Hans Christian Andersen.

Ivy York Möller-Christensen

Ivy York Möller-Christensen is a professor at the Department for the Study of Language, Literature and Media at Europa-Universität, Flensburg, Germany, and a visiting fellow at the HC Andersen Center.

Johannes Nørregaard Frandsen

Johs. Nørregaard Frandsen is a professor at and Head of The Hans Christian Andersen Centre at the University of Southern Denmark.

Mette Dam Laursen

Mette has an MA in comparative literature and is the facilitator on the course Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales.

Torsten Bøgh Thomsen

Torsten Bøgh Thomsen is a PhD student at the Hans Christian Andersen Centre, University of Southern Denmark. His research includes studies in Romanticism, Ecocriticism and Aesthetic Theory.

Who developed the course?

Free online courses from the Hans Christian Andersen Centre at the University of Southern Denmark

Buy a personalised, digital and printed certificate and transcript

You can buy a Certificate of Achievement for this course — a personalised certificate and transcript in both digital and printed formats, to prove what you’ve learnt. A Statement of Participation is also available for this course.

Certificate of Achievement + transcript $59.00

Statement of Participation $54.00